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The Knowledge

How MR PORTER Throws A House Party

To kick off the festive season, we share our hosting secrets

Throwing a good party is like riding a bicycle. That is, fun but exhausting. We at MR PORTER should know. This year, we’ve hosted a pool party in Milan, done an all-nighter at a motel in California and, in September we descended upon London’s oldest vintner, Berry Bros & Rudd, to toast the launch of our Kingsman Shop. Then – in the grand tradition of history’s greatest frazzled socialites and showing no signs of letting up – in November, we threw a house party to launch our private label, Mr P. After all this practice we thought it high time we bequeathed some of our hard-earned party wisdom to readers of The Journal. So here goes.

For every event MR PORTER throws, the aim is to mix some of Mr Cole Porter’s “swellegant elegant” with some of Mr Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)”. The guest list should be like a classic cocktail: not too long, refreshingly cool and with a touch of spice. Speeches are encouraged but should be no longer than it takes to mix another tray of drinks. Social media is fine of course – who are we to fly in the face of the Insta-pocalypse? – but we think it’s only polite to ask fellow guests before you live-stream their moment on the dance floor.

As a host, it’s good to ask yourself how much should you indulge? We live by the maxim of everything in moderation. Try one of everything before the first guests arrive and then brush your teeth (in the absence of a toothbrush, bite on a lemon slice and pop a Smint). Dance with commitment to a song or two, but don’t neglect a guest in need of a companion, or worse, who needs saving from one. Drink in moderation until midnight. And after that, well, no one will remember anyway.

Read on for more about our ideal party for the festive season.


It’s a sign of a great party when someone has the bluster to show up uninvited and chance their luck. So, don’t sling them out straight away. Sometimes an influx of fresh faces can add some fizz when things are getting flat. But it’s fine to say no if they’re too loud, too drunk, or don’t go with the decor. (We’re kidding, of course. Sort of.)


A great Soundcloud or Spotify mix can be just as good as a DJ as long as it flows with the mood. Don’t, for example, play Prince when people arrive. Likewise, save Destiny’s Child for the survivors. If you must play a certain holiday song (we’re thinking of Ms Mariah Carey, of course), make it the finale. 


A ceiling scraper of a tree is all very well if you have a skyscraper of a house. But like most rules governing good design, it’s all comes down to balance, ratios and proportions. A pile of wrapped presents, even if they’re fake, will make you look well-liked and generous, and what more do your guests want from their host?


Some sexual tension, casual flirting and lingering stares can really make a party. But stolen kisses should be just that. Short-lived and opportunistic, rather than ostentatious displays of lust. If you really want to kiss someone for longer than 
a few seconds, you need to go for a walk around the block. Or better still, go home. 


Bite-sized finger food with simple favours is much better than vats of sloppy curry. Think Dublin Bay prawns and mini sausages in honey and wholegrain mustard. If chestnuts roasting on the fire sounds like one potential hazard too many, stick them in the oven. No plates means the food will go a lot further. Whatever you do, don’t call them canapés. 


Fiddly, sugary, over-garnished, lurid cocktails are best left to the Tiki bars and themed restaurants your guests have already chosen to avoid on the night of your big do. Simple trays of one kind of drink – old-fashioneds, gin and tonicschampagne – are the best kind of welcome you can offer. 


Mishaps and mess are par for the course. Whether that’s red wine on a white rug or vomit on the velvet club chair, prepare an emergency kit in advance to deal with the incident in a way that draws as little attention as possible. If you have staff, let them deal with it. Even if it pains you. 


Look to the past for inspiration. Specifically, to the time Prince Albert imported the first fir trees to England. Do as he did, and save some of your clippings to make holly and mistletoe garlands, and hang wreaths of dried oranges and cinnamon not just at the front door, but inside as well.


There’s always one. Comes straight from
 a boozy lunch, peaks by 9.30pm and is being loud and inappropriate before the kids have even gone 
to bed. The best way to deal with him or her is 
to offer a bed. Convince them a quick nap will pep them up and then leave them to snore until morning. 

Party essentials

  • Zenith Elite Ultra-Thin 40mm Stainless Steel and Alligator Watch

  • Favourbrook Grosvenor Two-Tone Cotton-Velvet Tuxedo Jacket

  • TOM FORD White Slim-Fit Bib-Front Double-Cuff Cotton Tuxedo Shirt

  • Saint Laurent Slim-Fit Satin-Trimmed Wool and Mohair-Blend Tuxedo Trousers

  • Kingsman + George Cleverley Patent-Leather Oxford Shoes

  • Frederic Malle + Alber Elbaz Superstitious Eau de Parfum, 100ml