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 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.
I was a little nervous about space before the party – capacity is about 175 and we would have 150 people, including a small band, a photobook station (more on that later), and lounge furniture. It never felt too cramped though. The ballroom is one long room, which huge picture windows and a bench along the windows (bonus seating!).
There are two challenges with the venue that you should be aware of. First, there is only one elevator, which feels like the slowest elevator on the planet. Top of the Town is located on the top floor of a condo building, so everyone needs to use the one elevator. We were bringing in a lot of furniture rentals through our caterer (Design Cuisine – they were amazing – more on them later too!), and the elevator is small. We tried to stagger the arrival times for the different vendors but things still got backed up. We were able to set everything up on time, but then when guests arrived there was a short wait for the elevators then as well.
Second, since the venue is in a residential neighborhood (and on top of a condo building), there are certain rules and restrictions we had to follow. None were a deal breaker for us, but one thing that was a bit of a bummer was that we couldn’t bring in propane heaters for the patio. Well it turned out alright because it was drizzling all night and no one wanted to be on the patios anyway (we didn’t want to spend the money on a tent), but if it hadn’t been raining having propane heaters would be ideal.
Another concern that wasn’t an issue for us because of the age of our guests, but once you get up to the top floor there is a long, seriously long, corridor until you reach the ballroom. If your guests have mobility issues this is something to keep in mind.
The venue had a limited number of tables and chairs for our use so we didn’t have to rent as many. Always use what you have! No need to rent extra just because! The venue had silver chiavari chairs to use. Since I didn’t want to deal with chair covers, I decided that silver would be worked into our color scheme. In previous years, we had done blue and silver, and more of a “winter” theme, so I wanted to do something different, so I decided on red and silver.
The caterer brought red shimmery linens and we used the red uplighting from the venue. I didn’t want to go overboard with elaborate centerpieces because we didn’t want to draw attention away from the view. Instead we did simple centerpieces of silver Christmas balls (bonus points because these can be repurposed next year):
We also had small votive candles with some berries and greenery, which added a tiny bit of green and Christmas spirit:
Near the entrance we reused branches from last year’s wintery themed affair and added berries and greenery to make them work with this year’s scheme.
I love lounge furniture, so I was ecstatic that we were able to work some into our floorplan. We had these large white couches (they were perfect because they were backless, so more people could sit!), red tables, and these adorable cork stools.
My favorite part of the decor were the buffets that Design Cuisine set up – instead of using regular round tables, they brought in white boxes and wrapped them with red ribbon so they looked like presents!
The food & beverage
If you read any of my rules on having an office holiday party that wasn’t a disaster, you’d remember that having plenty of food is required. We did a cocktail buffet with plenty of passed hors d’oeuvres. And even though I think it was a bit overplayed, the tomato soup shooters with a grilled cheese bite was incredibly popular and the presentation in little red mugs was adorable!
We had an open bar plus passed signature drinks. The signature drinks were a bosc pear, sparkling cider and bourbon cocktail that I then made a similar version for my own Christmas celebration at home, and a frostini which had coffee liqueur and peppermint schnapps. I wish I got a picture of the frostini because it was so cute with a peppermint candy cane floating on top!
Design Cuisine used red glassware which not only helped with the color scheme but felt more special than a typical open bar.
The servers and bartenders wore fun red striped ties instead of the typical black ties, and we had them wear Santa Hats which made everything feel more festive!
The party was a success! Everyone seemed to have a great time. Everything ran smoothly. I was very pleased! We were able to save money by using some of the furniture the venue already had, plus almost all of the decor (minus the fresh berries and greenery) were reusable (or reused from last year)!
Thank you to Design Cuisine for helping make the holiday party a success! Stay tuned tomorrow for more details on the entertainment we had.
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