A red carpet, a four-course dinner, signature cocktails, a movie-like setting and a stunning outfit are the ingredients for an over-the-top awards dinner that will make any winner feel honored. Take inspiration from the upcoming 91st Academy Awards ceremony to add some glamour to your next gala event. Smart Meetings asked the experts tasked with making a celebrity show shine to share their secrets for hosting a stellar event.
Stage Ballroom Adjacent Areas
Lyndsay Picciano, catering manager at Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, suggests designing Oscars-inspired and relaxing areas away from the main dining area. “Having a red-carpet arrival is a must, so guests can walk the walk and pose for photos just like their favorite celebrities. The carpet is a perfect place to host a step-and-repeat with all necessary party and sponsor logos, which will also make the event look very official to guests.” A separate mingling area—a social room with high cocktail tables, where people can relax and talk—is also essential says the hospitality consultant.
Feed to Impress
Whether you opt for finger foods or a multi-course, seated meal, go all out. “The best way to have a great Oscar-type gala is to serve fork-friendly foods from a buffet station along with bite-sized passed hors-d’oeuvres,” says Barbara Brass, vice president of culinary sales at Wolfgang Puck Catering, who leads the planning for the notable Oscars Governors Ball.
The Hollywood Roosevelt in Los Angeles, site of the first Oscars in 1929, is introducing a four-course menu banquette this year. Public Kitchen & Bar, the signature restaurant of the boutique hotel, will serve house-made cavatelli, pan-roasted diver scallops or morel mushrooms, wagyu beef tenderloin or winter root vegetable risotto. Valrhona chocolate flourless chocolate cake will conclude the feast. “We always prep about 5 percent over to cover last minute reservation or VIPs,” Ernie Carrillo Jr., catering sales and banquet operations director, advises.
Add Creative Color
A delicate floral arrangement, a pop-up art installation, playful details—it is the little touches that set the mood. “The Academy Awards color scheme is gold and black, so don’t be afraid to embrace the theme by decorating with stylish accents and balloons,” says Ashton Pina, public relation manager at Nitehawk Cinema, a movie theater in Brooklyn, New York, which is throwing an awards viewing party that has become a coveted ticket.
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If the venue already has a strong personality—for example Blossom Ballroom at The Hollywood Roosevelt, where vintage tiles and custom chandeliers hanging from 25-foot ceilings set the stage—you can focus on the atmosphere. “For decor, we generally stay with our hotel’s classic color palette and Moorish influences. In addition to that, we like to incorporate lighting because it really changes the look of the venue,” says Carrillo Jr.
Set the Sound
A DJ set, an acoustic band, or a small orchestra—how do you choose the music? Expert caution that the soundtrack of your event sets the vibe of the gathering. “Once the award ceremony concludes, we’ll play our house music, as most of the guests will begin to linger in our lobby,” Carrillo Jr. says.
A smart alternative can also be a movie-inspired playlist. “Soundtracks from 2019 Oscar nominated films or past winners will provide the perfect backdrop to the party scene,” Pina says.