It's the most wonderful time of the year ... unless you're the one putting together the company's annual holiday party. There’s no need for undue seasonal stress, however, say local party planners. Organizing the perfect get-together can be as easy as making your list, checking it twice, and calling one of the locations below. All are experts at making your upcoming event both fresh and festive, whatever its size.
Classy and Jolly
From the smallest accommodation with 300 square feet to the largest, the Grande Ballroom with almost 7,000, there is plenty of room for holiday events at The Inn at St. John’s, in Plymouth. It won Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space under 200 rooms and Best Service in the Michigan Meetings + Events Best of 2019 readers’ choice awards.
Still owned by the Archdiocese of Detroit, the Romanesque Revival resort on the grounds of a former seminary is a favorite venue for parties of all types and sizes, says Tawyna Johnson, director of sales and marketing. The inn opened in 2006.
“Large parties with holiday candy themes, winter wonderland, black tie themes, even murder mysteries are among the types of successful past events,” she says. “We also host many intimate gatherings focused more on the dining experience.”
Perusing the inn’s 28-page menu of culinary options, it’s not difficult to see why. Options include a brunch, with specialties, such as crème brulee French toast, to a lunch buffet with choices such as roasted beet-chevre ravioli, phyllo-crusted Lake Michigan whitefish or blue cheese stuffed center cut filet mignon. Room for dessert? There is hazelnut espresso crème brulee or orange creamsicle cheesecake, among others.
Specialty food stations also are available, with everything from a chilled shellfish or sushi spread to a mashed potato bar, artisan sliders or a Zingerman’s creamery display. And if that weren’t enough, St. John’s creates an annual holiday celebrations plated menu, with sweet potato bisque with gingerbread croutons, winter squash risotto with cranberries and eggnog pot de crème for dessert among last year’s offerings.
“We offer some classic holiday items as well as unique takes on traditional Christmas favorites,” Johnson explains. “We also include holiday-themed drinks on our bars.” Grinch martini, anyone?
Venue choices include four ballrooms as well as more intimate spaces for smaller groups, including 5ive Steakhouse, “a great option for groups that want a restaurant-style experience,” she adds. Johnson says mood music—try a holiday sing-along—is requested more and more. “Bands have become more popular whether it is a quartet or full band. These can add a great source of entertainment for guests.”
Larger events/parties need early booking, but “if you are hosting a smaller event a few months is usually sufficient,” she says. Whatever your food, room or music choice, all guests are treated to the facility’s festive décor. “Our holiday décor is over the top,” Williams says. “We decorate our public space as well as each of our special event spaces … guests really appreciate the ambiance.”
Makenzie Jakubowski, administrative assistant of emergency medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor, has booked a buffet-style 300-person event in the Grande Ballroom for a number of years and says St. John’s makes things easy.
“They handle everything,” she says. “I can be totally hands-off.” That said, she does enjoy changing it up a bit from year to year and admits to being a big fan of the sequined tablecloths, which come in red and champagne colors.
“They’re to die for,” she says. Otherwise, she leaves the details to them. “They function like a well-oiled machine. It’s something everyone looks forward to every year and every year we get more compliments.”
“Work holiday parties, family holiday parties, Chanukah parties, basically anything you can think of,” is the can-do answer when asked what types of holiday event are popular at Bloomfield Township’s Roadside B&G, part of the Roberts Restaurant Group. It operates six eateries in Oakland County, including the Beverly Hills Grill, Bill’s, Café ML, Streetside Seafood and Town Tavern.
The retro-style roadhouse bar and grill’s manager Saige Freeman says their flexibility and openness to ideas is one of their
The Roadside grill is the only one of the group’s eateries that has a separate private party space, which accommodates up to 40 for a plated meal or 60 cocktail-style. The room includes the main area and an adjacent patio, which guests can use year-round and enclose with heaters for additional seating. When the weather cooperates “it’s like getting two rooms for the price of one,” Freeman explains. “You can do a lot with it.”
Either way, you’ll get the best they have to offer. “We take your events very seriously, as if they were our own,” she says. “We try to personalize the room with linen colors, holiday decorations, and personalized menus.”
Menu options are far-ranging too. “Our menu meets a lot of different needs. We also are understanding of allergies and selective eaters,” she adds. “Our menu is based on a lot of our guests’ favorites, including our Broiled Great Lakes Whitefish, Caesar Plank Salmon, Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Short Rib Tacos. We also have other features not on our regular menu, such as our Braised Short Rib and Shrimp Penne Pasta.”
