We may not get a winter wonderland in Florida, but that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to celebrate the holidays in style. Whether you live in a gated community or a high-rise building, it’s easy to infuse your entire community with some holiday spirit! Everyone loves a party, and we’ve got some tips to make planning yours easier. We’ve also collected some guidelines to help manage holiday décor in diverse communities and ways to help make the holidays sweeter for others. When the work is shared, it’s easier for everyone to enjoy a happy holiday season!  

Holiday Party Planning Made Easy

There are a lot of things you can do to help make planning your holiday party easier on everyone involved. First of all, don’t feel constrained by the calendar. Are a lot of your residents away around the actual dates? Go outside the traditional dates – think early or late. Go into early January! Some people might appreciate a party scheduled after the usual rush. “For the first time, we are considering moving our holiday party to early or mid-January,” explains Andres Garcia, community association manager at Trump Tower III in Sunny Isles Beach. “A lot of our residents would love to attend but they are away for the holidays in December. So, to make as many residents as happy as we can, we may just move the party!”
Bring in professional help. A great caterer is an asset. The best ones will have access to other party pros like musicians or DJs, face painters, entertainers and photographers. If you have a caterer you love, stick with them! “When you work with vendors you know and trust, it makes life a lot easier,” says Christian Ortiz, manager of the Hamptons South Condominium in Aventura.  If you do choose to work with new vendors, look at their Google and Yelp reviews. Your property manager may have suggestions or existing relationships to help with vendor selection too.
If you have a social committee, tap them to plan the party, even if you end up hiring professionals to cater and decorate. They can come up with themes, create invitations and work with your professional property management company to communicate the details and recruit volunteers through a mass communication system. Particularly talented volunteers may enjoy decorating or creating centerpieces for the party.
When it comes to the actual planning, follow these steps: 
  1. Identify your budget.
  2. Name the event and pick a date, time and location. Do this at least one to two months ahead.
  3. Recruit volunteers if needed.
  4. Use what you have on hand. “When I became the manager at Sayan, I made sure that we had ample decorations and party supplies on hand, for any occasion,” says Yamilka Alvarez, community association manager at Sayan Condominium in Sunny Isles Beach. “Having these items easily accessible each year makes the process of planning holiday parties much easier.”
  5. Line up the vendors: caterer, florist, entertainers, servers, photographer, etc. 
  6. Make a list and check it twice – list all the tasks, who is responsible for each, and when each task is due.
  7. Do as much as possible ahead of time so the day-of is less stressful.
  8. Shop for last-minute items, perishable groceries and flowers (or have them delivered!)
  9. Get there early to handle any hiccups.
  10. Relax and have fun! Enjoy time with your friends and neighbors. 

Decorating without Overdoing

Holiday decorations can be fun and festive, imparting cheer to everyone who sees them…or they can be tacky, overbearing and just too much. How can you balance that in your community? What about the neighbors with the 10-foot-high inflatable snow globe in their front yard or the one whose bright lights illuminate the street later than you’d like? It’s hard to set decorating policy without coming across as the Grinch, but it can be done.
Let’s talk about common areas of the community first. In high-rise buildings, the lobby and other community areas are the source of most sore spots about holiday décor. High-rise residents don’t do much outside their units beyond a wreath or other door decoration, but this is a good time to send a reminder of any general policy your high-rise has regarding balcony decorations or visible window treatments. In HOAs and gated communities, there may be a front entrance, gatehouse, club house or other common areas that can be decorated. A good rule of thumb is that if it’s a common area, residents should not be decorating it without the permission of the association board. If your community has chosen to decorate certain common areas, such as the lobby or clubhouse, you might want to consider keeping the decorations free from religious imagery or undertones. If your community association is passionate about keeping religion in the holiday décor, then make sure you present a balanced display where all faiths are equally represented.
As far as private homes and yards in gated communities, it’s important to remember that tastes and likes differ. What’s whimsical and fun to one person may be obnoxious to someone else. If residents complain consistently and loudly about a particular display, it may be time to consider updating your governing documents to limit seasonal decorations. Most residents will be open to holiday décor restrictions, such as start and end dates for holiday displays. You’ll also want to establish “time of day” rules. No one wants lights flickering in their window at 2:00 am!  It won’t hurt to remind residents to be considerate of their neighbors when it comes to their holiday light shows.
All boards should be careful about restricting religious displays. Follow the association’s governing documents and seek the advice of counsel.  

Making the Holidays Brighter for Others

For many people, giving to those who are less fortunate is part of the joy of the holiday season. Get your community together and take on a charitable project as a group! There’s power in numbers, and small contributions from many people will add up quickly without putting too much stress on anyone’s wallet.
Here are some examples of what communities in Florida are doing: 
  • Plaza Harbour Island in Tampa conducts a food drive every November for Metropolitan Ministries, followed by a Toys for Tots drive in December. They include information about both drives and what items are in high demand in their newsletter.
  • 345 Bayshore Condominium, also in Tampa, supports the same charities as Plaza Harbour Island. In addition to the collection drives, residents volunteer to prep or serve Thanksgiving dinner at Metropolitan Ministries each year.
  • The Waterchase Master association in Tampa participates in a variety of charitable projects, according to activity director Arelys De Leon. This year, they are collecting socks and rain ponchos for local homeless people and distributing them along with clothing, toiletries, backpacks, shoes and meals. They are also collecting items for Metropolitan Ministries, Operation Christmas Child and Toys for Tots.
  • Asia Condominium on Brickell Key in Miami conducts a very successful annual toy collection for the Voices for Children Toy Drive.
  • Trump Tower III in Sunny Isles Beach participates in the Voices for Children Toy Drive as well.
Food and toy drives are wonderful, and always appreciated, but there are other things your community association can do in your area. Consider adopting a family though the Salvation Army, Soldiers’ Angels or a local women’s shelter. Even just over-tipping the servers at your holiday party can make someone’s holiday a lot brighter. And don’t forget our four-legged friends! The Humane Society’s Fill the Bowl Project helps support local shelters, and all animal shelters can use food, blankets, bowls, cat litter and toys any time of year.
We hope our tips help make the most wonderful time of the year even better for you and your residents!
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Friday December 01, 2017