By Kaitlyn Wallace
It’s that time of year again– time to trade swimsuits for sweatpants, kayaks for skis, and beach towels for blankets. At least in the meetings and events world, planning for summer events is coming to a close, soon to be replaced by the busiest part of the season– holiday planning.
Isn’t it a bit early to be planning for the holiday season? After all, we’re barely past mid-summer events like the Fourth of July and Memorial Day and still ahead of Halloween. But there are a few reasons to start thinking about holiday planning now, many months in advance.
Of course, it’s always best to start planning early. Depending on the size and scope of the event, it may be prudent to start the planning process up to six months in advance in order to maximize your chances of booking your first choices of venue, catering, and certain rental items, as well as ensuring your guests’ availability during a very busy season. It will be prudent to double check any potential dates against religious calendars for a variety of faiths in order to ensure that your event is not infringing on guests’ celebrations of other holidays. Fall and winter are full of religious holidays that often go unacknowledged by the workplace and the meetings and events industry. Diwali, Edi al-Fitr, and Hanukkah are all holidays that occur on different dates each year and can fall in autumn and winter; starting on your holiday planning early will help you to ensure that your preferred event space and caterers are available on date without religious obligations.
One of the first considerations in holiday planning is theme. This can be a tricky subject, and will affect most of your other planning decisions, such as decor, catering, gifts, and invitations, so it’s best to devote your earliest planning stages to weighing all of your theme options. For example, it will be necessary to carefully consider whether or not a religious theme, like the popular Christmas party, is appropriate for your event. In recent years, many planners and professionals have begun to transition towards more secular themes, such as “Winter,” “Snow,” or the more generic “Holidays” in order to be inclusive to guests of all faiths and beliefs. This transition has been mirrored in the culinary world as well, with many caterers moving towards culturally and religiously diverse meals for holiday events.
Rather than seeing a move towards inclusivity as a restriction, however, many planners have been viewing this transition as an opportunity for creativity, novelty, and whimsy. Without the constraints of a more traditional religious theme and all of the specific color schemes, decorations, and foods that naturally follow, planners have the opportunity to open up their arrangement to exciting palettes, daring flavors, and bold decor. Transitioning to a winter theme opens up a world of blues and greens, ice sculptures, fairy lights, and translucent decorations, while a “Holidays Across the World” theme might include a much broader color and pattern spectrum, a wide variety of new and exciting traditional hors d’oeuvres, and live music representing cultures around the world.
Perhaps one of the most interesting ways to open up your event to everyone is gift selection. Since you’re no longer obligated to stick with more traditional offerings, your options are almost endless. Perhaps you’d be interested in providing self-care kits to honor the conclusion of a long and difficult year, including candles, a variety of teas, and comfortable socks. Maybe you’d like to emphasize the excitement of approaching a new year with personalized wine glasses, elegant coasters, or a chic charcuterie board. Perhaps you’d even consider spoiling your guests with a memorable year-long subscription to a chocolate- or wine-of-the-month delivery. All of these ideas can be executed well in advance, taking a time-consuming item off of your hands for the holiday event planning season.
As all good planners know, starting your planning early can be the key to pulling off successful meetings and events. By starting the early stages of your planning in the summer, you can ease the workload of the busy holiday season and devote your energy towards managing more time-sensitive items later in the year. Scoping out dates, caterers, and events spaces is a great start; so is lining up themes and gift ideas. All of these action items can be completed in advance and will lighten your load as you juggle the many responsibilities that holiday planning brings. Starting early will decrease your stress, ensure availability for all of your first-choice vendors and event support, and set the foundation for a memorable holiday event. Trust me– your future self will thank you.
Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis.