If you’re taking guests to Royal Ascot this year, you’ll need more than the hat, the champagne and the race card
You may not have thought about it, but the Social Buzz is the vital ingredient at any social gathering, and never more so than at Royal Ascot (June 14-18), one of the highlights of the British social calendar. With a bit of forethought, you can create this to keep your guests thrilled not just by the horses, the atmosphere and the sartorial elegance of the day, but by the atmosphere within your own group – the party within the party. Here’s a simple way to do it if you don’t have prior experience.
Ask yourself, does everyone know each other? If not, think a bit more about what people have in common. Like creating a hat from ribbons, feathers and straw, creative input is required: you have to put the components together in the best possible combination for a pleasing event. If you can do this for them, while all about you are cheering the horses, popping champagne, and looking fabulous, the day you create will zing along at a cracking pace.
Step No. 1
Ahead of the day, get a piece of paper. In the centre draw a circle and write Royal Ascot in it. Around this Royal Ascot circle draw small bubbles for each of the guests and write their name in it. The bubbles need to have plenty of space around them. Now write down key things about each of your guests around their individual bubbles in a random manner. These will act as hooks for the start of conversations. By all means jot down where they live and what they do for a living, but as these tend to come up often in conversation anyway, it’s good to find the less obvious things. For example, a couple in our London street keeps pigs in their garden – yes, really. This would be the basis of a great conversation, partly because it’s so unusual in a city, partly because the subject of pigs in a city is something everyone can join in with, and partly because out will come all the stories about animals in unusual situations.
Remember, there are things that only you know, which you can sprinkle at will. Of course, this doesn’t mean confidences or anything that will embarrass your guests. Be informative, but discrete. You as the hostess, have riches galore to shower on your guests and create bubbles of conversation.
Rule No. 2
Now that you have the bubbles in place, you’re going to bottle them, so that you have them ready to be uncorked on the day. Look at the content of your bubbles and draw a line between any guest’s bubble that looks like a pleasing match with another. Do this for all your guests – you’ll end up with a wonderful tangle of lines. It’s good if you can remember all the possible topics of conversation, but that usually takes a lot of effort and practice.
Instead, fold up the paper, and keep it in on you so that you have it ready when you need it. You can refer to it just before you arrive to jog your memory. Do not bring it out in front of your guests! Although many people do entertain business guests at Royal Ascot, it is an upmarket social occasion and lists and paperwork are a no-no.
As people start to assemble, make sure that everyone has been introduced to everyone else – however long it takes, do it. It’s a courtesy which your guests will appreciate and it’s the height of bad manners to ignore this simple ritual. Sometimes of course, people introduce themselves, in which case they will tell you so, if you haven’t spotted it happening. Even so, and throughout the day, you can still create renewed interest between guests who have been previously chatting by saying something like “Did you know that Sarah and Jonathan keep pigs in their London garden?”
This technique works for guests who have met occasionally, as well as for people who have never met before. Sometimes meeting people again – with the pressure to remember their names and what they told you last time – can be far more awkward than meeting someone for the first time. Help your guests find common ground and they’ll relax. They’re going to be together all day, so if you don’t want the conversations to fizzle out before the last race, you need to have plenty of this magic pre-bottled and ready to bring out at a moment’s notice.
The Royal Ascot picnic can be one of the best social occasions a host could wish for: not only has the greater part of the party atmosphere already been created for you by the event itself, but the informality of sitting on a picnic blanket, getting up and down to go see the individual races and returning to a different spot on the blanket, with different guests, makes for great social mingling.
Rachel Fay creates The Social Buzz at private parties and corporate events. To book her for yours, contact her on 020 8743 1249 or at firstname.lastname@example.org