Unless you're celebrating a birthday or other specific occasion, the décor should be minimal. If you're hosting a seated dinner, provide centerpieces; otherwise, spend your money on food, not decorations.
Favors, however, are often welcome at company parties. If your budget allows for company SWAG, provide something fun for your guests. Skip the tired t-shirt or coffee mug, and opt for something useful: a baseball cap, sweatshirt, tote bag, or thermal coffee carafe, emblazoned with a discreet company logo.
Even if you don't have the budget to spend on favors, try to provide a little something for your co-workers. Raffles are funspend your small budget on a few choice prizes or see whether any of your vendors can donate something. Restaurant, spa, and bookstore gift certificates make great prizes, as do more tangible prizes, such as boom boxes, CDs, books, DVDs, and other items designed to please a variety of people. If you have absolutely nothing to spend, talk to your manager or HR department about raffling off a two-hour lunch or afternoon off work.
Music and Entertainment
If your budget allows it, hire a band for your party. Stick with safe genres of musicjazz, classical, standards, pop covers, bluegrass, or light rock. Check at local universities, colleges, and music schools for inexpensive entertainment. If you can't afford a band, consider hiring a D.J., a different version of live music that will be much lighter on your budget. A good D.J. will be able to weave together different albums to produce quality dance or ambient music. If your music budget is nil, at least play a few CDs to get the party going. Ask co-workers for their recommendations and opt for albums that will appeal to nearly everyone.
If you have a large budget and want to offer entertainment, think outside the box. Although a palmist, sketch artist, hypnotist, or professional clown might seem a stale idea for a party, not many people will associate that type of professional entertainment with an office party. Casting an old favorite in a new light will lend a fun, frisky quality to your selected entertainment, giving your co-workers an easy giggle or two.
In addition to annual or milestone parties, you might find yourself called upon to host a few smaller parties for co-workers, especially if you have an administrative or human resources position.
Retirement and Bon Voyage Parties
If someone retires after decades of service, a banquet or other large celebration is customary. However, these days it is more likely that a co-worker is switching jobs, departments, or companies, so a bon voyage might be a more frequent request. Keep the festivities limited to those in the guest of honor's department, and include anyone else at the company who interacts with the honoree on a regular basis. Try to provide a cake or some great finger foods (your budget might be limited), and take up a small collection to buy the person a giftrequest no more than $5 per person, and don't give anyone a hard time if they don't want to contribute. Even if you have little to spend, make the honoree's send-off special in some way; create a compilation CD, make a small scrapbook, or take the person to lunch at a nice restaurant. With the right attitude, you really can make any occasion a party.
Showers and Birthday Parties
These types of parties are of a personal nature, so in most companies it will be inappropriate to have a birthday party or wedding or baby shower on company time. However, if your co-worker is expecting a child, planning a wedding, or celebrating a significant birthday, you and your co-workers will certainly wish to honor her. Either have the party after-hours, using funds collected from the other people in your department, or take the honoree out to lunch and gift her with presents. You can also have the party at your home; in this case, it is perfectly acceptable to split the costs and responsibilities of the party with one or more co-workers.
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Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.