Planning a holiday party can be a challenge for anyone. But when it's for hundreds of guests, the challenges compound.
For local party planners, it's the nature of the business, and stress often comes with the job.
This time of year, however, presents a unique set of circumstances for the people in charge of making sure a party goes smoothly and is flawless from top to bottom. While weddings and corporate parties still take place during winter months, holiday parties come into the mix as well - with everyone from families to large corporations holding annual bashes.
In fact, holiday spending this year is projected to reach $640 billion, with some of that money going toward celebrating the holidays, according to the Baynote/etailing group 2013 Holiday Survey.
Locally, those with the job of making sure holiday parties go off without a hitch have the challenge of planning these celebrations in addition to their normal roster of events.
Linda Walker, owner of How Sweet It is in Valparaiso, said between now and Christmas, she has both a wedding and large corporate party to manage.
Her love for party planning began when her daughter announced her engagement, leading Walker to her new career path.
"I started doing lots and lots and lots of research, and I loved it all," Walker said.
Coming up with creative holiday ideas is part of the fun, she said, with one of her favorite ideas taking center stage at a client's holiday party this year.
"We have a long candy buffet that's always a hit," she said. "There will be lots of red, green and white detail on it."
While some parties this season will be held within the walls of the office, others will head to local restaurants to enjoy the fun.
Steve Ippolito, event coordinator and bar manager at Martinis, said he is ready. Martinis serves as a go-to spot for several local parties - perfect for someone who wants to throw a party, but doesn't have the time to manage it.
"We have a lot of people who come here for their holiday parties," he said. "It's really surprising how many come and gather here for the holidays."
While it's hands off work for clients, it's hands on for Ippolito and the other employees at Martinis. It's a task he says they have been preparing for, and enjoy making patrons' holidays memorable.
"If you're busy during the holidays, you have to think if you have the time to set it up, or you need someone to come in and do it for you," he said.
Although the holidays are busy for many party planners, for Tiffany Henry, they serve as a starting point for what's to come.
The owner of Events by Tiffany Henry in Oak Lawn, Ill., said right now is what many party planners call engagement season.
"They call it Bridal Christmas, because from Dec. 25 to Valentine's Day, a lot of brides are getting engaged," she said.
Christmas, in particular, is a hot time to pop the question.
"Traditionally, families are in town, so it's more special to pop the question in front of friends and family," she said.
Once that occurs, it's not long before she and other party planners are contacted to get the ball rolling on wedding plans.
"I try and take this time during the holidays to unwind, refocus and see where I want my business to go in the new year," Henry said.
While at times, party planning means long working days, Walker said clients have their own visions of how they want their special events to unfold, and she wants to come up with the perfect design to make those events memorable - no matter what time of day the best brainstorming occurs.
"Some of my best ideas come at 4 in the morning," she said.
Walker recommends anyone planning a holiday party to make a statement through the use of color and creative ideas.
"That's what really wows everyone," she said. "A photo booth is a lot of fun if it's a larger event, and sometimes a candy buffet fits in there really well. Candle light can also set the mood. Guests feel more comfortable and then they relax, and then the fun begins."