Bash of the Season

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Everything is ready. The theme has been set. The décor is elegant. The table is set. The food-divine. Every detail has been painstakingly crafted and every nuance fussed over. All to put together a flawless evening. And while she looks her best and is ready to welcome her guests, her focus is on ensuring everyone has a good time. Shweta Bhatia meets some of the best hostesses of the city to find out what it takes to plan the perfect soiree

Rasha Itani Shamma

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Having moved to Dubai recently, Rasha has been married for five years now and works in the Risk Management and Insurance department of a well-known holding company in the city. A full time mother to a two-year-old daughter, Rasha is dedicated to her family first. A woman with many facets, one of her roles is to play host to her family and friends, a role she loves doing and is great at it. Just as efficient as she is at her career, she brings the same efficiency as hostess to her family and friends. She plans every soiree with great detail and enthusiasm, making sure her guests are well taken care off.

Do you remember planning your first party?
Honestly I can’t really remember exactly when the first party was, but it was quite a while back.

What is the first thought when you decide to plan a party?
It has to be the menu. My first thought always is “What will the menu be?”

How long does it take for you to organise your gathering?
It really depends on the size. Now that I am used to hosting often, I’ve learnt how to organize myself so that I can pull it off in a short period of time.

Do you look for new inspirations when throwing a party?
Yes, absolutely, especially from the food point of view. My husband loves trying out new cuisines and recipes for us to cook and serve, so mostly the inspiration will be food related.

What are the things that you take into consideration when you start to organise your party?

First, it has to be the total number of guests. When you know that, you can then determine the style of party, i.e. is it going to be seated dinner, canapés or buffet style? Once you have that information then you can start working on the menu.

Do you work on a budget?
Not really. If you decide to host then one needs to keep in mind that it is costly, depending on the number of guests and the type of cuisine you will be cooking. Even if you are getting the party catered. In Dubai, groceries and drinks are relatively expensive.

Do you have a signature style when it comes to your events?
Nothing in particular, but if I had to point out anything it would probably be just a whole lot of good food. Being
Middle Eastern, we love feeding people. The heart of a good party is serving tasty food.

How often do you organise a gathering?
I love the holy month of Ramadan. During Ramadan we host an Iftar almost everyday. I love seeing my family and friends gathered around our dining table, enjoying a good meal and having a good time. Apart from Ramadan, we host a dinner party every month.

What makes a good party?
The right mix of guests, the ambiance you create and the food and drinks, of course.

What makes a good host?
You need to be able to enjoy the party with your guests. If you are busy running around or in the kitchen, the party could still be a success but you, as a host, would be completely missing from the party.

Your advice on throwing a gathering?
The most important thing is organization and proper pre planning. If you do not organize yourself and start prepping and preparing for the party in advance you will find yourself running around like a headless chicken during your event. We have a system in the house that runs very naturally and smoothly once we decide to thrown a dinner party. With proper planning you can throw a great party and you can enjoy it with your guests as well.

Key things to do in advance are:
• Decide on menu.
• Get your grocery/decoration shopping done days in advance.
• Prep and cook as much as you can in the two days before the event.
• Set up your table and decorate your house the day before the event.
• Make sure you have adequate help during the event to make sure that everything stays tidy and looks good and, again, make sure that you too enjoy the event.

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Tanya Ivin Karam

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Tanya Ivin Karam is the marketing manager of K.Lynn Lingerie and Trina Turk. The first ever party she had planned was her own 15th birthday bash. Her father had rented out a nightclub in Muscat and it created an impact at that time, as most of her friends had never been to a club. Because of which guest list went up from 20 to 120.

What is the first thought you have when planning your soiree?
Colour scheme! I’m a very matchy-matchy person and start gathering accessories even before I decide how many people are coming or where it will be. From there onwards I choose the location and then the guest list to see how many people can fit in the space.

How long does it take for you to organise a gathering?

I’ve organized parties in a very short amount of time as my husband sometimes just says ‘lets have a party this weekend!’ I then go into crazy planning mode. For our wedding, I had been planning for eight months and suddenly, a month before the big day, we decided to move the whole wedding from Lebanon to Dubai and had to plan it in, literally, days.

What inspirations do you look for?

It might be a cliché but Instagram gives me some great ideas. It might not be a picture of someone else’s party but it could even just be someone’s living room or office. I studied interior architecture so I follow tons of designers, creative people and architects.

What are the things that you take into consideration when you organise a party?
The weather. You would think that in Dubai you can predict the weather but you really can’t for outdoor parties. We all wait for great weather to start having garden events but before you know it there is rain, sand or a windstorm headed our way. For our wedding, we never considered the weather and the entire week leading up to it, it poured all day every day! We nearly moved the whole thing indoors but we took the risk and it paid off, it stopped raining only a couple of hours before the wedding. Since then it’s my number one concern!

