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Anne Kapranos, PR and events organiser
Come up with a theme: I have found from running events like Blitz Party, Chap Olympiad and Prohibition, that everyone really loves the excuse to dress up and play a character. A theme can be as weird and as inventive as you like, from Bad Christmas Jumper parties to 80s school proms, and it doesn’t need to cost the earth. If everyone makes an effort, then they effectively provide the decorations with their outfits!
Make the invitation exciting: a beautiful invite can really make a party go from ‘meh’ to amazing and people love receiving something in the post. You don’t need to spend a lot, a handwritten note will suffice, but the more creativity you can add - such as sending an everyday object like a teaspoon for an afternoon tea event, or a feather for a masked ball - the better.
Entertainment: Providing a photo booth, or something similar, helps guests lose their inhibitions and lets them take home a souvenir. It’s easy to knock one up with a Polaroid camera and some imaginative props, or hire the whole thing from a company like Beaton's Boudoir, beatonsboudoir.com. If photo booths aren’t your thing, why not ask an artistic friend to sketch guests’ portraits or draw caricatures? At one of our parties we hired an artist to cut out guests’ silhouettes, Edwardian style.
Don’t over-plan Events can be organised with military precision, but a truly successful event needs to feel as if it is flowing without much help from organisers. To avoid an over-planned feel, either ease up on the to-do lists, or organise ‘surprise’ events and performances throughout the night, making it seem as though the action is happening on its own.
Suzette Field, Tribune, The Last Tuesday Society
I like to hold my parties in venues that have multiple rooms, each themed differently, so there is something for different moods and different people. So, in one room guests might be waltzing to a full symphony orchestra, while next door they are observing the traditional art of Japanese rope bondage. After all, not everyone wants to do the same thing at the same time. I made good use of this tactic at my book launch party in October this year, which was held at The Coronet, a 3000- capacity, disused, Art Deco picture palace in Elephant & Castle. I transformed the main cinema into Satan’s ballroom and four adjoining railway arches into an imperial Japanese garden, a 1950s American psychiatric institution, a Russian inn and a German jazz cellar.
The Last Tuesday Society is known for organising legendary masquerades, parties and séances. Suzette’s first book: A Curious Invitation: The 40 Greatest Parties in Literature is published by Picador at £14.99. acuriousinvitation.com
Sara Blonstein, founder Blonstein Associates, events organisers
Make a story or a script in your mind about what the party is about, what era you are trying to emulate and get inspiration from. Then imagine from start to finish people arriving, what they drink, how they drink it, what they eat, how they hear and dance to music, what moments you can create, what everyone is wearing and how it ends. Visualisation is the key. Then make it happen!
Susan Ward Davies, Travel & Lifestyle Director
Allow lots of time to get ready, that is half the fun. Tell everyone to dress up, work out your own outfit early, and book a make -over and a blow dry – it makes a huge difference to your evening if you feel fantastic.
Music is crucial and, weirdly, often overlooked: think out your playlist so the dancing starts early, not just when people are too drunk to care.
Have some kind of entertainment – we had a brilliant magician, Laura London, lauralondonmagic.co.uk/ at our ELLE xmas party, who worked the room doing Dynamo-style, mind-blowing tricks.
If your budget doesn't stretch to champagne, get a really good sparkling wine like Hardy's, hardyswines.com
Tatiana Mercer, aka cocktail aficionado, BarChick
The most important thing to get right is the drinks and a little organisation goes a long way. The secret to a well-stocked party is to draft up a little cocktail menu and tell your guests to bring something specific.
Don’t forget the ice: If your ice cube trays can’t keep up with the demand, Eskimo Ice http://eskimo-ice.co.uk have got you covered. From crushed ice to ice-luges, they deliver super-fast anywhere in London - download their app and order your ice from your iphone. If the freezer is tiny, then hit the bath, line it with tin foil, chuck a load of cans in and load it with ice, you¹ll have cold drinks all night.
Provide the right glassware: from buying plastic cups to hiring elegant cocktail glassware, always take double what you'd expect to use.
Set up a 'make your own cocktail' station: line up your bar tools, garnishes and glassware on a table, with a bowl of ice and assorted spirits, juices and garnishes, and let your guests play bartender for the night.
Choose a theme : lay out mint, cane sugar, fresh berries and a muddler for a mojito station, or chilled bottles of champagne or prosecco, and bottles of elderflower, pomegranate and other cordials for the champagne cockails. Sprinkle vanilla sugar on a saucer so guests can add a sugary rim to their glasses, and make sure you have coloured stir sticks and olive picks on hand for garnishing. Grab a case or two of prosecco, serve in flutes with a dash of elderflower liqueur, or sex it up a bit with some wild hibiscus flowers - delicious and so pretty.
If your gang is more into shots than bubbles, mix up a Sangrita with 150ml tomato juice, 150ml freshly squeezed orange juice, 30ml freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 dashes of Tabasco and a pinch of salt. Mix together well, with some ice and strain into a pitcher. Serve in a shot glass alongside a shot of tequila.
Even if your party is BYO, be a good host and make a punch. Nothing says festive frolicking like my favourite warming cider punch created by Matt Roberts, head bartender at Powder Keg Diplomacy.
Mix 3 litres of Dry Scrumpy Cider, 500ml cloudy apple juice and a handful of chopped ginger with 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 spoons of ground nutmeg, a small handful of cloves, some black pepper corns and one vanilla pod. Heat on low for 6 hours in a slow cooker and ladle into teacups.
Last but not least, enjoy your own party! The mess can be dealt with in the morning, so can your head…