We’re enjoying our warm weather, flip flops and summer barbeques here in San Diego, but the winter holidays are already on my brain. Why? It’s time to start the planning process for our annual Holiday Luncheon and White Elephant Gift Exchange.
Every year, the Academy hosts a holiday luncheon for our on-site team members. The time and date are strategic. It is always the first Friday in December and instead of a dinner we have a lunch event. We want to show our appreciation for the hard work our team has put in throughout the year while also understanding the many obligations that come with the holiday season. We don’t want teammates missing the party due to competing events on their personal calendar. By having our event during work hours, it allows for everyone on the team to participate.
The Holiday Luncheon is something the entire teams looks forward to because it’s an opportunity to spend time together OUTSIDE of the office. We don’t invite spouses to this event (we do for our summer picnic so we can catch up with co-worker’s loved ones and see how their children are growing too quickly), but this is just for us. It’s a chance to have a very nice meal and also have a space to laugh and play together. Our White Elephant Gift Exchange has certain gifts that come back year after year and always make us chuckle. Any game that allows the stealing of gifts after they have been opened leads to playful teasing and banter. If you have not played before, leave a comment in the blog and I will send you our official rules.
It’s important to set the right expectations for this type of event. You’ll want your guests (your co-workers) to know how to dress, the format for the afternoon and what type of gift is appropriate for the gift exchange. Our luncheon is formal; we ask everyone to wear festive holiday attire, meaning dresses or nice slacks for the ladies and gentlemen usually wear a suit or a nice sweater. If you want to peek at our photos from last year, click here to view our album on our Facebook page. When we have new hires, I pull them aside to give them the scoop. You don’t want someone showing up under-dressed and feeling uncomfortable or out of place. The purpose of this outing is to show appreciation for our team and to kick off the festive mood of the holiday season. We have other events including Ugly Sweater Dress Up Day and Potlucks to keep the atmosphere fun at the office during the holiday season, but this luncheon in particular is designed to have us all feel a little more fancy than normal and show our company’s appreciation.
What can you do to make sure your team feels the love at this event?
- Send a Save the Date early so they have time to prepare, ideally months in advance
- Confirm the venue will be decorated. If not, bring decorations and centerpieces for each table.
- Have simple party favors—we often select chocolate bars or other candies in a nice gift bag. These can be pre-set at each seat so each guest has something to take home with them. We have our Graphic Designer create simple thank you tags that are attached to the gift.
- Play festive holiday music softly in the background to create a warm atmosphere as guests arrive.
- Welcome guests and pull tickets for a simple door prize. This starts the party with a fun game and gives people something to chat about as everyone arrives.
- End the afternoon with a group photo to commemorate the afternoon.
All of the little touches above will go a long way to create a fun afternoon and strengthen your positive team culture.
You may agree with everything above, but still be wondering, “Why start planning in July?” You’ll want to secure your venue early enough that you have options to choose from and not be stuck with the only available space on a weekend in December. Trust me, venues are already being booked as we speak. This week alone I’ve gotten multiple emails from hotels and restaurants to, “Book Your Holiday Party Early!” You can also check this off your list and move onto other items knowing your party is well underway.
One last tip: don’t forget your off-site teammates! While they may not be able to attend your Holiday Party, they need to feel the love, as well! How can you do that? We have gifts delivered to the homes of our off-site team on the day of our party so we all can celebrate the season together.
Wishing you a Happy Holiday Season, even if it is only July!
Associate Director, Projects and Event Planning
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128
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