We speak with Iroshini Chua, who’s no stranger to throwing huge, lavish parties, for some hosting tips to throwing a fabulous soiree with ease. The medical director of Drs Chua and Partners and designer of her own bespoke jewellery line, Iroshini celebrated her 40th birthday in home country Sri Lanka this year. The veteran host shares, “due to cultural influence, hosting is my second nature and it has become my passion to cook [for my guests]”.
From decor to ambience to food, here are Iroshini’s top 10 tips to throwing a stylish party your guests will remember:
Iroshini with her happy guests Gaurav Kripalani (left) and Dick Lee. Photo: Iroshini Chua
1. Focus on the guests
Iroshini's golden rule as a host is to keep the focus on the guests and celebrate them. Having been born and brought up in Sri Lanka, she says she was groomed by her parents to be a gracious host, as are many young girls there. On her recent 40th birthday party there, she says, "this party was in fact a celebration of the blessings in mylife – my family and friends."
2. Plan ahead
Last minute planning is a big no-no because you might miss out on vital details. "So make sure to send out the save-the-dates, confirm the venue and book the photographer (if needed) early," Iroshini says, "and the rest of the details can be ironed out around them."
Photo: Iroshini Chua
3. Decide on a theme
"Everything from stationery (invites, menu cards, place settings), decor and ambience, to food and entertainment should be tied together with a theme," she says. It doesn't have to be complicated. For example, her Sri Lanka birthday party had a black, silver, white and Tiffany blue colour theme complemented with a floral theme featuring roses and white hydrangeas.
4. Send out well-designed invites
"First impressions are important. The party invite is your first point of contact with the guests, so make it count," Iroshini advises. "For big parties that involve people travelling in from different countries, paperless post is a helful way of keeping track of RSVPs. Invites can be handwritten cards designed in line with the theme."
5. Focus on the menu
Both quality and quantity are essential when it comes to food at a party, so never scrimp on either. "Never eschew on the quality of ingredients," Iroshini says, "so do order special ingredients in advance to ensure the availability of fresh produce." One way that she tries to keep the menu fresh and interesting is by picking up ingredients from different countries during her travels. "With so many flavours to tap into from around the world, every menu is exciting to plan!" Also, bear in mind your guests' dietary restrictions and food allergies, as a sign of respect.
Photo: Iroshini Chua
6. Decor sets the tone
If you're throwing a large party, Iroshini believes a sizeable portion of your budget should be set aside for lightings to make a grand impact, coupled wiht impressive table settings. She recommends scented candles, dimmer lighting, bone china and crystalware grounded with a floral centrepiece. "Flowers help soften the look, create a calming and welcoming atmosphere, and make everything look prettier," she says.
Iroshini entertains her guests with a cheorographed dance number at her birthday party. Photo: Iroshini Chua
7. Decide on entertainment
Planning a small icebreaker or two is an excellent way to get everyone involved. "Make sure you prepare music," Iroshini says, "and having a photo booth (or photo wall) will also keep your guests entertained as they can have loads of fun with the props!"
8. Fix a dress code
A dress code helps to bring out the theme as well as augment the ambience, Iroshini suggests. For her birthday party, the dress code was "Party Dresses" as it was a celebratory evening and she wanted everyone to be dressed to dance.
9. Small details go a long way
From sending out personalised dinner invitations, to printing your guests' names on place cards, to providing a door gift of baked goodies, these small details will make a deep impression and make your guests feel special. Iroshini suggests writing "thank you" notes as a token of appreciation for their presence.
10. Relax before the big day
Planning can really take the wind out of you, so try to take some downtime just before the party to relax. It's important that you don't get too caught up in the preparation and burn out during the event! Iroshini says, "I love checking into a spa for some treatments beforehand to achieve calmness, composure and relaxation."
Written by Elizabeth Liew for The Singapore Women's Weekly.