Corporate holiday parties: Is there reason to celebrate?

In the midst of job cuts, slower sales and declining stock prices, it's hard for the corporate world to put on a smile and celebrate with a holiday party this season. Morale alone may be reason to keep that holiday party scheduled - but be careful to be frugal but not cheap, generous but not extravagant, upbeat but not overly optimistic.

In the midst of job cuts, slower sales and declining stock prices, it's hard for the corporate world to put on a smile and celebrate with a holiday party this season. Morale alone may be reason to keep that holiday party scheduled - but be careful to be frugal but not cheap, generous but not extravagant, upbeat but not overly optimistic.

BizBash, a trade site for the event industry, talked to party planners and suppliers to get a feel for what the party planning committees are doing and offered some insight into what we're likely to see this season.

  • No ice sculptures: The flamboyant decor is out. No one wants to appear to be extravagant, especially in spending. Some firms have even replaced flowers in the center of the tables with a centerpiece of bare branches, which is not necessarily a money saver but appears to be less-showy.
  • Scaled-back guests lists: Should the company be feeding and entertaining spouses? What about temporary employees, recent hires, contract employees or facilities staffs? Don't be surprised if the gathering feels a bit smaller this year.
  • Luncheons or cocktail parties: Instead of a fancy dinner at the Hilton, the bosses may opt for an after-work cocktail party at the office watering hole around the corner. Better yet, a nice meal at an upscale restaurant for a long lunch on a Friday afternoon might be a more effective way to say "We appreciate you but are trying to be responsible with the finances that keep all of us employed."
  • Finger foods: Instead of a chef at a prime rib carving station, expect bite-size quiches, mini burgers or chicken wings on a tray.
    finger food
  • Party in 2009: You're December schedule is already busy enough so the bosses might opt for a New Year's celebration instead. This way, you can bid farewell to the nightmare that was 2008 and welcome better times (fingers crossed) in 2009. And the party venues will be less expensive, too.

OK, I know what you really want to know. What about the booze? No reason to worry there. No one seems to be talking about slowing the flow of alcohol - but you might find yourself choosing from different flavors of Absolut instead of the premium Vodka. I also wouldn't expect bottles of Dom Perignon on the tables. But if your style is more along the lines of a cold Sam Adams or a nice glass or Merlot, you should be just fine.

So, tell us. Has your company eliminated or scaled back the holiday party? Is having a job reason enough to celebrate this holiday season?