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Top tips for planning the perfect party at a palace

Kensington Palace

Isobel Heaphy, Senior Events Executive at Kensington Palace and Kew Palace (cared for by independent charity Historic Royal Palaces) reveals her top tips for planning the perfect party at a palace

  1. Clear objectives
  • What do you want your event to achieve – will it raise the profile of your business? Will it bring key clients and people together? Are you aiming to raise money or just to have fun and celebrate?
  • Who are you inviting to the event?
  • With this information we can tailor the enquiry to your exact needs and make sure you have the most bespoke offer. Without it we are quoting and advising in the dark.
  1. Time
  • At Kensington Palace we have a quota on the number of events each year – we can only host 85 commercial events a year, so it is essential to book early.
  • Lead times are now much shorter – nine years ago when I was planning weddings, brides would book two years in advance – now it’s nine months!
  1. Fail to plan, plan to fail
  • Creating and working to a timetable with all the main dates and deadlines regarding the event will help clarify what is outstanding and when it is required by.
  • In venues such as Kensington Palace there are channels and protocols we have to follow, so last-minute requests or changes can be tricky.
  • Make sure everyone knows what is going on – reporting regularly to the venue and contractors working on the event may feel like you are being OTT, but we would much rather you bombard us with too much information than not tell us anything at all.
  1. Practical considerations
  • Health and Safety – venues and approved suppliers will always have Risk Assessments taken care of. If you are putting in something unusual, however, think about what additional cover might need to be brought in.
  • First Aid – make sure you know who will be responsible for this on the day – most venues will provide first aid cover, but for large events you might want to ask a first aid organisation to attend.
  • Transport – this is crucial for us at Kensington Palace, as it affects which gates we can open and whether we need a traffic or taxi marshal.
  • Access – the gates to the park at Kensington Palace are locked at night, and one of the biggest challenges we face is the fact that we are entirely landlocked. It is essential to communicate to guests regarding access pre-event and we can offer guidance on wording and maps to help brief drivers. Make sure to let the venue know if any disabled guests are attending to ensure the guest experience is as seamless as possible.
  • Photography – With copyrighting laws, it is becoming more difficult to photograph people without permission. Check the company policy on this.
  1. Bookings, permissions and licences
  • Make sure the venue is booked and confirmed, and you have a countersigned copy for your own files.
  • Be aware of what is included in the venue hire and what is not – when you are hiring the bare bones of a venue, as it were, you have to assume that is exactly what it is.
  • Find out about the regulations for the venue early on – as Royal Palaces we are exempt from the majority of licensing, but at other venues it can take up to a few months for some licenses to be granted. You may need to consider temporary event notice, street collection license, road closure permit and permission to use public land.
  1. Budget
    Cost always creeps up on an event. Take into account all of your costs so that you don’t end up with any nasty surprises along the way. Examples include hire of equipment such as tables, PAs, exterior lighting, decorations, insurance, transport, etc.
  1. A week out, make sure you know…
  • Who will be there on the day – guests, suppliers, staff, etc.
  • Are you clear on who is responsible for what?
  • Have you dealt with all the pre-event admin – guest list/dietaries/transport details
  • Do you know what time you have access to the venue and what time the suppliers will be there?
  • Does anything need to be delivered? Are there any gift bags to organise?
  • Is there a wet weather plan?
  • What time does the venue need to be clear by?
  • What happens if time runs over?
  • Has everyone involved in the event been fully briefed?
  1. On the day…
  • Take photos for social media. Is there a hashtag?
  • Don’t get to the venue too early – it is difficult for venues to manage large groups of people arriving when they have nowhere to put them.
  • If you are using approved suppliers, trust them. They’ve been doing their job for years and have worked on hundreds of events.
  1. Post-event
  • Share photos – we see so many different set-ups as a venue, it’s always great for us to have a record of an event in case the client comes back in the future.
  • Provide feedback – the good, the bad and the ugly. While we of course love to hear that the event went perfectly, if for some reason it didn’t we need to know. Even if it seems like a tiny element, we recognise the financial investment in hosting events at our palaces, so even the smallest things matter.
  • Are you thinking of rebooking for next year? Do you need to hold any key dates?
  • If you would like to move venue, ask us for recommendations. At Historic Royal Palaces, we have five London venues that we can advise on – all utterly fabulous and with their own character!

To find out more about Historic Royal Palace’s event venues, visit hrp.org.uk/hire-a-venue