Throwing a party onboard a yacht – by Marcela

I have got to know Marcela and her work during the Covid19 period 2020. Thanks to a nice group which has been created during this time. She has agreed to share her work with me and I am grateful to her for such a beautiful collaboration, it is a very useful blog with plenty of good ideas. I hope you ‘ll enjoy those tips as much as I did and will use them when planning your next party onboard or ashore. Click on the link below if to learn more about Marcela’s work.
                                           Onboard With Marcela

PRE- PLANNING

Planning an event is very time consuming and you need extreme attention to details for it! If you don’t have time to plan and prepare everything for the party I recommend you to ask the purser onboard to organize the party or hire an event planner. Pre-planning properly the event is what will make the event successful, make sure you have enough time to get all of the details ahead of time. It’s important to find the suitable and reliable (not all of them are reliable!) suppliers for the entertainment, security and catering.

It all starts with the objective of the party. This is the ‘Why’ are we throwing a party discussion. Depending on the objective of the event, if it is a birthday, new years party, wedding anniversary, or if it’s simply to entertain friends and family.
 
Otherwise, In case it is a brand awareness type of event you could get sponsors to participate and by sharing the costs you could throw awesome(er) parties!
The first step is to agree and define the Guest list. Depending on the size and capacity of the yacht, you can plan a certain number of guests on board. If you are planning a party on anchor, most commercial yachts won’t allow you to have more than 12 guests sleeping on board. If you are planning to have your party inside the port, you can have up to 150 guests onboard (on a 60 meter++ yacht ) My suggestion would be to keep it small, not more than 100 guests makes it a good party, else it becomes really hard to control, especially if you want the party to be on the deck areas and you don’t want clumsy guest in the interior with shaky wine glasses which can ruin the furniture. According to the book The Tipping point, a point of human intimacy and interaction is about 100-120 guests.
 
On managing guest lists, usually, there is The A-List which are usually the VIP’s (Very Important people) and the B-List which is the list in case the people you hope to attend the A-List doesn’t show up. In Hollywood terms A- list are top famous actors on the big screens, B- List are less successful actors, and C-List are actors that are known by face but not by name.
It is also important to keep in mind your guest/crew ratio in order to keep the guest well served. Depending on how many guests you plan to have, perhaps you may need to hire extra service, waiters, bartenders, or helpers in keeping the party under control. You need to think if you want a seated dinner or a walking cocktail? will the waiters walk around to serve drinks, or will you have fixed spots or a bar where guests can go get their drink? of course dynamic bar tender doing a show is always a highlight!
 
It is always a challenge to estimate the number of people who will actually attend a party; usually a rule of thumb is about 70-80% of the people you invited. Here is a quick formula typically used to calculate how many people will attend the event.
Number of out-of-town guests x 0.55) + (Number of local guests x 0.85) = total estimate.
It is essential to start with a vision board of the theme of the party. Nowadays, HNWI are not so easily impressed therefore it takes a lot to surprise them. Parties get more creative in finding ways to keep the ‘wow factor’ like the Great Gatsby used to raise the standards.
 
The theme will influence the decoration of the party, the menu for the food, the type of music, and the dress code for the guests. If it’s a circus theme party for example then you can serve hot dogs, and cotton candy and have acrobats, dwarfs, and clowns on board to entertain the guests.
 
There is the famous story of a yacht ordering 500 white roses for a diner party, while cruising in the Caribbean, there were not enough florists in the island to supply them, so they had to order the flowers from Miami on a private jet, only the decoration fee was more than 100K Euros!
 
Once the theme is agreed upon and the guest list is ready, then it is time to design the party invitations. There are many ways to design the invitation either a DIY using canva for example, or else hiring a graphic designer for a personalized and unique invitation. Before you send out the invitations though, it is important to confirm the exact berth location and get approval from the port.
 
