Fall always provides a necessary transition between the bright, sunny summer days and the winter wonderland of Nebraska that often signals the holiday season has arrived.  It is truly unappealing for most of us busy people to consider that very soon, the beautiful mild weather and festive colors will disappear before we have had ample time to enjoy them and even more stressful to think of all of the necessary holiday preparations that will need to be made in the near future.  However, to do your holiday party or gift buying justice (and even though it feels like a strange time to do so or you may not even want to think about it yet) right now is the best time to start planning certain aspects of your event or making arrangements for some really great gifts.  While you don’t have to start listening to carols or chopping down a tree quite yet, other things–like securing the best venue or event planner to handle the details of your party for you, or pre-ordering and personalizing the perfect gift—are best done as early as possible.

Decisions, Decisions: Planning for Your 2013 Holiday Party

Choosing a Venue

Holiday parties are a great chance to get everyone together outside of the office for a change of pace and to celebrate with one another.  When considering the “when and where” aspect of your holiday party, the where usually comes first and somewhat determines the options for when.  That is why planning and booking your desired venue early is so important.  There are many great choices in Omaha, and we have included some great options to get you started.

The Mid-America Center has various room sizes to fit all sizes of holiday parties, offers free parking and is conveniently located adjacent to Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs for even more fun!  Upcoming events you could theme your party around include the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert on November 15th as well as TobyMac in concert on November 22nd.  These offer a great way to celebrate in a different way.  A group could have a sit-down dinner in one of our ballrooms and then be escorted to the Arena to see the concert.  Depending on the size of your group, they have Club Seats and spacious Suites available as well. Discounted group tickets are available for groups of 12 or more for Trans-Siberian Orchestra and 50 or more for TobyMac.  According to Mid-America Center representative Katie Manganaro, “The earlier you start the planning process – the better chance you have to secure the date and space that you are wanting.  When planning an event at the Mid-America Center, you will also work with an Event Planner who will assist you in all aspects of the planning of your event–which makes party planning that much easier!  In our experience, we’ve done thousands of events and no two events are alike.  At the Mid-America Center, we customize your event to fit your specific needs and like.  Celebrate your holidays with us!”

Fox and Hound is another great place to host a holiday party, and they offer both semi-private and private room options and an excellent atmosphere for a casual and fun event.

Private “Game” Room (Holds 50 max)

• Low tops with Black Linens

• Cocktail Service

• Free use of 1 pool table

• 2 TVs

•  Exclusivity for you and your guests!

• TV & Sound Control

Private “Burgundy” & “Green” Rooms (75 minimum, 200 Max)

• Exclusive Room for you and your guests

• Cocktail Service

• Includes use of all gaming equipment in that room (Pool, Ping Pong,  Darts)

• Big Screen HDTVs

• TV & Sound Control

• High Tops Cocktail Tables

angie dieringer fox and hound omaha nebraskaFox & Hound also offers a lot of gaming activity that is sure to entertain guests all night, including seven pool tables, ping pong, beer pong, dart, foosball, bean bag toss and Jumbo Jenga!  When planning to feed your guests, their large selection of buffet options provide that extra touch for holiday parties. Whether you want to provide light hors dour eves or a large scale dinner, they have the buffet option you are looking for.  As the Fox & Hound Event Coordinator, Angie Dieringer takes special care of the parties that have booked with her venue. She will work with the main contact for each event from day one to answer any questions they have and guide them along to set up the best party possible for their guests. Dieringer says, “I understand that the Holiday Party is sometimes they only party that a company may do all year long, so I take special pride in making these events extra special and successful for each and every company or family that contacts me. Our guests are very important to us and we will do all we can to make sure you have the best event possible!” She adds, “It is super important to plan early for the holidays. December and January are our busiest months and in order to guarantee your spot, it is best to start booking in September. Once you are booked, you can take some time to make the menu and bar decisions. If you are working within a budget, I will help with that as well. Booking early will allow us to get every detail covered by the time your party rolls around.”

