The Queen's 60th year as monarch and a four day weekend only means one thing: this June, it's time to throw a party. We asked events organiser and all round party connoisseur, Polly Betton, for her top tips on how to host the best bash, what to drink and the top tunes to play. Take a look below for Polly's party planning advice and find out more about her collaboration with Schweppes to find the UK's top entertainer.
What makes a good party host?
I'm working with Schweppes to find the best 'social monarchs' in the run up to the Diamond Jubilee. We're hoping to find people who are as excited about the Jubilee as we are. We're looking for a combination of creativity, (essential for the best ideas), enthusiasm (to get you through the hard work) and the ability to empathise with your guests (making sure that they enjoy the party as much as you do). A Schweppes social monarch is the person in your group of friends who is always the de-facto host, who loves any excuse to throw a party and will go to incredible lengths to make it as amazing as possible. To nominate yourself or a friend as a social monarch, or to pick up some more great tips for your Jubilee party visit www.schweppesjubilee.co.uk
1. Bunting is brilliant and this is the perfect moment to go bananas with it. Personally, I like the old fashioned fabric kind but there are all sorts of options out there now, from beautifully embroidered stuff to nicely weatherproof plastic. Use it in copious quantities indoors and out.
2. Cocktails in tea cups: reference out national obsession with tea by serving tea-based long cocktails (or mocktails) over ice in teacups, poured from tea pots.
3. Best of British: feed your guests a selection of traditional regional classics, from mini Melton Mowbray pork pies to a regional cheeseboard with traditional breads. And to drink? It has to be a gin & tonic!
What should we do if it rains?
Keep calm and carry on! We all know how unpredictable the weather can be in the UK, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't throw an outdoor party: just make sure that you have a contingency plan. Try to provide a little cover, in the form of a gazebo, awning or umbrellas (there are companies that hire out big buckets of umbrellas to match your colour scheme). If it's sunny they'll provide useful shade and if it's drizzling they'll keep people dry. In case of a monsoon, have an indoor area picked out that you can move the party to with minimal disruption. If the worst happens, try to keep some perspective – torrential rain will usually end quickly and a bit of drizzle really isn't the end of the world, the important thing is to stay enthusiastic as that will keep your guests engaged.
What will be on your party playlist?
Any Jubilee party worth it's salt will have an all-British playlist, and fortunately there's lots to choose from. Personally, I'd probably start off with something gentle from The Beatles, such as Penny Lane, to set the tone – you really can't get anything more immediately recognisably British. As the party went on I'd want something more upbeat, so perhaps a something from the Britpop era – Blur's Country House – then to get people dancing the Rolling Stones' Jumping Jack Flash and Adele's Rumour Has It.
No one wants hungry guests. What are this year's biggest foodie trends?
Mini-things will always be a popular choice for canapés, it's a cute way to serve bite-sized food. Other than that we're seeing a lot of unusual presentations, for example fillings piped into mini cones that come with mini pipettes holding a dressing or sauce. There are also more decorative serving options available: there are lots of different styles of cocktail stick available, which can make a traditional canapé look modern and cool. Previously the domain of the professional caterer, these are all accessible to at-home hosts now via specialist sites on the internet, and are super easy to use.
The Jubilee has also revived the very British afternoon tea style of catering that has been popular for a while now, so we'll be seeing lots of finger sandwiches and I've encountered quite a few parties serving 'cake canapes': tiny mini cakes that are a definite cut above the usual cupcakes in terms of both flavour combinations and decoration. Summer is the perfect time of the year for long drinks. It is a great opportunity to be creative with different flavours and mixers.
However. with royal fever in the air, this year's garden and street parties will certainly see a return to British tradition with retro party pieces making a comeback. Bunting, trifle and doilies were amongst the items that were voted key to making a party quintessentially British.
What's your top tip for avoiding awkward silences at a party?
Introduce the guests to each other! It seems terribly old fashioned, but people are no better in social situations now than they were 60 years ago and it does no harm to introduce two people with a common interest. If they like each other you've done well, and if they hate each other at least they'll be forced to introduce themselves to other people in order to escape. Retro-hostessing aside, something that guests can interact with always goes down well and acts as a good conversation starter, so for a Jubilee party a big stack of silly Royal-themed dressing up items (crowns, jewels, moustaches, grey wigs, sashes, medals, masks etc) will delight your guests and – hopefully - produce some very funny pictures.
Polly Betton has teamed up with Schweppes to find the nation's social monarchs: the kings and queens of entertaining who are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee in style. To nominate yourself or a friend as a social monarch, or to pick up some great tips for your Jubilee party visit www.schweppesjubilee.co.uk
In the spirit of all things Jubilee, take a look below to see the Queen's best hats from her 60 year reign.