Holiday Party Report: Bashes on Hold

November 18, 2002, 12:00 AM EST

By Jill Musguire

Planning a corporate holiday party just isn't what it used to be. Last year, companies debated whether to throw them after September 11. This year, a rough economy and smaller budgets have planners waiting to iron out details.

“Planners are waiting longer to book events—usually everyone booked venues by June; now there are still openings in October,” says Erica Morris, special events manager at People magazine, which—along with parent Time Inc.—nixed plans for a holiday party.

Popular venues like Tavern on the Green that usually book holiday parties in July still had plenty of spots left open in late-October. “We're just now getting busy with holiday bookings,” says Nina Hirschman, director of sales for Tavern's banquet department. “At the last minute, companies are saying 'let's do a party.' Businesses are being more cautious with the dollars.”

“People are playing it very close to the time frame,” says Joan Steinberg of Match Catering and Eventstyles. As lead times go from months to weeks, Match's financial firm clients are working with smaller budgets. “Events are going to take a more low-key, casual approach. Parties will be nice, but not extravagant.”

Indeed, companies that have planned events are doing pared down parties. ESPN will do a shorter, less extravagant party near its headquarters in Bristol, Conn. “We're keeping the basic elements in place, but reducing the holiday pizzazz,” says Peter Rosenberger, director of special events marketing at ESPN Inc. Citigroup is doubling up its holiday party with a philanthropic event by inviting children from the Children's Aid Society to a family-friendly afternoon party for employees and their families.

Shai Tertner of Shiraz NYC, who is doing a few parties for real estate and law firms, recommends cutting corners on d?cor, but not food: “A good dinner and great drinks can still be fabulous without detail-oriented design.”

But not everyone has altered plans dramatically. The Hearst Corporation is returning to Tavern on the Green with a bash for 1,400, and Equinox will host 1,000 employees and guests at the Puck Building. Scholastic will go to Chelsea Piers with a subdued tone. “We want to bring levity to the event again this year, regarding the events of the past 15 months,” says Scholastic's Billy DiMichele, “but also set a tone that it's okay to have a good time.”

Posted 11.18.02

What is your company doing this holiday season? Let us know: Send an email to Jill Musguire at

This story originally appeared in the BiZBash Event Style Reporter newspaper.

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