It’s almost the holiday season again, and before you know it the snow will be falling and sleigh bells will be ringing. Normally you would be gearing up to plan some fantastic parties, but instead you might be wondering if it’s even in the budget.

There’s no need to cancel that company holiday party this year — you can make sure your employees ring the new year in with style while still staying within your budget. Our expert party planning tips will help you save on this year’s company holiday party.

“By having a holiday party, it increases employee morale. They enjoy free food and fun with colleagues. It’s a good way to appreciate a job well done,” explains Tina Bojack, special events sales manager at Dave & Buster’s.

“Employees need to feel like they are still valued members of the team, and this is difficult to convey when all of their perks are being taken away,” echoes Marsha Burton, director of sales at The Oasis Conference Center.

Instead of canceling your party, look around for a party package that could help you save. “In these times, it can be difficult to host parties, so we do packages that are more cost-effective,” explains Will Greiner, executive director of the Sharonville Convention Center. “People should ask about which one best fits their party.”

Deck the Halls

Decorating the party venue is an important way to make the event memorable. Holiday decorations can be festive and cheerful without breaking the bank.

Brian Ratliff, president of Event Management and Production Services, suggests trying to steer away from red and green for holiday decorations — instead, it could be a wintry theme with blues and snowflakes. His company can create moonlight or ice-skating effects with lighting, including tree and branch images. Slideshows are also a good option, since they can be tied into the theme of the party.

“Many venues are already decorated for the holidays, so look for one that includes that as an added value. This will save you time and money,” Burton suggests.

At the Sharonville Convention Center, decorations can be customized to fit the theme of the party. In-house decorations can be made available for no extra cost.

You could even spice up your party, depending on the location, by having games for your guests to enjoy. If your party is at a place like Dave & Buster’s, guests can enjoy games such as Skee ball, pinball, Guitar Hero, customized trivia games, virtual snowball racing, golf simulators and much more. “The games promote friendly competition and team building. Companies can feed their fun here,” Bojack says.

Other ways to make your party memorable include music and dancing. “Try using your iPod instead of paying for a DJ or band. Jazz and swing music are fun for guests to dance to,” Ratliff recommends. “To cut costs, you could use lower quality speakers. This way your guests can talk comfortably since the sound won’t be filling the whole room.”

Food for Thought

After any party, guests always seem to remember the food. You want to ensure that you are providing the best quality food without going overboard. “It’s important to find a chef who will plan around your budget,” Greiner says. “We (Sharonville Convention Center) offer holiday meal packages including different bar options, which automatically reserve you a room.”

Try to mix things up a little by not staying fixed on traditions. “Theme the meal; Italian meals typically cost less than typical American meals,” Burton explains. “It’s also usually less expensive to have an event on a weekday versus a weekend. The venue may have a lower rate structure, and guests tend not to drink as much during the work week.”

A traditional holiday menu includes sugar-glazed ham, mashed potatoes, rolls and fruit cobbler, many other options are out there. “You can opt to have a buffet according to your theme, or you could even choose an appetizer buffet to save on cost,” Bojack says.

As for drinks, options vary by venue. You could pick from a cash bar, an up-front fee, have guests buy their own drinks, wine on the tables, or even a drink ticket option. Make sure to find out what the employees want because, after all, the party is for them.

Things To Consider

When planning a company party there are many factors to take into consideration, and they may help you stay on cost. When planning a budget with a chosen venue, make sure to ask a lot of questions to make sure you get what you want. Consider if spouses should be invited, how long the party will last, and what other kind of incentives are offered.

“When you are looking for the actual venue you need to ask yourself if it is accessible, easy to get to for employees, look at parking, and obviously, if your guests will have a good time,” Bojack recommends. Dave & Buster’s can accommodate corporate events by providing private rooms for 10 to 2,000 people. If you book early enough, you might get a deal, such as a free room or more points on your game card.

“When planning out your budget always factor in food, beverage (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), facility rental, parking fees, decorations, taxes and gratuities, and entertainment. You also may want to consider having a party during business hours. This could save you money because spouses and guests of employees would not be invited,” Burton advises.

Always consider parking space and cost while looking at a venue. “Downtown and other more crowded places will often charge your guests for parking. There is much more parking available at locations in the suburbs,” Greiner says. At the Sharonville Convention Center, for instance, you can get 1,000 free parking spots on-site for your event.

Above all, event planning companies should go above and beyond to make sure your corporate party is a success. “What makes the event memorable is great customer service. Companies should accommodate whatever ‘extras’ the client needs,” Ratliff affirms.

