With party season on its way (trust us… it’ll be here before you know it!), we thought we’d seek some expert advice on how to make your bash go with a bang! Who better to dish the deets than James Gordon, event stylist and artist extraordinaire, whose organisation skills have been behind some of Australia’s most star-studded weddings, fashion shows and parties (we’re talking Vogue, Versace and the nuptials of Toni Collette, Baz Luhrmann and the Murdochs… to name but a few!).
So here’s James’ party planning 101 – indispensible trick and tips to make sure people will be talking about your party for years to come!
Invitations & Manners
As far as I’m concerned, an invitation is always best on paper. You should always RSVP whether you can or can’t attend and if a yes turns to a no, alert your host as soon as possible. Post-event, a phone call of thanks is totally ok… but a note is way better.
Although I don’t fully agree, it’s been said that one shouldn’t take flowers to a dinner party, as finding a vase and somewhere to place them can be stressful for your hosts. More often than not, I will give one of my paper sculptures in a lovely box (start honing your DIY skills, girls!).
If planning a family event, I don’t care whose cousin or great uncle it is… if you haven’t spoken or written to them in the last four months, don’t ask them! Seating plans are difficult enough without finding a suitable position for dull and distant relatives!
Never sit a husband and wife or partners side-by-side – I’ll give you $100 if they don’t have a more amusing time when separated! If you’re having a smallish dinner at home, take risks and invite friends that you feel have nought in common and it’ll be either an amusing disaster or a triumph! Also don’t attempt to be a bombastic ‘compere’ – people may laugh, but they’ll secretly hate you.
If you are feeling terribly adventurous and in a risk-taking mood, paint the entrance or main room in a wonderful new colour – just imagine the impact if your sitting room’s been beige for five years and it’s suddenly magenta! You can always paint it back after the party.
Candles: As many as possible without bringing the fire brigade!
Flowers: Choose carefully where you put them. If a crowd is coming, they need to be placed high on a plinth or surface. Often one incredible collection of mixed blooms in mixed containers as an entry spectacle is the way to go; alternately, a zillion vases on every available surface and across the top of doors looks lovely and means they are never lost from view.
If you’re entertaining more than six guests, get a waiter. Marvellous ones can be invisibly discreet… and even more marvellous are the gorgeous looking ones! For a large ‘do’, I always suggest one waiter per seven guests; apply this to boat trips, picnics, children’s parties, breakfast with the girls and anything else you can think of!
Unless you can get U2 or Beyonce, I always steer my clients away from live bands (unless it’s a really hot new band that everyone will gasp at). I once went to an event where Sade was singing her latest song and only around 15 guests listened… whereas there were at least another 185 who didn’t – quelle embarrassment! Go for a cool DJ instead.
Sound systems must be the best available; they should fill a space with sound for when something important is being said but must also be capable of isolating a few quiet chit-chatty spots. I’ve lost close friends from angry shushing during speeches and said yes to horrifying things when I couldn’t hear the question being asked!
Food & Drink
If it’s a ‘standing up’ party, food needs to be delicious looking, tasty enough that you’re always keeping an eye out for the serving plate for seconds, and be consumed in no more than two bites (but one is best). I don’t care if it’s lobster risotto with out-of-season truffles – I don’t want a bowl to deal with! Shot glasses of Bloody Mary with an oyster in are one of my new must-haves at my parties (brief the handsome waiters to take the empty glasses from guests).
For drinks, serve the very best and most delicious you can afford!
So there we have it! Cheers, santé, salud, bottoms up, clink clink… and have an utterly marvellous party!
Check out some of James’ fabulous artwork (and see if you can corner him in person for any party tips!) at his Love 2 Death exhibition at The Cat Street Gallery (222 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan), which runs from 13-23 September 2012.