Leading event planners share some of their secrets with Anthea Gerrie
IS THERE a sure fire way to impress, even on a limited budget?
RJ: The wow factor always comes from the detail. It only takes something small, like the way we present a table plan or place cards. We might seat children at high tables on stools, rather than at dining tables, or the central arrangements will be different on each table, so as guests walk around, they have something new to take in.
WP: Changing the way people are used to seeing a space is key — transforming a shul hall with chandeliers or projecting images of the Champs Elysées on to a wall, for example. I have also screened off part of the venue until after dinner, when its transformation into a nightclub for the evening was revealed.
PD: It could be something as simple as writing a little note to each guest and attaching them to the underside of each chair. Mid-way through the meal, the toastmaster or MC could ask guests to check under their seats. This instantly creates a talking point, is tailored to each individual guest and is something guests will take home and remember.
Q: What is the most important thing to remember when you are planning a bar/ batmitzvah?
GSP: Get to know the child-host. Most children are passionate about something, be it magic, music, sport, the arts, dancing. See the event through a 13-year-old’s eyes and in particular this 13-year-old’s eyes. Understand what makes the child tick and that this is in all likelihood the first time he has ever hosted an event for his friends. Also, he is likely to share his passion with most of his friends, so get the theme right and the audience will be on your side.
PD: Children’s maturity levels vary greatly and this should be considered. Is there plenty going on during the reception, to avoid boredom? Could there be targeted entertainment during the main course service, so that the kids (who will generally eat a lot faster than adults) have something to do?
RJ: Sometimes parents get carried away withwanting to create a party for their own friends. They forget the evening is supposed to be tailored around the children.
Q: What is the ideal simchah food?
GSP: For the children it’s all about dessert. Create an elaborate dessert buffet and include all your family favourites.
WP: A pick-and-mix approach is popular, rather than one dish at each course. And adults do love a chocolate schwarma stand!
RJ: Children nowadays eat at top restaurants with their parents, not just pasta and cheese! Family-style feasts work well, as kids can socialise while eating — have platters of dips and bite- sized foods in the centre of their tables for everyone to tuck in.
Q: What about entertainment?
RJ: There are some great new concepts that allow guests’ photos to be uploaded to a bespoke Instagram page during the party, so everyone can see what is happening live. With children particularly, if there is a way for them to get their photos on to Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, they are happy!
WP: Don’t underestimate the impact of a bagpiper to welcome guests, especially if there is a Scottish element to the event!