angie lewis the corky canvas omaha nebraskaAnother unique place to host a holiday party that provides an activity as well as socialization is The Corky Canvas.  According to Angie Lewis, owner of The Corky Canvas, “Holiday parties at The Corky Canvas are unique in that we paint, drink wine, eat and mingle all while listening to good music! It seems as though companies are looking for something different and we are definitely different. While sipping on a glass of wine and snacking on catered food of your choice, our instructors will walk you through a painting step-by-step. No artistic experience needed–really! We provide a fun atmosphere where employees are encouraged to try something new.  The best part is everyone gets to take their paintings home with them to remember the fun time they had at your holiday event! She adds, “A trend we’ve been seeing is companies are booking their holiday parties in November, taking a group picture of everyone holding their finished holiday painting, and then using it as their professional holiday card. It really does make for a perfect greeting card!  More often we see department holiday parties as opposed to big 200 employee parties, and these are the kind where you get to relax with those you work with the most!  We see everything from doctor, dental and dermatology offices to insurance companies from all over Nebraska.  While this includes a lot of women, guys really seem to like it too! Some groups book private parties and others go to dinner and then join one of our high energy night classes, but there are definitely options to best accommodate your specific needs.  Check out the “Book a Party” page and calendar page on our website for more information and to check availability.  A paint brush in one hand and a glass of wine in the other makes for a memorable holiday party!”

Event Planning Services: Tips for Organizing an Unforgettable Event

kimmylea konsel limelight expressionsWhether you are having a personal or business holiday party, turn to the experts at LimeLight Expressions. They are your one-stop resource for holiday parties, assisting you with everything from your invitations to décor. They can help you with as little or as much as you’d like, effectively making your holidays stress-free.  Kimmylea Konsel of LimeLight Expressions offers the following Holiday Party Checklist:

Set that Date: Start by planning your personal or business holiday party early so that your guests save the date. With many other events during the Holidays, you want to make sure your party is at the top of mind. LimeLight Expressions can assist in making a unique and memorable event that your guests will be talking about for years.

Create a Budget: Every event has a budget and Holiday parties can get expensive. A budget allows you to stay on track with your projected expenses and compare them to your actual expenses.

Select a Venue: The number of guests that you will be inviting will determine your venue accommodations. The venue should complement your holiday décor vision. Determine if the venue is more accommodating for a buffet-style meal or cocktail service. Holiday parties are often held in a home for that personal touch.  Whether your event will be held in a ballroom or at home, LimeLight Expressions can help you with all the details no matter the size of event.

Theme: A holiday party doesn’t necessarily have to have a theme, as the holidays are a great theme in itself! However, themes help you plan decorations, invitations and even the menu. Holiday themes can range from ugly sweater parties to Winter Wonderlands.

Invitations: Creating the invitations is an important step and sets the entire mood for your event. Paper invitations instead of electronic invitations are such a wonderful touch in today’s technologically savvy world. Create an invitation that is unforgettable and makes the guests not want to miss out on your party. Whether you need holiday party invitations or custom holiday cards, both personal and business, think of one place that has it all–LimeLight Expressions.

LimeLight Expressions can assist you with any holiday needs from event planning, family portraits and Christmas cards, both personal and business. They truly are a one-stop shop for all of your needs.  They custom tailor your event and cards to your specifications and personality, designing an event and invitations/cards that are truly unforgettable. Call LimeLight Expressions today or visit them online to begin planning your holiday cheer! Creating images, memories and moments for your holiday season is their specialty and pleasure.

