Hosting 2000 with Style

There is no time to waste; the clock is ticking. The year 2000 is the year of grand fêtes, and the buzz on how to toast in this extraordinary New Year's Eve has already begun.
Story Stephanie M. Morris

Plan your party like the pros, and when this New Year’s Eve rolls around your party just might be the party of the century.

There are some convincing reasons for you to don your party hat. Back at work on Jan. 2, 2000, coworkers will ask: “What did you do?” As your assistant gushes with lavish details, you won’t have to ho-hummly reply: “I watched Dick Clark.” Celebrating 2000 in style will guarantee you a final farewell to all, if the world does indeed end, and what better way for you to say adieu than surrounded by a circle of 100 friends.

You don’t need to invent a party idea that could take all year to plan. Expert event planners provide innovative ideas from simple inspirations, extravagant themes, space usage and food presentation, to accommodating lingering guests. They also detail common pitfalls that could land you in the proverbial host or hostess pothole.

Party Planner Pat Rekert

So how do you ensure that your party will be a smashing success? Grab something that inspires you. That’s exactly what überhostess Pat Rekert does. Her company, In Any Event, designs and produces extraordinary parties for corporate and private clients. The grandest fête Rekert is famous for is Bill and Melinda Gates’s wedding reception. What began as a cocktail party for 200, turned into a sit-down dinner for 500. To accommodate guests, they added a temporary solarium to their rented heritage house for the cocktail reception. They also built a cliff-side tent measuring 8,100 sq. m for the dinner, and replaced its semi-permanent sides with French doors. Rekert took inspiration from the elegant, soft pink Oceana rose, and decorated the tent interior to compliment the heritage house. She accentuated the look by designing antique gold rod-iron candelabras for each table and intertwining their stems with the Oceana roses. Throughout the house, roses by the thousands cascaded over doorways, flowed around pillars and appeared in elegant arrangements.

A collection can also become an inspiration for a party and be transformed into a lavish theme. For another client’s wedding rehearsal dinner, Rekert merged the bride’s love of orchids with the groom’s oriental teapot collection. She began by planning a rehearsal dinner for 50 at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, and then set the tables with an oriental flair, featuring Chinese dishware, chopsticks, and menus made of shredded Chinese newspaper. Guests drank steaming Chinese tea from individual Yi-xing teapots, and rare orchids graced table centerpieces and appeared in traditional bamboo arrangements.

For another corporate client, Rekert again used a collection as inspiration, designing theme tables to represent each of her client’s passions. The James Bond table had dice, martini glasses and spy-like paraphernalia, while a parachute draped the flight table and model planes were used as centerpieces. She transformed her client’s collection of Lichtensteins into a table with a pop art motif, featuring reproductions as place mats, coloured tablecloths, napkins and votive candles.

Yet a simple theme does not always mean simple planning. Organizing an adult pajama party for a favorite client, Rekert turned a straightforward idea into a deluxe event. A Hugh Hefner impersonator greeted guests arriving in their PJs, and splashes heard from the indoor pool came from guests competing in synchronized swimming performances – clothing was optional. A celebrity look-a-like worked the crowd as Marilyn Monroe, then Liza Minelli, then Cher. When planning your party, you would do well to follow Rekert’s approach. Take your idea and expand on it: brainstorm.

Caterer Lesley Stowe

Once you have your concept, plan your food to reflect your theme. Lesley Stowe of Lesley Stowe Fine Foods, caterer extraordinaire, takes themes into consideration when presenting her decadent dishes. Even when providing a simple cheese plate from her store, Stowe sends the exotic fromage on balsam cheese wheels. But that is as basic as she gets. For a Phantom of the Opera theme party, Stowe added dry ice to the dessert table to create a mysterious, misty effect. This Halloween she turned three delicious desserts into scary creatures with sweet raspberry coulis for blood. More conventional, yet equally effective, Stowe also creates dinners with regional flare. Lemons garnish Tuscan meals that she serves on platters or in rustic baskets.

Suggestions From Stowe And Rekert For Your Party

Stowe suggests looking around the house: be resourceful. A treasure of intriguing containers might turn up in unusual places. Try the basement. For that matter, why not have your party down there? It is possible. Rekert tackled B.C. Place for the prime minister’s cultural evening during APEC, transforming the impersonal stadium into a pleasurable dining environment for world leaders. Concrete hallways were draped and carpeted, and spot lit tables dotted the halls, adorned with fragrant bouquets of exotic lilies. A football field became an intimate, yet futuristic, dining room with white flooring, Spandex chair covers, and asymmetrical tenting. Coloured lighting changed the mood according to the entertainment. If Rekert can alter a stadium on a budget, think of what you can do to your basement.

If there is one element in planning a party that Rekert always turns to, it is lighting. Effective lighting makes it possible to alter spaces like the Gates’s dinner tent, the Asian Art Museum or B.C. Place. “Lighting is my friend,” Rekert says smiling. “Lighting forces guests to focus on what I want them to see.” It also lets you hide that stain on the carpet, or highlight your collection of multicoloured lava lamps. “It does not matter what I do,” she continues, “if the lighting is not creatively designed it makes or breaks everything else I have done.”

As candles burn down and the sun comes up, what do you do with lingering guests? One has commandeered your bed, another the sofa, another the faux fur rug and others dance merrily as if it were still midnight. Plan ahead for a potential sleepover. Have blankets, towels and extra toothbrushes on hand. As dawn approaches, you and your remaining guests will be hungry, so have a basket of baked goods ready to go, and java and cups in line. Don’t forget your favourite hangover remedies. Consideration for all of your guests’ needs will grant you supreme host status.

Common Party Planning Mistakes

Before you run off to plan your shindig, consider the common mistakes people make. Stowe says people usually get the food right, but not the presentation. Rekert agrees. She notices that hosts often obsess over specifics and forget the big picture, the whole presentation. So what does she do? She becomes the guest. “I walk it [the party] over and over again.” She examines everything, beginning with where guests will drive in, how they will move through the reception and what they will see. Viewing your prospective party from your guests’ vantage points could show that you need some essential household items-like extra hangers. It could also highlight things you might not want guests to see-like your high school yearbook. Your party mantra is “plan then preview.”

Now is the time to begin planning your New Year’s Eve party. Rekert began researching and consulting for three millennium parties back in June 1998, and already she has fireworks under contract. Keep in mind that not all caterers or staff want to work New Year’s Eve and some entertainment will not travel for fear of the millennium bug. And in case you recently won the lottery, Celine Dion and Jerry Seinfeld are not available. Invite your guests early, since they just might be planning their own parties. Even if your boss has already arranged a bash, don’t lose that party momentum. Plan early and turn your soiree into a deluxe summer barbecue. Remember, you have all those boring numbered years (2002, 2003, etc.) to sit at home and watch TV. Besides, it is still 1999 and your party could still be ranked as “The Party of The Century.” The only concern is, will there be enough champagne?

 

Port and Cranberry Jell-O
250 ml Port
250 ml cranberry juice
500 ml boiling water
2 pkgs of cranberry Jell-O
Pour boiling water over both packages of Jell-O powder in a bowl. Mix until dissolved. Add port and cranberry juice. Stir and set according to Jell-O mix directions. Be creative with moulds: float theme-oriented objects in the jelly or cut out shapes after the jelly has set.