We are currently doing the planning and operational side of a Medieval banquet at the wonderful Old Palace, Hatfield, next month. As a leading live musical entertainment company, we always love doing themed Medieval events, and are lucky enough to work with the best specialist entertainers in the business.
It is a mistake to think that a ‘Tudor’ themed event ‘JUST’ requires a musician playing a lute in doublet. We have seen too many Tudor events with magenta uplighting, so are happy to share our 7 top tips to ensuring you have a great event.
1. Choose specialist entertainers: singers, musicians, actors who will bring the event to life. Inevitably guests will want to engage in conversation with the entertainers, and they will share their passion for this interesting historical era with them.
2. The music, musicians and entertainers. This was a key part of ANY event during Tudor times. Both as background music and featured entertainment. The instruments sound and look very different to modern instruments and guests LOVE taking photos of them as well as enjoying the music. The music also creates a great atmosphere. So be creative: instead of booking a lutenist – who yes, is wonderful, why not be bold and have a duo or even trio playing a variety of instruments. It is a small investment to creating a truly memorable event for your guests. Also jesters, dancers and acrobats played a prominent part in entertainment: both for featured and background entertainment. Don’t be afraid to invest in these!
3. The sound. Of course you want to ensure guests can hear actors speaking, and to our modern ears acoustically played music is often not loud enough. However, we are aware of Tudor events where the sound levels are as high as an after dinner party! The beauty of a Tudor banquet is that there was lots of music, laughter, singing but no one has to shout! So when setting the sound levels, ENHANCE the musical instruments and actors, but don’t make it too loud. Create a sound level that gives the impression everything is acoustic!
4. Lighting. There are plenty of ‘Tudor’ and ‘Medieval’ event images online with default magenta uplights. Why???? This is a massive theme failure and lazy theming. During these times, candles and lanterns were used as lighting creating a unique atmosphere. It is easy enough to recreate this, for a memorable experience for your guests. Either candelabra on tables, or if there are restrictions with live flame usage, there are plenty of battery operated tea lights and candles, which could create a similar light. Creating lovely table decorations with lighting would be lovely. Also, JUST using white uplighting sparingly will create a more authentic feel. Below is the Old Palace, at Hatfield House. At the event, they had candelabra on the tables,and used subtle white lighting to create an amazing atmosphere.
5. Theming your waiting staff. If you have taken the effort to theme your venue; you have the right entertainment; food; lighting and sound, it is a real shame to have the waiting staff in black and white, or all black. It rather breaks the spell! As part of our service, we always offer the option to dress waiting staff in costume. It is another photograph opportunity for guests of course! But do remember to check with the waiters beforehand that they are happy to dress up!
6. Theming your venue. Of course when you work in a venue such as Middle Temple or Hatfield House, the venue speaks for itself. There is little to do, but for more modern venues, being aware of lighting, sound levels etc can all help. Adding decorations, such as flags, candelabra, lanterns, swords, shields and even deer heads (if you can stomach this) all add to the atmosphere as well as fragrant flower arrangements with roses (white and red of course), lavender, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. These all appeared in Tudor knot gardens.
7. Food theming: remember to consult your history books: the potato didn’t arrive until 1584 in the United Kingdom; coffee wasn’t around then! Typical food included what was hunted with root vegetables, seasonal fruits and herbs such as rosemary, thyme and marjoram. Of course your guests would be upper class and the food was spicy; many spices were brought back to England after the crusades: such as ginger, turmeric, saffron, and cinnamon. Drinks and food decorated and flavoured with these would be palatable to our tastes but still be great fun for your guests to eat.