Festive Holiday Lighting

Whether you are coordinating the lighting for your holiday party or simply want to keep your family members off of the roof or dangerous ladders, Holidynamics provides holiday lighting services and solutions that will keep you festive AND safe.  Holidynamics is a manufacturer and distributor of holiday lighting supplies with a full retail showroom.  Locally, they offer installation, removal and storage of holiday lighting for both commercial and residential customers.  Their professionally trained and certified installers create beautiful holiday displays.  Offering both exterior and interior décor, Holidynamics provides products and decorating services for many different holidays and events year round. Janeen Walker of Holidynamics says, “By utilizing professionally trained and certified installers and high quality, commercial-grade products, your home or place of business will have a magical and polished appearance. Your visitors and guests will have the impression of a warm welcome and an inviting atmosphere.  Planning early for the holidays enables a client to reserve the date of their choice and have peace of mind knowing that the décor portion of holiday planning is taken care of. Our showroom is open year round and we retain a full staff to assist our customers with all of their needs.  Holidynamics offers several different product lines including our new LED Cherry Blossom Trees, Halloween Décor and other items to compliment your various holidays and events. Stop by our showroom today!”

Security Services

calvin jones lions gate security omahaWhile you may not think of it initially, having security present at your holiday party could benefit you in a number of ways.  According to Calvin Jones, Vice President of Lion’s Gate Security Solutions, “Hosting corporate holiday parties is always a great idea, as it helps build company moral and gives the company a chance to invite their clients that they have been doing business with throughout the year.  The importance of having a security presence is that it shows you are being proactive in your planning and that safety for your employees, guests, and clients are a priority.  Our security officers bring a professional security look and hospitable demeanor when working these types of events.  We cater to our clients during the holidays by taking on all of the potential security and safety concerns so that they don’t have to worry about those things during their event. We also bring our trained first responder (EMT) to holiday events and parties in case someone needs medical attention until 911 personnel arrive.  Planning early for the holidays is always a good idea because it gives you time to make changes that might come up during the planning process.

Lion’s Gate Security Solutions encourages businesses to plan early because when you hire us we do a venue Vulnerability Assessment. This assessment points out what areas needs special attention.  Because of Lion’s Gate Security Solutions expertise in security, being first responders, and training; our clients can rest assure that their event will be a safe place for their employees and their guests during the holidays.”

Catering Services

If you need to hire a catering service for your holiday party, Sam & Louie’s Event Catering is now available in Omaha!  Sam & Louie’s Event Catering is an extension of Sam & Louie’s neighborhood restaurants and pizzerias, a well-known Omaha based and family run  business dedicated to providing delicious and affordable food to families, corporations, and the community.  Leah Parodi, Catering Coordinator for Sam & Louie’s Event Catering, stresses that there are only a few short weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to plan a party, so it is a good idea to get your date set as soon as possible!  She adds that if you are celebrating the holidays in your home with family, neighbors and friends they offer plenty of crowd pleasing catered favorites, but for an outside venue they also offer several party room locations throughout the Omaha Metro area to host your event. Whether you are hosting 5 or 500 people, they can provide everything you need including plastic and paper goods, beverages, delicious food and one-on-one personalized service which involves party set up, service during the event and clean-up.  For a more elegant special event, Sam & Louie’s offers catering coordinators, taste testing and menu selections, elegant and high quality disposable plastic ware and decorated buffet tables with white linens and banquet chafing dishes.  Sam & Louie’s Event Catering is a full service caterer with a large buffet menu, including gluten free items, designed to meet all your needs.  They offer hors d’oeuvres, full and limited bar services, deserts and special buffet options for kids.  Pizza and pasta are Sam & Louie’s specialty, but assorted cold sandwiches, hot Stromboli’s and spicy boneless Buffalo wings are also on the menu.  Each catered event brings personalized, face-to-face service and a variety of delicious, affordable foods that are perfect for your upcoming holiday party.  Sam & Louie’s gives you more time to entertain clients, celebrate the year with your employees or enjoy time at home with family and friends.  Same & Louie’s Event Catering is starting to take reservations now–reserve a holiday order before November 1st and enjoy a holiday decorated cookie platter, large enough for all of your guests, included at no charge for your party!

