Party Planning and Easy Entertaining For the Holidays











Party Planning & Easy Entertaining:
Holiday Entertaining: A Passion for Parties

Excerpt from A Passion for Parties: Your Guide to Elegant Entertaining
by Laura Morton and David Tutera

New Year's Eve Celebration Ideas

THE EVENT: A New Year's Eve Celebration

THE LOCATION The newly finished log cabin home of my clients in Westchester County, New York.

THE SETTING The wooded backyard of the family estate.

THE CONCEPT This was the only party I planned for the turn of the century. Though I was asked to plan major extravaganzas from Atlantic City to New York City, I chose to plan only one event for this important milestone. My clients were the family of other clients I have worked closely with over the years, and I wanted to help plan this dreamlike spectacle to ring in the new year and new century. The evening was a perfect finale to six months of planning and preparation. This party, like the turn of the century, was a once-in-a-lifetime event for everyone involved.

The evening began with cocktails inside the clients' new home. Guests were greeted with a glass of champagne in the front courtyard and then guided to a wide-open space on the first level of the home. The house was positioned in such a way that guests had no idea there was an enormous tent erected at the back of the home. Since the house was an elaborate log cabin, I decided to play on the juxtaposition of the home. The cocktail space was designed to match the log cabin feel while the main party space was characterized by sleek decor, lively entertainment, and exotic food. The back of the home had continuous French doors, and these were kept closed until the end of the cocktail hour. Jazz played over the house system during cocktails and flowed into the tent when it was time for the guests to move inside. At just the right moment the doors were opened and the tented space was grandly unveiled. As they did, the music became livelier, so everyone knew where to go.

The tent was extremely sturdy, and guests felt as if they were still inside a permanent structure. It took three weeks to install the tent. The walls and ceiling were draped with white chiffon fabric, pleated and pulled to perfection. White carpet covered the floor except for the glossy white space in the center for dancing. This was not a sit-down dinner, so I carefully created areas within the large tent for guests to eat. The furniture, including sofas, cocktail tables, bar stools, lamps, and wall sconces, created an intimate setting.

An enormous three-tier crystal chandelier was hung at the entrance of the tent to create an impression of grandeur. Below it was a round table with a beautiful centerpiece made from simple wheat grass, green apples, and small silver-encased candles. A long table was set on either side, and a row of three smaller crystal chandeliers hung above each one. This setup allowed those who wanted to sit while eating to do so. This is important when having a variety of age groups at a party without a structured sit-down dinner. Older guests may not be comfortable standing to eat. Remember, you want everyone to be as comfortable as possible, and this includes your curiously good-looking distant cousin who never seems to show up with a date, yet ends up shirtless and leading a conga line with the waiters by the end of the evening.

Identical buffet stations were placed in the rear corners of the tent, and two bars were in the front corners. In addition, I designed two unique stations on opposite sides of the tent. To the left was a sushi bar and to the right a vodka and caviar bar. Those who just wanted to nibble instead of eating an entire plateful of food were able to do so. The sushi bar was made from four large fish tanks topped with a thick plate of Plexiglas. The tanks were filled with a variety of goldfish, which were given as favors at the end of the evening in small crystal fish bowls with the client's name and the date of celebration: 1-1-2000! The caviar and vodka bar was as simple and elegant as the offerings: a long wooden bar covered in white padded fabric, a thick piece of white marble on top, beautiful candles, and silver pedestals to hold the caviar and accoutrements.

For additional seating, two "lounges" were created in the corners of the sunken dance floor, which was in the center of the tent. Identical white sectionals were placed on a bed of grass -- so that the guests would feel as if they were at both a chic club and a theater space. The tiered approach gave the sensation of being in a Broadway theater: the dance floor was the lowest level; the guest and buffet tables surrounding it were on the next level,and the multilevel stage was the highest tier.

TUTERA TIP: Be sure there is plenty of space around the buffet area to allow easy movement.

THE ENTERTAINMENT A stage was built behind the dance floor for the entertainers. A DJ was placed fourteen feet above the guests' heads, giving the illusion of a nightclub. His oversize white leather chair served as a perfect base for him to spin.

This was a night like no other, so only one entertainer would not suffice. I created a night of disco divas. First, Alicia Bridges performed her famous single "I Love the Nightlife." Then the group Musique played a forty-five minute set, including their hit song "Push Push in the Bush." Finally, Lisa Lisa of Cult Jam fame brought the house down with her music and fabulous dancers.

Having three different entertainers along with a DJ allowed the guests to hear something they liked and have a great time. The evening was a continuous build of entertainment suspense and surprises, the perfect schedule for such a magical millennium evening. Four sexy go-go dancers dressed in silver outfits danced on clear Plexiglas boxes, which were dramatically up-lit from inside, adding to this theatrical night.

THE MENU Hors d'oeuvres were served during cocktails. Small, unique food was served, both hot and cold, but everything was bite size. (You don't want to serve anything too messy or too big, especially at a black-tie event.) The waiters were instructed to keep a continuous flow of food but not to offer the same item simultaneously. The buffet stations offered a variety of grilled fish, vegetables, and crepes. The sushi bar had a variety 11 made to order." After the midnight countdown, a dessert buffet that replaced the dinner stations enticed the guests with a variety of sweets, coffee and tea choices, and cordials. At 2:00 A.M., we opened a breakfast bar, complete with made-to-order omelets and a bagel-andlox spread that would be the envy of your favorite deli. This was a welcome surprise to guests who had worked up a hearty appetite dancing and ringing in the new year.

TUTERA TIP: When your party isn't a sit-down affair, make sure there is adequate seating for your guests. It is also a good idea to make provisions for sufficient bathroom facilities.

Next: A Memoral Day Clambake
Ideas for a Memorial Day Party

From the book A Passion for Parties: Your Guide to Elegant Entertainingby Laura Morton and David Tutera.
Copyright © 2001 by David Tutera and Golden Advantage Productions

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