Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

How to throw a party like a pro

November 13th, 2017

Image courtesy of AGO Events.

Are you on your office holiday party committee? Does the thought of planning it make you flash back to unfortunate karaoke meltdowns? Time’s already running out to plan an event that will appeal to all tastes, personalities, schedules – and don’t forget dietary restrictions.

Beth Bruno, Sales and Events Manager at the AGO, knows the ins and outs of event planning like no one else at the Gallery. She oversees some of the hottest, most inspired parties in town, ranging from intimate dinners to enormous bashes. We chatted with her and came up with some must-have tips for anyone planning a holiday gathering for their co-workers – but they can also be applied to any fête with friends and family.


  • Choose an appropriate location. What type of party do you want? At the AGO, parties can be intimate, in AGO Bistro’s Red Room, or large and splashy, taking up the whole Gallery.
  • Understand your budget. Employees work hard all year long, so make sure they feel appreciated. Don’t spend it all on a reindeer ice sculpture.
  • Use the invitation to set out expectations from the get-go. Is there a dress code? Are partners invited? Are children allowed? Send invites out with plenty of time for attendees to make arrangements if needed.
  • Work with people from different departments in your office to make sure all needs are represented. This is also helpful in learning about any supplier or vendor relationships that already exist, and can be used. It might also help you finally get to know Herb in accounting.
  • Consider hosting a holiday party in the New Year. Often venues and suppliers are less busy and have more flexible rates, as there is less demand. And many attendees may have more flexible schedules, as you aren’t competing with other holiday parties, shopping, kids’ recitals, family commitments, etc.

Image courtesy of AGO Events.

Food & Beverage

  • Private dining in restaurants is typically a more affordable option, often allowing for prix-fixe menus. Event spaces typically have many other costs involved, but menus can be much more customized to your event.
  • It is important to design a menu factoring in the dietary requirements of your guests, which can be flagged through an invitation RSVP. At a minimum, make sure vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are not only available, but delicious.
  • Eat, drink and have fun – but in moderation. Limited drink tickets, house rules (like no shots or doubles) or fun alcohol-free drinks like hot chocolate, cider or mocktails will help curb alcohol consumption (and the aforementioned karaoke disasters).
  • Make sure water is readily available and there’s enough food to offset one too many drinks.
  • Budgeting to provide taxi chits for guests is one of the easiest ways to ensure everyone gets home safely.


  • If tight on cash, use the hidden talents of your event committee to jointly create a party playlist for background music instead of hiring a DJ.
  • Activities that have proven popular at various companies’ holiday events held at the AGO have included costume contests, trivia, photo booths, art tours and artmaking activities, door prizes and even an indoor skating rink.
  • Stay in close communication with your venue and clear any entertainment ideas with them before plans are set in stone – as an art gallery, for example, the AGO has a few unique rules that guests may not think of. (Spoiler alert: No tequila shots beside the paintings.)
  • As always, spreading the holiday spirit to a good cause with food, toy, cash or clothing donations is a great element to add to a holiday party.

If you want to save yourself the planning time and have some of the best event pros in the city do the work for you, consider one of the AGO’s many spaces. And check out the @ago_events Instagram feed for inspired ideas. You’ll get immediate cred for such an artful event.

Happy holidays, and good luck!

Are you an AGOinsider yet? If not, sign up to have stories like these delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Comments are closed.