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Smash the Bash: An Insider Guide to Party Planning Perfection

December 3rd 2013

So you’ve picked the place for your staff or social Christmas bash with the help of our guide to the Top 10 Party Venues in Hong Kong. Now all that’s left is to plan every last detail to perfection, which, unfortunately, is just as difficult as it sounds. But fret not festive funsters, as we pin down one of Hong Kong’s premium party planners and get her top tips for throwing a fail-safe celebration.

With a band, a bar, a restaurant and a private party venue under her belt, it’s safe to say that Winnie Lam is an authority on entertainment. Starting out with the artistic Arbuthnot Road bar Philia Lounge – which gave way to French bistro-style eatery Brasserie Del’ile in 2007 – this US-educated Hong Konger has years of experience being the hostess with the most.

Her most recent projects include London-based record label Pour le Monde, set up to support Paris indie/pop band The Penelopes, and Hong Kong ‘Rent-a-House-Party’ concept Philia Home. The latter, tucked away behind Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan, has hosted everything from small wedding ceremonies to large corporate mixers – not to mention the Red Hot Chilli Peppers before the Hong Kong commencement of their 2011 world tour!

Now that the essential name dropping is done and dusted, it’s time to tap into Winnie’s expertise and syphon off a little of her success for ourselves. With tips on everything from nailing the theme to turfing out tactfully, this Insider Guide to Party Planning Perfection will ensure your next bash goes with a bang. Over to you Winnie!

Food (and drink) for Thought

The first thing you need to decide is what kind of party you’re going to throw – a sit-down dinner or drinks and mingling. Cocktail parties are easy to arrange because you don’t need to ask about food allergies or vegetarians, but always make sure you have more than enough mixers and ice – not to mention alcohol!

Dinner parties can be much harder as people are picky. I suggest doing a meat, fish and veg course to cover all bases. Tapas and canapés can also be good at less formal events as there’s something for everyone. It’s best to be prepared as early as possible and have everything you need. But incase you’re not, the great thing about Hong Kong is that there are wet markets everywhere for last-minute buys.

Think Themes

I think it’s always good to have a theme as it gives guests something to look forward to and forces them to plan ahead a little, especially if you go for a costume party. It also helps people who don’t know each other feel more connected. If you go for a theme you need to think about the whole package, as invites, decorations, refreshments and entertainment should all tie in if possible. Try to keep the theme fairly simple and versatile so it’s not too difficult for guests. ‘Hollywood Glamour’, ‘1920s’ and ‘James Bond’ parties, for example, are always classy and easy to execute.

Get the Best Guests

The guest list is a very important factor when it comes to atmosphere, but who you invite will really depend on the purpose of the event. I always try to keep the male-female ratio similar as it makes things more dynamic.

If it’s your birthday, just pick your closest friends and don’t worry if people don’t get along. For networking events, a guest list made up of people from different professions and backgrounds will get them talking. You don’t want a room full of bankers all chatting about the Stock Exchange!

Be the Host with the Most

Playing host is always a bit stressful, but there are some rules you can follow to minimise the trauma. Firstly, don’t freak out and start texting your guests like crazy if no-one’s there right at the beginning. Everyone likes to be fashionably late, so just keep the faith and relax. Tell everyone to turn up an hour earlier than you actually want to receive them and they’ll probably be right on time.

Always greet guests with a drink, as people will be a little apprehensive at first and want something to do with their hands, especially if they don’t know anyone. Once the guests have arrived and the party is in full swing, many hosts start to relax because – let’s face it – you’ve earned it. The danger here however is that you can relax a little too much and end up the drunkest person at the party. Obviously try and pace yourself, but also make sure you settle up the business side of things early so you can enjoy the evening and leave stress-free with everyone else at the end.

Always Entertain

I think providing some sort of entertainment is crucial as it will likely be the highlight of the evening and what people remember most. The entertainment you choose really depends on the type of atmosphere you want to create. I’ve arranged everything from strippers for wild hen parties to jazz bands for relaxed networking events, dance DJs, karaoke and poker games. The only real limit is your own imagination.

The best time to introduce your entertainment is about two hours into the party when everyone is settled, comfortable and a few drinks in. The ideal duration time of entertainment is around 45 minutes so people can go back to mingling afterwards.

Turf Out Tactfully

This can actually be a pretty difficult task, especially if your guests are a little tipsy. Having an onward destination is the easiest option, while “running out of alcohol” is also a sure way to get the party crowd to move on. I also find turning up the lights and lowering the music gradually helps subconsciously convince people that it’s time to leave.

Philia Home can host cocktail parties for up to 80 people and sit down dinners for up to 24. Chefs and serving staff are provided by sister restaurant Brasserie Del’ile for a minimum spend of HK$6,000 on weekdays and HK$8,000 on weekends. The venue can also be hired without staff for HK$2,000 an hour. Call 2147-2389 of email via the Philia Home Localiiz profile page to make a booking.

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