Is there a budget you work with?
I tend not to as I am pretty good at not going overboard. It’s so easy to get carried away or overspend so I’ve learnt to accessorise and decorate in inexpensive ways.

How often do you organise a gathering?
Mainly for big occasions so birthdays and holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up and have just finished my birthday party at home so it’s the crazy party season at the moment.

What elements must be considered when one has to plan a party?
Your caterer is so important! I have tried many different ones but now stick to just one as I know I can expect quality and great service. For me that would be, Saladicious. They do a fantastic job!
Another thing to consider is whether your party is a sit-down dinner or an easy buffet style party. I recently had a party at home and only had chairs for half the amount of people as I hate seeing empty seats or tables. It worked
out perfectly as most of the men were standing at the bbq or the cocktail table.

What makes a good party?
The music makes or breaks a party. Having worked with some great DJs in Dubai over the years in my previous job, I truly focus on having good music. Sometimes you get so caught up in the setting up and food that a lot of people forget to plan the music and end up just throwing in a playlist they created randomly. Take pictures or bring in a photographer or, even better, get a photobooth! You get so busy at the party that you always forget to take pictures and your friends taking pictures with their phone is not enough. Fishfayce is my go-to photographer, they have such a large variety of options for capturing your event. I love looking back at the pictures and seeing my friends have a good time.
I try to always go through the five senses to make sure I didn’t forget anything. Does the party look good, does the food taste good, when you walk in does it smell good and what sounds are there when you walk in.

What makes a good host?
Being in a good mood no matter how tired you are from putting the party together or if something went wrong when planning the party, you just have to forget about it once people start arriving.

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Maha Osman

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Six years ago, Maha Osman, a corporate lawyer and her best friend lived in a beautiful little apartment in Kensington, London and decided to have Thanksgiving dinner as her first soiree. Maha pulled it off with guidance from her mother and sister-in law. 14 hours of cooking later, they had a beautiful dining table filled with turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato soufflé, stuffing, cranberry sauce and many pies! Maha had been watching her mother cook Thanksgiving dinners for years but, up until that point, she never appreciated how much work and planning went into it. Since then, Maha has come a long way with planning and executing in advance. “‘Mise en place’ is an art-form I am still perfecting!” says Maha.

What is the first thought when you decide to plan a party?
Theme and occasion! I am all about the themes – whether it features in the décor, the food, the entertainment etc. Once the theme is decided, everything will flow from there.

How long does it take for you to organise your soiree?
I was planning my last party for about six weeks but that involved hiring entertainment and staff etc. Some of my favourite dinner parties have also been thrown on a whim. My parties tend to focus heavily on food since I love to cook and feed people.

Do you look for new inspirations when throwing a party?
Always. My husband and I have a joint Instagram account dedicated to our love of food called ‘the_wandering_foodies’. Before any party, I use that account to cruise all of the amazing food and home decoration accounts out there. I am also a big fan of Pinterest – I have spent countless hours looking up themes, recipes, DIY projects etc.

Do you work on a budget?
As my husband commonly puts it, my budget is ‘to not go crazy!’ I am getting better at this!

Do you have a signature style when it comes to your events?
If you ask any of my friends, they will probably tell you my signature style is to over feed them. I always make lots of starters, several main dishes and sides and even more dessert – think chocolate chip pecan pie and double
chocolate chip cookies stuffed with oreos.

How often do you organise a gathering?
We tend to have larger gatherings 2 -3 times a year but we will have people over for dinner every 2 -3 weeks. This depends on the time of year – during Ramadan it is more like 2 – 3 times a week!

What makes a good party?
The right mood. This can only be achieved with a welcoming and thoughtful host. My husband does a great job in making sure that all of our guests are taken care of and comfortable if I’m still finishing up last minutes
items in the kitchen. There is very little that fantastic music can’t fix. Great friends are a key ingredient to a good party and I am very blessed to have lots of them.

What makes a good host?
Definitely someone that is thoughtful and attentive to what their guests want. The most important thing would probably be the ability to plan. I would like to think that my job as a corporate lawyer has harnessed my skills and
trained me for organizing great dinner parties. I also spent my childhood watching my mom throw fabulous dinner parties so I have lots of inspiration to draw on.

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Reem Abou Samrah

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Reem Abou Samrah is the owner of Jose Eber Laloge, a luxury beauty lounge in Dubai. She is known to throw some of the best gatherings. Her soirees are so successful that she’s often asked to seriously consider being a professional
party planner.

