Sunday 11 December 2016

A party fit for the queen: Royal wedding planner spills her secrets for entertaining

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 26/04/2016 | 11:35

Pippa Middleton donned an identical outfit to her sister Kate at Princess Charlotte's christening
Pippa Middleton donned an identical outfit to her sister Kate at Princess Charlotte's christening
Pippa Middleton with sister Kate at the royal wedding in 2011
Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Elizabeth II attend a gala pre-wedding dinner held at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on April 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Kate Middleton with Prince William at their 2011 wedding
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on her 90th birthday in Windsor, England; inset left: a royal fan waits in the crowd. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth’s go-to event planner has revealed that lumping your most boring guests together is her fail-safe tip for a successful party.

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Lady Elizabeth Anson began her career in 1960, and her first event for the British monarch was a disco at Windsor Castle for a 15-year-old Prince Charles.

Since then, the 75-year-old has organised a number of soirées for the royal family, including advising on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding in 2011, and planning the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations in June.

Although she refused to divulge too many details, she recalled how the queen worried that her grandchildren can’t make good conversation because they’re so used to helping around the kitchen.

Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Elizabeth II attend a gala pre-wedding dinner held at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on April 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Elizabeth II attend a gala pre-wedding dinner held at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on April 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images)

“She said to me that she found it really difficult because they don’t really know how to talk to each other,” said Lady Anson.

“And she said, ‘I suppose it’s because they’re always getting up and down and helping somebody and putting something in a dishwasher or whatever they’re doing, because they don’t have enough staff.”

As well as her long-standing relationship with the British royals, Lady Anson has worked with the Rolling Stones, Margaret Thatcher, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tom Cruise and Donald Trump.

Here are some of her top tips:

Kate Middleton with Prince William at their 2011 wedding
Kate Middleton with Prince William at their 2011 wedding

Don’t skimp on the invitations

Cheap-looking invitations are to be avoided at all costs, as they suggest guests will have to suffer through “acidic wine and miserable food”. However, bling is just as bad. “Someone wanted me to do ‘save the dates’ with Swarovski crystals costing no less than £2,500 a card, and that’s just vulgarity,” she said. She also admitted to using online invitations for some of her American parties.

Bangers and mash can do the job just as well as lobster and champagne

“A party with good table wine and good pasta or good sausages and mash can be just as much of a success as one with Krug, caviar, oysters and lobster,” she said. “It’s not about expensive ingredients. It’s about people.”

Flattering lighting is essential

Only the guests rank higher than the lighting on Lady Anson’s party-planning agenda. “Lighting makes or breaks it. You can use it to make people look nice and to divide a big room up.”

Seduce your guests with a soufflé

She noted the fluffy concoction was the perfect incentive to draw people to their seats for dinner. “I’ve never had anyone come back to me later and complain that it wasn’t,” she said.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on her 90th birthday in Windsor, England; inset left: a royal fan waits in the crowd. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II greets well-wishers on her 90th birthday in Windsor, England; inset left: a royal fan waits in the crowd. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Seat all the bores together

“They don’t realise they’re the bores, and they’re happy,” she explained. “It’s my biggest tip.”

Avoid placement protocol with a round dining table

To banish concerns over which guests are most important and who should sit at the head, Lady Anson opts for the informality of a round dining table. “It makes life easier. If there’s a duke there, he can sit somewhere opposite me if I think there’s somebody more amusing that I want to sit next to.”

A phone call is always more efficient

Rather than risk important messages getting lost in a spam folder, Lady Anson prefers to organise everything over the phone. “It’s old-fashioned but it’s instantaneous. I don’t want endless emails and bits and bobs,” she said.

Quit while you’re ahead and leave your guests wanting more

She insists on finishing a party when there are at least 20 people still busting their moves on the dance floor. “If you let it peter out, it’s death. I made one mistake in the whole of my career, which was being persuaded to restart the band. It was a flop.”

Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Lady Elizabeth Anson and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

To nudge people on their way home, she urges hosts to close the bar. “People leave fast when they can’t get a drink.”

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