Party like a celebrity
The Good Life: To make your party over-the-top fabulous, consider one of these great swanky ideas.
NEW YORK (FORTUNE) - Nothing says spring like a great party - the kind with warm breezes, free-flowing drinks and enough open-toed Manolos to keep Mr. Blahnik in business through the next winter.
But these days - when it seems more people watched the last "Fabulous Life" than the most recent State of the Union - a memorable spring soiree takes more than good guacamole and an iPod Shuffle.
So we checked in with celeb party planner Tatiana Byron, founder of Manhattan's 4PM Events, for some insider info on partying like her well-heeled clientele. The resulting six soirees are sure to please even the most discerning guests.
And even if they do deal your bank account a blow - an all-out bash for 20 to 30 people can range from $20,000 to $50,000, while one for 150 guests gets you upwards of $100,000 - what's a few hundred grand to do it up like Diddy?
On the boat
A shindig on the water always turns heads, like Diddy did with his yacht party in St. Bart's last year, complete with a killer DJ and unlimited champagne, caviar and lobster.
Rent your own yacht for an intimate gathering or up to 400 people. Add a DJ or band, some good food and a trip around a local landmark - the Statue of Liberty is a favorite New York destination - and your party's an instant hit. Setting off fireworks from the deck brings a little extra flair, and the indoor/outdoor options give guests lots of variety.
Yachts are available at most local yacht clubs, if you want to arrange it yourself, and can cost as little as $500 an hour, for the 150-person Icon at Charter Yachts of Newport Beach in California (www.cynb.com), or $945 for an intimate 3-hour, 6-person cruise around Manhattan on the 54-foot Prelude (www.abaconyachtcharter.com). Multi-day luxury charters can cost more, with many coming in at over $100,000.
For those with slightly busier schedules (and bigger wallets), Byron recommends eliminating the legwork by using Quintessentially, an international concierge service that coordinates yacht and mansion rentals, concert tickets and a host of other services starting at an annual fee of $1,500 (www.quintessentially.com).
At the mansion
Some of the country's old mansions aren't just pretty to look at; they can be the perfect backdrop to a spring celebration.
The best strategy, Byron says, is to pitch a tent in the yard and throw a themed party where your guests can indulge in a little kitsch while enjoying the view or roaming the grounds. She suggests engaging the services of Event Design Inc., an international company headed by renowned conceptual designer Thomas Noel, to create the theme, which can be as simple as a Southwest barbecue or as elaborate as what Byron whimsically calls "Moroccan fantasy," complete with hookah pipes and belly dancers.
Among the top U.S. mansion destinations are the famous residences of Newport, RI, many of which can be rented - through Quintessentially or on your own.
At the gallery/museum
Who says culture and carousing don't mix? If Anna Wintour's tastes are any indication - and let's be honest, they are the indication - high art can be the centerpiece of a fabulous get-together, as it was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Benefit Gala, co-chaired by Wintour.
That event had a British garden party theme, but yours can be as low-key or as high-maintenance as you want. Passed food and wine or champagne are usually a safe bet. And a solo performer - a guitarist or cellist - can add excellent ambience. Byron recommends Miami's Vizcaya Museum and Gardens on Biscayne Bay, a European-inspired estate with evening rentals for 125 guests starting at $7,500 (www.vizcayamuseum.org).
And if you do end up doing a party like this, don't forget that the art usually provides a ready-made theme, so make sure you like the artist or exhibition you're going to see, and provide your guests with a little info on what they'll be seeing ahead of time via the invitation.
At the amusement park
If that's too high-brow for you, amusement parks are an equally fun alternative with considerably less drama. (You can spill your drink on everything without a second thought!)
These outings are best for groups of 20 to 30, Byron says, and it's usually best to get a party bus for transportation. Folks spend the day riding rollercoasters, and then break for dinner at a fun local restaurant.
Astroland in New York's Coney Island is one of Byron's favorites, and the boardwalk there offers lots of great dining options (www.astroland.com).
At the gardens
A mainstay for the wedding crowd, local botanical gardens can set the perfect tone for an afternoon of spring festivities. These usually lend themselves to more laid-back affairs, with rugs and big pillows for guests to picnic on.
There is an up-market option, too; Byron recently did a party for a private client in Versailles, with cocktails in the gardens and dinner at a football-field length table in the Gallery of the Battlefield. As she puts it, "That was insane."
But even if you aren't renting a palace, Byron suggests giving Feast & Fêtes, chef Daniel Boulud's exclusive catering service, a call. They're based in New York, but you can take one of their top chefs with you anywhere in the world. So even if you have to worry about bugs at your garden party, you won't ever have to suffer sub-par catering (www.danielnyc.com).
At the hotel
And if none of that suits your fancy, there's always that old "Swingers" standby of the hotel party. From the likes of Miami's Raleigh and Delano hotels to the Mondrian and Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, some of the swankiest parties around happen in hotel lounges or on their roofs.
Because you won't get to fuss much with the décor or food, Byron stresses that entertainment is key at hotel events. Whether it's a steel drum band for a beach party at a Miami hotel or a quartet with a sultry French cabaret singer, that live component makes all the difference, she says. It's not limited to music either. Byron's hired performers from the famed Cirque du Soleil to perform, too.
But no matter your taste, to pick out that hot - or cool - act, Byron suggests getting a party planner. They'll usually charge 15 to 20 percent of the total budget of the party, depending on the scope of the party, but their connections can be invaluable, as is their willingness to manage all the potential headaches of planning a big event for all your closest friends.
Some suggestions include Paint the Town Red (www.paintthetownred.net), Mindy Weiss in Los Angeles (www.mindyweiss.com), Linda Kessler in Palm Beach, Fla. (www.lindakessler.com), and Byron's agency, 4PM Events (212-631-777, www.4pmevents.com).
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