Oct 30th 2019

Planning the Perfect Christmas Party

Planning the Perfect Christmas Party

Liz Taylor, founder and MD of the Taylor Lynn Corporation, took time out of her events schedule to share her tips on planning the perfect Christmas Party with guests who were invited to a networking lunch at Sheffield’s stunning Whirlowbrook Hall, part of Vine Hotels. Guests had the opportunity to hear advice and anecdotes from this award-winning event organiser. Here’s what she had to say:

“It’s only 90 days away and you can’t take the Christmas out of Christmas.”

But everyone does have a different perception of Christmas and there is no right way or wrong way. What is essential is that in planning the perfect Christmas Party, you take a drop of eggnog, a bunch of mistletoe, raise the curtain and kiss goodbye to the old, as you celebrate bringing in the new. In any event, expectations are high – especially in my world, where the client has turned to a professional to create the theatre.

corporate event planners in manchester tlc limited

Festive trends

As founder and MD of the Taylor Lynn Corporation, I have been planning and producing corporate and private events for over 30 years. The 5am starts and the 2am finishes. The constant challenge to reinvent, reinterpret and re-energise an event. The bigger the challenge, the greater the sense of achievement. I am passionate about what I do. I want to share with you a little of the theatre, drama, passion and backbone; with my tips to planning the perfect Christmas party.

I often get asked early in the year what the coming trends are for this much anticipated time. This year I am in the middle of designing and delivering a Christmas dinner for 80 guests in a marquee immersed in chocolate brown velvet, pull out crackers with menu details and guests names at each place setting printed in a lush copper plate. A deconstructed Christmas tree decorated with bronze and copper foliage and baubles – all built on a square truss overhead, so it becomes the roof of the dining space. A gospel choir during reception entertaining with Christmas favourites, and a band from Paris to rock the room. So, I’ve taken some traditional and mixed it with a variety of colours and textures to give it that touch of TLC.

Planning the perfect Christmas Party inevitably attracts trends. We have provided the décor for private clients where they have spent circa £50k on dressing door frames, trees, banisters. These had to reflect the traditional New York and American movie vision of Christmas that we soak up in those old films.

Then there is the contemporary – where you select ice baubles and use them as name places, throw faux skins over the back of chairs. Then put the light-up reindeer in the front garden. Twee? Maybe. But providing it’s tucked behind a tree, it’s fun.

Be bold with colours and dare to be different. Teal, deep reds, copper, gold, orange shades – the rich hues that can be found in winter flowers and foliage.  In this vain, I’ve just bought 24 copper water glasses which are amazing for £1 each. They will sit at my table on Christmas Day amongst the wood, the bark and tiny tea lights; offering a rustic feel. My Christmas this year is natural bark – baccara roses and candles.

But what of corporate Christmas. For me, there are three vital ingredients that contribute to the TLC wow factor in planning the perfect Christmas Party, and are the basis for a successful event – exclusive imagination, individuality and that moment least expected. Let me explain……

Exclusive imagination

Its allowing someone to think out of the box and take a concept and create magic. Here’s an example. A 21st birthday – the girl who still had the magic of youth and wanted Narnia. And Narnia she got.

Set designers descended and built a magnificent wardrobe door. Creatively lit this was the focus as guests drove into the car park. Our Narnia queen guided them in – through a wardrobe of mink coats that touched the sides into a walkway of characters on stilts and a pathway of leaves. As they walked along the path, they turned a corner with two huskies on a sleigh guiding them into Narnia. Continuing their journey through the snow – with snowflakes falling from the ceiling, before eventually arriving in Narnia. Perspex tables with magnificent white birch trees growing out of them, and a multitude of candles against crystal glassware and opaque crockery. A combination of Narnia and a white Christmas. Anticipation, exclamation and exclusive imagination in abundance.

Exclusive imagination – of ideas, of concepts, of entertainment and of venues. Infusing your Christmas event with some exclusive touches can make all the difference. Take this venue, here at Whirlowbrook Hall, as an example. Exclusive hire means you can party here until the early hours without worrying about the DJ upsetting anyone next door. Hire the space, and you are lord and lady of the manor. Dress the space to your own taste and you’re assured of the staff’s full attention – no sharing them with other companies.

