We’re Having A Party!

Preston Bailey tells how to plan the ultimate and most memorable one

taste everything, Bailey asserts. “Everything looks wonderful on paper, or pretty in design, but is it to your taste?” A good caterer or restaurant will oblige that request. But if you don’t ask, says Bailey, they won’t offer.

  • Not having enough: Bailey says that hosts should always have more than enough food. Inadequate portions leave bad feelings among guests. “Entertaining is about giving, so you should give freely. You want people to feel comfortable and satisfied.”
  • Creating debt: The biggest and grandest parties all have budgets, Bailey affirms. “We’ve done events where we’ve come in at $280,000 and the host has said, ‘No, it must stay at $200,000.’ So it’s important to know what you want to spend — even if you don’t know what it will cost.” Cost is one of the first discussions you should have with your event planner. If a client is unsure, Bailey asks them to list all the elements they’d like to include. From there he works the figures into the equation, helping decide what’s possible and what would be over-extensive.
  • Taking it too seriously: As the host, you should be relaxed and having fun. That is the message you want to convey to your guests. “If one of the courses comes 20 minutes late — it’s okay, it’s not the end of the world. Why spend all that money and not enjoy your event? Have fun and so will your guests.”
    The element of surprise is the most enchanting aspect of a party. And for it to be truly memorable, creativity is required. “You have to be clever with surprises. Many of my clients have everything and they’ve seen everything.” Bailey does, however, offer two suggestions.

    • Destination surprise: “Tell 10 to 20 of your closest friends to meet you at the airport with a bag packed for the weekend with warm-weather or cold-weather clothing, and take them to a wonderful all-inclusive resort. In their rooms they should be greeted with flowers and a tote bag which contains an itinerary and all the items they will need to enjoy their stay.”
    • Transformation surprise: “This can work well with a small or large group. On a more intimate scale, we’ve totally gone in and transformed a house, creating different color schemes, adding columns, putting up retractable walls and temporary floors, surprising a spouse, family members, or close friends on their return for the party. On a larger scale, we’ve taken tents and created glass houses within them, or taken a stodgy ballroom and created a nightclub or dance club atmosphere.”

    Look for Preston Bailey’s Design for Entertaining: Inspiration for Creating the Party of Your Dreams (Bulfinch Press, $45) written with Marie Timell. Contact Bailey’s office at 212-691-6777.

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