Entertaining expert Bryan Rafanelli recently made his way to The Society of the Four Arts to talk about his book, A Great Party: Designing the Perfect Celebration. We caught up with the renaissance man to get his take on hosting trends and his dream soiree.
What makes a party unforgettable? An unforgettable party is one where everyone feels comfortable and is presented with an experience they either had not expected or had never experienced before.
As we continue to keep our social circles small, how do you make a big impact for an intimate crowd? Details, details, details. The secret to small parties is that they are small. You have this opportunity to make everything feel original and bespoke. You get to present the best of everything and really spoil your guests. This does not mean it all has to be fancy. I love a plain and fancy combination. It always puts a smile on the guest’s face. That could be Shake Shack burgers and cheese fries served on your priceless silver with a few bottles of Screaming Eagle or wagyu beef sirloin steak on the bone china you received for your wedding, but were told to only use it for high holidays and family.
What’s your tried-and-true hosting advice? Be ready at least one hour ahead of time—perfectly dressed and gathering your positive thoughts for how the evening will unfold from beginning to end while sipping an In & Out Martini with three olives (a meditative cocktail moment).
Describe your personal style when playing the role of host with the most? My personal style when playing the host with the most is to be very present, very gracious and overly inclusive. I want everyone to meet everyone and create an atmosphere for connection, lots of laughs and always a surprise or two.
How do you craft the perfect guest list? Variety makes a horse race. I have an eclectic group of friends. No two are really very much alike. The perfect dinner party is bringing people together that have a similar energy but not similar backgrounds—a startup entrepreneur with a seasoned CEO and an award-winning musician. They all will have great stories to share and learn from.
Name the trends you’re spotting in event and party planning? Big appetites for a really good time; high energy, fun and fantastical with very thoughtful ingredients sprinkled in; color, color, color; very personal; family gatherings and friends that are family gatherings
There are no parameters and the budget is unlimited. What’s your dream soiree? I fly 150 guests on a private 737 to the American Southwest for 48 hours. Guests stay in Camp Sarika at Amangiri, a glamorous ‘tented village’ set in the side of thousands-of-years-old rock formations. Think 60 degrees at night and 75 degrees during the daytime. A light wind and a view of nothing but spectacular desert terrain for hundreds of miles; open air cocktails and dinner among the rocks; bonfires, hot air balloons, stargazing, rock climbing, ATVs, whitewater rafting and vintage speed boats on the lake are just a few of the activities. In the evening a Gatsby-inspired black-tie bash, complete with video mapping on thousands-of-years-old rocks soaring hundreds of feet in the air. Maybe we ask Lady Gaga and John Legend to jam a dueling piano set and then simply dance to DJ Marjorie Gubelmann till the sun comes up.
What’s next for you and Rafanelli Events? Rafanelli is on the move for one of the most successful falls in our company’s history, complete with not one but two Roaring ’20s parties! And look out, 2022: I’ve been dreaming up a second book and an online Rafanelli Master Class. I’m emerging hungry and ready to create the next best party. 100 Four Arts Plaza, Palm Beach, fourarts.org; rafanellievents.com
Photography by: Photos by Joel Benjamin, Michael Blanchard, Donna Newman and Allan Zepeda