With summer just around the corner we have one thing on our mind – parties. From hosting the perfect al fresco dinner party to your summer soiree, there’s something about the sun that just makes us want to reach for that mojito and party the night away and we figure that you might just feel the same. So we’ve spoken to the guys in the know, London’s top party planners to get their expert knowledge on how to be the best host in town. We’ll be waiting for the invite…
"The art of good hosting is good planning"
What: How to Prepare
Why: We hate to go all school teacher, revision slogan on you but now’s the time to remember the phrase ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. Alright so it might not be quite so dramatic, but equally you don’t want to wing it so that guests are arriving whilst you’re still torching your crème brûlée – unless you want to make that into some form of entertainment… Prep is key, though, and it starts with invites. You want to set the tone of your party; a Facebook invite might be fun for some, but as Ellie Short of Chilli Bees recommends, everyone loves an invite in the post. Once you’ve done that it’s all about planning and making sure everything is done equally, Blue Strawberry make the point that you need to know your budget and as Scarlet Events say you don’t want fantastic cocktails and then bland food. Event Oracle say, ‘the art of good hosting is good planning. So don’t be afraid of ticking things off your to do list early’. Things such as laying the table can definitely be done beforehand and gives you time to sort any seating plans out which we all know requires degree-level knowledge because you can’t possibly sit your brother next to your friend after what happened last time can you?
"Your guests will never complain of too much, but will remember not having enough"
What: All About the Food
Why: When it comes to a party it all comes down to food and drink really. Yes, everyone loves the dancing, everyone loves the flirting, everyone loves the entertainment but even more important? The food and drink. As Hattie, founder of Top Hat Catering says, ‘your guests will never complain of too much, but will remember not having enough.’ We couldn’t agree more. They recommend having between 5-6 canapes instead of a starter or if you’re hosting a two-hour reception then around 12-16 per person. Marc Ahmed of Scarlet Events suggests, instead of serving starters or puddings at the table, having starters brought out on a tray and a separate pudding station – this way, guests can keep mingling and talking. When it comes to the menu, don’t go trying anything overly complicated, caterers Rhubarb who obviously know more than enough about food for events, say to keep things simple, ‘pick a menu that is simple yet delicious and can cook away whilst you enjoy mingling and chatting with your guests’.
"You want your guests to enjoy your party not get paralytic"
What: How to Get the Drinks Right
Why: Just as with food, you want to have more drink than less – you don’t have to get through it all obviously; you want your guests to enjoy your party not get paralytic and not remember a thing. As Tom Lloyd Owen of Event Oracle points out, ‘most good wine suppliers will let you buy sale or return, which means you can order and take it back afterwards’. If you’re going down the cocktail route then do as Top Hat Catering would and have just one or two cocktails on offer – you don’t want to be making drinks all night. Organise Events agree saying you should have a limited cocktail list and that all drinks are made to order, if you put them in jugs with ice they’re just going to end up diluted and no one wants that.
"Parties are fabulous, but the clearing up is made worse with a sore head"
What: Get Help
Why: ‘Parties are fabulous, but the clearing up is made worse with a sore head.’ We hear you, Top Hat Catering. When it comes to parties you want to get help, as Rhubarb say parties are fun – washing up is not. ‘Never short change on staff, they are there to take all pressure off the host’ says Ellie; remember just as in a restaurant, service is key it can make or break a party. If you’re not sure how to choose staff then High Society recommend choosing a company ‘that is carefully staff-selective, employing well presented, articulate staff, that are paid well and are happy and engaging.’ No one is going to feel in the party mood if they are served a glass of Champagne with a death stare. If you’re going all out and have the time, then High Society recommend visiting the premises on a staff-training day. Meredith Collective’s tip? Don’t try and host and serve at the same time, ‘don’t be too hard on yourself and call in the troops.’
"A bit of old skool music mixed with disco packs out a dance floor"
What: Decoration and Entertainment
Why: You’ve sorted the food, sorted the drink, prepped the staff – now to decorate. Decorating doesn’t have to break the budget, it’s just about getting the ambience right. For Chilli Bees it’s all about the right lighting and music to create a welcoming, happy atmosphere. For Event Oracle it’s all about candles, ‘one of our favourite ways of bringing warmth and intimacy to every space, don’t let a small group wallow in a big bright area, keep it intimate where possible’. If you think flowers are too expensive then Rhubarb suggest ‘a single blossom branch in a vintage decanter or…elegant posies of wild flowers in tumblers’. If you don’t know where to begin then as Table Talk say ‘don’t be afraid of a theme…it can make styling choices easier’. Although keep it simple, Meredith Collective suggest picking a colour or point of interest to hinge the whole event on. Get creative but don’t expect everyone to don zebra onesies on a Monday night… When it comes to the DJ, Organise Events say make sure you brief them, you want music people know and that fits the tone of the event but a ‘bit of old skool mixed with disco packs out a dance floor’.
Our final piece of advice is something that everyone we’ve spoken to has said and something which is entirely up to you: who to invite. Get a fun group of people together, because however hard you work on the food, flowers and drink if your guests aren’t up for a good time then you don’t have a party. We’ll leave the final word to Table Talk: ‘Trust in good company, good food and a few drinks – a solid foundation for a great night!’
Thank you to all our contributors: