How do you assemble the perfect holiday party with no time left on the clock?
Event planners and individual party planners alike typically spend weeks – if not months – planning that ideal party for their corporate clients. That’s no small task, as anyone who has ever planned a large-scale event can certainly tell you.
“Most organizations book their year-end holiday parties well in advance, with some starting as early as January,” says Alli Hertz, Director of Special Events at Metronome Hospitality Group, a full-service event planning company that owns and operates a number of private event spaces in Manhattan.
“Typically, if a company or planner is looking for a specific date or specific venue, they’re likely to start planning next year’s party before the last guest leaves the party this year. It’s always best to reserve as early as possible, especially with some of the more popular dates and locations.”
But what about those that still want to have a holiday bash and have been putting off reserving a space? Or maybe the boss just dropped a last-minute holiday party idea in your lap, or your original venue fell through, and you’re certain it’s too late in the game to make it a successful party. According to Hertz, there’s almost always still time to pull it off.
“While most companies do pick the date and reserve the venue several months in advance, easily a third of our holiday bookings at Metronome fall into the ‘last-minute’ category. In larger cities like New York, where our venues are located, we consider it a last-minute booking when there are less than 4-6 weeks from the first contact to the actual event date. Every year is a little different, but it averages about 30-35% of our December bookings.”
“Because we do it regularly, we’ve made it our mission to assist our clients with “outside the box” holiday parties. We can accommodate eleventh-hour holiday party requests in about 95% of cases. Sometimes it takes a bit of creative planning and logistics, but we always get it done.”
According to Hertz, there are a few “insider tips” which will increase your chances of landing a great party venue, even for a prime date this late in the season, and save some money in the process:
Dedicated event spaces are usually better and can be less expensive.
“For many people, their first thought for a holiday party space is a hotel or conference center, but there are absolutely better options. Venues which are designed specifically for special events, can be far more exciting for the guests, much more elegant, and – believe it or not – can be less expensive than conference centers.”
“The uniqueness of our dedicated spaces is a real draw for corporate clients who are sometimes used to the generic and bland décor of places like hotels and conference centers. We’ve got multiple levels, state-of-the-art lights and sound systems, DJ setups and full dance floors, even multimedia presentation equipment. But the biggest advantage is the fact that we also handle catering, we’ve got our own on-site wait staff, and we’ll even book the entertainment. We’re truly a one-stop shop, which is a priceless advantage when booking so close to the holidays.”
You can still get the perfect date, even at the last minute.
“This late in the game your first date choices may be reserved, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box,” suggests Hertz. “In the corporate party world, the two weeks just before the 25th are the busiest for parties. Within those two weeks, Thursdays always go first, followed by Wednesday, Friday and Tuesday, in that order. But if you’re late pulling the trigger, and you still want one of those prime days, you could still be in luck.”
To grab one of those coveted days at the eleventh hour, Hertz recommends planners inquire about other time slots on those days.
“Prime time for holiday parties is usually 6:30 pm-10:30 pm, which still leaves plenty of time for your holiday party to be a holiday luncheon instead, and that will typically save 25-35% over an evening party.”
You can save big on catering by “piggy-backing.”
Booking earlier time slots is not only a great way to get the date you want, it’s also a great way to save a significant amount on your food costs.”
“It’s actually one of the best-kept secrets in the event planning industry,” Hertz explains. “When you book an earlier time slot and there is an evening event after yours, you’re essentially sharing the day with the other parties scheduled for that day. Talk to the catering director at the venue, and if you’re willing to choose an identical menu, the venue saves money on the food costs and should be willing to pass those savings on to you.
“They don’t all do it.” warns Hertz. “But, we definitely take care of clients that way at our venues, and we recommend it in almost every eleventh hour booking.”
In any case, booking a large holiday event in a rush can be a very difficult and stressful task, but it’s not impossible.
“The best bet is always going to be finding a true event venue that offers one-stop shopping from planning to catering to entertainment,” says Hertz.. “However, it’s important to remember that these venues are still out there and available for your holiday party— even if you’re planning at the last minute.”