When it comes to entertainment – invest in the best. I only work with exclusive entertainers – phenomenal ensemble bands and the best DJs from the continent. Companies will often ask me to just book their Christmas party entertainment because they know that we don’t offer average. My belief is that this is an area where a little more should be invested. When we orgnaise parties and clients ask if we have a DJ for £150, we don’t. You get what you pay for and mixing music is an art in itself.

 

corporate event planners in manchester tlc limited

Related Topic: Can you Host a Christmas Party in January?

Individuality

Individual interpretation is a bit part of planning the perfect Christmas Party. As I said before, you can’t take Christmas out of Christmas, but you can interpret it in a unique style. Take every element of the party and re-imagine it. Food is a great example. We fuse food and theatre to great effect. The rise in informal catering has allowed us to be imaginative. Sushi bars. Gourmet pizza. And a traditional fish and chip van as guests depart. Food stations merging into theatrical props. For a more formal meal – take the traditional Christmas turkey and transform it into individual pies served miniature jugs of gravy on the side. Sticky toffee pudding served in shot glasses. And Christmas pudding – serve as a martini. Yes, it is a cocktail!

My most inspiring moments are honestly on my treadmill every morning. With my eclectic mix on full blast music takes me into a most creative corner where I find the impossible. For a Wizard of Oz inspired party, we offered a 10-foot witch greeting guests – and I mean greeting them. A custom-built animated statue guided them into a wicked inspired set, and then at the appropriate time, the entire wall dropped and there was the yellow brick road. The detail in the room and on the tables was insane, with Perspex tables resting on large ruby red shoes. The entertainment … Diana ross and a serious DJ! Now that’s wow.

Putting your own mark on an event is all about the details.

The moment least expected

This is the greatest wow factor moment planning the perfect Christmas Party. When a wall drops on a drum roll … when pyrotechnics burst into the room to announce employee of the year or when a ceiling drops hundreds of hidden petals when they say, ‘I do’.

Take a festive party for a financial services client. Guests ferried in private cars to a farmer’s field in Surrey [a surprise in itself for the well-dressed guests]. Walking on a purpose-built footpath carved through wintry woodland – and then – a stunning marquee nestled in the landscape and sprinkled with TLC’s winter magic. Oversized frosted trees. A spectacular lighting production bathing the rustic wooden bar and tables in light. This surprise venue created out of a challenge. We scoured the county for the right venue – no luck. When I hit a brick wall, I start digging. If we don’t have a venue – we build one. We hired a farmer’s field and erected a fabulous marquee. We cut back the woodland to create an entrance walkway – placed hundreds of candles along the way and voila! A wow moment for festive party goers that they will remember.

corporate event planners in manchester tlc limited

And let’s not forget one of the most surprising moments at any Christmas party. When the Duke of Cambridge bounds onto a stage to sing Livin’ on a Prayer with Jon Bon Jovi and Taylor Swift. A charity event that I was involved with on just two weeks’ notice. Dr Zhivago inspired. Kensington Palace the venue. The guest list a Who’s Who. The photos of the Prince and the Rock Stars went global.

Exclusive imagination, individuality and the moment least expected…. three of my top tips to planning the perfect Christmas Party.

All well and good you might say – these sound like unlimited budgets. My mantra is that it’s never how much you spend, but how you spend it. If you have £500 to throw into a reception – don’t invest it in an inexperienced and underrated musical act. Invest it in a ten-foot vase filled with an abundance of flower heads that takes the breath away. Or a bar full of festive inspired cocktails served in a milk bottle that oozes dry ice and sustainable branded straws! Paper of course!

planning the perfect Christmas Party

At home, styling can be simple but effective too. Take the festive lunch table. Here’s three different styles you could choose from:

Contemporary Chic

If you are opting for linens, a contemporary feel should use a plain, white, crisp tablecloth as your starting point. Bring your table to life with a gorgeous electric blue silk table runner. Use clear and blue ‘crackled effect’ glassware to enhance the colour scheme. Place tall candles into crystal or glass holders and put chunkier ones straight onto mirrors down the table centre. Dress with frosted ivy, twigs, pinecones and leaves. Crockery and cutlery are always best kept simple with contemporary white linens, so opt for silver or chrome cutlery. Add lots of miniature ‘snowflake’ crystals for sparkle and you’ll have an elegant, contemporary table.