Which was your first ever soiree?
I have been throwing personal gatherings for so long now, that I don’t think I remember the first one. But I do remember a specific one, which was about seven or eight years ago. I had thrown a baby shower party for my friend at the Address Downtown where I hosted about 300 women. So I do remember how intricately I had planned it.

What is the first thought when you decide to plan a party?
First I need to see if it’s for a work event or a personal one. Then it is the place. I try and have my parties at latest venues that have opened in Dubai. Then I think of the food and make sure that the venue I have chosen serves good food as well.

How long does it take for you to organise your soiree?
Not that long. I have so much experience now that it doesn’t take me very long to plan a party. The only time I take is to invite my guests a month before the date of my gathering. The most hectic part of a party is to make sure that
all the confirmations come in on time and once you have that number, everything else is easy. If I have to organise a party with someone else taking care about the confirmations then I can do it within a week.

Do you look for new inspirations when throwing a party?
All the time. I always want to try something new and not repeat anything from my last event. You see something new all the time happening in a city like Dubai. So many things inspire you that when you see something that clicks, you
get inspired automatically. One thing I definitely do is make the invitations myself. I think that adds a personal touch and you feel more connected with the whole event.

Do you work on a budget?
Yes, I do. But whatever the number of people and whatever scale your party is at, I don’t compromise on the quality. For whatever the quantity, the décor, the entertainment, the quality of everything should be really good.

Do you have a signature style when it comes to your events?
Yes, my signature is that I have a dress code each time and it is always glamorous. Even when I threw a ‘white’ party, everybody had to turn up in their glamorous best.

How often do you organise a gathering?
I have a big party once a year, which has a lot of people and I keep having small soirees more than often.

What elements must be considered when one has to plan a party?
Your party should reflect you. It should have your personal touch. Also, you should make sure your guests are comfortable. Make sure that the people that you are inviting get along together. You can’t have two contrasting set of crowds who don’t mix with one another. And in the end, do it with your heart.

What makes a good party?

The right balance in every element makes a good party.

What makes a good host?
A happy and relaxed host is what makes a good host. You need to just be able to share that happiness with your dear ones. Don’t have any expectations. Just go with the flow.

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Mallika Singh

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Mallika began her career in the fields of music and vocal performance, after which her passion for the creative arts expanded further to encompass her love for fashion and event design. She started her own event design company called Fête Events where she designs and crafts event experiences. Her events are distinctive and have attention to detail like one couldn’t imagine.

What is the first thought when you decide to plan a party?
The concept and theme I wish to create for the event is one of the first elements I think about and what I want my guests to walk away saying and experiencing from the event. That sets the design mood and start of the planning process.

How long does it take for you to organise your soiree?
It can range from a week to a few months. It depends on the scale of the event and what we need to source, produce or curate in order to execute all the details.

Do you look for new inspirations when throwing a party?
Yes, I take my inspiration from various places including art galleries, old antique stores, technology and design exhibits and unique window shop displays. I also research different kick-starter projects happening around the world and take inspiration from people that are trying to consistently innovate and bring new ideas to life.

Do you have a signature style when it comes to your events?
My company tag line is ‘Guilty of being different’. I strive towards keeping that mission alive through the range of events that I do. I do not have a specific style or mold I would like my work to fit into. We work towards continuously evolving in all aspects of event styling and design.

How often do you organise a gathering?

I do about 3-4 events a month. It varies depending on the time of the year.

What are the top 5 tips for throwing a party?
Designing an event is like baking a cake. It’s all about the layers. You miss one; you lose some of the taste/
experience. My first tip would be to stay away from the usual cookie cutter events, robbed of any hint of a
personality. The flow of an event is crucial and is the base layer to baking the perfect event and defines the
layout of your event. Knowing your vision behind the event and what you want your guests to leave saying.
This will define the experience you wish to give your guest.
The devil is in the details. Adding an extra spoon of sugar might make the cake too sweet so it’s important to put together the right mix of ingredients to bake the perfect event. It is also important to consider who’s tasting the cake and what flavor they prefer. Understanding your guest list and their preferences is crucial as the crowd brings the energy to an event and designing an experience they will not enjoy is futile. Moreover, its important to make sure that the size of an event venue corresponds well to the number of people attending. An event space too big will never allow the energy of the event to pick up. An event that is too busy with no space to move around will have guests uncomfortable and leave. Adjust your ingredients accordingly.
The icing on the cake- the feature. You always should try to have a feature at an event that is a conversation starter or leaves the guests talking about. It could be a simple accessory that stood out on a cocktail table or something unique that left the guests feeling that they had a unique experience.
The ‘perfect’ event needs to be artistically layered and meticulously arranged to stimulate all fives senses. Each layer unfolds during the course of an event taking the guests through a journey while being a part of a story that is yet unknown. But once told, it will never be forgotten.

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