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Let's Par-tay! Office Holiday Party Trends For 2012

It's almost Halloween, which means it's almost the holiday we blow right past Thanksgiving, which means Christmas is right around the corner. What's your average, anal retentive office manager to do? - Allow me to apologize in advance for what I'm going to say to you at the office holiday party

The good news is, people are feeling more excited about the holidays this year, and we're starting to get a sense of impending holiday trends. Consider Boston-based event management company Longwood Events + Lifestyle, which is just one group already predicting the top holiday party trends for 2012. So what's the plan, Stan? Here are a few tips for getting the office party started:

The Venue. Where will you guys party? I hope somewhere outside company walls, because who wants to party at work? Yawn. Longwood Events suggests taking everyone ice skating because it will encourage team building. But my question is: what if you don't know how to ice skate? Just have everyone sign a we're-not-responsible-if-you-break-a-leg waiver, and don't push nervous employees onto the ice, I guess. Whatever you do, try somewhere new. Paintball, ping pong, taking in a performance or an outing to a game could be just the thing to get employees more excited about having to spend even more time together.

The Theme. You'll want to set the mood, especially if you keep the party in-house. Longwood Events predicts dramatic centerpiece lighting and organic, natural themes (trees, mulch, organic stumps) will be on-trend and will make your venue feel more cozy and welcoming. Of course, someone will have to clean it all up and carry it all out, and you may not want to deal with tree stumps and mulch. If you go for it, bring a broom. Or a shovel.

The Music. Choosing the right music can be very tricky. Ponder the type of music that goes best with your venue and theme. You can always ask employees what type of music they would like to hear, too. Would they like a DJ? A boom box? A live band? Longwood Events suggests going the pop-meets-jazz route. There's always holiday music, too. Or maybe your venue doesn't require music, which means you can skip this step. Now that's music to your ears, right?

The Food. You'll have to find a way to keep your carnivores, vegans, vegetarians, diabetics, dieters and allergy sufferers all happy at once. Talk about a full plate. The Better Business Bureau has a few tips. Bulk stores such as Costco, BJs and Sam's Club are always good bets for party platters if you're not hiring a caterer. Or maybe you've been tasked with planning a holiday potluck? My condolences. Well, you can stick a fork in the traditional holiday pie, because the 2012 company holiday party will be all about cupcakes and lots of 'em. Maybe a local bakery can create a big company logo out of cupcakes, and everyone can take some home at the end of the party? I actually like this idea. Given how much people love cupcakes, you might have to fight for your right to take some home.

The Fashion. Okay, you're not going to The Oscars, but if the venue and theme are fancy enough then you might feel the need to put a little more effort into your appearance. Fall color trends include wine red and tangerine, but I'll leave fashion trends to the experts. Here are seven fashion trends for women and a few tips for men. Just keep it classy (the wrap dress is on-trend this year, ladies) and leave the orange tux at home, okay?

The Gifts. Lands' End has just released its 2012 Holiday Business Gift Survey, which says employers will be going "practical" again this year. Most likely, this means you'll be getting a gift card, apparel, food, a holiday cash bonus, padfolios/writing instruments, or drinkware. Yeah, it's not 1999 when you used to get a huge cash bonus along with another promotion and an expensive gift, but at least you're not getting stiffed like Clark Griswold anymore, either.

The Sideshow. It's almost time for Secret Santas, the annual tradition many employees secretly love to hate. But we talked about that last year. Will you have the final Secret Santa reveal dovetail with the company party? Who will be in charge of Secret Santas this year, and what will be the maximum individual budget? Start planning now, because this stuff can sneak up on you just like a Secret Santa gift left on your desk while you were in the restroom. Oh really, you shouldn't have!

Whatever you do, good luck, have fun, don't ruin your career, and be glad when it's over. And happy holidays!


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