How to Organise A Great Office Christmas Party - Six Inspirational Ideas

by KathleenDuffy

Here are some fun, thrifty ideas to make this year's office Christmas party an event to remember - and it won't break the bank!

It's no exagerration to say that quite often people dread the office Christmas party. Unless you've got a massive budget, it's usually held in a bar or restaurant where the food is sub-standard, the cheap wine flows a bit too quickly and people tend to break away into groups leaving many feeling left out.

So this year, if it's your job to organise the Christmas bash, why not think outside the box - do something a bit different, something that might make everyone feel good about themselves and the company they are working for.

And it doesn't have to cost a fortune. Set yourself an affordable per-head budget and you might be surprised with what you come up with.

Here's just a few suggestions. You'll probably think of even better ones for your particular office situation.

Norman Rockwell's 'Santa and Expense Book'
Norman Rockwell's 'Santa and Expense Book'

IDEA NO. 1: Turn Your Office Christmas Party Into a Charity Fund-Raiser

..with plenty to eat and a visit to the pub later!

Why opt for an expensive restaurant when you can have a brilliant Christmas party right in the office, raise money for charity and then go to the pub afterwards?

Get all your work colleagues to donate their favourite dish to the office party - clear the decks and display the food.  People can supply some drink too. 

This always results in plenty of surprises and lots of delicious food you wouldn't otherwise get to eat and its extremelBuffety cheap.  (It's the sort of thing churches do all the time!)

However, before this you will have chosen a local charity to support - say a women's refuge or the local hospice or children's charity - and everyone will be asked to donate a minimum sum of money to the chosen cause. Keep this minimum focussed on the lower wage earners; those on more will no doubt donate a higher amount.


You could invite a representative from the chosen charity to come along to the party to receive your cheque and give a short chat on how it will be spent. 

You'll feel great about yourselves and your colleagues because you've all contributed by bringing food and supporting a community project.

Next step - straight down the pub for some more Christmas cheer!

IDEA NO. 2: A Bollywood-Themed Office Christmas Party!

Bollywood Dance Show in Bristol
Bollywood Dance Show in Bristol

Turn a decent sized space - possibly the canteen or a board room - into a tented area.  This can be done with cheap, colourful material or brightly coloured crepe paper  that doesn't have to cover the whole ceiling space, but will still give the impression of an exotic tent. 

Put plenty of inexpensive fairy lights about the place for an extra touch of glamour.

Buy Indian posters from e-bay and display them around the walls.

Have DVDs of Bollywood film songs playing whilst you party!  Buy them from E-Bay, Amazon or hire them.

Cook a selection of curries and rice yourselves, or you can ask the local Indian takeaway to do you a deal and deliver the food.

Buy a selection of drinks from a wholesalers and mix up some nice cocktails and jugs of beer.

If Bollywood isn't your style - just pick a theme you all agree on and go for it!

And don't forget to dress the part, too!

Bollywood Music on DVD

From E-bay

IDEA NO. 3: Have a Wine Tasting Office Christmas Party!

The posh way to pretend you're not getting plastered... it a merlot or Ribena? it a merlot or Ribena?

Rent a reasonably priced private room in a local pub and get them to fix up a long table.  Put a white paper  tablecloth on it. Make sure everyone brings a bottle of wine from a pre-prepared list.  Set out the wine and glasses.

Ask the pub to provide you with a variety of canapes to go with the wine-tasting at a price to suit your budget.  The remainder of your budget should be enough to buy the wine selection.

Cheese and Wine Perhaps one of your work colleagues is a bit of a wine expert and would be willing to set up  the tasting session, acting as a sort of consultant and judge.

However, let's remember it's Christmas, and not get too serious about it.  And because times are hard,  if you do have a wine-tasting that involves guessing the year, then  your variety of wines might prove a bit expensive.   And actually, do we really care that in 1950 a French vineyard was riddled with beetles or the vintner changed the barrel in 1990? 

Much better to put everyone into teams,  have a good laugh, and get them to write down their answers.

For instance  is it Spanish, French, Italian, Australian, Californian or English.  North side of the vineyard?   Tesco, Sainsbury's or Morrisons? Which wine is recommended for cheese, chicken, chocolate, etc?  Which one is the best budget wine?  Which of these wines  goes best with fava beans?  (, that a 'nice Chianti' if I remember rightly).  You get the picture.

Don't worry if you can't think of questions or combinations - there tons of wine-tasting fun games on the market to help you out.

