A French 50th Birthday Affair with Lavinia Stewart Brown

In episode four of Desert Island Events, Narmeen speaks with events professional Lavinia Stewart Brown, founder of Stewart Brown events (a boutique event agency). Since graduating from her degree in Journalism, Lavinia has hosted events and weddings of all sizes, ranging from small parties of six to black-tie events of around three-hundred. Lavinia runs her boutique agency by herself – sometimes with the help of a few freelancers – allowing Lavinia to gain a close and meaningful relationship with each of her clients so she can envisage what each of them expects from their big day. 

Lavinia’s dream event covers a two-day, joint 50th birthday extravaganza for a trendy British couple, situated in the stunning South of France. Paying close attention to detail, décor and design, Lavinia paints the picture of an immaculate event featuring stunning design and style as well as exclusive acts as the prime entertainment for the night. The intimate event will hold around one hundred guests, expected to include close family and friends.  

The two-day affair begins on a warm Saturday evening with a black-tie masquerade ball at the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in the French Riveria. The party takes place in the French gardens which overlook the sea. Here, guests can enjoy the view of the picturesque scenery and twinkling lights from the yachts in the distance, creating the perfect evening atmosphere. The exterior of the venue is encapsulated in a soft, pink tone which is lit beautifully to reflect the exquisite wine and dine event. 

In terms of décor, Lavinia describes beautifully set round tables inside the venue laced with delicate, crystal glassware and stunning crockery from Jones, Monmouth and Classic Crockery. The aim is for a picturesque ‘tablescape’ (a portmanteau of ‘tables’ and ‘landscapes’) which Lavinia’s envisions to be one of the most memorable aspects of the event. Each table will be lit up by stunning church candles which hold a subtle but lingering sweet scent to mirror the twinkling lights of the boats in the distance. These will be accompanied by large, crystal hurricane lanterns to complement the Saturday night atmosphere. Large, colourful bouquets of hydrangeas mixed with other seasonal flowers are positioned in abundance on each round table to accompany the black-tie theme. Whilst a large floral installation will frame the door of the venue, acting as an exquisite backdrop for couples’ photographs and entertainment during the night. 

As guests arrive for the evening reception, they will be greeted by an electric string quartet. Whilst starters are being served, the notorious comedian and magician Archie Manners will be set to perform, as well as, Drummond Money-Coutts who will perform his crowd-pleasing table magic. As the night progresses, John Legend will be set to perform accompanied by his piano in front of the stunning floral installation. His performance will continue throughout the night inviting couples to dance, setting the warm and romantic mood. Following his performance, The Arts Club Band will be invited to perform on stage to get guests up and off their feet! 

Lavinia’s favoured caterers for the event include Blue Strawberry and The Essential Party Ingredient who offer quick and efficient five-star service. Catering for the Saturday night will involve a three-course, seated meal beginning with a light and elegant looking Ceviche. This will be followed by a beautifully plated Beef au Jus main course with delicately placed vegetables served alongside a beautiful red wine or Provence rosé. The third course will be a choice of three petite desserts on one plate. The first – a fresh and fruity passionfruit compote, the second – a rich and indulgent chocolate dessert, and lastly a gorgeous Crème Brule to tie in with the French-themed affair. Drinks during the night will range from sophisticated and locally sourced champagne as well as beautiful cocktails served on trays. Come midnight, a stylish cheese station will be in order, complemented with crackers and wine, free for guests to pick and choose from as they dance the night away! 

The following day sees a more relaxed, casual feel as guests are welcomed to a Sunday lunch at Anjuna Beach on the French coast. To set the scene, Lavinia envisions a relaxed dress code with women in swimsuit cover-ups and kaftans, and men in their linen shirts resonating with the relaxed and bohemian vibe. Lavinia pictures large, 6ft, rustic, wooden tables placed nearby an open buffet, seafood station and a separate big barbeque area for guests to chat, lounge around and pick from. The floral arrangements will be slightly more toned down to match the scenery – nude and white coloured flowers will be placed on the tables to match the chic setting. On the last and final hurrah, guests will be entertained by the Gypsy Kings – a fun band, blending flamenco, salsa and pop, getting the crowd in the mood for a little fun and dance as they make their way for a dip in the sea.

Drinks during the event will feature a self-serve Bloody Mary station, given the possible fragile state that guests may be in following the previous evening! Guests will have the chance to select their choice of alcohol, i.e. vodka or gin as well as extras such as tabasco or lemon. Celery stick anyone? The choice is theirs. Finally, for those not feeling the Bloody Mary’s on tap – a selection of local Rose’s and white wines will be served, not forgetting the odd Pimm’s here and there to add that quintessential British touch. 

Surrounded by stunning scenery, delicious food and immaculate décor – Lavinia’s two-day dream event makes for a truly memorable affair! 

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