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The Evolution of Christmas Parties

Over the years we’ve entertained thousands of Christmas partygoers, but recent times have seen a noticeable shift in the way people celebrate the season of goodwill.

The Ultimate Experience team has been at the forefront of this developments in Christmas parties. As more time has passed clients have become more adventurous in their party plans, always looking to create an event more exciting than the last.

A key driving force in the changes at play has been economic influences; growth has meant larger parties, with more guests, than in previous years. It has also allowed for greater creativity in theming, with clients looking to add to the experience of their event with production, lighting and bespoke touches.

Kim Stillman, Events Assistant at Ultimate Experience said: “Companies appreciate that events are no longer just a means of gathering employees and clients for special occasions but also a way of boosting morale and saying thank you.”

Ultimate Experience’s Sales Director Francis Cremona agrees: “The Christmas party should be protected as it’s a great way of incentivising staff and giving them something to look forward to at the end of a hard year. It’s also a great way for departments to bond across the business.”

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Despite the increased spend in Christmas celebrations, party bookers continue to search for parties which offer the greatest value, making the most of budgets which haven’t quite returned to the levels they once were.

Teresa-Anne Dunleavy, chief executive of the Concerto Group, said: “spending has definitely increased. But we are not back up at the 2008 pre-Lehman levels where one client had us re-carpet the whole of the Honourable Artillery Company in white, dress the rooms in fairy lights and install an ice rink.”

Through looking into available dates and minimum numbers clients can ensure they are getting the most for their money – of course everyone wants to party on a Thursday or a Friday, but if the party moves to a Wednesday bookers can provide better entertainment options, a more impressive venue or additional catering.

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The way food is served at events is changing, with more focus on food stalls. Create’s Head Chef Darren Deadman said: “street food has one more year in it as a major trend. The next big trend is Korean, especially Korean barbecue.”

A greater importance is also now being placed on unnecessary waste with Christmas parties. Whereas before trays of beautiful food might have been wasted without a second thought, party planners are now looking to make the most of every penny, so catering is planned more thoroughly and excessive waste is being curbed.

New initiatives are also emerging to turn the problem of waste into something positive. Charity Floral Angels recycles donated flowers from weddings, events, florists and retailers to restyle them into beautiful bouquets and arrangements, which are then delivered to those in need within our community.

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Changes have been noted in the ways parties look, too. Recent years have seen a move away from the traditional Christmas party theme and décor. Instead, clients are asking for more unusual parties, leading to the development of events such as Wonder Nights at the Artillery Garden, HAC and Neon at Old Billingsgate Vaults.

Ultimate Experience’s Managing Director, Stephen Lawrence (aka Mr Christmas), has noted a few unusual requests, including one client who wanted to fill the moat of the Tower of London with water, a client who wanted to bring an elephant into the Roundhouse for people to ride, and another looking to drive a Formula 1 car (which can go no slower than 30mph) through the middle of a marquee full of people dining!

Stephen Lawrence said: “clients want to have more fun this year, they’re not taking everything so seriously. Everything is much more relaxed. The Wonder Nights theme at the Artillery Garden, HAC complete with its fairground, carnival atmosphere and bold colour scheme is a great example of this.”

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Venue choices too have seen a marked change in the past five years. Clients are increasingly looking to celebrate in more industrial, raw spaces and have begun to look further afield than the confines of the city and West End.

Account Manager Lily Brooks from Ultimate Experience advises party planners that the most important thing is to find a venue “which fits your party well. There is nothing worse than rattling around in a beautiful space and losing all the atmosphere.”

East London venues such as Studio Spaces offer clients a welcome change from typical Christmas party venues, and are growing in popularity – this venue is new for 2015; take a look at weareultimate.co.uk.