Photo: Hotel Kings Court

Photo: Hotel Kings Court

With the corporate economy improving,  the company holiday party has returned.  However, after having such a hard-hit economy with individuals and companies struggling the last several years, many company parties are returning to a holiday party experience with a conscience.  They are also offering an “experience” for guests and not just a meal with a DJ (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

The latest trends include:

The spirit of giving back.  Having donation “stations” at the party representing various charities.  Party attendees have pre-loaded cards or wrist-bands that are swiped  at the station of their choice and a certain amount of money that they choose goes to that charity.  The company provides the funds for the donation and divvies it up among employees to use in advance.  They tell each employee how much money their wrist band or card is pre-loaded with and they let the employee decide how they wish to spread their donation.  This is a great way to get employees in an interactive event that makes everyone feel good.  It is also a great way for some press to spotlight your company and the charities involved.

Bloody Mary Shots with Shrimp by Alisal Guest Ranch Executive Chef Pascal Gode

Event & Photo by Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events | Bloody Mary Shots with Shrimp by Alisal Guest Ranch Executive Chef Pascal Gode

Food that is an experience and “entertainment” for guests.  While displayed shrimp cocktail is always delish and can be arranged beautifully, it doesn’t spark the conversation as much as innovative food creation and presentation does.  Example: Tray-passed Bloody Mary Shrimp shots garnished with shrimp. Here’s the point:  make it something that will get people talking.

Forget the  signature cocktail – micro beer tasting is in!  I’m a die hard fan of the signature cocktail and while a good wine-pairing meal never goes out of style, the “trend” this holiday season is the experience of interaction.  Micro-brewed “artisan”  spirits that are made locally and allow guests to sample a variety of beverages and interact with the artisan -spirit makers themselves make a memorable impression.  Wine tasting bars that are a part of the “cocktail” hour for holiday parties are also popular because again, the guests can mingle with each other, talk about what they liked, what they didn’t and engage.  For Santa Barbara’s wine country, the Santa Ynez Valley, this is a natural fit.  We have micro -beer breweries and wineries all over providing a local, in many cases organic,  experience, which guests come from all over to enjoy.

A great floor plan. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  But what many company parties overlook is the fact that you have to really know the people coming to your event and base your event flow and seating around their unique needs. Example:  Elderly guests should not be seated right under the speakers or in front of a pumping and thumping band or DJ; Corporate VIP Executives should have a special (perhaps private) lounge area to where they can adjourn to if they need to chat;  elegant and functional lounge furniture placed around the dance floor area will allow dancers to rest but stay close to the “groove” and finally, don’t forget to create some quiet and sumptuous areas away from the hustle and bustle for guests to enjoy conversation.  One of my favorite things about producing weddings and events in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley is that almost every venue, if not already outdoors, has an outdoor option that I love including as part of the indoor plan for all events. With Italian heaters or fire bowls that create warmth as well as ambiance and some comfortable lounge furniture,  guests are offered a breather from the hub inside the party with a breath of fresh air under our star-studded night skies and a place to simply breathe and enjoy some conversation.  By making room for all types of guest preferences as well as “breathable moments” in your floor plan, you are ensuring a party to remember.”


Photo by SB Wine Country Weddings & Events

Event & Photo by SB Wine Country Weddings & Events | Lounge Furniture and Italian Heatlamps by Ventura Rental Party Center