It doesn’t seem like the holidays without a party.

And there’s a growing sense that corporate holiday parties—a victim of belt-tightening in the wake of the Great Recession—are enjoying a revival, say area event planning and catering managers.

“I do sense there’s a bit of a comeback in holiday parties, “ says Catie Harris, president of Simply Events LLC, which offers full-service event planning for everything from corporate events to weddings. “Companies by no means are throwing large, extravagant holiday parties like they used to years and years ago.

“But they are starting to do at least a luncheon for employees. A lot of times it will be in-house or they might go to a restaurant with a private room if it’s a smaller company.”

Likewise, Diana Dawson, owner of Davis Catering at the Cincinnati Club on Garfield Place, says, “We are busier this December than we have been in the last few years. We have a lot of weddings, too. I think people are still very cost conscious but I believe it is easing a bit because we’re usually hit during the end of a downturn in the economy, but things are picking up.”

The business holiday party is about more than having a good time, say the experts.

It’s an opportunity to boost employee morale and demonstrate appreciation for workers’ efforts during the year, says Harris.

“It doesn’t have to be extravagant,” she says. “It’s necessary to do employee appreciation types of things and the holiday party fills that function, and it’s the holidays as well.”

Don Vonderhaar, Jr., owner of Vonderhaar’s Catering Inc. in Reading, says he’s seeing a trend toward smaller, more intimate parties rather than large groups.

“Number one, it’s cost-effective and you can afford to have a nicer party for 60 people than 200,” he says.

Another change he sees is fewer formal sit-down dinners and more cocktail receptions with hors d’oeuvres.

“It creates more of a social aspect and allows people to mingle whereas with the sit-down dinner, you’re sitting with the same group of people the whole time,” he says.

If a sit-down dinner is your preference, you might consider the Wiedemann Hill Mansion in Newport.

The historic mansion, once the home of beer baron George Wiedemann, is decorated for the holidays with lighted garlands and trees and can seat up to 60 for dinner.

“All our events are a little unique,” says Donna Weddle, who owns the mansion with her husband, Roger.

Rooms in the mansion, designed by architect Samuel Hannaford, feature wood inlaid floors, hand carved mantels, and ornate hand-painted plaster ceilings. These days, Weddle says, the mansion hosts more weddings than corporate parties.

Dinner guests are free to tour the German-style kitchen where they can visit the “flaming doughnut station.” Guests chose a donut, which the chef fries in an omelet pan with the liquor of their choice and tops with ice cream.

“It’s one of our more popular desserts,” says Weddle.

After dinner, guests can step outside to the heated veranda to take in the sweeping view of the Cincinnati skyline from Wiedemann Hill. To ward off winter’s chill, the mansion offers faux fur wraps for female guests.

A special holiday menu with festive desserts is also a holiday party attraction at the Oasis Conference Center in Loveland, says Grace Sweeney, corporate sales manager.

The more than 30,000-square-foot facility overlooking the Oasis Golf Course can hold up to six events simultaneously, each with its own dedicated wait staff.

The center typically books between 30 and 50 holiday parties, she says.

Because of the hectic nature of the holidays, Sweeney and other party planners say some businesses opt to hold their event after the holidays in January.

“Families are so busy with kids and other holiday things,” says Harris. “It ensures a better turnout to wait until January.”

Some organizations she plans monthly events for will skip December entirely for that reason and schedule a big event in January.

Ann Marie Pugh, sales and events manager at Cooper Creek Event Center in Blue Ash, says one recent trend is theme-based parties.

“We have one group, which is planning a ski lodge party with skis and other related decorations at the food stations,” she says.

Another trend Harris has seen is tying the holiday party to a charitable event.

For example, she says, company employees will gather at a charity and wrap holiday gifts before their party.

“It’s a way of giving back and it is time away from the office for employees,” she says.

When it comes to holiday décor, lighting is another popular option, say planners.

“Lighting creates a mood,” says Harris. For example, she says, projecting snowflakes on the walls or drowning the room in light crystal blue lighting are popular ways to bring a festive feel.

Vonderhaar’s caters between 300 and 350 events during the holidays and most are crammed into the three weeks leading up to Christmas.

“The biggest thing to consider is to plan ahead,” Vonderhaar says. “Don’t wait until the last minute. Event venues and caterers book quickly around the holidays.”

Just as important, says Harris, is setting a budget.

“I always advise clients, before they book vendors, they need to really set a budget,” she says. “It’s amazing how quickly costs can spiral out of control without a budget beforehand.”

A professional party-planning firm can be a good investment, she says.

“What we do for client is offer a ‘good,’ ‘better’ and ‘best’ option so they can spend more on what matters to them,” she says.

“I tell clients to choose their top three things, their most important things, and make sure you put your effort and money into those three things.”

There is no rule-of-thumb on spending, she says.

“It really depends on what you’re willing to offer. If you do a sit-down dinner and open bar, you probably are looking at $50 a person, if not more. If you’re looking at doing a buffet with beer and wine and liquor cash bar it will be less. It totally depends on what you want.”