How to plan the ultimate party, according to a Royal Warrant event planner

We ask ‘The Party Architect’ Johnny Roxburgh for his top tips on organising a party fit for royalty...

Organising a party can often feel like spinning several, ill-balanced plates. How do you decide on the right theme and dress code without alienating your guests? How will you cater for all the food intolerances everyone seems to have developed over the past year? Where on earth are you going to find (at such short notice) a venue that will cater for 35 hungry party goers with a tendency for social smoking?

Johnny Roxburgh

Johnny Roxburgh

Now, as the season of summery evening soirées and all-day garden parties gets into full swing, we’ve called upon a gentleman who knows a thing or two about putting on a serious party to offer his formula for a successful event. Johnny Roxburgh, who has worked for 40 years to earn his title ‘The Party Architect’, has planned over 9,000 parties and masterminded some of the most extravagant A-list events in the world.

garden party

His work has even earned him a Royal Warrant, and he has organised events at Buckingham Palace, Holyrood, Highgrove and Windsor – including the annual Christmas parties hosted by The Queen for her staff, as well as Prince William’s 21st. Here, he shares what he’s learned.

Keep your ice looking cool...

“Book great bar staff and have a limited selection of cocktails that they can make superbly,” Johnny recommends. “And always, always make sure you have plenty of ice! I always recommend using glacier clear ice, which comes in large blocks and which I shatter into shards using a pick and hammer. The shards look so much nicer than cubes.”

Whatever you’re serving, it has to look good...

“Increasingly, clients are looking for healthy food which is easy to eat — and now there is a growing trend towards vegetarian and vegan food,” says Johnny. “However, no matter the type of food you are serving, it needs to be creative, look amazing and taste delicious.”

Photo courtesy of Johnny Roxburgh

“We once created a sushi bar which was made up entirely of naked models with sushi laid over them for guests to enjoy..."

“We once created a sushi bar which was made up entirely of naked models with sushi laid over them for guests to enjoy. On another occasion, we included an interesting spot to serve food and drinks where, when guests pulled the chain of a loo, the cubicle spun around to reveal someone serving caviar and vodka!”

Make sure your space isn’t too big…

“The best evenings are always crammed,” says Johnny. “I love a different, innovative venue that surprises guests and has an interesting story surrounding it — we once organised a party in a venue that Jack the Ripper killed one of his victims in.”

"I've organised a party in a venue that Jack the Ripper killed one of his victims in..."

“Another time, I was asked to create a spa and luxury retreat on top of a Swiss mountain. The best part was tricking the guests into thinking that they were going abseiling — they were all secretly rather relieved to find armies of masseuses instead!”

Last but not least...

“Check that you can party late into the night, but always know when to pull the plug on a party before it dies,” says Johnny. “Choose a good DJ – discuss your playlist and music with them in detail in advance and check the lighting, sound system and noise insulation.”

“With all the above in mind — the most important thing really is to invite fun, interesting people. You can create the most amazing space and experiences, but you need great guests to make it a truly wonderful, memorable party.”

Got a party coming up? Here’s how to nail evening style in the summer…

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