With Jubilee celebration preparations in full swing, we caught up with luxury event planner and hospitality consultant, Liz Taylor, who shared five upscale party ideas to mark the occasion.
In a unique position to advise us on just how to plan the best celebrations, Liz has not only spent the last thirty years organising the most extraordinary parties for celebrities and high net worth individuals. She has also met the Queen, not once but twice, and organised gala dinners at Kensington Palace – so when looking for a party organised by royal appointment, we’ve found the right person.
From traditional street parties, to those fashioned around the era Her Majesty took to the throne, Liz proves there’s more than one way to celebrate 70 years of our enduring monarch, here she tells us how to celebrate in style.
Fifties rockabilly party
Queen Elizabeth II succeeded the throne in 1952, so what better way to honour the era she became queen than by creating the ultimate fancy dress party with a Fifties Rockabilly theme?
Injecting the fun element and attention to detail, set the stage by creating a 1950s diner. Chequered flooring, metallic panelling, pastel pink and blue colours, cosy booths, red leather bar stools and neon signage can help to build the right aesthetic. Use vintage vinyl placemats and hang retro signs to decorate the walls. Need a focal point? Mount a pastel blue vintage fender guitar and have it displayed centre stage. Attention to detail is key.
Have your waiting on staff on roller skates – each dressed in authentic fifties uniforms. Have them deliver burgers, shakes, American style pancakes and sundaes to your guests. You could go as far as to create a drive in with a huge cinema screen to show some of the official festivities as guests dine.
For entertainment, bring in a dance teacher to show them how to Bunny Hop, Jive and Jitterbug along to the fifties rock and roll classics. Hire in an authentic fifties juke box and give guests a dime or two to hit the dance floor. Hire vintage motors and park them up to flank a red carpet or driveway, as your guests arrive, wow factor achieved.
And the best thing about this style of party? The outfits. Think pin up style, fit and flare, full circle, swing dresses which feel so luxurious to wear. There are plenty of hair stylists who specialise in victory rolls and pin up styles, so why not create a retro hair salon and invite your friends to get ready together?
Up-styled street party
Street parties are of course the traditional way to celebrate a Royal occasion and are likely to be the way most people will mark the jubilee.
It’s an area that is often overlooked, but music really is essential for this style of party. It’s a way to control the atmosphere, liven things up or wind things down at the end, and it should always be more than a playlist from a tinny speaker. Live music is a must. The Queen celebrated her diamond jubilee with a huge concert on Pall Mall. Emulate that with an eclectic mix of artists who will show your guests the time of their lives. Remember you’re outdoors, so consider the acoustics, a stage with a closed backdrop will help to project the sound forwards. Always do a test run to make sure the music isn’t getting lost.
Create the ultimate rock festival vibe with gourmet street food venders serving up spicy Asian curries, traditional fish and chips and wood fired pizzas, all served hot and al fresco. Or go for a smorgasbord selection of foods served around the Commonwealth nations for something more diverse, but meaningful.
Don’t forget décor either just because you’re outside. Garden flowers and candles displayed in an eclectic mix of red and blue bottles and glass holders arranged on white table linens provide a patriotic touch to your tables.
You could set out a big, long table down the centre of the street but, for me, it’s an uncomfortable and unsociable way to dine. Solid six to eight-seater tables dotted around the street are an upscaled option that offer more opportunity to mix and mingle. For an added luxe touch, hire in gold dining chairs to add to the regal vibe. For a real touch of opulence, why not carpet the street? Yes, with a bigger budget you can place deep red rugs or bring in a company to temporarily carpet the area where you will dine.
Glamorous garden party
Another traditional royal occasion and one that can be easily emulated at home is the garden party. Upscale your event by adding in traditional Royal garden games, croquet or Pall-Mall (a la Bridgerton), an oversized chess board and boules would give your day a ‘high society’ feel. Zone the areas of the garden for dining, entertainment and socialising.
You can give each guest a luxury picnic hamper and their own personalised embroidered blanket to find a sunny spot. Include miniature bottles of bubbly for each and some upmarket picnic treats, individual patisserie, goats cheese tartlets, and cheeses. Provide pretty parasols for shading in style.
