Talking Event Trends with Matthew David Hopkins

Looking ahead to the parties we’re planning, let’s take a cue from someone who can point us in the right direction

Michael Jurick
Take a cue from a serious event planning pro when preparing for your bash.

Planning a party is no easy task — just ask any event planner or coordinator. Not only is bringing an idea to life a long and often arduous task when you consider all of the factors that go into hosting a large event or wedding, but being forward and savvy in how you do so matters as well.

Matthew David Hopkins, founder and creative director of Matthew David Celebrations is a force in the event-planning world. His résumé reads like a dream for some event planners, as publications like Elle Décor, House & Garden, InStyle, New York Magazine, O at Home, Traditional Home, and The New York Times have featured his work, and massive television networks like ABC, NBC, and MTV have used him as an expert in the field.

Hopkins’ main mission is simply this: to create memories and milestones in peoples’ lives and to create moments that are unforgettable for his clients and their guests — and that’s exactly what he does.

As we begin to plot out our party plans for 2013, we’re taking a cue from the expert on what to try, what to avoid, and how to enjoy the party with your guests when you’re hosting.

What are the must-try trends for 2013?

One of the hottest trends in entertaining right now is to create a fun, casual grazing atmosphere, where delectable food is placed all around your home in stylish containers with small plates available. This format encourages movement and keeps guests interacting with each other. Plus, everyone loves to choose without having to make a commitment to a large plate.

Keep it elegant and add some glam by using colorful small glass plates. Don’t serve items that are awkward to handle or that leave behind anything other than a toothpick or a garnish (no wings, etc.)

What trends should we say goodbye to this year?

One-menu-fits-all is history. So many people have personalized their food intake that you almost have to plan for a guest or two who is vegan, pescatarian, carb-free, or has other dietary restrictions. It’s a great challenge! As a good host, you should be prepared by either asking beforehand or by offering choices, like a grazing-style party does.

What is the ideal strategy so you can maximize time spent with guests and not get wrapped up in other things while hosting your party?

This is a big one. Your guests are there to visit with you. If you are so tied up with plating the food, refilling the ice, and clearing the plates that no one gets your attention, you need to learn to plan better and let go! My business partner, Laurie Stolowitz, taught me to have the oven off by noon (unless you are hosting a smaller dinner party), which means preparing mostly room-temperature or chilled food. Having the oven off also forces you to prepare ahead — it’s great advice.

Are there any particular food themes that you think are on the rise?

Gourmet salts (black, champagne), condiments (olive oils, relishes, tapenades), and garnishes (whole herbs and spices) are all great ways to pump up the creativity to simple foods.

What’s your best-kept entertaining secret when hosting the ultimate party?

Don’t take on too much. If your name isn’t Martha Stewart, only take on the things that you’re best at.

What’s a great base menu to start with for a party that you don’t have ample time to plan and prep for?

If I have no time to cook, I sometimes will call local restaurants and order my favorite dishes. I tell the guests they’re going on a food tour of the area and then serve it up in a stylish roaming/grazing party manner or have it passed by waiters — guests love it!

Look at it this way: If you were a guest, would you prefer to spend time with your relaxed host nibbling on sliders and lo mein or be around a frantic host who may be scrambling to get the food out and saying, "Dinner will be another hour"?


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