We’re Having A Party!

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

Preston Bailey has fashioned the most elaborate, the most talked about, the most endearing, the most extraordinary — we could go on. Bailey’s parties are simply splendid. His repeat clients — Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, Emmitt Smith III, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and an eclectic number of others — all agree. Bailey, originally from Panama and a former set designer who owns a company that specializes in entertainment and set design in New York City, knows how to create magic and spark emotion. “I feel it’s a wonderful opportunity to live out my fantasies,” says Bailey. “Entertaining is fun. And too many folks take it much too seriously.”

But the goal is always, he insists, to construct wonderful memories. Whether your budget is $10,000 or $400,000, Bailey posits that there are three important considerations for achieving the ultimate fete that remain constant.

Budget: Understanding what you can spend will help keep the elements of your party within a manageable framework as you plan it. “And keep in mind that fabulous parties are not just [about] how much you spend,” insists Bailey. “More does not always mean better.”

Location: Where you decide to entertain will greatly influence the scale of your affair. Whether it is on a yacht, in a garden, at your home, or in a ballroom, the location sets the foundation for the other elements to come.

Mood: Here you concentrate on the details of your party. “What would you like to say to your guests?” asks Bailey of all his clients. “The theme is what will create this special [event]. I encourage my clients to be playful and imaginative.”

Two very important components for creating a spectacular mood are lighting and color. “They are elements that people give little thought to, but I plan my menu around color, choosing dishes and food items that will complement the entire design scheme. This area is great for experimenting. Don’t be confined by social rules. Break the rules and create something spectacular.”

Bailey suggests, for example, using purple for the holiday season instead of the traditional red. Even if you would prefer to have holiday elements, color your mistletoe, wreaths, and place settings in nontraditional shades. Flowers can be used to create a color theme or simply accent one. “Flowers are always beautiful whether you decide on one type or several.”

Lighting, in its simplest form, can have dramatic effects, says Bailey. “If it’s a place where guests have come before, opt for candles. Candlelight can completely transform a room.”

5 BIG MISTAKES PARTY HOSTS MAKE

  • Second-guessing the professional you hired: By hiring a party planner you have purchased a service. Bailey maintains that you must treat this purchase as any other — by checking credentials, getting recommendations, if possible, and interviewing. “Before you hire anyone, you should first feel that he completely understands your wishes, your budget, and your concerns. But once you’ve made the decision, it’s important to allow the professional to perform the task for which he was hired.”
  • Assuming the menu is what it is: You must
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