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How to plan a flawless bash

Parties are always better when they’re themed, according to Gianni Zammit.

Parties are always better when they’re themed, according to Gianni Zammit.

DJ, musician and events organiser extraordinaire, Gianni Zammit’s job entails preparing for the perfect party and making sure it all goes off without a hitch. Ramona Depares goes through his checklist and gets him to part with some secrets – and snags – just in time for the festive season.

Thinking of trying your luck at the ‘gracious host’ role and organising your own party this Christmas? Not a bad idea, but here’s hoping that you’ve already started getting your act together and sorting out invites, food and location. That’s right! According to events organiser Gianni Zammit, if you want to stand a chance of being the talk of town for all the right reasons, now is the time to kick off some serious groundwork.

As the date gets closer... something will invariably go wrong

“Of course, it depends on the size of the party you’re planning, but at a safe estimate, a comfortable standard timeframe would be around eight to 10 weeks. This gives you enough time to inform people so they can block the date and to take care of the 101 details you’ll be sorting out.”

A basic checklist, Gianni says, is a must. Start by establishing your essential requirements; typically food, drinks, décor and entertainment. Once you’ve finalised that, it’s time to round up a list of suppliers and to start the hunt for the one who offers the best value for money.

“Suppliers are another reason why timeframes are so important. During the busiest time of the year, unless you offer them ample leeway, they will most likely not guarantee collection or delivery on time.”

But even with the best intentions and organisational skills in the world, rest assured that as the date gets closer, in Gianni’s experience something will invariably go wrong. His solution is to make sure that all possible angles are covered so that when that one thing does go pear-shaped, you can easily focus on setting it to rights without any need for panic.

Speaking of things going wrong, is there anything worse than no one – or just a handful of people – showing up? Not really, but even here, Gianni has a way of minimising the risks. “RSVPs are always the way to go. That way you will have a clear indication and you can adjust catering and theme accordingly. However, it is always better to overbook slightly. With every event, there will always be new no-shows, whether it is due to illness, unexpected commitments, lack of babysitters, or whatever.”

So, if you’ve been following our advice as you should, by now you have the date booked, the guests informed and a good understanding of where you want to go with this party. On to the next major issue: the booze. It is impossible to provide every kind of drink under the sun. Limiting it to wine and soft drinks makes you come across as a cheapskate. So what is an acceptable selection? The solution, Gianni says, lies not so much in the selection itself as in the intimate knowledge of your audience.

No matter what precautions you take, you’re always going to get what he refers to as ‘the exaggerators’

“Providing everything is ideal, but hardly practical, particularly since this is home entertaining we are talking about. However, you can still plan the drinks issue well. You are inviting people you know well, friends and family, which means you probably know what the most popular drinks for your crowd are. Concentrate on those, while making some allowances for the season. For instance, for a summer party I’d advise upping the beer. For the cold season, wines get preferential treatment.

“Basics like vodka and whiskey should be flowing. Nowadays, mojitos are super popular, so it would be a good move to plan for those as well.”

The only problem Gianni sees with this is that the drinking part may actually turn out to be too successful, with guests over-indulging. He admits that no matter what precautions you take – or even how small the event – you’re always going to get what he refers to as “the exaggerators”; those who cannot control their alcohol intake, or who overdo it on the hors d’oeuvres and then wind up having some unsavoury accident. Sadly, he adds, there is no way to totally avoid this pitfall.

“Just stock up on the bleach,” he says with a cheeky grin. “A few years back, I organised my birthday party on my terrace. At 3.30am, I thanked the remaining guests (about 15 people) for attending and went off to bed! My girlfriend joined me at 4.30am and whispered that she told the last guests to close the door behind them. They left at 6am, I believe. These are the pitfalls of a successful party.”

Gianni has had plenty of experience to chalk up the potential snags. A household name on the events circuit, he started DJing and organising parties for small groups of friends at an early age. The hobby became a job when he started organising activities at a language school. From there, it was a small step to move to bigger activities, conferencing and concerts.

Of course, when you’re organising events on a regular basis, something is bound to go wrong – particularly if there is an area you’ve “slightly overseen”, with that infamous “u iva” attitude.

“But it’s best to spend a substantial amount of time going through all the possible scenarios and problems, creating a plan B for each eventuality. Do spend a lot of time on plan B, so that if it ends up being your plan A, you will be well prepared enough not to be stressed.”

The discussion turns to the topic that is the bugbear of many a party-goer: themed events. Cheesy, or good? Gianni gives a good theme the green light, provided you take enough time to set it up properly, rather than doing a half-baked job.

“Parties are always better when they’re themed. But it’s important to do it well, otherwise it just falls flat.”

What if a party, despite all your best efforts, does fall flat? The guests show up, food and booze are on schedule but... the event isn’t taking off. How do you salvage the situation? Gianni deals with it with his usual brand of humour. His advice is to bring out the guitar and start belting out his own version of Angels and My Delilah – always guaranteed to get everyone laughing, and probably slightly shocked too. Nothing like a good icebreaker, I suppose!

To conclude, the event is considered a success when you’re knackered and want to go to sleep but people are still there having fun!

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