Spectacular!Spectacular! Masquerade Ball April 27, 2013
So you get engaged, spend 10 months organizing the big day, you get married, a bit surprised at how smoothly things went, go on a honeymoon and then back to normal life.
Although my ‘normal life’ is according to generic standards not particularly normal; none of the 9 to 5 thing going on, more of a 8-23, but with breaks for running, coffee, training, naps etc; no work dress code, but then dressing up for events, (one week as queen Katherine of Aragon, the next as a Victorian lady, or a 15th century merchant’s wife, or an aristocratic escapee from the French revolution…), I found that I missed the excitement of the preparation for the wedding.
So when my newlywed husband asked me a few months into the wedlock if I had any particular plans for the following year, the answer was: ‘I want a ball! Preferably a Victorian one, but a fantasy/steampunk one would not be frowned upon either’.
This sort of wishful thinking is generally ‘easier said than done’, but, with lots of contacts in the re-enactment community, dance groups and alternative subcultures, it turned out to be a bit more feasible.
We started with some basic market research, asking a simple question on Facebook. Within a few hours we had lots of positive replies, and although you do tend to take such things with a pinch of salt – usually about a third of the people who declare they are interested in doing something ends up doing it – the rest fall behind as the timing, cost or other life issues pop up.
Still, it was a start.
Finding the venue was the next big step. We visited a few suitable venues – Woburn Abbey was stunning, but well above our means – we could afford it only if we didn’t want to offer food, and we felt that a nice little buffet served half way through would be quite popular.
Still, the stunning surroundings of the place offer a lot of potential, and I suppose it would be a very strong contender if we ever considered a ball without the option of food.
Wrest Park was the next on our list – again, absolutely lovely and one of my firm favourites, but the catering option would eat our finances down to nothing in no time at all, or make the price of tickets far too high.
And then we found Heatherden Hall, a part of Pinewoods Studios. After a short visit, we were enchanted. Lovely rooms, stunning gardens, and what’s more important – within our budget – even with the catering. We needed to pay a bit more to cover the cost of covering the entire ballroom with proper dance floor, but it was worth it.
Venue booked, ticket prices and guest numbers more or less agreed on, it was time to get a Facebook event going and start advertising, marketing and selling tickets. It was relatively early and we still had about 9 months, but it never does any harm to plan early!
Lucas & I came up with some lovely wording for the page and the rest is history…
So, let me show you the place and explain what is happening on the day….
The Venue: we have the use of the following rooms on the ground floor:
Most important: the Ballroom. This will be floored with oak panelling, entirely suitable for about 200 people to throw themselves around in waltzes, tangos and more modern rhythms.
The Pools room – That’s where the grub will be! Tables in the middle, with casual seating all around. It even sports a very elegant little lounging section with a working fountain!
Club bar, selling quality booze!
Hitchcock room – ideal to serve the welcome drinks, and for sitting and chatting before the ball starts.
The Pine room – this will form the ladies’ boudoir…. a place for the girls to change into their frocks, and to leave their coats and bags behind.
The conservatory – Sarah, our stylist, with her helper Lizzie, will be setting up a beauty parlour there. Lots of room to change as well, and it has a direct access onto the patio and to the gardens. If you want an appointment with Sarah to have lovely make up done and your hair styled, drop her a line – I understand there are only a few places left!
The gardens – absolutely stunning, and hopefully the weather will be kind enough for us to have a relaxing walk about – there are some really lovely spots to take pictures in all your finery too!
The place will be staffed, including security guards, to make sure everybody can feel safe and relaxed.
A professional photographer, Paul Mockford, will set up a stand in one of the rooms – there you will have an unique opportunity to have your photo taken by a professional photographic artist, and printed on the spot, for a small charge.
Access to the venue will be from 6pm: you will then have about an hour and a half to make any final preparations, enjoy your welcome drink, have a stroll in the garden and enjoy the surroundings.
The ball will open from 8pm. For the first hour, the talented Charlotte will be putting us through our paces in some historical dance tuition. Do not be afraid, most dances are not fast (though we may have a go at a waltz and a polka…) and can be danced with either male or female partner. Sophie and Chris from ‘Blast from the Past’ will be providing live music for this part of the ball!
Once we have practiced our dancing and are all warmed up, our DJ will kick in with more traditional music: we will have some waltzes, tangos, polkas, etc – since the ball is named after a song from the Moulin Rouge film, the music from the movie will feature strongly on the agenda! We will mix in slower dances with more modern beats, so expect a fully eclectic mixture – from polkas, jazz, cha -chas and salsa to rock and roll and modern dance pieces, so that everybody will find something to hop, jump, glide, swoosh, sway and spin around to. We will most likely start with the traditional and dance our way towards more modern tunes as the night progresses – so ladies wearing more cumbersome frocks are free to dash to the Pine room and change into less restricting attire, should they wish.
And when hopping around gets a bit tiresome – the buffet in the Pools room will be available from 9pm onwards. The menu is rather impressive we combined two different sets, making sure there is a more or less balanced choice for all of our carnivorous and vegetarian guests, with special diets catered for as well. The Hitchcock Bar will be open until 12.30 … so there will be plenty of drinks to quench your thirst.
Menu: Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagels
Rare Roast Beef with Horseradish in a Mini Yorkshire pudding
Broccoli and Stilton Quiche
Mini Chicken Salsa… Wraps
Salmon Fish Cakes with Lime Mayonnaise
Crispy Vegetables with Plum Sauce
Sea Salt and Black Pepper Potato Wedges
Assortment of Finger Sandwiches
Chicken Satay with Coconut and Lime
Breaded King Prawns with a Mango Salsa.
Oriental Seafood Parcels with Soy Sauce
Mini Cheese burgers
Lamb kofta kebabs with mint and yogurt dressing
Spinach and Feta Goujons
dessert:Wild Berry and Apple Crumble
Dancing, chatting, lounging and all the revels will last till after midnight, carriages are planned for 1am
The dress code:
Although Moulin Rouge Victoriana/Steampunk or evening wear is recommended, we expect a truly eclectic feel to the evening; simply wear whatever makes you feel Spectacular and Special, and you will dazzle! So whether it is a Tudor dress and a top-hat, a Venetian carnival outfit, a Steampunk gown or a modern evening wear, simply be whoever you want that night.
We have pinned an inspiration board here…http://pinterest.com/priorattire/spectacular-spectacular-masquerade-inspiration/
I will have a few dresses for hire on the night – link here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.429609537113456.98657.320351544705923&type=1
The one thing that WILL be expected of you, (at least for the first hour or so), will be a mask….
More details can be found on the event’s pages:
Tickets – not many left and the deadline is 12th April. After that date only recycled tickets will be available – a step necessary since as we are providing food, the catering folks need to know the exact numbers 2 weeks ahead… Tickets can be purchased by BACS, Cheque, (details on fb), or for those preferring Paypal, you can buy them here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/124673581/spectacular-spectacular-prior-attire
And so now, with just 6 weeks to go, the pressure and the expectation are starting to build – I cannot wait to see all the people dressed in their finest, swanning around, swaying to the music, or lounging around the fountain; gallant gentlemen helping the ladies to find the tastiest morsels, the chevaliers whisking their sweethearts away for a romantic walk in the garden; ladies chattering behind their fans about the dances and frocks; the men enjoying a whiskey at the bar… ‘romantic, nostalgic and passionate’ is the feel I would like to experience for the night – and that depends on the people taking part. Somehow, I do not feel I will be disappointed – and I know we will have a great time – in fact, we will have a Ball!