Behind The Blue Door

Statement Dining | March 2, 2016 |

Party line:

The secrets of extreme party planning



Looking a tiny bit harassed, sporting a headset and nursing a clipboard, the event planner is the swan of the party – elegant on the surface but paddling furiously just out of sight.

But what are the secrets of the party planners? Why should we hire one? And what tips can they share for hosting our more everyday events?

We asked some of the best in the business.

Danielle Nay


From Bob Geldof’s 60th/Pixie Geldof’s 21st birthday party
Image source: Danielle Nay

Currently running Transformers, a Dubai-based ideas consultancy and specialist event supplier, Danielle has organised a whole calendar-full of high profile events.

Before moving to Dubai, she ran London events boutique, Dr Party. She eventually sold the event planning business but not before organising lavish launches, weddings and parties for a long list of luxury brands and corporates. Her client list also included a clutch of Geldofs, Madonna, Ralph Lauren and Martin Amis, among others.

For one memorable party – Karen Millen’s 40th birthday – Danielle and team constructed a bridge over the hosts’ swimming pool, floated candles and flowers in it and installed a huge red velvet tent over the whole thing, which they transformed into the Moulin Rouge. Returning to the house the next morning, they discovered a ceremonial sword – used to slice the Jane Asher cake – in the swimming pool, along with a pair of La Perla silk knickers.

“That’s the sign of a good party,” laughs Danielle.

Today, she specialises in providing breathtaking products for events and parties, including couture costume characters and digital graffiti walls.

Her top party tip?

“Make the flowers big and the canapés small,” she advises.

“Luxurious flowers just look wonderfully decadent, so spend as much as you can. If you can’t afford flowers, you might consider installing multiple identical objects to provide a striking contrast. For example, I love the way Fiona Leahy [another London party guru to the stars] creates wonderful signature walls of repeated mylar balloons for events in period buildings. I love Dubai – but I don’t half miss period architecture!

“People often make the mistake of thinking a good party only needs to look good. Instagram aside, the most important senses are taste, sound and smell. That’s why I love Moroccan and Bollywood parties so much – you can create layers of scent with incense and flowers.”

Benjamin Shaw


Image source: Benjamin Shaw

“From the fabulous and fanciful to the small and understated.” As his website says, Benjamin Shaw has 25 years’ experience in event planning and knows the tricks for any type of event.

From events involving royalty to brands (Barclays, Coutts, Virgin Atlantic, Christian Dior, BBC, DeBeers and Linklaters), corporates and celebrity weddings. Benjamin has clip-boarded his way through them all.

“The devil is in the detail and perfection is in the planning,” he says, “I specialise in high end weddings and private parties.”

He’s recently organised a Japanese-inspired party for 600 people at London’s Gibson Hall and has been the party brains behind many country weddings – including the weird and wonderful.

But he warns that even the best-organised parties will go awry.

“Timings are going to go off piste,” he explains, “It always happens. However, it’s vital that you keep the momentum going and not have any lull points as this is when people drift off.”

His top party tip?

“It’s not about pleasing the masses. Someone along the line – especially when it comes to weddings – is going to get upset with your decisions. The sooner you accept this, the less stressful the run-up will be and the more enjoyable the party will turn out.”

Katy Davis


Rita Ora at Mahiki
Image source: Mahiki

With a press cuttings file oozing with paparazzi shots, it’s easy to see that Mahiki is the glamorous Tiki bar of choice for the young celebrity set – and the royals.

The original Dover Street nightspot was joined by a Dubai outpost in 2011 (at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel), which means the team, including manager Katy Davis, is busier than ever…

Home or away, Katy explained the importance of escapism in organising a great party.

“Creating a themed environment for your guests can instantly lower their inhibitions, a long time before the alcohol starts to flow. This element is key to any party or great night out.

“Mahiki is a stunning example of how effective this is. By engaging all five senses right from the moment we greet guests at the front door, we can create the ultimate experience for them – and this is something to strongly consider when planning parties at home as well.”

Like Danielle, Katy believes sense of smell is far more important than you might expect. Mahiki is scented with coconut essence, providing guests with a subtle but instantly liberating ‘holiday feel’.

“We also focus a lot on the lighting, using candles and soft hues, rather than the abrasive neons that so many clubs use.

“Our menu of course follows the same Tiki theme as our decor. Attention to detail in every single drink is evident, and guests are very receptive to this.”

Her top party tip?

“A lot of people find hosting their own parties extremely stressful – and this can be contagious to your guests,” says Katy.

“Relax. Remember your goal – ultimately for everybody to have a great time. To achieve this, you must lead by example. Parties are a chance to live in the moment with the people you love and respect. Unfortunately, life can sometimes get in the way of this. So take your moment, take your friends and just enjoy it.”


When the party is over, the next thing to think about is tomorrow’s brunch. Head out, with our guide to the best places to eat brunch around the UK.


*Lead image shows human chandeliers at Kare launch. Image source: Danielle Nay


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