Ho, Ho, Show
These Seasonal Events are Sure to Bring Holiday Cheer

Merry, merry, quite contrary. Cincinnati has any number of holiday-themed events that could serve as a perfect party alternative to traditional venues. A sampling:

Check out the Sharon Woods outdoor Christmas light display, Holiday in Lights. You don’t even have to bundle your little elves up — you can view the more than 500,000 lights strung along a mile’s worth of park from the comfort of your car. View illuminated, moving characters that range from Santa to Godzilla, Toy Soldiers to the inhabitants of Holiday Castle. Sharon Woods Park, 11450 Lebanon Pike, Sharonville. 6 to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 6 to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, Nov. 22-Jan. 2. $12 per car. (513) 769-0393 or

You’d have to be a dim bulb not to enjoy the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights, which features 2.5 million Christmas lights, as well as carolers, ice skating and light sculptures. Plus the regular lions, tigers and polar bears, oh my! This is the 27th year for the event, named by USA Today as one of the 10 Best Holiday Events in the nation. Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, 3400 Vine St., Avondale. Open nightly from 5 to 9 p.m., Nov. 27-Jan. 3. $13 adults ages 13 to 61, $9 children ages 2 to 12, $9 senior citizens ages 62 and up. (513) 281-4700 or

Holiday Fest features carriage and pony rides, outdoor ice skating, the Cool Runnings Toboggan Slide, and an outdoor holiday model train display. The Beach Waterpark, 2590 Waterpark Drive, Mason. 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays, 3 to 10 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 27-Jan. 16. $9, youth admission ages 3 to 9, $15, general admission 10 & up and seniors $9. (513) 398-SWIM or

Holiday Junction chugs back into town inside the city’s Amtrak terminal, with train rides for children, model train displays, toy and craft activities, games and more. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays), late November through January. $12 adults, $11 seniors, $8 children ages 3 t o 12. (513) 287-7000 or

Holiday Lights on the Hill features more than 1 million lights illuminating this sculpture park. Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park and Museum, 1763 Hamilton-Cleves Road (Ohio 128), just outside the Hamilton city limits. 6 to 10 p.m. nightly, late November through early January. $12 per carload, $14 on weekends. (513) 868-8336 or

A Christmas Carol is a local rendition of Charles Dickens’ familiar holiday chestnut, with actor Bruce Cromer starring as Scrooge. A ghost story with heart for all the humbugs among us, the lavish production includes extravagant scenery, hundreds of costume changes, and special effects: rolling fog, scenery that rises and falls on elevators, ghostly apparitions, the works. The Playhouse in the Park, Eden Park Circle, Mount Adams. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, Dec. 3-30. $32 to $62 for adults, $30 teens 13 to 19, and $20 for children 5 to 12 (children under 5 not admitted). (513) 421-3888 or

A Victorian Holiday Village is one of Cincinnati’s newest holiday traditions. The village features 90,000 lights, elf-sized houses, free hot chocolate and cookies, gifts and live entertainment, and free photos with Santa. Ohio National Financial Services Headquarters, One Financial Way at the Pfeiffer Road exit off I-71, Blue Ash. 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 4, 5, 10, and 11. Free. (513) 794-6100 or

The annual Santa’s Water Wonderland features the ever-popular Scuba Santa. Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, 1 Levee Way, Newport, Ky. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, Nov. 27-Jan. 3 (including Christmas Day). $20 adults, $13 children 2 to 12, children 2 and under free. (859) 261-7444 or

The Winter Wonderland poinsettia display includes a nativity scene (with live animals), frozen pond and train display of Cincinnati landmarks. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m daily, Nov. 21-Jan. 3. Free. (513) 421-4086.

An Antique Christmas dresses up the Taft Museum of Art, adorning the halls with antique Christmas decorations and festive greenery, with the dining room table set for a holiday party, complete with china, crystal and silver. Featured are Belsnickles (papier-mâché Santas), Kugels (blown-glass ornaments with decorative metal tops), Dresdens (embossed paper ornaments), paper dolls and many other rare ornaments on loan from private collections. Taft Museum of Art, 316 Pike St., downtown. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, Nov. 27-Jan. 10. $8, $6 for seniors and students, free to those 18 and under. (Free to all on Wednesdays.) (513) 241-0343 or

They call it the “Miracle on Fourth Street.” The Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival is celebrating 70 years of Medieval pageantry and the Nativity story. A cast and crew of hundreds, many who return year after year, dress up in elaborate costumes, while a full chorus and orchestra provide the music (a blend of traditional folk music and Christmas carols). Look for a colorful procession of Magi, Beefeater soldiers on the march, yule sprites, huntsmen complete with live hawks courtesy of Raptor Inc., minstrels, shepherds, even good King Wenceslas and ‘natch, a wild boar’s head. Christ Church Cathedral, 4th and Sycamore streets, downtown. 2 and 5 p.m. Saturdays, 2:30 and 5 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 2-3. Free tickets are available by calling ahead, then seating is first come, first served (traditionally, the pageant has never turned anyone away, even if there is standing room only). (513) 621-2627 or

For one night only! Be sure to bring the whole family to enjoy the world-famous Radio City Rockettes. This Christmas spectacular, featuring rag dolls, wooden soldiers, Santa, and a nativity scene, is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. US Bank Arena, 100 Broadway St., downtown. 4 and 7 p.m. Wed. Dec. 9. (513) 562-4949 or




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Boost ... For Meetings Sake
BOOST…for meetings sake is a 4,600- square- foot urban loft meeting destination, located downtown. It’s perfect for your next meeting, brainstorm session, consumer research event, retreat or celebration. Bursting with natural sunlight, comfy furnishings, flexible open spaces, and even a roof top deck, this space is sure to awaken attendees’ senses, creativity and productivity. (513) 621-8222 or

Dave & Buster's
Dave & Buster’s is 65,000 square feet of food, fun and games. From the Grand Dining Room, Million Dollar Midway, multi-level Viewpoint Areas and private rooms, such as the Showroom, to the fully stocked bars, D&B has an event area for every occasion. (513) 671-5501 or