Planning a private party is stressful, especially if you don’t have the help of a professional event planner. I should know! I’m helping my sister-in-law plan a big birthday party for my brother and it turns out that my ideas are as stale as day-old beer. I didn’t realize this, though, until I called one of Manhattan’s most cutting-edge event planners, Maya Kalman, founder and CEO of SWANK Productions. She steered us away from the old and toward the new — and shared some thoughts on how you can make sure your next private dining party is as current as Kate Middleton’s wardrobe and as cool as Jeremy Lin.
1. Downsize your dining. Literally. Put down the big plate and let’s get small. Kalman shares, “Finger food is very big right now and everything is extremely miniaturized. The smaller and more intricate the food, the cooler it is. Sliders are out and mini — almost micro — Reubens are in!” Speaking of what’s out, she cautions against serving certain fare that has become tired. “There are foods that are starting to make their way out, like the mini mac and cheese. The typical sushi station needs to be retired from the repertoire, as well. Carving stations are a definite no-no,” says Kalman, whose own wedding was featured on Food Network.
2. Pair up. Take a page from high-end dining by pairing your bites with the proper drink. Kalman, who has been featured in the The Knot and Gotham magazine, notes, “The whole mini-food explosion has given rise to small cocktail and wine pairings. You know, you’ll have a tiny nibble of steak tartare on a beautiful brioche and with that comes an amazing red wine in a small shot glass. This way, you take a bite, you taste the wine, and you’re done. You’re not carrying anything around, and that gives you more freedom to shake hands, give someone a hug, or exchange a business card.”
3. Don’t try to be all things to all eaters. If you’re throwing an event for more than a handful of people, you’re probably going to be inviting folks with certain dietary concerns, but their concerns need not be yours. Kalman points out, “A year ago, people were very worried about vegetarians and vegans, but that’s shifting. Now, hosts are saying, ‘I’m serving what I’m serving.’ You can’t be expected to accommodate everyone’s eating policies. Today, it’s more about the party, and the host saying, ‘You know who I am and what you might expect at a party I’m giving.’ As a guest, you have to be able to find your way through an event.”
4. 86 the six tops. Having six tables of six isn’t the recipe for a cohesive party. “Seated events are going by the wayside,” according to Kalman. She notes, “The exception is the single, large, communal table. Whether you’re all standing and circulating or sitting together at one table, it makes people feel like they’re all part of the event and are spending time with the host and hostess.”
5. Mobile music. Music is on the move, thanks to mobile devices that allow hosts to program their own playlists. “Bossa Nova music for cocktail hour is pretty in at the moment,” suggests Kalman. For guests who want a live-music element, though, she reveals, “Acoustic guitar and Spanish guitar are big trends. There are violinists who use wireless electric violins. They can stroll the party while they are hooked into the music system, so they can play live along with whatever is being played on the music system.”
Want more SWANK advice from Maya Kalman and her team of creative event planners? Contact SWANK Productions. And, use OpenTable Private Dining to find the right restaurant for your next private dining event in cities from Atlanta to Vancouver — and most major cities in between!