plan the perfect party

How to host the perfect party

How to host the perfect party

From the Beckhams and Kelly Rowland, to Mick Jagger and Stormzy, Surrey and SW London’s leading party planner Lizzie Liebenhals has worked with them all. She shares her tips with Angela Sara West on creating your own magical soirée…

Feeling the pressure of that fast approaching festive family gathering? Have great expectations for your New Year’s Eve event with friends? Or maybe you’re planning a milestone anniversary celebration next year and are unsure where to start… then read on, for what Lizzie Liebenhals doesn’t know about parties simply isn’t worth knowing. She has organised extravagant birthday bashes, private dining do’s and VIP parties in homes and venues worldwide. She’s also disguised security guards as Star Wars’ Stormtroopers for a celebrity bash and managed a fancy dress party with four errant Teletubbies… “The four women ended up rolling down the garden, and I’ll never forget being on the radio saying, ‘Tinky Winky and Laa-Laa are heading for the pond,’” she laughs.

It’s all part and parcel of a fantastic job for Cobham-based Lizzie, who sets up the most incredible events as part of her business, Halls and Halls Privé. She has long collaborated with celebrities, having been a dancer and then working with all the high-profile football teams at The FA, which led her to working with music artists and actors. “I guess I have never been fazed by the famous, but there is a definite art to working with high-profile people… They need to trust you, you need to be on top of your game, and you need to be confident, as well as confidential,” she reveals.

And her love for parties led to the creation of her business, which she set up with her partner Paul Hall, an ex-international footballer: “I love the bringing together of people in one setting with beautiful food, entertainment and creating those special moments.”

As well as parties and private events, Lizzie has helped organise celebrity events for charity. I, myself, enlisted Lizzie and her enviable Little Black Book (which reads like a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of big names) for our incredible celebrity charity show in aid of Cool Earth during London Fashion Week in Surrey this September – seeing her client, ex-EastEnders actor Matt Lapinskas, strutting his stuff on our designer catwalk as one of our celebrity models was a great highlight.

Other famous faces she’s worked with? “I am very blessed to have worked with some amazing people…” Lizzie tells me. “I still work with Mick Jagger, who I first took to the football back in 1998, and continue to work with to this day.” What’s more, she brought Kelly Rowland over to the UK to sing the National Anthem for the England v USA match at Wembley in 2008. “More recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Lewis Capaldi and Stormzy. A real eclectic mix!”

Eamonn Holmes says of working with her: “When Lizzie organised both Ruth’s and my party she was truly a wonderful asset. She found really nice venues, worked on making sure the party had the right atmosphere, and most importantly, made sure that all of our guests had an amazing time.”

She was also brought on board for Muhammad Ali’s Hollywood-themed 60th birthday party. “It was an incredible experience and one I’ll always treasure… Not necessarily because it was his birthday party, but more because I got to experience him as a person, meet his wife and, back then, he only had one bodyguard, so all 5ft 2 of me became the other one! His nickname for me was Little Tree!” Other memorable events? “There are literally way too many, but I was once approached by a very high-profile publisher and asked to write a book – ‘Confessions of a Party Planner’ – so you can imagine…!”

A huge aspect of what she does is securing the best venues for an event, from private islands to a floating spa. So, where does she recommend? “There is a myriad of places we like to use… from the grand and historic, like Fetcham Park in Surrey, to the achingly cool and relatively-new Dragon Room at Isabel in Mayfair, it really depends on what you want.We work with some incredible restaurants and venues, including The Ivy Guildford, which is ideal for small parties with up to 70 people.”

Legendary Lizzie loves showcasing wonderful venues on her Insta, offering inspo aplenty. “We also love working with The Ivy Café Richmond, and have hosted some fantastic events there in the past. Looking ahead to Christmas, its Isabella Room is a stunning private-dining setting for up to 24 guests… a great restaurant to host a festive party.”

The most elaborate and challenging party she’s worked on? “A private party in London where we recarpeted their house for one night only to go with their all-white theme, as well as hanging huge drapes to lower their ceilings. The whole dinner was lit only by candles and soft uplighting. It was a fabulous experience to completely change the look of a room for the host and their guests.”

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing with their super soirées and other exclusive events, though… the pandemic hit party planners Halls & Halls hard. “It was brutal,” Lizzie reveals.With no all-singing, all-dancing do’s on the table during those particularly turbulent times, is confidence now starting to return? How are 2022’s bookings shaping up? “I would say, only now are people having the confidence to rebook larger events. It has also been heart wrenching to see the hospitality industry so affected… Staffing is still a huge issue…”

But they’re now looking forward to a fun festive season ahead, including organising a Christmas celebration for a high-profile name. “Most of our private clients are exactly that. We are the creators of sensations, deliverers of memories and keepers of secrets… But, fingers crossed, Privé will be hosting a party in December. I’m going for Japanese food, sparkling cocktails and my VIP guests will be two beautiful reindeer… Watch this space!’

Up next for Lizzie? “For over 10 years now, I’ve had a very specific event in mind that I want to create that is designed for hospice children… It will be totally immersive, completely out of this world and amazing. I want the children and their families to have an incredible experience.”

Finally, who would she most love to throw a party for? “That’s a great question… can I choose three? Chanel as a brand. Princess Margaret (as I hear her parties were legendary, full of wonderful food and drinks, and a celeb guest list to die for).

“And my mummy… She was 80 in lockdown and I had planned her 80th, with 80 of her closest friends and family, a 1940’s singer, I had giant ration books built as photo backdrops, 10 huge floral table displays to create height with all her favourite blooms, plus a good old fish and chips lunch. I’ve said to her I will do it when she is 82:0.”

Want to deliver the ‘wow’ factor this Christmas?

Lizzie reveals her top planning tips…

·Pick your date and get it in people’s diaries early.

· Lighting and floristry are key to create the wow factor.

· Be warned, Pinterest can be misleading… If you want 100,000 roses hanging from the ceiling, you need to have the budget. If not, don’t try to recreate it… Pick a more refined ‘look’ instead.

· If you are working to a budget, picking a venue you like is better than trying to dress a marquee – they are expensive to get right!

· A good photographer and videographer are worth investing in – they capture the whole event so much better.

· Ensure drinks are served at the right temperature, with cold white wine and Champagne served in beautiful glasses.

· Get a planner on board, so you can simply enjoy your party!