Mysterious, glamorous and fabulously decadent, there are few event themes more thrilling than a masquerade ball. Whether you’re hosting a low-budget night or a budget’s-blown-out-the-window affair, a masquerade event is guaranteed to get your guest’s pulses raised before they even arrive. Hosting an event, however small or large, can be a challenging task, but once you decide on your theme and read our guide, the rest will simply fall into place. Just think of us as your virtual event planner – here to ensure your bash goes with a bang!
A masquerade ball is an elegant party theme where glamorously-dressed guests don elaborate Venetian masks, traditionally worn to conceal their identity at upper-class social events – and they’re so much fun!
Many people associate the masquerade event with originating in the Venetian Renaissance in 16th century Italy. However, masquerade balls began much earlier in the 15th century in France, where people would dress up to celebrate up-and-coming Lent. Excessive consumption of meats, alcohol and other treats that would be given up during Lent was common – the essence of these events has always been, and still is, indulgence!
Masquerade balls as we know them later developed into costumed celebrations in Venice, where the upper classes would hold extremely lavish parties, with music and dancing. There are many reasons that masks were originally worn at these events: from anonymity to simply entertainment as guests had to guess the identities of others.
Although the masquerade tradition passed by the end of the 18th century, there’s been a modern-day resurgence of these parties, as the element of excitement and glamour these events cast is timeless.
Masquerades were traditionally large events where 100-200 people would gather, wearing the most elaborate painted masks and finery they owned. Nowadays, we’d recommend that there should be at least 40 people to give your event the same buzz the masquerade ball thrives within.
The theme works perfectly for a whole host of gatherings, such as a university graduation ball, summer ball, garden party, charity ball, prom, end-of-year party or a work Christmas do. People are often looking for something unique and memorable to use as a theme for their wedding reception, and with the amount of people often attending such occasions, a masquerade theme would certainly make your big day one for your guests to remember!
For those who are looking to add the magic of a masquerade to a more low-key gathering, why not ask guests to wear Venetian masks to a birthday party or even a hen do – whether you’re going to a ball or not, arriving at an event with everyone wearing the glamorous Venetian masks adds a certain excitement!
So you’ve decided the classic elegance of the masquerade ball is perfect for you – excellent! Now comes the practical bit of planning… Where you hold an event is entirely dictated by your budget, but here are some top tips for things to take into consideration:
A summer wedding reception will need a very different venue to a December Christmas party. If your event is in summer, why not hold the ball outdoors? If you’re lucky enough to live in a climate where the weather’s reliable, holding the event under the stars is a totally magical idea. You’ll need lighting, a dancefloor putting down and some pop up amenities, but what’s more elegant that dancing at midnight under the moonlight?! If you can’t rely on the weather, why not hold your event in a marquee or tipi. These venues have a very special feel, as the tents can be put up in unusual locations such as fields, by pretty lakes or even on the beach. What’s more if you have, or can borrow, a garden that’s large enough, it’ll save costs on the venue hire.
Insider’s tip: Bear in mind how your guests will get to and from the event. Make sure there’s a local taxi service who are willing to visit the venue on your chosen evening – especially important if your venue is an unusual location…
To plan a successful masquerade ball indoors, there are some essential things to look out for when scouting a venue. Practically, you need to make sure the room is big enough for all your guests to be dancing at the same time. Like a traditional masquerade ball, the activities will be centred around the dancefloor so bear this in mind! If the venue has high ceilings, a staircase and attractive lighting already, this all helps lend itself to creating an elegant atmosphere, (and will save on decor budget!). Country manor homes, hotel function rooms or town halls are all impressive venues for this type of event.
Why not contact local guest houses, B&Bs or even large Airbnbs to see if they allow for functions. Village and church halls can also be excellent places to hold masquerade balls on a budget – it all takes a little vision and creative decorating skills!
Insider’s tip: When looking at venues, take a tape measure so you can limit the amount of repeat trips you need to do to arrange decorations.
You’ve booked your venue – congratulations! – now comes the fun bit of decorating the venue to wow your guests. Here are some essentials to bear in mind:
Insider’s tip: Buy a can of gold spray paint and customise accessories or table decorations without spending big!
Music, dancing and food are the essential elements to any successful masquerade-themed night, but the main event is when the clock turns midnight and guests remove their masks, revealing their identities!
Up until this point, keep guests entertained with music! If your budget is bigger, why not splash out on a live band who can keep the party atmosphere alive and the dancefloor full! It all depends on the tone of your event, but if you’re going for a refined atmosphere, think about hiring a string quartet or harpist to play as your guests mingle.
If your budget won’t stretch to live music, there are plenty of playlists on Spotify and YouTube for masquerade themed events – simply play them over speakers (making sure you have the ad-free versions!) Although the Waltz isn’t authentic to the era of the Renaissance, it creates a magical ambience when played and will get couples dancing (whether they know how to or not!)
If you’re looking for other sources of entertainment, why not hire a magician or set up an auction to raise money for the “Save Venice” charity if you don’t already have a charity you’re raising for. Even if these aren’t traditional masquerade activities, ask the people involved to wear masks too to keep the theme strong.
Insider’s tip: If you don’t have any items to auction, guests could auction themselves off for a dance at midnight – this will add some excitement around the unveiling of masks as the clock strikes 12!
Food needs some careful consideration at masquerade balls as most people will be wearing masks! But instead of serving huge meals, why not have small canapes or bite-sized options to keep people wearing their masks. Savoury and sweet options are good, but the main thing to remember is the whole presentation from food to service! If you hire a catering company, explain the theme to them, and even ask the waiters to wear masks too. A top tip is to serve well-recognised canapes but call them Renaissance or Venetian themed names. For instance, ask the waiters to call Smoked Salmon Blinis “Saint Mark’s Salmon Blinis” – although this may raise a few smiles amongst guests, it’s the attention to detail that they will remember!
Insider’s tip: Fill bowls overflowing with fruit and veg – although this may not all get eaten by your guests, it’s a quick and easy way to give the illusion of abundant feasting!
Last but most importantly is the preparation of your costume! As the host, you’ll be expected to wear something totally fabulous on the evening so make sure you plan an outfit in advance.
There are many places to get a Venetian costume from, but the best thing to do is to hire one, as you’re unlikely to regularly wear your outfit! If you’d rather get stuck into a bit of DIY, why not customise an outfit you already own. Ladies can sew lace, beads or large diamantes onto dresses, whilst men could make capes from haberdashery fabrics. It all depends on how much time you have running up to the event, but it’s a good chance to get creative if you’re feeling crafty.
Undoubtedly the best bit of finding a costume for such an event is picking out your mask! With endless options to choose from including gold leaf, lace trim, mosaics, bejeweled or feathered, the best thing to do is put some time aside to browse and discover which one is for you.
As the host, you’ll probably want a mask that ties with ribbon rather than on a stick – as you’ll most likely be busy running around on the night. There are even masks that can be attached to glasses – so no one has any excuse for not donning one!
Insider’s tip: Set a competition up for the best mask – the winner will be chosen on the night. This will get your guests interest in picking a winning mask going!
So there you have it – with venue picked, costume bought and entertainment chosen, you’ll be ready to kick back, enjoy your amazing night and let the compliments come rolling in!