office holiday party at top of the town

holiday party at top of the town in arlington, va

A few months ago I featured a site report on Top of the Town, just outside of Washington, DC. In December, we used Top of the Town for an office holiday party for about 150 people. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the venue and how the party worked out, as well as share some of the ideas we used for decor and the menu. We also had some entertainment for the evening, but I will feature that in a separate post.

I’ll start with a disclaimer – my photos are terrible. We didn’t have a professional photographer at this event so it was just me and my decent camera in poor lighting conditions during set-up. So, please forgive me!

The Venue

The selling point for Top of the Town is its view. It’s right outside DC (in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington) so it has magnificent views of DC and the monuments. It was actually a gray, rainy day on the night of the party, so I wasn’t able to take any good shots of the view but you can see some here. Luckily it cleared up enough by the time the party started that the guests were able to marvel at the view.

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lessons learned: what I did right and what I did wrong at Christmas this year

lessons learned from hosting Christmas

As regular readers of this little blog know, my husband and I moved into our first house in November and this Christmas was the first we would be able to spend in our new home. We would be hosting my family on Christmas day. Ever the hostess, I was so excited for Christmas this year. I had visions of being able to sleep in our own bed Christmas Eve, wake up at a leisurely hour and open presents in our pajamas, before going to Church and then coming home and getting ready for my family to arrive.

Well, spoiler alert: that’s not how Christmas happened this year. Oh there were no disasters, for sure, but a few things didn’t go as planned and I broke the cardinal rule of being a good hostess (and of event planning): just roll with it. Let’s just say I didn’t always roll with it this year. I let myself get a little stressed, which I never do while planning professionally.

So in the hope of preventing someone else from making the same mistake, I wanted to share my lessons learned.

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christmas place setting ideas

diy christmas place setting and place card ideas

As promised, I am continuing this Christmas week with ideas for entertaining at home. I am a day late but I did have a good excuse – last night was a company holiday party that I planned and I’m happy to report that it was a success – I’ll have more info on that next week, but I definitely was able to follow my own advice because the party was not a disaster.

On Monday I featured centerpiece ideas – today I have some ideas for place settings and place cards. Even if you don’t have so many guests that you “need” assigned seats, I love doing place cards. It’s a fun way to add a little something special to the table, especially if you don’t have room for a centerpiece – which is most likely going to be the case for me, since I always overdo it with the food. Just about all these ideas are DIY-friendly, too!

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christmas centerpiece ideas

christmas DIY centerpiece ideas

As I’m sure you’re aware, Christmas is just around the corner (it’s coming a little too quickly for my taste!). While I’ve been absorbed with planning a company holiday party (could you guess that’s been on my mind?) I don’t want to forget about Christmas at home. This year will be my first hosting Christmas in our new house. While it will just be a small group, eight total, I still want it to be special and perfect. As I’ve been brainstorming little ideas to make my first Christmas dinner in the house special, I wanted to share some ideas with you. I’ll have three posts over the next three days geared toward Christmas entertaining. These are all ideas that you can DIY. Today I wanted to focus on centerpieces.

Just like with Thanksgiving dinner, I feel like the centerpiece at Christmas dinner should err on the side of simple. There’s always so much food on the table, you don’t want the centerpiece to get lost or get in the way. I usually opt for something low. Your comfort level around candles will depend on who your guests are. Since the “kids” at our dinner are my 17 and 20 year old nieces, I think I’m ok, but you will need to decide for yourself.

I also recommend something that you can do ahead – with everything else you’re worried about on Christmas, I wouldn’t add greenery arrangement on top.

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holiday party themes and ideas

office holiday party ideas

Office holiday parties have a bad reputation. On one end, they are open-bar fueled fodder for water cooler gossip, on the other they are a dull afterthought planned by an otherwise overworked staffer. If you are tasked with planning this year’s festivities, repeat this mantra: “I can do better.”

No matter what the budget (or lack thereof) office holiday parties don’t have to so dreadful and boring. They can be classy and fun. Every party is going to be different based on location, budget and office culture and demographics, but here are some theme ideas to get you started. Keep in mind that these theme ideas are a jumping off point only – if your party is on the smaller scale, you can incorporate one or two ideas into your party to make a big impact.

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