How do you celebrate a milestone like turning 30? By throwing a huge party in the country, of course. By Laura Jackson
I am pretty good when it comes to organising parties, I studied event management at university, worked for a catering company and now am one half of an exciting London supperclub 'Jackson & Levine', but even with this experience I felt a bit out of my depth with the scale of this do.
Fortunately it was a big success, so I'm going to share what I learned from the experience.
First get yourself a notebook, I find this keeps things separate and easier to manage. Make a pinterest board and get as much inspo as possible from instagram and blogs, there is so much out there.
You can let the number of guests determine the venue, or vice-versa. It is probably safest to find the venue first before you start inviting people, so you can keep your options open. I had set my heart on a rural weekend away, but many country houses only sleep between 12-18, which just weren't big enough for what I had in mind.
I looked for larger places on websites like Big Domain and Airbnb but in the end a friend told me about the beautiful Wilderness Reserve in Suffolk, which has 10 houses, sleeping from 2 to 24, on a private estate of 4,500 acres. I loved it at first sight, and booked Sibton Park, the largest property ( which sleeps 24), a whole year in advance, to be sure of getting it for my actual birthday weekend.
I am not mad on themes, as I find they can be restrictive, but I did have a colour theme inspired by a JW Anderson bucket bag: pink, lilac and red. I bought amazing balloons, helium, glitter bombs and all my party bits from Party Packs, who had everything I needed, and delivered it all straight to the venue.
I love party bags so much I decided to have two. My pink and green striped ones came from Gardners' in East London (149 Commercial St, E1 6BJ, 020 7247 5119) but you can get similar ones from ebay. I fastened them with some round silver stickers, and put one at each place- setting on the birthday dinner table, and the second on each bed, for when people arrived. These bags held some popcorn and an Order Of Play - a simple itinerary, which I hand-wrote and had printed, together with the menus, at Moo.com
Match your cake to your outfit! I follow Lily Vanilli cakes on Instagram and asked if she would design me a bespoke cake to match my Gucci dress (above). I sent her a photo of the dress and she made the most beautiful coconut cake ever to match.
Always keep the table simple: I just had my handwritten menu and a flower on each setting, plus candles for atmosphere, and then I added a personal touch with the party bag. Each guest got a treat from Vicky's Donuts – again just a wonderful lady I found on Instagram.
I think a drinks reception is key, so all your guests can mingle before dinner. A few bottles of lovely champagne (I served one of my favourites, Charles Heidsieck) is a great way to kick off the evening, and serving one type of cocktail is simple and less hassle than giving your guests a chance to be picky.
The best summer cocktail ever is Aperol Spritz - I have never met anyone who doesn't love it. Don't worry about posh canapés, I think bowls of nuts and olives are just as nice.
It's nice to have flowers but you don't need to go mad. I got up early to go to the New Covent Garden flower market in Vauxhall for these. It's a wholesale market but also open to the public (4am - 10 am), and if you want a real bargain, wait to buy till just before they are about to close and start haggling.
When you are feeding a crowd, sharing plates are much easier and also more fun, as people have more interaction. Roast chickens, big salads and new potatoes suit most people and I found this more informal approach to dinners seemed to work for my guests.
THE MORNING AFTER
What better way to continue celebrations than re-living the hilarious antics of the night before?. For me brunch is not brunch without some bubbles, and I decided to go pink with M&S Bellante Rose - so delicious. Serve it with pastries, newspapers and coffee.
Wilderness Reserve is set in a large private estate of 4,500 acres in Suffolk, with a collection of 10 houses, sleeping from 2 to 24, you can rent for weekends or longer stays. You can try all kinds of country pursuits including clay-pigeon shoots, fishing, boating, bird-watching and cycling.
Prices from £588 - £7,182 for a two night weekend, exclusive use, including daily housekeeping and a welcome hamper. Sibton Park( sleeping 24) costs £7,182 for two nights (min stay).
The newest property, Moat Cottage, sleeps 12 (six bedrooms) and costs from £2,422 for a two-night stay in low season.