Then, once the creative sessions are over, we move on to the less-fun part and then it’s time to make a budget. Agreeing on a budget beforehand is crucial, yacht parties can cost around six figures, it is almost like planning a wedding.
In order to make a budget, we first need to calculate how many hours will the party last?
If you know the party is going to take place from 8pm to midnight; then you know that it is a 4-hour party, then you can book the musicians accordingly for example. This will help you also plan your catering costs, as we know that usually, people eat about 2-3 canapes per hour.

Brief the crew

It is really important to brief the crew properly on all the details of the event, how many people are coming on board, who is coming, how long will the party last, who is the event leader, what are their roles and responsibilities, what are your expectations of them, etc..
Remember that they live onboard, therefore we need to respect that and warn them beforehand so they can prepare themselves.
 
Depending on the theme of the party, they can also decide on what uniforms to wear, or perhaps we need to think of costumes for example.
During the event, it is important to agree on the roles, who will be at the entrance? Who will safeguard the interior? who is your ‘go to’ person/supervisor.
 
For example, it is important to have a stewardess always around the day heads, to make sure they can assist the guests who perhaps have never been onboard a yacht and don’t know how to use the toilets properly and make sure they don’t go in the wrong direction once returning back to the party.
 

Catering

A good party depends on the food, the music and the drinks! Choosing the right menu to impress your guests is key!
 
Most chefs on board the yachts will be capable and happy to do the canapes for the party, just make sure they can plan long in advance in order to get the right provisions of ingredients and enough time to prepare it. Sometimes a crew member with some basic kitchen/galley experience or just a simple dishwasher is highly appreciated as it can get hectic for the chefs.
Making food for 100 people takes days of preparation! However, if the chef is not available then you can hire a catering company, but if you really want to make an impression another idea is to hire a celebrity chef to do live cooking to knock off some socks!
 
I usually plan for about 4 -6 canapes per person if that is the only food being served. If there is canapes + dinner then I would do less canapes. My suggestion is to always round up your estimates, don’t round them down! (the crew will thank you later)
 
Anticipate which food selections will be most popular and serve more of them. For example, shellfish appetizers are always popular, so serve as much as your budget allows.
 
Usually, on most yacht parties I’ve been to, there are some canapes followed by a light cooking station with dishes like risotto, caviar, and vegan options, followed by a variety of desserts. Keep in mind that some people have allergies, and also be aware of the latest healthy food trends (matcha avocado ice cream anyone?)
 
I would suggest the food to be “yacht-friendly,” meaning you can eat it while standing and chatting, and it’s not crumbling through your fingers onto the decking.
Make sure you have enough trash bins or crew walking around to take out the left overs in order to keep your level of standards high.
Don’t forget to Plan the service-ware, how are things being served? which items you need to keep the food warm, etc. This is something that I am sure the chef will take care but it is always important to plan it.

Entertainment

Usually, on yacht parties it always starts with live music, a live-group of musicians to set the mood and then finish pump-up the party with a DJ.
For booking the best musicians suitable for your theme and event, I usually work with Yilen from “Ieventslifestyle in Monaco & the South of France and she always has the best value-for-money shows!
For acrobats, flying magicians, LED dancers and unique shows I usually work with Talent & Productions. I also heard of Scarlett Entertainment but I have never worked with them.
 
It is important to agree on the terms of the contract to avoid any disappointment. Some artists, for example, will only work for 30minutes and then request a 20-minute break. However, in some cases, it is not ideal because that 20-minute break can ‘kill the mood’ and people will get bored for example.
 
Always ask them to come with at least 2-3 hours of anticipation to do the sound checks, etc. Believe me, it takes time to find out where to plug in the instruments, hide the cables, and you don’t want to find out last minute that the speakers are not loud enough and nobody can hear them!
 
