How to Throw an Awards Show Viewing Party That's Totally Celeb-Worthy With Tips from A-List Event Producer Tony Schubert
It's that time of year where we all get envious of the lifestyles of the rich and famous: awards season. With the Golden Globes coming up on Jan. 11 and a slew of other shows to follow, our jaws will drop at gorgeous dresses, and we'll applaud from home when stars take the stage. Even though this all could happen while wearing sweatpants on the couch, why not bring around a group of friends to cheer for exciting wins and boo at snubs while watching? Throwing an awards show viewing party isn't too difficult — all you really need is some pizza and wine. But if you want to step up your game and impress your pals, try throwing a celeb-worthy soiree just like the incredible parties that actors are enjoying in Hollywood. It may sound daunting, but you can do it for a fraction of the cost and without breaking a sweat. How, you ask? Well, I have a secret weapon: Tony Schubert, the owner of celebrity-approved event production company Event Eleven, who throws the glitzy annual Audi pre-Golden Globes party and huge bashes for the SAG Awards and Grammys. And those are just two of his big-name clients.
As Schubert explained to me, it's all about creating the perfect ambiance, the right balance of food and cocktails, and making everyone feel comfortable. Even though you won't be wearing ball gowns — though you totally can to up the ante — you should feel transported to Hollywood for the night, embracing your inner A-lister and kicking off your heels for a fun evening with friends. Below, he gives seven easy tips for hosting the perfect at-home viewing party, which can also apply to any party you throw that needs a little glitz and glamour.
1. Dim the Lights
If you want to look like a celebrity, just bring the lights down. If you can't afford to bring in an electrician to put your lights on dimmers — which Schubert says is a great investment for your whole life, not just the night of the party — there's a quick swap that will work just as well: amber light bulbs. "It's a super cheap and easy trick to make everyone look fantastic. Everything is beautiful in amber light," Schubert promises. Overall, the key is to not make your house too bright. "It should be bright enough to hold a conversation but dim enough to look sexy," he adds. Snag some amber light bulbs at Amazon for $11.57. The image above is from the 2015 Audi pre-Golden Globe bash, which featured plenty of gorgeous lighting.
2. Separate Spaces & Make Sure Everyone Is Comfortable
After you've dimly-lit your place, try to keep the viewing party in one section and food in another. If possible, have food and drinks spread out on a table and have everyone sit on couches and other chairs around the television to relax. If you have a cramped apartment — hey, neighbors in NYC — then improvise with end tables or even a stack of books to help designate distinct areas. "Creating movement is important," Schubert says. "Open up the space as much as possible." And overall, make sure everyone is comfy. "You want a lounge experience where people can kick off their heels and stay awhile," he says, which is a trend he sees (and uses himself) at many awards show parties in Hollywood.
3. A Bar Cart Is Your BFF
If you're hard-up for tables and flat surfaces to serve food on, buying an inexpensive bar cart is a great fix. Try your favorite store (read: IKEA), Home Depot, or a local yard sale to find one on a budget, but focus on size and shape — don't get hung up on the color or finish. Schubert points out you can just take a can of spray paint to it, using fun glam colors like silver or rose gold. If you have the space, it's nice to move through the house to serve drinks, and it's a great talking point for the party. I like this one from Target for $109.
4. Create a Signature Cocktail
Instead of buying different types of wine, beer, and liquor, stick to one or two cocktails. They can be tried-and-true classics like a Cosmo, but try to think out of the box with a signature drink for the night. At this year's Audi pre-Golden Globes party, Schubert served "Eve's Cocktail," a delicious blend of fresh apple juice, cinnamon infused vodka (try Smirnoff's Cinnamon Churros), a hint of lemon juice, and cinnamon. If that's not your style, Schubert recommends sticking with one type of liquor — like an infused vodka, bourbon, or tequila — that you build a cocktail around. When in doubt, always go for a lot of color and a great garnish for the wow factor, and don't mix them too early unless you're going for a sangria or big-batch punch that you can spike later. No one likes a watered-down drink!
5. Keep the Food Fresh & Don't Run Out
One of Schubert's best party-hosting tips is to allow people to come for a cocktail hour before the festivities start. For example, if the show starts at 8 p.m., invite people specifically for drinks at 7 p.m., then let everyone make a plate of food to enjoy while watching. To keep things fresh throughout the show, he suggests using mesh food tents (Crate & Barrel, $5.95) that are typically used for barbecues outside. Cheese and charcuterie plates especially benefit from this if they're sitting out for a few hours, and for those, he suggests a fun-colored dish or pizza board to change things up. You can also use small catch bowls to put in jams, nuts, and fruit to accompany the cheese.
6. Pick Fan-Favorite Appetizers
As for the food itself, don't just go for cheese plates — make dishes that everyone will want to eat so you won't be left with a lot of wasted food. Schubert warns not to fuss around with too many fillers like pigs in a blanket or deviled eggs and also suggests to keep specific guests in mind when you're planning. Think about which friends will probably eat more, remember who is vegetarian, and then pick a few great appetizers after that. Some of the apps that were big hits at his recent party were mini burgers, tuna tartar cones, tiny roast beef sandwiches, and gourmet three-cheese grilled cheese. Basically, anything you can eat in one or two bites, and forget about skewers — they make everything awkward to eat. And if you use paper products to serve, try to go with something eye-catching and simple, like Cheeky Home's modern plates (Target, $3.99), a brand that Mindy Kaling loves.
7. And Lastly, Don't Forget the Photo Booth
One of the biggest hits of any party, Schubert says, is the modern-day photo booth. You can set one up at home with a fun backdrop, some props, and a tripod. Just prop up your iPad or tablet to take photos and have someone control it. Or, buy a selfie button (Urban Outfitters, $14.99), then hook it up to a photo printer. You can also use an app like Pocketbooth (iTunes App Store, $0.99) to take pictures, put them in a photo booth frame, and then print and/or share to social media. Make sure to have some fake statues on hand and enormous bottles of champagne!