Finding The Perfect Venue
(This part is going to be a little lengthy, so you may want to just skip down to the next.)
What’s more 1920’s than a New York City Penthouse? That’s what I had my heart set on as far as venues go. There are millions of penthouses in NYC, but finding one wasn’t as easy as you’d think. Factors included: a) Price, because, um, they’re EXPENSIVE, b) one that would allow us to bring our dogs, and c) one that would actually ALLOW us to throw a party.
We settled on the Hilton Midtown, because plain and simple, their penthouse fit the bill on all of the above. Also, the history of this room is unbelievable! While it doesn’t date back to the 20’s era, it hasn’t been updated in forever (and I mean this in a good way). It really feels like you stepped back in time into this super posh NYC pad. Plus, so much has happened here! For one, Lucile Ball lived here. Yes, we got to spend two nights in Lucile Ball’s old residence! The Beatles stayed here in ’64 when they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, and really, it’s cool to stay somewhere where not only so and so stayed, but in the ACTUAL room they stayed in. In ’71 John Lennon penned the lyrics to the song “Imagine” on hotel note paper (which now hangs in the hall of fame), but in the living room of the penthouse photos hang on the walls surrounding the actual piano, where the aforementioned people are sitting/posing around. Some others whose pictures can also be found include JFK, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra. In recent years this penthouse has been in films such as American Gangster, and I was even semi-recently watching The Carrie Diaries on Netflix and spotted it on there! I freaked lol!
With all that said, as much as the penthouse was PERFECT for the party, the Hilton Midtown itself did NOT impress. At all. Customer service, check in, check out, etc… they were overall extremely disappointing. On what Earth do you book the hotel’s most expensive suite and not be escorted up there?! Especially when said room is 7,500 square feet?! Seriously though! And just to give an example (of many)… When we checked in we had a lot of stuff with us. We drove down with the dogs, and had borrowed my Dad’s SUV to load up everyone’s luggage, so they could all just come later with their dog. The bell staff was great. There were two guys and two carts and they made about two trips to take everything up. We tipped them SIGNIFICANTLY. We later found a hefty charge on our bill for “additional” bell carts/trips needed. When questioned, we were told they charge anytime a room needs more than one trip and/or one bell cart. The penthouse has 5 bedrooms. Two bell carts went up twice, so that’s 4 carts. That’s less than one cart per bedroom, since we had mostly everyone’s things, but I digress. Also, it’s not like we weren’t spending a small fortune for the room and for hosting the actual party. Nevertheless, they would not hear of it when we tried to argue the charge, and needless to say, between the tip we gave the bellmen, and the charge we later found on our bill, we spent about $100 on transporting luggage. That hurts so bad!
Furthermore, the hotel was a BITCH to work with when it came to the actual party. We had basically a date war for the penthouse. Then, I stupidly (which is admittedly my fault), did the bar on consumption, to which they HIGHLY over poured, but my bad, I admit. However, what really got me were their “labor laws” when it came to bringing in outside food, and you sort of want to here because their prices are OUTRAGEOUS. Hotel prices are crazy to begin with. It’s just a thing. You have to be okay with it, we were. But these were off the charts. I wanted to get some things on my own, because some of my favorite bakeries are just around the corner (hello, it’s Manhattan). So for example, the Hilton wanted $10 PER cupcake. Yeah, read that again. Right about then I was wishing I didn’t do the right thing in telling them we were going to have a party, and instead wished I just booked the room and invited people on my own. Anyway, I eventually was allowed to bring in outside things, but was charged $100 per item PLUS 23% of what they would normally charge for said item. I ended up splitting the difference between going through them on some things and my own for others, and it was painful. One of the things I kept with the Hilton was my birthday cake. It was $750. To feed 30 of my closest friends. It also turned out really bad looks-wise. Afterwards, they ended up refunding half of it because it looked horrible to them too. I mean, one of the waiters during the party put the candles in it to sing and the thing started toppling over. Things like that annoy me just because I have that type A personality and want everything to be perfect, and it SO could have been if I just gotten it from a bakery I wanted! The cake was supposed to be a showpiece. It was not. Nevertheless, a huge part of me just couldn’t swallow paying the price of the cake from where I was going to get it PLUS $100, PLUS almost $200 for the 23% charge they instill. I already overpaid on enough things.
The WORST from the Hilton came in the form of Hhonors points, or… didn’t. From the start I made sure they had our Hhonors number. I mean, it’s no secret we travel a lot and rack up points. The party came and gone, days went by, and other than the points for the hotel room charge, I didn’t see ANY additional points for the food & beverage aspects (minus of course services fee’s, waitstaff, fee’s, etc, because those you can’t get points for). We’ve done a lot of events at hotels before (hello, our wedding!), and have ALWAYS gotten points for food & beverage. So I contacted them, wondering where the points were. The response I got was something along the lines of, “if you wanted to get points that’s something that had to be negotiated into your contract.” Um, what?!
So yeah, our overall experience with the Hilton Midtown was NOT a good one, but the party itself was perfect, and looks and space-wise, the venue was too.
At 7,500 square feet and 5 bedrooms, this duplex penthouse allowed for Josh and I, and my parents to each have the two master suites, my brother and his girlfriend had another bedroom, my other brother in another, and Josh’s Mom in the last. There was enough room for everyone, and that’s what we wanted – family under one roof. Plus, room for about 30 of my closest friends to come celebrate on that Saturday as well! That’s what made the fact that the party was in a hotel so great, because people were able to spend the night if they didn’t feel like heading home. (Also, I won’t mention how the front desk tried to screw some friends out of the room block rate, ugh!). Anyway, some of my favorite things about the penthouse include…
- The View. From pretty much absolutely everywhere.