Barbecues offer more flexibility and creative opportunity than a sandwich selection. Preparation is key if you want to join the barbecue elite. The big trend right now is kamado grills such as the Big Green Egg to smoke, roast and bake – reaching soaring temperatures or cooking low and slow for meat that just falls apart.
Marinades are a trick to elevate a barbecue experience to the next level. Marinade your meat and fish in tasty homemade sauces the night before, placing them in the fridge to give them time to develop that extra flavour. Don’t forget the delicious non-meat alternatives that can sometimes steal the show. Think of vegetable, halloumi or tofu skewers drizzled with a dressing or grilled corn on the cobs covered in salt and chilli power. Creating perfect outdoor parties means catering for all tastes.
And whatever you serve, remember it’s all in the presentation. Dress a table with colourful salads, cold meats, and artisan breads to accompany what comes off the grill. Make this a mouth-watering focal point.
As dusk settles, don’t forget lighting, it’s a sure-fire way to upscale any party. Weave in a sea of festoon lights above tables and seating areas for added lighting drama as you party on into the evening. You can light candles too (battery operated are fine) in storm jars or lanterns to mark pathways. Solar lighting is a great option too as it will simply illuminate as darkness comes, having charged all day, alleviating a job and allowing you to concentrate on being a fabulous host.
1950s lounge cocktail party
At the other end of the scale of ‘Rockability’, yet no less characteristic of the fifties, is a Madmen-style, uber glamourous cocktail party, with every guest, every entertainer dressed to perfection.
Follow the correct etiquette and set the tone with printed invitations in the style of the era. Retro sparkling martinis and shakers, or illustrations of models in authentic fifties dress were popular at this time. Dress the room to perfection. Seventy years ago, it was a stylish era indeed. Choose one or two key investment pieces to provide a focal point. A retro cocktail bar or exquisite 1950s fifties style drinks cabinet will give you a place to serve refreshments while adding to the stylish, retro feel of the event.
Whether you hire a mixologist or blend the drinks yourself, serve authentic cocktails such as the Singapore Sling, the Sidecar, the Mint Julep, whiskey sours and of course the Martini.
No matter what size the party, live music for me always makes it memorable. For an intimate soiree like this choose a 1950s jazz band, or a smooth and sexy crooner like Sinatra to create a more sophisticated vibe. Where a close harmony trio, a barbershop quartet or vintage rock and roll band can liven up the atmosphere.
Platinum themed party
The final theme is a celebration of Queen Elizabeth herself. A monarch who has led by example for seventy years. Keep it classic with a platinum colourway for all your décor and bring in all of Her Majesty’s favourite things.
Colour code: the Queen is well known for always looking stylish and well put together. Her signature style is a coordinated dress and formal jacket in a vivacious colour, so ask guests to choose a brightly coloured coordinating outfits in her honour. Allocate a colour to each guest and then reflect these in your party décor. Fuchsia pink, vivid coral, lime green, peacock blue. The queen has worn them all, but be sure to pick hues that complement rather than clash or appear overly garish.
It’s well documented our Queen is a lover of chocolate cake and lemon drizzle so who are we to argue? Why not go all out with a full afternoon tea in her honour? Remember that miniature, delicate and personalised are the key, everything should be exquisitely presented and fit for royalty. A personal cake stand for each guest filled with delicate cakes and pastries, expertly crafted, uniform and identical. A tower of macaroons in patriotic colourways, decorative and delicious. Tiny, handmade finger sandwiches with smoked salmon and cucumber, tea served in real China pots and teacups for each guest, silver spoons, miniature milk jugs and sugar bowls for each.
Did you know the Queen has launched her own sparkling wine in honour of her jubilee? So, why not make that the tipple of choice? It’s also said she favours a Dubonnet and gin with a slice of lemon and a lot of ice.
Liz Taylor is founder and CEO of the event planners, the Taylor Lynn Corporation, and has been at the forefront of the UK event scene for over thirty years.