Freeman enjoys working on seasonal events. “I love that not every party is the same and the different décor ideas that guests bring to the events. I love watching the joy of the guests while their families are together or their meetings go to plan.” She recommends to plan in advance but otherwise leave the details and the stressing to her team. “Remember the main reason you are having the event … make sure you have fun.”
JoAnn and Anthony Mitchell of Lake Angelus, retired owners of Mitch’s restaurant in Waterford, have hosted a variety of parties at the Roadside B&G through the years, including Anthony’s December birthday parties.
“They always have lights up and we decorated the tables and it was really lovely,” JoAnn raves. If it’s warm enough, she says the patio is a great place for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. “The staff and food are outstanding. They deserve all the accolades.”
Parties with a Past
Some 26 million artifacts, 200 acres of innovation and 300 years of America. Not surprisingly, an event at The Henry Ford adds up to a holiday celebration unlike any other, according to Senior Director of Sales Amy Cox.
“Holiday parties at The Henry Ford have built-in WOW factor,” she explains. “All of our venues are unique and engaging.” With such a wide range of facilities, artifacts/exhibits, entertainment and interactive experiences, planners can tailor a seasonal event to suit a variety of interests. “It’s easy to plan something amazing because our experienced staff has so many unique opportunities and resources at their fingertips.”
Past parties have included “everything from black tie galas in the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation to family fun in Greenfield Village,” according to Cox. In December, the landmark is filled with parties for groups from 50 to 3,000, proving that the site can accommodate a variety of needs.
As a popular venue, it’s always best to plan ahead. “If you have a specific date in mind, reserve as soon as possible—the year prior is best,” she says. “If your date is flexible, summer is the most popular planning season. But truth be told, because of our size and options, we are still able to help many planners into the fall.”
Venue choices include the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation with “12 acres of amazing artifacts, exhibits and architecture,” according to Cox. “In December, we are decorated for the holidays for even more magic. Alternately, parties that tie into our Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village are able to have their private dinner gathering, then enjoy a completely unique, magical event.
“Holiday Nights is the most popular holiday event in the area, complete with lantern-lit paths, decorated homes, live entertainment, costumed presenters, horse-drawn sing-along wagons, warming fire stations, ice skating, Santa, traditional street food and a fireworks finale.”
For planners looking for a nontraditional, end-of-the-year celebration, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour offers “a totally unexpected, completely engaging, new experience,” Cox explains. “And if it’s a glamorous and elegant dinner gala you’re after, you can’t go wrong with Lovett Hall, which was built by Henry Ford for his own soirees.”
Food choices and serving styles vary. “For holidays, we find that stations and small plates continue to be the most popular,” Cox says. “That style offers diversity in the menu to try some new things and meeting guests dietary concerns. Equally appealing, strolling menus encourage socializing and movement as guests explore.”
Partygoers love the unusual museum experience, she says. “Guests arrive at The Henry Ford expecting something extraordinary, they just know it is going to be special. “At the end of every party we hear guests delight in something new they experienced and making plans to come back.”
Another plus: Hosting a holiday party at the museum is “giving back” to the community. “Many organizations love that hosting their event at The Henry Ford helps support us as a non-profit, national treasure,” says Cox. “It feels good to support our mission to inspire and shape a better future—especially around the holidays.”
Cox adds that she has seen a rise in January events. “We love the trend for January events by organizations that want to avoid overcommitting their teams in December,” she adds.
Mary Quine of Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield’s neurosurgery department has hosted a January event in Lovett Hall for approximately 175 guests for a few years. “It’s hard to get people together in December,” she explains. She chooses The Henry Ford because of “the uniqueness of the site, the absolutely beautiful, very classy hall and the extremely professional service. Nothing goes wrong, ever.”
Having an event after the holidays, she adds gives people something to look forward to early in the new year.
Whatever the time of year, the end result is the same. “We love watching guests’ eyes light up,” Cox explains. That’s something The Henry Ford team works very hard to deliver.
The Henry Ford
thehenryford.org | 313.982.6045
The Inn at St. John’s
theinnatstjohns.com | 734.414.0600
Roberts Restaurant Group/Roadside B&G
roadsidebandg.com | 248.858.7270