Holiday Gift Giving – Planning Ahead For Unique or Personalized Gift Options

While some people buy gifts for their friends, family, co-workers or employees year round; we are all familiar with what the rush looks like at many retailers and local businesses in the weeks prior to a major holiday.  Though this gets the job done, it creates a lot of stress and doesn’t allow for time for creativity or personalized options.  This may not be too concerning to some, or may seem overly materialistic, but finding the right gift can really send a message to the recipient that you know them well and value their presence in your life—and let’s face it, it’s touching on a personal level.  That is why it is important to think about the perfect gift early, and keep your eyes and ears open for that perfect opportunity to WOW that special someone.

gerry phelan midwest woodworkers omaha nebraskaPlanning ahead and obtaining your holiday gifts early is an excellent way to ensure you can relax and enjoy the reason for the season, as it comes and goes so quickly.  If you have a woodworker on your list, Midwest Woodworkers, Inc. is your one-stop gift shop with thousands of items in stock.  If you are not sure what to give they can definitely help as they are expert woodworkers themselves and can offer gift suggestions and answer any questions you may have.  Just let them know what your favorite woodworker’s interests are and they will go to work for you. Gerry Phelan of Midwest Woodworkers agrees that planning ahead is a good idea, whether you will be crafting the gift or purchasing the materials to create the piece as the gift.  He states “Some woodworking projects can take a while to complete.  We see folks even starting gift projects in late summer and early fall.  And you don’t want to cut it too close – once the woodworking is done you need to allow time to get a great finish on your creation.  As the woodworking ‘season’ ramps up the fall, we stock more heavily on the hardwoods, particularly the exotics.  We also begin looking for new useful tools and gadgets that will fill every need; from gift to stocking stuffers.   It has been interesting in recent years to see folks taking classes to learn a new discipline and then using that skill to make holiday gifts.  Pen making would be a good example.” He adds, “The opportunity to learn a new skill is a priceless gift.   If you have someone on your gift list who needs a creative outlet and enjoys working with their hands, a woodworking class is a great choice.  There are a number of disciplines people can pursue; from carving to cabinet making and everything in between.  We also get a lot of folks in the store who are shopping for a friend or relative who is a woodworker.  Since woodworking offers so many different disciplines, it’s often difficult for folks to know to what to buy a woodworker if they haven’t been given a specific list.  We try to have items on hand that any woodworker would value and  we always look for interesting and unusual items that are related to woodworking to offer for the holidays so there are some fun and useful gift ideas available.  Of course, if all else fails, a gift certificate can’t miss.  It is important to remember that your time and attention is the best gift of all.  If you are able to make something special with your own hands, that gift has a much stronger personal connection.  If you are thinking of giving a certificate for a class, consider taking a class with them.  You can both enjoy learning and doing, while sharing some quality time together.”

dennis zongker custom woods omaha nebraskaThis year, Midwest Woodworkers will offer a special gift idea that has a great local connection–as well as many other retailers in the Omaha area and nationwide.  Dennis Zongker, co-owner of Zongkers Custom Woods in Omaha, has a new book coming out titled: Wooden Boxes, Skill Building techniques for Seven Unique Projects.  In fact, Gerry recommends this book as pure woodworking gold.  He says, “Besides the making of his amazing boxes, Wooden Boxes details many woodworking techniques for beginners and experts alike. Some techniques include joinery, marquetry, veneering and segmented turning.  Dennis Zongker has been a professional custom furniture maker for over 28 years, specializing in carving and marquetry. His book would be perfect for any woodworker on your list and we have a great discounted price for copies signed by the author.”  Zongker says, “I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing my woodworking style and techniques with others, and I hope I can help others explore new and many more possibilities. We all have to start somewhere, and with a little determination and enthusiasm these newfound skills can open the world to creating anything your mind can imagine.  A small box is an ideal woodworking project for anyone looking to gain skills and learn techniques. The reward is something elegant and functional that also makes a great gift!”

