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How to throw a great party

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Mr Muddy happens to be having a significant birthday this year and I’m kind of mid-panic about how to get his party right (Mr Muddy, if you’re reading this, look away now). I’m not one of these people who just throws things together and they work out like Great Gatsby-style party masterpieces and it’s not like I have loads of free time at the moment to plan stuff with 3 children, a business and a mid-year sense of exhaustion and inertia (oh, just me?).

So ever the short-term fixer I asked Charlotte from Henley-based Papillon Events to give me her tips on throwing a fabulous party. Want to know her secrets? Here you go then.

Papillon Events’ party secrets

1. Be bold and pick the date and venue early

It’s easy to procrastinate about budget, number of guests and type of party and there are so many options available now, from marques and tipi tents in your garden to unique or historic venues or hotels. Be honest about budget from the beginning and everything else will follow. It’s hard to have a sit down dinner for 100 if your budget says cocktails for 20! Once you’ve made that one decision, you can quickly move onto …

2. The Devil (because he’s there in the detail)

Cathrin - house lighting[4]
Planning is crucial, both for your sanity and for the success of the party. Firstly, get your invites out nice and early – it will build excitement early and also make you focus on the fact that, oh-my-god, this party’s actually happening!

Some of the best parties are themed, so have a think about what you enjoy, whether it’s a certain type of music, cult films, places that inspire you. The theme can be subtly weaved through all elements of the party, starting with the invites and continuing through to the décor and food. If you’re having a marquee party and opt for a theme, such as James Bond, you can have great fun incorporating the theme into every element of your event from the food & drink (martini’s shaken not stirred, shortbread fingers shaped like revolvers) to lighting and table decoration (scattered diamonds – fake of course!), or creating a party that Bond himself would be proud to attend.

 3. Hire the right staff
If you can, hire a bar and professional bartenders – it adds a real focal point to an event and also free you up massively. Otherwise you might find yourself dashing around pouring wine all evening rather than interacting with your guests. Having a cocktail list for guests to choose from is a great talking point and definitely oils the wheels of the party! You’re likely to be having too much of a good time to be thinking about photos so book a photographer for two hours to capture your guests enjoying themselves, or – just as much fun – hire a photo booth. Anything interactive is always a success, so a good magician, paper silhouettist or musicians can also create talking points that last long after your party is over.

4. Lights, Camera, Action

A Jennings - chandeliers[5]

Lighting plays a huge party in creating the right atmosphere and ambience for an event.  Think about projecting shapes, patterns and logos onto a floor or wall for an added effect, or if you’re having a garden party do something different with crystal chandeliers hanging from trees for effect.  If you’re hiring a DJ, don’t make the mistake of presuming he knows your taste or will happily play whatever you request. Provide a sample playlist so that you’re not surprised by your DJs penchant for hard techno!

5. Relax


I’ve organised so many big parties with my job that I no longer worry about whether my own parties are a success, mainly because I see first hand that a relaxed, happy host pushes that vibe onto his or her guests. Either hire a party planner (like me!), or once you’ve done the hard work, let any feelings of angst go. The party’s started, make sure you’re at it!




For a free consultation or for some expert advice, get in touch.

Charlotte Pudney at Papillon Events

07970 981887

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