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Master Class

Party Planning — By Event Guru Bronson van Wyck

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Introducing Bronson van Wyck, party planner extraordinaire… If you love all things fabulous as much as we do, then chances are you're already familiar with this name. Van Wyck is the guru behind some of the most spectacular events out there, with a client roster that reads like a constellation of Who's Who: Beyoncé, Madonna, George Lucas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Quincy Jones… His new book Born To Party, Forced To Work (Phaidon) is a delightful read that's part memoir, part how-to, filled with delicious anecdotes (P. Diddy asking for snow an hour before his 40th birthday party… inside the Plaza Hotel) and historical highlights (Cleopatra’s famous banquet at Tarsus). Here, five insider tips to throwing the most memorable holiday fete—whatever your budget.

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1. First Impressions
The single most welcoming thing you can do at the start of the party is to stand near the entrance when your guests arrive so they can see you.

2. Set the Scene
In terms of decoration, there are two ways to look at it. One is to start easy on the eyes and let everything gently and gradually unfold. Let the plot thicken, so to speak. The other way is to hit them hard from the beginning. I go back and forth. It really depends on what else you've got in store. Every party is different and great hosts pace themselves… and their guests. If you've got one ace, you might lead with a low card and build from there. But if you've got all aces, sweep it up from the first hand.

3. The 20-Minute Rule
Every 20 minutes or so, make sure there's something new added to the mix. What do I mean? Change the music. Dim the lights, or turn them off altogether. Serve the next course of the meal. Give a toast. Finish the toasts. Pass tequila or jello shots. Say a prayer. Have someone enter, or have someone leave, or have someone sing…. You get the idea. A new development every 20 minutes is an antidote to ennui. Don't think of it as pandering to the decline of the mind but instead as a strategy to engage curiosity.

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4. Power to the People
Spreading the most interesting guests around the room creates multiple anchors for the social energy that is the nectar of a great night. And because most people are either talkers or listeners (only the rarest individual is both, and he gets invited everywhere), apply the same principle at each table. Irresistibly charming guests always find each other. By interspersing the socially facile with the less so, the reticent and reluctant often drop their reserve. At the very least, they can sit back and watch the show.

5. Good Lighting = Nature's Facelift
The best way to light people is a simple Rule of Three: three sources from three directions in three colors. Light from above, light from below, light from the side. Overheard lighting, such as that from a chandelier, provides the foundation for all the other light in a room…. Gentle side lighting, such as light from sconces, candles or the reflected glow from a wall that's being hit from above or below, gives life to the human face. It's slimming, and it both enhances bone structure and evens out the skin. Meanwhile, light from below lifts and firms. Votive candles are the simplest way to get this effect. They're also practically free, so I always light more than I need and then take some away. Warm, soft lighting from below takes 10 years off a woman's face. At higher intensity, uplighting creates drama and depth and lifts the eye, so I often use it on large set pieces or foliage installations.

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