‘Tis the season for forced gift exchanges, awkward small talk with your supervisor’s spouse, and watching Karen from accounting get on the (non- existing) dance floor after one too many snowflake martinis.

Can a work holiday party actually be fun? Yes! While the venue and the menu/bar are the biggest factors to contribute to holiday party success, these insider tips will help you plan a party your colleagues will not soon forget:

• Plan early: The best venues get scooped up in September (or even earlier) by corporate planners who are on the ball….don’t wait until the last minute to research and book a venue.

• Get the invite right: Whether you opt for a traditional paper invite, or some version of Paperless Post/Evite/Punchbowl, be sure to include all the important details, a start and end time, how and when to RSVP, and most importantly…set the mood for the event!

• Think about layout & design: Comfy couches and lounge areas will encourage more casual conversation than traditional tables and chairs. Soft lighting is key! Bright lights can kill the mood instantly.

• Plan a plentiful menu: It’s a special occasion, and a time to show employees how much they are appreciated. Think outside the box with fun hors d’oeuvres, themed food stations, and desserts galore. Be creative with vegetarian and vegan options too.

• Include an element of surprise: Guests of any event love the “surprise and delight” moments. Hide small gifts under each chair, tuck gift cards into folded napkins, or have a caricature artist create portraits of each guest.

• Have a photo experience: Check out the newest options from a local company like Entertainment Specialists. Beyond the traditional photo booth, you can now offer open air photo booths, boomerangs, roaming photo booths, and a “vogue” photo booth.

• Give Back: Research local charities to partner with. In Boston, Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is a non profit that shows up to take left over food from events, to bring to local shelters and people in need. Despite what most people think, this is 100% legal and an easy, no cost way for your company to give to those in need during the holiday season.

Check out these fun & unique venues for your 2020 holiday party:

If you’re looking for a large space with great menu options and stellar service:
Granite Links Golf Club (Quincy)

The team at this beautiful golf course venue are event planning rock stars. They understand that it’s all in the details, and will work with you to create an unforgettable experience for your guests. Innovative cuisine is the star here, especially for a younger crowd that does not want a stuffy seated dinner. Bring on the Asian Noodle Station with mini Chinese takeout boxes, the Paella Station, the Poke Station, or the Southern Belle station, featuring buttermilk fried chicken and fried pickles! They will also tray pass mini desserts, including a warm chocolate chip cookie skillet, with vanilla ice cream. Too many martinis? Don’t forget the late night snack…grilled cheese or soft pretzel station anyone?

If you want a cozy, intimate hidden gem, and a true farm to table experience:
Just Right Farm (Plympton)

The owner of this 300 year old farmhouse says there is a special kind of magic at Just Right Farm during the holiday season. Work with her to create a custom seven course dinner for up to 22 guests, complete with a cozy bar, festive décor, and the warm glow of a fireplace sure to delight your guests. Bonus….you bring your own spirits!

If you’re into unparalleled ocean views and 5 star food & beverage:
Atlantica & The Red Lion Inn (Cohasset)

The newly renovated Atlantica includes panoramic walls of windows, allowing for spectacular ocean views. A large stone fireplace adds to the cozy, romantic feel. The space includes multiple rooms that can be rented separately, or combined for events up to 250 guests.
Nearby, the historic Red Lion Inn, built in 1704, offers a rustic wood beam barn with gorgeous chandeliers and multiple bars. The barn can accommodate up to 280 guests for dinner and dancing.
The property includes The Cohasset Harbor Inn, with 54 rooms available, if your guests have a little too much fun…

If you want that old Boston feel, with all the holiday trimmings:
The Hampshire House (Beacon Hill)

The Hampshire House is a turn of the century mansion on Beacon Hill. Generations of Bostonians have wined, dined, and danced the night away in this five story Georgian revival townhouse, overlooking The Boston Public Garden. The mansion includes varied spaces for holiday parties, big and small. Their Executive Chef merges his European influence with classic New England creations. Try the Horseradish-Crusted Rack of Lamb, Caramelized Apple & Cranberry Salad and the nationally acclaimed Maple Roasted Almond & Swiss Chocolate Soup.
Fun fact: As most Bostonians know, The Hampshire House is featured in the classic TV show, Cheers….where everybody knows your name…and they’re always glad you came!

If you want to impress a foodie crowd, with Instagram worthy space and an amazing menu:
Catalyst (Cambridge)

The husband and wife team (William & Sara Kovel) behind this cool, cozy Cambridge restaurant designed it to be perfect for private events. The food will not disappoint, and the on site event planner will work with you to design a custom, seasonal menu. Some of Sara’s current menu favorites include Beef Tournedos with Pomme Puree, Charred Broccolini, Bacon Onion Jam & Bordelaise…and any of the house made pasta dishes. The Fireplace Room is great for smaller groups under 20, they can accommodate up to 150 for dinner in the private room, and up to 500 with a full restaurant buyout.

If you need that funky, fresh “not a hotel” vibe, with city views to die for:
90FS (Financial District)

90FS is tucked away on the ninth floor of One Federal Street, with the city’s only private roof top garden. The indoor/outdoor space provides exceptional views of the city skyline, and a modern interior event space. The venue can accommodate groups of 40-200 guests (up to 110 for a reception + dinner), with rental fees that fall in the $4500 range. It’s important to note they work with a list of exclusive vendors for things like catering, music, lighting, and flowers….but not to worry, the list includes some of the city’s finest!

Danielle Duane is the Director of Wedding Sales for Boston Magazine, where she has spent the last twelve years. She began her career in the hospitality world, selling and planning weddings for Hyatt Regency Boston, The Liberty Hotel and The Catered Affair at The Boston Public Library. She lives in Scituate, with her husband and four little boys who have their own #duaneboys hashtag. It’s a crazy, hectic, mixed up, fun, wild life that she wouldn’t change for the world, and she feels lucky to have found a career and a company that make it possible to keep it all running (pretty) smoothly.

Resource Directory:
Just Right Farm: kimberlyrusso2@msn.com
CHP: eventplanning@cohassethospitality.com
Granite Links: events@granitelinks.com
90FS: Events@9ofs.com
Hampshire House: events@hampshirehouse.com
Catalyst: events@catalystrestaurant.com