You could have a bit of 'wine-drinking music' in the background too, for atmosphere - maybe some French with a bit of accordian music thrown in, or Spanish with guitars and castanets. Or even stuff like  Dean Martin singing, Little Old Wine Drinker Me etc.

This is great fun - and you can learn a (little) bit about wines too!

IDEA NO. 4: Go to the Pantomime for the Office Christmas Party

Oh no we won't! - OH YES YOU WILL!
Pantomime Poster
Pantomime Poster

Book cheap seats for the pantomime - but go to the matinee performance.  You'll be out of the theatre by about 4:00 pm.

Before the pantomime have lunch in a reasonably-priced brasserie or buffet-style place.

Pantomime Dame

The pantomime is a great choice for the office Christmas event because there's lots of banter, a good sing-song and some racey jokes!  You'll all be feeling very Christmassy  by the time you emerge from the warm, dark theatre and into the lights of the city.

When you come out, wander round a Christmas market together if there is one in the area and have some mulled wine and food-on-the-go.


Bella Italia Restaurant


Alternatively, head to a little restaurant for a reasonably priced meal with wine or go to the pub for some comfort food and beer!


This is a very varied afternoon, but it isn't frantic! 





It's a relaxed, laid-back kind of Christmas office party that hopefully has something to please everyone.


IDEA NO. 5: Carol Singing for Your Community

Christmas Trio by Norman Rockwell
Christmas Trio by Norman Rockwell

Get in touch with your local care home or housing project for the elderly, children's ward at the hospital, hospice or similar scheme in the area and arrange a date near Christmas to visit and sing carols.

A couple of weeks before Christmas get together with your office colleagues and decide on a programme of Christmas carols and festive songs to perform and practice them in your lunch hour.  Don't worry if you think you can't sing!  It's amazing how quickly you'll all begin to sound pretty good together!  

The JMusic Man


If someone can play an instrument, even better.   But you can always take a portable CD player along with a backing track.  That can sound really brilliant!

With your Christmas office party budget buy some gifts to take with you.

Dress up in Christmas hats, holly wreaths, take some paper Christmas lanterns and tinsel and generally go completely over the top with the Christmas fashion disaster! 



The main thing is that the people you are singing for will be so appreciative of your efforts and the fact that you've taken the trouble to visit them. 

And afterwards?  Yep - you guessed it!   Straight down the pub for a celebratory glass or two!

IDEA NO. 6: Why Not .....

Skating rink  in winter* try ice skating at a local rink - cheap, great fun and a chance to learn a new skill;


* have a buffet/drinks in the office canteen, hire a magician, set up a karaoke machine and invite colleagues (but don't force them)  to sing or entertain in any way (within reason!). 


*go to a karaoke bar and hire a private room.  Then choose from the menu and sing your hearts out to the accompaniment with words on the screen.  Management can supply snacks and drinks usually.  Or go out for a cheap meal before or afterwards.


*go ten-pin bowling in the afternoon and then a meal in the early evening.

Finally - What Guarantees a Great Christmas Office Party?

A few suggestions.

Possibly the best way to guarantee that your office Christmas party goes well is to ensure that it's inclusive and accessible to all - if they want to attend.

In other words, if your workplace doesn't embrace a drinking culture then choose an activity where it isn't the main focus.

If you have people with disabilities ensure they can access the venues you intend to visit.

Some people, no matter how wonderful your office Christmas party arrangement may seem, may not wish to attend, especially if the event is out of office hours.  I guess we have to remember that many people have very busy lives outside the office situation, or they have responsibilities and problems we may not be aware of.  Or they just may not want to be in a party-type, group situation. 

Everyone is different.  It's a good idea to bear this in mind and accept their non-attendance with good grace and a non-judgemental attitude.


So - there's plenty of alternatives out there to consider and maybe some of these suggestions will help make your office Christmas party one to remember.



Inspired by  a column in The Guardian, 'Personal Effects - Money', 12.11.11

Decorate the Office Party Space

Updated: 07/21/2013, KathleenDuffy
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KathleenDuffy on 07/24/2013

Hi Maggie - Thank you for your nice comments! Appreciate it.

MaggiePowell on 07/24/2013

These are great ideas, and I love how you included parties that could work for all different sizes of office, and all different party budgets.

KathleenDuffy on 07/21/2013

Hi Yvette - I'm glad you liked these ideas. I think the Bollywood one would get me to attend! It looks a bit crazy and fun :)

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