- The Library. It had a hidden door. I’m pretty sure my next house will now have one of these too.
- The fact that it was a duplex. I don’t know why but I think stairs in suites are SO cool. This place had it’s own elevator too.
- So all five bedrooms were upstairs, and the living spaces were down. Two of the three bedrooms were master suites, and they were both amazing. It was hard to pick which one we wanted!
- I really just loved the way this place was so spread out! The dogs found their favorite spots, yet had such a blast running around.
Look The Part
Everyone loves a good theme party, and my friends sure did dress to impress. We had such a blast with it! Even my parents. I honestly wasn’t even sure they would dress up, but boy did they! I arrived fashionably late (come on, we all do), and my parents suite was across from ours, and I ran into my Dad and just about died laughing when I saw his costume. He sure won best dressed.
Hair & Makeup courtesy of my dear friend Rosemarie over at NY Prostyle.
Keep The Theme Throughout
I always appreciate a party in which the food has some sort of decor/theming element to it. Most of the time food is food, and it’s easy to keep within colors, presentation, etc, so instead of boring you with that, I’m going to show off two projects I did that I had so much fun with!
- Popcorn Holders – this was such a fun DIY (and pretty much the extent of my DIY skills). They turned out so cute!!! So I bought one of those clear plastic trays and filled it with pearls to hold/display the popcorn holders. Then, I made the holders from adorable scrap paper from the craft store. I got about three different kinds and folded/cut/taped them. Then, I added little embellishments, like flat-back pearls, and lace ribbon.
- Champagne Black & White Cookies – another fun DIY, except the cookies, while SO. FREAKIN’. GOOD. did not transport well (FYI: I didn’t bake them, just transported them). They were SO moist (ugh, so good!) that they got stuck to one another from the bumps in the car. Anyway, for this I got a pack of those 1920’s-style plastic champagne glasses from a party supply store. SO perfect! I attached (via glue) a white feather to the side. I was originally going to also put pearls in these, but I didn’t want people to think they could eat them, so instead I got all white personalized M&M’s to fill the glasses with, and then placed a black & white cookie on top. A little NYC, a little 1920’s, and by far the best tasting!
Keep The Drinks Flowing
Seriously, no good party should be without booze. Provide the alcohol either via an open bar or consumption bar. No guest should have to pay to drink. It’s on you, since you’re the host!
Deck Out The Space
Here’s my rule of thumb: Just because you’re having a certain “type” of party, or theme, doesn’t mean EVERYTHING has to be within that specific parameter. For example, decor-wise, yeah, we could’ve had the year plastered everywhere, or other ridiculous, outlandish things, but that’s not really necessary. I love fresh flowers, so we incorporated that, but kept it simple. We added candles, fun linens for the different tables throughout the space, mirrors (hello, art deco), and then of course unique serving platters for the staff to use. Basically, we just kept the colors to whites, black, golds, and silvers, and everything else was game. There were even balloons (within the color scheme), because what’s a birthday party without balloons?! Also, what was really fun, is each floral arrangement stayed within the white color-scheme, but had different flowers – one roses, another peonies, the next anemones, etc. Then of course there were the two huge ones that had a mix of everything (those were placed on the buffet and the piano).
Add Little Details
The most fun thing is the theme itself. So like I said above, we kept the actual decor pretty classy, but it’s still okay to add in some cheese.
- To get to the penthouse, guests had to take an elevator up to the top floor, then ring the bell so we could let them in a special elevator to get to the penthouse/party. Greeting guests so they didn’t have to press the bell/weren’t confused (unless they were super late), was my brother (because I was too cheap to spend the $300 the hotel wanted to have someone do this). He totally played the part and wore a box of cigarettes around his neck (they were candy, and an AWESOME Amazon find!). Everyone LOVED them!
- I also purchased huge cutouts. One was just a display of a 1920’s gramophone that was kept in the “quiet” room (you can see it in one of the decor pictures above), but the other two were MASSIVE and SO FUN. One was a “Gangster” jail backdrop. It was SO BIG, and we had these custom signs made for people to hold up, and they made a Photo Booth out of it.
- The other massive prop we had was a 1920’s car standee. It was HUGE. People really loved posing with it – such a big hit!
Pump Up The Entertainment
Possibly my favorite part of the party was the band. They are a NYC based band called Retro Remix, and were FABULOUS. They are basically a jazz band that plays all these 1920s songs, so as soon as guests entered you just FELT like you were transported back in time.
Then, as the night went on, they started playing popular music with a 1920s twist, and people started dancing.
I mean, they learned Justin Timberlake for me. They were simply THE BEST! Unfortunately, as this is a hotel, the live band had to stop by 11.
Don’t Let The Party Stop
But at 11, the party was first on its way (it only started at 8pm), and our drinks were first hitting us, so we didn’t want to stop.
Just because the band leaves doesn’t mean you have to. Hello iPod and speakers. And more alcohol. The hotel didn’t say we couldn’t have any music past 11. They just said no live music. Thankfully, we didn’t get any complaints.
You guys, we went until 4am. STRONG. It was diehard. Seriously, the best ending to my “roaring 20’s.” My parents and some of the “older” bunch (I’m not calling you old, just older), hit the hay around midnight, and those who were commuting and had a far train ride/drive left soon after, but most stayed, as they either had a hotel room, or didn’t live far. I have NEVER been to a party more fun and crazier than this one.