Did you receive another party invitation at work?

A good reason not to bring lunch today.

If you have worked long enough in a mid-sized to a large corporate office, chances are you have been invited to at least one informal celebration by your colleagues. Not counting the office Christmas or Holiday party, there are other mini social gatherings that you get invited to, help organize or even be the guest of honour.

Before you even think of organizing or attending one, make sure that you know the company policy regarding social events during company time and on company property. Some offices turn a blind eye on the occasional lunch break extension. There are offices that allow the use of their board rooms and meeting rooms for small parties inside the lunch hour. Otherwise, you can have your celebrations at a nearby restaurant or site. Wherever the venue ends up, be punctual starting and ending the event.

There are mostly two options for food at an office party. One is potluck, where everyone brings a dish to the party. Or people all contribute to have some food delivered in from a restaurant. Potluck is a great way to discover some tasty home-cooked meals but also comes with the problem of heating the food and food presentation. Remind your colleagues to heat and prepare the food about 15 minutes before the party starts. For delivery, remember to time this so the food is not delayed and tip the delivery man.

Decorations and noise should be kept to a minimum because it is still a place of business. It is good to have a small pump handy for balloons.  Streamers and banners are easily set-up plus are re-usable too. Some offices promote being eco-friendly and suggest using less of plastic plates, cups and cutlery.

Cleaning up after the party is another thing to consider. Remember that kitchen courtesy prevails even in an office setting.

So what are these common office parties or mini celebrations?

Bridal Shower

Sooner or later, someone in your office will become engaged to be married. News will travel fast and you will hear the story many times over whether you like it or not, especially if you sit close to the newly engaged person. But hey, it could be you! So lighten up and expect the coming party.

Organizing tip: Who says you can’t learn and have fun at a bridal shower? I once organized a bridal shower for a colleague at work. Since our office employed people from various racial backgrounds, I asked the guests if they could each share a distinct wedding practice or marriage tradition from their home country. You will be surprised and entertained by what they share. From the Greek’s smashing of dishes for prosperity, to colourful kimonos or bridal gowns to European’s engagement rings and the wearing of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. If you cannot get the guests to do the research, you can always do it yourself and distribute each unique tradition to the guests to read to the bride-to-be. Why not pair the food with the country the tradition comes from? Potluck is a great idea for office parties such as this. This bride-to-be remembered her shower as something special years after it happened.

Baby Shower

What do you expect after the bridal showers? Babies of course! And the funny thing about baby news is that they usually come in threes. Don’t ask me why, it must be something in the water. At least it is another reason to celebrate and have a party. Baby showers are always fun affairs. It is always tricky to find out if the mom-to-be will be at work that day or has a doctor’s appointment that might spoil the surprise element. I do believe that I was invited once to a surprise baby shower which got postponed for this reason. Baby themes are easy to plan and these days, people can give toward a gift card or a major purchase to help the new mom.

Organizing tip: A great and unique idea is to collect baby tips from the guests. Cut out baby bottle shapes from coloured paper and ask each guest to write down a baby tip or two. Then collect them all and put them in a photo book or scrap book to present to the guest of honour. She will be thrilled by the personal touch.

Birthday Party

Everyone has a birthday and another reason to party! Celebrating this occasion really depends on the office culture and traditions sometimes vary per department in larger offices. Celebrants receive a card signed by a group of colleagues who work closely with the celebrant. Sometimes they all pitch in to buy a cake complete with candles for blowing. Some even get a special treat and find themselves greeted by a fully decorated seat and desk.

We have had a desk and overhead cabinet fully covered in birthday wrapper. Some had balloons shaped like animals and “Happy Birthday” streamers taped to their wall. Once I had a colleague who loved singing so we made a birthday greeting for her with the “Idol” logo and she loved it.

Organizing tip: Bigger celebrations are planned usually for milestone birthdays, 30, 40, 50 years old and so on. If the celebrant has been with the company for a long time, why not put together some pictures and compile it in a video. Some people are sensitive when it comes to age so tread carefully. Have fun but not at the expense of the celebrant. A bottle of bubbly would be a great way to end the party.

Whether you are the organizer or guest of honour at the office parties, always mind your manners. Organizers should plan during their free time. If you are a guest, respond promptly to invitations (usually via e-mail) and don’t wait until the last minute to let them know what your potluck share will be. Guests of honour should always thank everyone especially the organizers. And if it so happened that you didn’t get an invite to that party, you might still get some leftover treats in the kitchen.

Hurry now and go run for it!