• It's Never Too Early To Get Into the Holiday Spirit

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE

    Mindy’s Hot Chocolate has a variety of tasty mixes to choose from to warm up your holiday bash.

    <p>Mindy’s Hot Chocolate has a variety of tasty mixes to choose from to warm up your holiday bash.</p>
  • It's Never Too Early To Get Into the Holiday Spirit

    FROM THE Summer 2016 ISSUE

    Sound Investment recommends video mapping with holiday GIFs and iconic movies to create winter wonderlands.

    <p>Sound Investment recommends video mapping with holiday GIFs and iconic movies to create winter wonderlands.</p>

It may be summer, but the holidays will be here before you know it. While you may have already secured the perfect venue, we’re taking a look ahead at what will be merry and bright for seasonal décor, entertainment, themes, activities, drinks, food and parting gifts, so you can start making your wish list now.

Seasonal Décor

Poinsettias have been the traditional holiday flower for many years, but in 2016 planners are repurposing classic arrangements in order to accent table settings, build floral photo backdrops and even hang as overhead “chandeliers.” When it comes to illumination, utilizing the technology in flexible ropes will also be big this season, and classic Christmas lights will get updated with copper strings and white bulbs that can create both a modern yet cozy effect at the same time. Scent machines also set the mood when you place them throughout event spaces and fill the air with hints of spruce, cinnamon and clove to further immerse guests in the holiday spirit.


Experiential entertainment and guest immersion is trending across the entire event sphere, particularly with help from projections. For the holidays, planners will go digital by “throwing” seasonal visuals across venue walls. Think classic Christmas movie characters, GIFs or even full films on loop (but hold the audio). Peter Vanek, CEO of Sound Investment, a full-service production and rental/staging firm, says, “Stepping into the digital era and using projection mapping for holiday treatments can transform the blandest of spaces into a winter wonderland. Advances in software and hardware have made mapping of exteriors, interiors and surfaces affordable and relatively easy, allowing for the creation of dynamic environments painted with just about any type of holiday-themed imagery.” For an added bonus, VJs can sync up timeless holiday tunes with a visual performance. Did someone say Mariah Carey?


Monochrome is trending for 2016, and by December, olive-based greens and cool mineral undertones will be popular. From the linens and drapes to the table settings and lighting, saturating an event with a single color can have big impact. It doesn’t matter if the hues aren’t all the same; in fact, the slight differences throughout the design will give the overall effect more depth. Vintage and retro Christmas themes are also being revived this year; go for silver tinsel trees with popcorn strings and serve time-old holiday fare such as punch in bowls, fruit cake, figgy pudding and jello molds.

Food and Drink

This winter, retro-style hot chocolate bars will also be the delight of many corporate and social events, complete with a selection of flavors, toppings and liquor to spike the adult drinks. Mindy’s Hot Chocolate in Chicago has a variety of delicious blends and accouterments to choose from for your bash. Another holiday trend will be comfort food. Dumplings in particular are taking our attention, especially when given a makeover with new ingredients or an innovative presentation. For an exotic twist, serve with Cantonese-style roast duck.

Activities and Games

Games allow for guests to let loose and feel youthful while also engaging with each other. In recent months, arcade games have made a major comeback. Chicago rental company The Fun Ones offers selections such as arcade machine game rentals that range from the classics to traditional parlor games. As well, photo booths aren’t going away anytime soon, not with social media still dominating. For the holidays, festive backdrops and props, paired with the latest technology (such as GIF or 3-D photo booths), will prompt happy guests to share the love—and the likes.

Parting Gifts

It wouldn’t be the holidays without sweets and gifts. Whether guests are naughty or nice, Christmas is the perfect time to send attendees off with some holiday goodies. We’re currently obsessing over the kitschy red and green Pop Rock-dusted truffles from Windy City Sweets. CEO John Manchester says, “We love updating the classic nostalgic treats we’ve all come to love, and we work with event planners to design the perfect sweet touch for holiday occasions no matter how big or small.”

The easiest way to breathe new life into a stale holiday office party is to pivot guests’ expectations by booking a new-to-them event venue. Here are five unconventional venue ideas you can book in Illinois that will thrill your guests and make them remember this year’s holiday party for years to come.

1. Office Building Lobby


The annual Sweets & Snacks Expo is like Disneyland for snack lovers like me. Held every May at McCormick Place in Chicago, this three-day event draws more than 18,000 candy and snack professionals from around the country to connect with exhibitors purveying the latest and greatest in these categories. I attended this year, armed with lots of hand sanitizer (for use in between handshakes and sampling) and a giant tote bag to collect the latest products to take home for tasting.


This month I attended AccorHotels’ 7th annual Global Meeting Exchange, held this year in the beautiful city of Montreal. Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth served as the host hotel for the four-day event, and attendees who hadn’t been to Montreal in a while were blown away by both the city, the hotel and its meeting spaces—myself included.