Back in 2018 we were tasked with producing an entertainment extravaganza for a Cirque le Soir inspired New Years Eve party. Cirque le Soir is a chain of nightclubs which are renowned for their circus style entertainment with a risque twist - they feature all the weird and wonderful from creepy clowns to freakshow acts, sexy Burlesque shows, fetish performers and anything downright strange that will get tongues wagging. It's like the Greatest Showman on acid, and this was exactly the 'vibe' our client was looking for.
So what's the secret recipe to planning a circus themed party that will have guests talking about it for years to come? Here are our top tips...
1. Plan it yourself? Or hire an event planner?
An experienced event planner has insider knowledge and connections that you may not, and they can anticipate problems before they arise. It's a skill that's often undervalued, but we really couldn't recommend it enough. If you do decide to plan your own bash, make sure you spend lots of time researching the various pitfalls, checking out reviews of suppliers, reading forums with comments from other amateur party planners, and familiarising yourself with the 'problem' parts of the event e.g. allowing a contingency for late arrivals or poor weather, making sure there are enough toilet facilities, catering for guests with intolerances, and so on.
2. Venue and decor
In this case, the client's mansion made for the perfect venue. But if you don't have an entertainment wing with a 3-lane bowling alley then fear not! A blank canvas will allow you to decorate it entirely to suit the theme - just make sure that you allocate plenty of budget for circus tent style drapes, illuminated letters, props, tables, seating areas, staging for performers/band/DJ, bar area and so on. Otherwise local venues may be decorated and equipped so that you only need to add a few small details to theme it, which will save you time and money.
3. Food and drink
Will you be catering for guests with finger food, or a sit down meal? Or maybe they just need a well-equipped bar! Hire professionals as they will think of all the things you won't, such as how much ice to bring, what glasses to serve drinks in, rubbish disposal, allergies and intolerances, waitress service, and preparation space.
4. Music and entertainment
It's difficult to put a price on an 'experience', but that intangible enjoyment of an experience is ultimately what guests remember. They will talk for weeks and months about how good the music was, or how weird that particularly performer was. These are the 'instagrammable' parts of the event that partygoers share with their peers to show off how much fun they're having. So when you're hunting for entertainment, ask for videos of the actual product you're going to get - don't just book the cheapest act in a fancy dress costume.
5. Capture the experience
Don't forget to book a photographer! You wouldn't believe the amount of parties we've performed at, where they've spent £10,000 or more, and yet didn't book a photographer. D'oh! Pictures paint a thousand words, and videographers even more. At the very least create a selfie photo area so that guests can have a picture memento of the occasion.
Photos courtesy of James White Photography