Most entertainment groups usually bring their own equipment, but if you want to have several performances during the night, it might be smarter to rent lights and sound equipment which they can all use. This prevents the moving and carrying of equipment on and off the yacht whilst your party is ongoing, and saves your crew from needing to give a helping hand, since you want to make sure carrying up and down the equipment does not damage the yacht. Besides, setting up and sound checking is usually not a booster for the party vibe.
Also make sure you think about their meals and drinks and toilet access, and agree on what they are allowed and not allowed (taking pictures of the guests, etc.)
There are many companies that support light sound, LED screens and special effects for your party. However, make sure to get a good value for money and make sure they offer you ‘yacht worthy’ equipment. This means, clean, professional and subtle (small) but powerful enough to take your party to the next level. A great company to recommend is “New Generation” (I know the owner and he used to be a yacht manager/purser and knows the yachting ins and outs! They have fair prices and are a great asset to get involved in your party!
 

Security

Depending on the guest lists, sometimes we even have the secret service onboard, especially if there are any politicians, oligarchs or royal families on board.
 
Although there is a Strict guest list, some people may leak in, and that is why you may need to book extra security and bodyguards. We’ve had situations of random people going on board and stealing ashtrays and decor! In another party we had luxury jewelry sponsors and we had more than 100 million euros worth of jewels on the yacht, therefore we had security guards and cameras on every deck.
If you choose to have a ‘bouncer’ type of security at the entrance gangway it is important for him to follow the strict guidelines for guest list policy, in some cases we even have to check ID’s.
 
A good idea is to provide wristbands (psst.. I tell you a secret: this is also good internal communication for the host and sponsors to know who is on the A-list and who is not) the guests don’t need to know why are some wearing a green wrist band and others a yellow one for example. A great idea is to have the wristbands printed with the logos of your sponsors or any message that you would like the guests to notice.
Valet parking, the guests turn up in Rolls Royce’s, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, all sorts of limited editions and roadsters, even though it is not a car show, it may certainly look like one! Some ports can’t handle too many private parking spots (and provide the security that they deserve) therefore it is of utmost importance to think about valet parking services.
 
I went to a yacht party which had a parking lot available nearby and they set up golf carts to bring you from the parking spot to the party.
For safety reasons, you may consider pre-booking some taxis in advance in case there are people who are not sober enough to drive back home.

Photographer

Make it an unforgettable evening by capturing those magical moments by a professional photographer (and videographer) to discreetly capture the scenes without disturbing the guests.
 
Photo booths are pretty trendy lately with funny accessories or cartoon artists are fun to have.

Shoe organizer

Different yachts have different ways of handling the shoe management. If there are 100 guests onboard imagine how hard it is to find their shoes on their way out!! I had once a situation where my friend left with only 1 shoe because the other one got lost! Another party some woman took my shoes by mistake!
Therefore it is important that when guests arrive and they remove their shoes, they are provided with a ticket number, and that shoes are stored properly and organized.
Just like jackets at a theater. Jackets, yes! Good one! some guests might bring jackets, scarfs, or even bags which they would like you to take care of. A good idea is to set up a cloak room where you can store these items. Make sure to label them, and make sure you can lock the room!
In case there are plenty of guests attending, it might be a good idea to set up a proper tent with a secured wardrobe and hostesses to take your guests belongings.

Gift Bag

It is customary for yacht parties (especially for the brand awareness type of events) to provide guests upon their departure with a nice little gift bag for them to take home. In some parties you will get Bulgari candles worth around £100-150 , as the bathrooms are done up with Bulgari scents.
I think Gift Bags need to be personalized and give something that the guests will enjoy. A gift bag full of brochures and company presentations will not do the trick.

POST- EVENT

Thank you cards

Nowadays people find handwritten printed cards to be old-fashioned and don’t send thank you cards anymore (although I find it super classy and personalized) but designing a thank you card that can be sent via whats app with a link to the event photos or something more personalized is always a nice touch!
Ask your photographer to make an after-movie with unique clips of the event which your guest can relive at the party (and share it on their social media for more brand exposure!)

Press & Media

If the event was a brand awareness type of event, then once you get the professional photos and video editing from your photographer then it is a good idea to send it out to the media for more brand exposure.

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