The Hot Spot

Diann Valentine on how to make your party a summer hit

After hosting a social gathering this summer, what you want to hear from happy colleagues and associates is “that was a great party!” Entertaining at the executive level is an extension of an impression made in your professional environment — an opportunity to present your warmer, more congenial side. It also requires a certain effort.

According to Diann Valentine, president of D R Valentine and Associates, a Pasadena, California-based wedding, events, and interior design firm, “Parties just don’t happen; they have to be orchestrated. Why wouldn’t this be as important as that digital recap [you presented] for a project in New Orleans?

Valentine says proper planning helps maintain a light and fun environment for your guests. “Don’t make it so much about business. It doesn’t have to be

about the next project coming. If a person of position brings it up, others are going to feel obligated to [continue]. If you want to bring people to your home because you want to entertain them, then do that.”

“Parties need a rhythm,” not a theme, she says, “that flows as people arrive until they leave.” Many components make for a successful event. Valentine, who has corporate and celebrity clients, offers suggestions for setting the right tone.

The Invite. It’s the first opportunity to make a favorable impression. “It’s so easy to go Evite or have your assistant run them off on a computer.” But a personally addressed invitation, written in calligraphy, as Valentine suggests, is something your guests will remember.

The Setting. Ideally, you need seating for approximately 60% of your guests, according to Valentine. And although you don’t want everybody crowding on the sofa and loveseat, she says rental chairs are a bit contrived. She suggests bringing in a bench, or a couple of ottomans from other rooms — even stacking floor pillows. “You want to have a very organic feel.”

Music should be festive and, if possible, live. Valentine suggests a three-piece ensemble, or a great soloist. If neither is possible provide a variety of music. “Do mixed CDs,” she says. “Don’t just put on Luther Vandross’ greatest hits.”

Simple Touches. Your boldest statements can be made in the details, says Valentine: Try monogrammed cloth napkins, and fresh flowers in small vases around the home. “I think people underuse candles,” Valentine says. “Instead of a couple of votives, why not a couple of hundred?” She suggests lining the fireplace mantle as well as the walkway as guests arrive.

The Production Schedule. Your gathering will require a plan for the evening at 30 to 60 minute intervals. A half-hour after guests start arriving and settling in, Valentine suggests an icebreaker for 30 minutes, such as hand massages from a professional masseuse or a round of Taboo before the meal is served. Valentine also insists on inviting ringers, or “your guaranteed party people.” They can be family or friends, but they are great conversationalists with a talent for engaging people. You can visit Valentine online at www.drvalentine.net.

The Menu. Caterers are informal and reminiscent of a banquet. For a small party, Valentine

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