corporate event planners in manchester tlc limited

Downton Inspired

Or go more traditional in planning the perfect Christmas Party – Downton Abbey is influencing styles again with its recent reincarnation at the cinema. Black Watch Tartan linens and deep purple napkins tied with a gold napkin ring. Add some traditional glamour to this look by using gold candelabra on the table, or some of the fabulous deep gold candles now available. The gold in this style should be deep, and rich, not the highly polished commercial look. You are creating a very traditional and slightly vintage feel, so a more burnished gold is better.

 

Handmade or Homemade

Let’s not forget, and TV’s Kirsty Allsopp would be proud of me here, that the ‘handmade’ family Christmas style is still popular. Choose a very simple red gingham cloth and then adorn with homemade décor items. Create a table centre out of a three miniature gingerbread houses filled with chunky candles, or hessian wrapped bowls of nuts, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges and pinecones. It’ll be wonderfully scented. Just add simple tea lights and red napkins tied with raffia to complete the look.

Glassware is something that really shows quality – don’t leave the crystal in the cupboard, get it out and enjoy it! A simple tip is to tie matching Black Watch Tartan ribbon around the stem of each glass; you could even add a delicate sleigh bell for additional tinkle! For a more earthy Christmas style, add a hessian bow to some of the chunkier wine glasses to reflect the less formal feel of the table.

Personalise your table for maximum effect. The first way to do this is with your crackers, which must be quality whether that is bought or homemade. Try using different paper or materials to craft them with personalised gifts inside.

The other key personal touch is your place settings. You could get your children to craft gingerbread name plates with iced names written on top, or simply write names in gold pen onto holly leaves or a plain glass bauble that matches your colour scheme. Simple. Inexpensive.

Christmas parties arranged by the Taylor Lynn Corporation the party planner in Manchester

To conclude

I have said this before, but it’s truer now than ever. After 30 years I get up event morning, decide what diet I am on that day, and then embrace the madness. I love it. I am lucky enough to have worked in my dream job. My team inspire me. My events challenge me still.

2020 marks TLC’s 25th anniversary – a time to reflect, celebrate and innovate. We have plans. Big plans. No sitting on our laurels. We are forging into 2020 with a healthy order book, unlimited imagination and a hunger to take the company to new levels. Bring it on!

www.whirlowbrook.co.uk

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 Oct 24th 2019

Destination Weddings for Gay Couples

Destination Weddings for Gay Couples

It’s a whole five years since gay marriage was legalised in most of the UK and in Northern Ireland just this month. Landmark moments that finally gave same sex couples equal rights to tie the knot in the many of the kingdom’s most stylish and varied wedding locations. The change in law certainly opened-up many more options for gay couples in terms of how and where they can celebrate their nuptials. But, what about those same sex couples who long to jet off to more exotic climes for their wedding day? Our Destination Weddings for Gay Couples is here to help explain the pitfalls and some of the world’s most exotic locations that embrace gay couples on their big day.

In which countries can Gay couples wed?

When it comes to gay marriage not all countries are as far along the journey to equality as the UK (yet some of course are much further). Currently 28 countries have opened their hearts and minds to the union of all couples no matter what their gender. These include: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. Same-sex marriage is also due to become legal in Costa Rica.

Destination Weddings for Gay Couples

Be aware!

If you’re planning to get married abroad it’s important to do your research. This Destination Weddings for Gay Couples will help. It may not be possible to get married in a country, even if gay marriage is legal. Take the Netherlands for instance where gay weddings were first legalised back in 2001. Yet it’s only possible to marry here if at least one partner is Dutch. Similar laws apply in Spain where couples may hold a blessing following a legally binding marriage in their own country. And in France, the couple must reside there for at least 30 days before the ceremony.

So where are the best places for gay weddings?

For breath-taking natural beauty, colourful architecture, epic coastlines and with no minimum residency requirements South Africa is hard to beat. You could even stay on an epic safari for your honeymoon. Looking for somewhere a little more iconic? Then why not head to the city that never sleeps and tie the knot in NYC. Mexico is another fantastic option for anyone looking for sandy beaches followed by dancing into the night.

