Every great hostess has a secret weapon in her arsenal, whether a divine soufflé recipe or a foolproof ice-breaker game. In the case of power players such as architect Richard Meier, business magnate George Soros and, yes, Presidents Obama, Clinton and Bush, the secret is event planner Bronson van Wyck, who honed his entertaining skills as an aide to Pamela Harriman when she was the U.S. Ambassador to Paris. We catch up with Bronson in the midst of planning a bloom-filled party in The Big Easy for the NBA All Stars (above). And, of course, we got him to spill on his trade secrets to throwing the perfect garden-inspired party — from flower markets to floral arrangements.
Keep them natural. It’s the time of year to truly relish in what spring has bloomed. I like a mix of flowers, fruit, branches, leaves and even herbs.
And when it comes to tabletop items…
I love using elements with a hint of flora and fauna. Whether it’s bamboo silverware or china with slithering snakes, the serving pieces can tell a story as much as the table decorations. Sabre has fabulous flatware options in a variety of styles and, if I had all the money in the world, every table I set would be with Alberto Pinto china.
My inspiration for the decor above…
The patina of old New Orleans. The town has such an influence of nature — the trees, the mosses and the gardens of the old mansions — I wanted to capture these lush environments and bring them indoors with a pop of yellow.
To create your own botanical-inspired table at home…
Incorporate citrus fruits, fresh herbs, mosses and trees into your table arrangements. Lemon branches, yellow mimosa, topiaries, scotch and English mosses are all elements that feel lush and fresh beyond traditional flowers. We even have a topiary terrier on these tables.
Key elements to a fabulous dinner party…
1. Great guests. Oscar Wilde always said he liked men with a future and women with a past. This is a very good place to start. And because most people are either talkers or listeners — only the rarest individual is both, and they get invited everywhere — it’s good to think about that ratio as well.
2. Plenty of alcohol. No great story begins with a cup of tea.
3. A happy host. The most important element of a good party is a host who’s enjoying him- or herself. Your friends are there to see you having fun. If you’re not, it shows. If you are, everything else can be forgiven.
The chicest table decor always…
Includes a surprise or two. We had lots of animals on the farm where I grew up, from peacocks to miniature goats to a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig named Jacqueline Root Onassis van Asch van Wyck. Mom trained our cat, Benedict, to sit perfectly still inside a basket she sometimes put in the middle of the table. No one would realize that he was there until, at some point during the meal, he would stand up to stretch. He would then settle back down in his basket, but after that the guests never would.
Vita Sackville-West’s garden at the Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. It is the perfect expression of its creator’s soul. You feel like you’re looking into her brain as you walk through it.
Favorite flower market in the world…
Hands down the best is in Amsterdam. Although I only make it to this Dutch flower mecca once a year, we have a piece of it right here in Manhattan. The New York Flower Market buys most of its inventory at auction from Amsterdam so you could say I’m only footsteps away.
My New York Flower Market mornings…
My daily walk to work takes me down 28th Street where you can find every bloom, plant or tree guaranteed to instantly bring spring to your home. Set an alarm and pick up an espresso — the best selection is gone by 8 AM. Oh, and it is also the best-kept secret for Christmas ornaments, but that is for another post.
Tip for the flower-arranging novice…
Scotch tape. It does more than wrap your gifts! Stretch a grid of thin pieces of tape across your vase opening to keep each stem in place. I promise your guests will never know.
More to explore in Entertaining
- Entertaining 11.12.20 Expert Advice: Setting a Welcoming Holiday Table
- Entertaining 11.10.20 Our Go-To Gift for Food (and Travel) Lovers
- Entertaining 10.26.20 The Booming Business of Booze-Free Cocktails
- Entertaining 10.16.20 Brunch with Madame de la Maison’s Ajiri Aki
- Entertaining 10.6.20 At-home Picnics with Bronson van Wyck