dave ekdahl fresh concepts omaha nebraskaFresh Concepts offer all types of promotional “logoed” gifts for the home, office, auto and outdoor/recreational. They also offer food items such as gift baskets, decorative tins with different varieties of chocolates, nuts, popcorn and candies.  Gifts from Fresh Concepts add a personal touch from your company when you give them to your staff or customers. In the time of “gift cards”, personalized gifts show you care a little more. Dave Ekdahl, owner of Fresh Concepts, states “In our industry, planning is everything when you want the best price and quality. If you wait till the last minute, your choices get limited and you often have expedited shipping costs. Plus, it helps eliminate the stress of making sure everything is taken care of. This way you can enjoy the upcoming holiday events.  We also offer a planning calendar, which helps us help you stay on top of things getting ordered well ahead of time. Plus we send out an email every two weeks to our customers that offer great seasonal ideas months before you need them and it highlights industry leading ideas and the best items available as well.  At Fresh Concepts, we are very forward thinking and ask well ahead of time for any projects or things our clients may need. With the number and variety of customers we sell to, we have a lot of industry knowledge coupled with creativity! We like to think out of the box and ask a lot of questions. We are not just order takers, we ask very specific questions for each event. Our goal is to make sure our clients have chosen the best possible items based on their budget, target audience and what they wish to gain from it.”  Our products are great gifts for just about anybody and for any reason, but they are especially great for companies to hand out at their holiday parties.  Holiday parties are a great way to connect and say thank you to your staff and customers, and a great holiday gift is functional, something that they want AND need, and something that will make them feel special for being affiliated with their employer.”

susie keuck nouvelle eveNouvelle Eve is the perfect place to do your holiday shopping, as they provide just about everything you need for the holiday season.  This includes gift ideas such as Votive candles, Barefoot Dreams blankets, PJ Harlow satin pajama sets, PJ Salvage cozy hoodies, and much more.  For those preparing to dazzle at their upcoming party or for a unique gift that you can’t just find anywhere in town, Nouvelle Eve is an excellent place to check out.  In addition to the previously mentioned gift ideas, they offer an array of special garments, jewels, and accessories that will make anyone stand out at holiday gatherings.  Nouvelle Eve also offers personal shoppers, free gift wrap, and gift cards if you just can’t make up your mind. Nouvelle Eve owner Susie Keuck says, “We pride ourselves in assuring that all our clients are pleased with their experience and excited about all the gifts they will be giving. Don’t hesitate to contact the store for private shopping or to make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable associates.”  She adds, “We are also presently doing a denim drive and in October and November will be coordinating a coat drive and a canned food drive. All of the donated items will be delivered to the Open Door Mission. We are proud to give back to our community and support local causes, not only during the holidays but all year long.”

michelle vanhooser uncorked paint and sip art studio omaha nebraskaWhen it comes to gift giving and holiday parties, Uncorked Paint & Sip Art Studio offers both.  They offer gift certificates that can be purchased in the studio and on their website, which are the perfect gift for friends who were unable to gather during the holidays!  Uncorked Paint & Sip Art Studio offers a more intimate setting, and can personalize your holiday party to fit your specific needs.  They also offer cheese and cracker trays to pair with your wine selection upon request.  Michelle Vanhooser, co-owner of Uncorked Paint & Sip Art Studio, emphasizes that now is certainly not too early to start planning your holiday party at Uncorked, and their parties also make a great gift for anyone who wants to relax and paint with their friends after hectic holiday schedules have cleared up a bit.

While there is definitely still time to enjoy fall, hopefully now you have more reasons to get excited about the holiday season and more specifically, planning your 2013 Holiday Party or checking people off of your gift list early!  As everyone else has emphasized, we strongly encourage you to get that head start and begin brainstorming right now in order to ensure you can get as much of your holiday planning done as soon as possible. For holiday parties, this allows you to get the word out about how your company plans to celebrate, generate some excitement, and minimize any future stress or struggles. And for gift giving, you can get ahead of the game and also have enough time to add a personal touch.  Let the holiday season begin!