We are a family company (3 owners, 5 employees outside the family), and we are soon having our yearly Christmas office party. Usually we rent a place with a sauna for this event, but this year the 2 other owners finished building their new house and they would like to host the Christmas party over there. I feel like I wouldn’t be that comfortable spending the evening at my employers' home. Rental places doesn’t cost that much and wouldn’t be a problem, but the other owners prefer this option. Are there any disadvantages to this?
This seems very common for departments/small companies. Throughout high school and my college years, my (large, national) company would throw a company Christmas party at a venue but my department head would also throw his own Christmas party at his house for just those in his department. There was never any awkwardness or feelings of being uncomfortable despite not being particularly close to or friendly with the manager/department head. I also know of several friends whose small companies also throw parties at the owners' houses.
The only time I've ever experienced thoughts of my owner being cheap or something similar regarding a change in venue was at my last job where the yearly Christmas-In-July party was changed from a booze cruise to a publicly-available, free-to-enter dinner at a Greek church down the road. In that event, it wasn't necessarily that the venue changed, it was that it went from an event that clearly showed thought, care, and effort to something that demonstrated a focus on saving money rather than caring for the employees. This was also at a small, family-ran company (less than 50 people).
I doubt the employees will feel slighted or hurt as long as they're aware that this isn't something being done intentionally to reduce spending or to be a miser.
Some employees may not enjoy after work company get-togethers
Not every employee wants to hang out with their coworkers after work; spending 8+ hours with them 5+ days a week may well be plenty, especially if they're not close with all of their coworkers. This is especially likely with employees who may be introverted. Forced (or implicitly forced) get-togethers can generate a lot of stress and frustration for these employees.
Owner's house = so much stress!
Hosting these type of gatherings at the owner's house only ratchets up the social pressure 100-fold on any employees who are already feeling awkward. How should I act? Should I ooh and awe over the house? Can I explore, or do I need a tour? Can I touch things (furniture, decorations, etc.)? Will it be awkward if I spend too much time checking the place out? Where do I hang out? With whom? What if I don't like the food or can't eat it for dietary reasons? How much time do I have to spend schmoozing with the owner? How long do I have to stay? What happens if I accidentally break something?
Having to hang out in the owner's house just ratchets up the awkwardness 100-fold for an employee who already feels awkward hanging with coworkers after work.