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The Knowledge

How To Throw A Really Posh Party

A host with the most’s guide to putting on a jolly good bash

Mr Mark-Francis Vandelli gets invited to more parties than most. His Italian-Russian parentage and well-thumbed passport have left him both well-connected and fluent in five languages. Summers are spent jetting from Capri to Cannes before heading to London for the autumn, where he makes his way between art fairs and fashion dinners, merrily posing for the social pages as he goes.

As you can imagine, a do Chez Mark is not exactly cans of cider and spin the bottle. In his Knightsbridge townhouse, a riot of Italian marble and French mahogany, his parties are wild and the proportions Wildean: there are butlers and barmen, coat-checks and canape waiters, and in the middle of the throng is Mr Vandelli in a trademark velvet tuxedo jacket.

The years of hosting have served him well. Mr Vandelli now has a set of hard and fast rules, which include no speeches (“It’s not a charity event”), no paper napkins (“It’s linen or none at all”) and definitely no Christmas sweaters (“Anything battery-powered should stay in the Harrods grotto”). Here, he shares his secrets on how the upper classes let their hair down.

Guests

DO try to get the right mix of people: someone who is vaguely famous; someone who is vaguely intellectual; someone who is completely mad; and maybe an acrobat.

DON’T ever think everyone needs to be the same age. To get the right imbalance you need people of all ages – from late teens to octogenarians. And no exes unless they are on very good terms. 

Numbers

DO cram in as many people in as you can. I like them spilling on to the pavement, because then the neighbours know you’re having a great time and hate you for it. A ballroom with 50 people is going to be a disaster because it will feel empty and awkward.

DON’T blanket-ban gatecrashers. I think gatecrashers are the making of a great party, because then you know that those people really wanted to be there.

Theme

DO have a big trunk of fancy dress outfits that you open at 2.00am, if people are in the mood. That way you have control over what people wear.

DON’T have a theme. A friend of mine had an American Hustle-themed party and everyone really made an effort, but after a while you’re tired of wearing an itchy wig and polyester outfit.

Invitations

DO make them very big and very stiff, but no round edges. There is something very maritime about a round edge.

DON’T send “Save the Date” emails. Paperless Post is fine, but you know it’s going to be something you can miss. Facebook is not acceptable if you’re over 16.

Drinks

DO serve champagne. Always have vodka, gin and maybe one simple cocktail like a negroni or a bellini, because they really get people going.

DON’T lose control as a host. Drink in moderation until midnight, then who really cares?

Food

DO serve canapes. Foie gras, salmon blinis, asparagus with Parma ham. But parties are not really for eating. I hate people who just stand around and munch.

DON’T ever serve what is known as “bowl food”. You cannot expect me to eat a bowl of risotto while talking, dancing and holding a drink. And queueing is just too Oliver Twist.

Lighting

DO light a lot of candles. Everyone looks great and you feel as though you can be particularly naughty or say something mischievous.

DON’T use anything above a 50-watt bulb on a dimmer if you insist on electric.

Social media

DO forbid your guests posting pictures if you think it’s inappropriate. Handing around a Polaroid camera is much better.

DON’T ever upload a whole album on Facebook. You only need one good picture per occasion for Instagram. It also leaves people guessing, and that’s much more interesting.

Music

DO hire a DJ. But if your budget won’t stretch to it, go on SoundCloud and find a great mix. Disco is better than pop or R’n’B.

DON’T play music with a beat until the food is cleared. You can’t serve foie gras to deep house.

Decorations

DO buy old-fashioned garlands full of dried oranges, cinnamon and berries that hark back to the Victorian times when Prince Albert imported the first tree from Germany.

DON’T bother with a tree unless you’re in the countryside, then it’s beautiful by the stairs. A tree in town always looks a bit like a dead man in the corner. They don’t look happy.

Staff

DO have an attendant to take coats. There is nothing worse than finding your coat slung on someone’s bed. Wire hangers are the end of civilisation.

DON’T allow your barman to go home until the last guests leave.

Working the room

DO feign an emergency to get away. As a host, there’s always room for an emergency.  

DON’T talk to anyone for too long. I hate being stuck with one guest, even if it’s my best friend. People should know that they really can’t have a DMC.

Access

DO lock doors. It’s not rude.

DON’T allow guests into bedrooms. I don’t even like seeing people kiss in my house. If you’re that anxious to kiss someone, then just go home.

Accidents

DO let the staff take care of spillages. Even if you’re dying inside, you can never show it. It just kills the vibe. I internally wince all the time seeing glasses on my mahogany table.

DON’T make a fuss. I have a dear friend who lives in the most beautiful house and just re-carpeted everything in this high-pile, oyster-coloured carpet. Someone spilled a glass of champagne and she spent 25 minutes on her hands and knees scrubbing.

Smoking

DO keep a generous stash of cigarettes – even if you don’t smoke. A great host will go with the flow about smoking – you can’t be precious.

DON’T forbid anything.

Carriages

DO offer overly drunk guests a bed. At this point they’re likely to realise they need to go home to their own.

DON’T stipulate a time for carriages because it is no fun being told when to leave. If I see “Carriages at 1am”, I’m not coming. If it says 5am, that’s fun.

PARTY ESSENTIALS

  • Polo Ralph Lauren Black Fairbanks Slim-Fit Wool Tuxedo

  • Burberry London White Slim-Fit Cotton Shirt

  • TOM FORD Hanover Grosgrain-Trimmed Patent-Leather Loafers

  • Turnbull & Asser Pre-Tied Polka-Dot Silk-Jacquard Bow Tie

  • Tom Dixon Plum Copper-Plated Tray

  • Linley Trafalgar Straight Whisky Glass