Destination Weddings for Gay Couples

Once you’ve found your perfect destination wedding location, remember that not all venues are LGBT friendly. Enlisting the help of a wedding planner may be the answer to ensure they do all the hard work for you. In the meantime, you could take a look through these beautiful LGBT friendly wedding venues for some inspiration.

Once you have secured the location and venue – embrace the wedding design.

Here, for us at TLC, it is simply a special wedding day for a special couple.  We plan gay weddings like any other.  A design crafted around the couple’s personalities and choices. There are a few elements that destination weddings do raise though, such as international logistics and weather.  Beach wedding; opt for late afternoon ceremonies and lighter clothing.   There’s plenty advice here to help in planning your destination wedding day

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 Sep 24th 2019

Five of the Spookiest Venues in the UK and Ireland

Five of the Spookiest Venues in the UK and Ireland

With Halloween on the horizon it’s time to start party planning. And what does every good Halloween party need? A creepy, haunted venue of course. The brave souls at TLC HQ have scoured the country for the most spine-chilling places to host your scary soiree; five of the spookiest venues in the UK and Ireland. You might even find yourself with a few extra guests (of the supernatural variety).

five of the spookiest venues in the UK and Ireland

Chillingham Castle, Northumberland
https://chillingham-castle.com/

First in our collection that brings together five of the spookiest venues in the UK and Ireland is chilling by name and nature. This Northumbrian castle is a medieval military stronghold in fabled for battles and bloodshed. It’s inhabited by military spirits, floating orbs and an infamous ‘white pantry ghost’. Yet many guests describe the apparitions as unfrightening, even friendly. The perfect place to throw a Halloween party! From private functions to grand balls, there is scope for parties of all shapes and sizes, with many options for accommodation.

Five of the UK’s Spookiest Venues

Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire

www.woodchestermansion.org.uk

An imposing Victorian Gothic building complete with grotesque gargoyles. This venue has an alarming reputation for paranormal activity. Woodchester Mansion is available to hire for private and corporate functions with rooms that can comfortably cater for 180 guests. That’s if they dare to attend! Visitors have reported floating heads and being attacked by ghosts. Some guests have even collapsed in fear. Inside some of the rooms and entire floors are missing or unfinished which only adds to the unnerving atmosphere.

Whitby Abbey, North Yorkshire
www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/whitby-abbey/

We couldn’t put together a list of five of the spookiest venues in the UK and Ireland without mentioning the real-life inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Whitby Abbey is a seventh century Christian monastery that dominate the skyline of the seaside town in North Yorkshire. Legend has it that if your heart is pure when you look into the Abbey’s well at midnight St Hilda will appear.  If not, the devil will take you. From the Raithwaite Estate to Sanders Yard Bistro there are plenty of venues in Whitby where you can party in the shadows of the ruins.

RELATED TOPIC: Take a look at our Penny Dreadful inspired party

Renvyle House Hotel and Resort, Galway
https://www.renvyle.com/

We couldn’t leave this Irish gem out of the list. Don’t let the idyllic scenery fool you. If it’s a relaxing break and a good night’s sleep you’re after, Renvyle House may not be the place for you. Guests have frequently reported thudding footsteps, an eerie presence in their bedrooms, as well as bedsheets being tugged off in the middle of the night. There’s only one answer then. Throw a huge Halloween party in one of the hotel’s gorgeous function rooms and dance the night away instead.

Elvey Farm, Pluckley, Kent
http://elveyfarm.co.uk/

Lastly, five of the spookiest venues in the UK and Ireland wouldn’t be complete without this venue. The ghostly goings on in the small village of Pluckley in Kent have made it infamous as an epicentre for supernatural activity. In fact, it was even given the accolade of Britain’s Most Haunted Village in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1989. A hanged schoolmaster and a screaming man are just some of the apparitions you may encounter during your stay in the town. Enjoy a haunted hike en-route to the party. Drop into the Black Horse public house where mischievous spectres are said to tease drinkers by moving their belongings around the pub. With a brand-new event space at your disposal, Grade II listed Elvey Farm is the perfect final venue for a Halloween shindig.

Five of the UK's Spookiest Venues

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