by Lisa A. Grimaldi | November 01, 2014
Frugal Festivities

Themed holiday events don't have to cost a fortune. Consider the following budget-trimming tips from event professionals.

• January is the new December. Hold the celebration after Jan. 1. The post-holiday time period is typically a slow one, thus you'll have more venue choices and likely more negotiable prices. Pacifica, Calif.-based event planner Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, notes another plus for pushing the event into 2015: The new fiscal year might allow for a larger budget for festivities.

• Share the celebration. To cut costs on décor and entertainment, consider throwing a joint holiday event with another company. Felsher recommends bundling the bash with a strategic partner, such as a vendor or customer, so employees can build relationships with people they typically don't get to see in a social setting.

• Make it a brunch. A brunch party is a great way to spend less for a holiday celebration, as menu items -- eggs, pancakes, salads -- typically are less costly than dinner fare, notes Marty Clarke, director of event management at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. Also, guests won't expect a full bar; a choice of Bloody Mary or mimosa should suffice. 

-- Lisa A. Grimaldi

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A nod to nostalgia, a celebration filled with exotic international flair and an evening at a cozy ski lodge are among the hot trends for holiday and year-end themes, according to event specialists interviewed by M&C. Following is a roundup of their best and brightest ideas for the 2014 holiday party season. Our panel of experts includes:

• Kate Brack, director of floral and event design at Los Angeles-based Eventworks;

• Marty Clarke, director of event management at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa;

• Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM, an event planner based in Pacifica, Calif.;

• Andy Glanz, creative director at Tempe, Ariz.-based Encore Creative;

• Dominic Mitchell, co-founder and CEO of Raj Tents, based in San Leandro, Calif.;

• Tim Seeberg, senior event planner at Boston-based BG Events & Catering.

Industrial Chic
If you're looking for a theme free of froufrou, industrial chic is the perfect solution. The elements of a raw event space that are traditionally hidden -- pipes, bare floors and rafters -- are on full display to create an über-hip party setting. Eventworks based its take on the concept on the stark, futuristic movie Blade Runner, incorporating rigging, industrial ceiling tubes and bare shelving in the décor.

Other touches include "ice flower" hangings (to incorporate a holiday element) and furniture in rough-hewn wood and steel to complement the factory cafeteria atmosphere. Tables can be decorated with florals in mugs and jars, along with candles in brown glass bottles. While any type of holiday food and drink can work this theme, the tableware itself -- plain cafeteria-style plates and utensils -- tie in well to the industrial look.

After dinner, surprise attendees with a futuristic winter dance club set up in an adjoining space. Eventworks achieved the look with blue lighting, giant faux icicles and ice flowers throughout, with huge white globe lights dangling from the ceiling. To keep with the after-party color scheme, serve a signature drink like Hpnotiq, the neon blue-hued elixir made from vodka, tropical fruit juice and cognac, along with traditional beverages.

Bollywood Bash
Exotic international themes are hot at present. Among the most popular for the holiday season is a Bollywood-style soirée. The vivid color palate associated with Bollywood (aka Hindi cinema)  -- deep reds, hot pinks, spicy oranges, rich violets and gold -- lend themselves well to the festive nature of the season.

To set the mood, exotic indoor tents and pavilions can be arranged around the event space, with walls and ceilings draped in brightly hued fabrics. The dining area should incorporate a mixture of styles: low lounge furniture with colorful cushion seats, as well as more traditional seating at round and rectangular tables. Festoon them with Indian flowers like saffron-colored marigolds and antique-looking brass lamps.

A traditional Indian buffet, accompanied by cards detailing ingredients of dishes guests might be unfamiliar with (e.g., saag paneer, vegetable korma), goes well with the theme, while entertainment can include Bollywood-style dancers who perform choreographed routines in colorful garb.

Christmas in New York
Manhattan is at its magical best during the holidays, yet the glittering charm of Christmas in New York can easily be created anywhere, with a few key touches. Los Angeles-based Eventworks suggests using props that duplicate seasonal landmarks, such as the iconic tree and angels in Rockefeller Center, the wreathed lion statues in front of the main branch of the New York Public Library, the elegant facade of Grand Central Station or the festive windows of Macy's Herald Square, to give the event space holiday charm straight out of the classic 1947 film, Miracle on 34th Street.

The main dining area, festooned with twinkle-lit trees, icicles, park benches and LED-projected falling snow, can be transformed into a wintry Central Park with tablescapes in silvery hues.

The menu should be pure New York-style noshes: hot pretzels, hot chocolate, mini Reuben and pastrami sandwiches, potato knishes, hot dogs from a pushcart and bagels with spreads. For dessert: black-and-white cookies.