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Plan a Gatsby Event

2013-05-21

 With the new “The Great Gatsby” out in theatres, it’s a wonderful time to take some tips from an era long past and from the host of the greatest parties ever given.

It’s a dream. A wonderful dream. Stepping foot into a room full of colors that seem too surreal to have ever existed. The room is packed with smiling faces, some of old friends and some of the ones you are just getting to know. Luscious treat after luscious treat is presented to you. The dance floor calls your name as you lose yourself to the roaming beat of the music. This is the party that everyone will be talking about for years, and it’s yours. All yours. But how do you get there?

With the new “The Great Gatsby” out in theatres, it’s a wonderful time to take some tips from an era long past and from the host of the greatest parties ever given.

Start with a low ceiling

George Unger had a plan when he designed the foyer of the Hall of Mirrors in the Hilton Netherland Plaza: He was going to duplicate the feel of entering the many theatres he had designed before. This was not because people would be seeing a show in the hall. The low ceiling and relative simplicity of the first room, made the high ceilings of the larger room that much higher and the grandness that much grander. The hall itself then became the show.

Takeaway: Keep the cocktail hour before the grand party simple. Keep the height of everything, from the food to the decorations, low. This then complements rather than detracts from the grandeur that your attendees are about to experience at the main event.

Hall of Mirrors
The low-level foyer of the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza expands to the glamorous Hall of Mirrors (Photo Credit: Jose Mesa Photography)

Let the music be a star

Piano

Jay Gatsby went big when it came to music. Nick Carroway described the band as, “no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums.” And not only did Mr. Gatsby bring the most talented musicians to his parties, he also made sure the most popular music was playing. A request by Mr. Gatsby was described as having made a “sensation” at Carnegie Hall. This was a man that understood that it wasn’t a party unless the music was perfect.

Takeaway: You don’t have to hire the most expensive band in the land to set the perfect tone to your party. Look to local colleges. Schools such as the University of Cincinnati house students that can be just as talented as professionals and will work at a reduced rate. But then pay attention to the attendees’ tastes. Mr. Gatsby knew his attendees liked a lot of flash and the latest trends. Define what it is that your crowd will go crazy over and make sure that is what the band is playing.

Make sure the food is local

Even in the 1920s, Jay Gatsby understood that fresh and local were the best. Cartons of citrus fruit were regularly delivered to be processed into delicacies on-site by a butler that just pressed a button on a machine. This freshness made the delicacies he served that much more delightful and made the party that much more unreal. Todd Kelly, chef at the Hilton Netherland Plaza, has that same understanding. Being one of the top chefs in the country, he regularly creates unreal and delightful dishes, not unlike those served at the parties of The Great Gatsby. And a huge part of that is because he keeps his food local (he grows much of it) and infuses it all with his imagination.

Takeaway: Ask the chef of your event where the ingredients are sourced. If it’s not local, there is an excellent chance that the quality of the food will suffer. Either try to work with the chef to change this practice for your event or consider looking for someone that is adhering to a standard that will suit your guests.

Have staff that is customer-focused

Every whim was catered to and every fancy satisfied at a Jay Gatsby party. The same can be said of any event held at the Hilton Netherland Plaza. In fact, the hotel has won the Best of the East from Meetings Focus for seven years running. That means that this hotel is a favorite of professional meeting planners based on overall experience. This is in addition to numerous other awards that rank the service received at this hotel as the best. No stone is ever left unturned, and no guest is left unsatisfied.

Takeaway: If the staff is not being responsive to your needs and wants prior to the event, there is a good chance that your attendees will have a similar experience. Make sure the venue is customer-focused at every stage, and it is guaranteed that your guests will have an experience that they will not soon forget.

How have you made your event Gatsby-style? What is your top tip for providing that unforgettable experience for your guests?