December, and sometimes January, is filled with holiday parties. It’s a great time for your community to get together, recognize the hard work of staff and volunteers, and socialize. We’ve culled a few tips from experts on holiday events for homeowners associations, so there is joy and not heartache in your celebration.

From traditional holiday parties to those done in association with a winter board meeting, best practices suggest gatherings not be focused on religious beliefs in order to be open and welcoming to all. A committee of volunteers may wish to take on the decorating or even food prep, and network contacts to arrange for entertainment. A competition, such as a wreath decorating contest, is a fun way to bring people together.

Costs of holiday parties should be included in the association’s annual budget, and it is a good idea to document a provision for such social welfare expenditures in the association bylaws. Make a budget for each event and stick to it- the association is operating for the benefit of all owners, and some may not approve of extravagant events or those that go over budget.

A word of caution about liquor at parties: Make sure no one under 21 is served (or serves themselves) provided alcohol. Hawaii does not recognize claims against social hosts if an intoxicated person leaves the party then causes an injury, such as an auto accident.  However, if the person who caused the injury is under age 21, the social host (ie the association) can be sued and potentially found liable.

Gather and be merry this holiday season. Just make sure you have a budget, bylaw provision and safe liquor controls for a trouble-free party.