It’s holiday party week—and you’re suddenly finding yourself unprepared. Most managers want to offer a fun holiday party to reward their employees—but December flies by at an unexpected rate.

The good idea you had three months is suddenly upon you… and you haven’t planned.

Here are the 10 Forge Fast Tips for throwing a last minute holiday office party to show your employees your appreciation!

1. Have a theme.

Give your holiday party a theme for an instant festive facelift. A common party idea is the ugly Christmas sweater, where everyone wears his or her worst Christmas sweater. Employees can then vote on their favorite and win awards for “most sparkly,” “best dressed,” “worst dressed,” and so on. You could theme it Nightmare Before Christmas, Winter Wonderland, or By The Fire. We like the theme, “Don’t Be A Grinch,” with Grinch themed décor and a giving well that offers donations to a local charity. Just a few themed decorations and your party will instantly enliven!

2. Have defined bar rules.

holiday office partyPeople often expect alcohol at a holiday party, but you want to keep the drinking to a minimum if you can. If you’re offering an open bar, hire a professional bartender who can keep an eye out for intoxication and unwanted behavior. Hosting a cash bar usually minimizes drinking, but it might now show the same sort of appreciation for your employees.

Offering drink tickets is a good in-between. You can have a certain number of complimentary drink tickets per person, and then they either pay for the rest or can’t receive any more alcohol when their tickets are gone. This shows your employees your appreciation by “buying their drinks,” but not encouraging inappropriate or drunken behavior.

3. Have cabs available.

Keep in mind that if you serve alcohol at a party and allow an attendee to drive home drunk, you could be liable for any damages. To avoid liability or injury to your employees, have a cab service on call towards the end of the night. You can even work with a nearby hotel to book a room or two in case. If you’re hosting the office party at your house, prepare your guest room ahead of time in case you have some overnight crashers.

4. Offer a hot chocolate bar.

holiday office partyIf you aren’t serving alcohol—or even if you are—offer a hot chocolate bar. Keep the hot chocolate warming in a crock-pot to keep it hot. Then offer fix-ins like marshmallows, candy canes, cinnamon, cookie sticks, and more. This is a nice touch your employees will love—and that you can pull together in an hour! Plus, hot chocolate can help reduce work stress!

5. Crank the tunes.

Music can make or break a party. If you have time, hire a DJ or band to add extra “oompf” to the event. If not, throw on a Christmas playlist with surround sound speakers. Try to avoid traditional Christmas or holiday music, which can be slow and low energy. Instead, choose pop holiday songs from modern artists to keep the energy high.

6. Set up a photo booth.

Create a makeshift photo booth where employees can take pictures. Set up a camera with a timer in the back corner. Put out a few holiday decorations, like a Santa hat and reindeer glasses. People can then pick which props they want to make their holiday office party photos fun and festive. This will give them a memory from the event—and funny pictures you can use in the future. If you don’t want to set up a photo booth, you can place disposable cameras around the room so employees can take pictures as they enjoy the office party.

7. Put the boss in a costume.

Rent a Santa suit or dreidel costume and dress up the manager in a costume. This will lighten the mood to make the boss feel more accessible to everyone. For months (if not years), your employees will be talking about the time their manager’s Santa beard fell off during his speech.

Too last minute? Put the boss in an armadillo costume like on Friends.

holiday office party

8. Host a potluck.

Are you really behind on planning? Did you forget to order food, and now it’s too late to find a local caterer? If so, you can ask your employees to bring in their favorite meal. Keep in mind that this is extra work for your employees, and they’ll need time to prepare. Make the potluck optional but encouraged; don’t force your employees to bring something in.

9. Allow a plus one.

If your budget allows for it, encourage employees to bring a plus one. This will make employees feel more comfortable, especially if your team doesn’t often get together in social settings outside of work. Your team can finally meet one another’s partners and crazy friends that they always talk about. This social aspect is a great form of team building.

10. Do a holiday wish list.

Secret Santa can cause some issues among employees. Some people forget, overspend, underspend, or wait until the last minute. Rather than a Secret Santa, ask your employees to instead pool their money and donate to the “wishing well.” The business can match the gift as well to show appreciation for the employees. You can then buy everyone an office gift that they’ve wanted for that year. Get them that new espresso machine, personal desk fans, or a room filled with standing desks. You could also make a donation in the team’s name to a local charity.

The Bottom Line

Appreciate your employees this holiday season with a holiday office party—even if you’re underprepared!

What are your holiday office party tips and tricks? Share this article with your advice and tag @Forge to spread some holiday cheer!