The mystery and intrigue of masquerade balls dates back centuries to the Carnival in Venice, Italy. Today, party hosts endeavor to recreate the drama and seduction of the original ball with masquerades of their own. If you are planning to host a masquerade ball, following a few tips will help ensure that your event is a great success.
A masquerade ball is not meant to be a small, intimate gathering. Invite as many guests as possible to ensure a big crowd with less opportunity to recognize others. Avoid inviting guests who don't enjoy dressing up or will not make a sufficient effort to participate in the ball's element of mystery. To help your guest list grow, encourage guests to bring along a date or a friend. Extend invitations to people from all parts of your life, even mere acquaintances, to give the guest list better variety.
The venue needs to be large enough to accommodate your entire guest list, which is ideally at least several dozen strong. Aim for an elegant, spacious venue, such as an actual Victorian or Venetian-style ballroom or posh hotel conference room, or a large one that you don't mind decorating, such as a warehouse. Ambiance is a must, so be prepared to spend a lot of time getting the mood just right.
Masquerade balls were meant to be the ultimate in opulence, so avoid common party foods like chips and dip. Instead, ask a caterer to prepare an elegant menu of foods, such as mini quiches, smoked salmon, shrimp, canapes, gourmet finger sandwiches or even sushi. If you're on a budget, serve two or three signature cocktails, such as a "Venetian Margarita" (drop a plastic gondolier party favor into each). If your resources are unlimited, stick to cocktails and wine. Provide water and soft drinks to quench thirst, since masquerade costumes can leave guests rather hot. Since a cup can be hard to manage while still masked, provide drinking straws that will slip easily under a mask.
Your invitations should reflect the elegance of the event and the theme you have chosen. Include the date, time and location of the ball in addition to an RSVP date. Include a card along with the invitation that explains the history and purpose of a masquerade ball, in addition to the necessity of anonymity to maintain the appropriate air of mystery. Strongly urge participants to spend considerable time on their costumes in order to produce something authentic.
Set out laminated mini-posters or postcard-size cards at the ball so that guests see them immediately. They should include a list of masquerade ball "rules" to follow, such as not guessing (aloud) any other guest's identity and waiting until midnight to remove masks. Guests should also keep others guessing as to their own identities; for example, by modifying their voices. Include a few impersonal topics that guests can discuss without giving away their identities. Encourage guests to flirt openly with one another, but to avoid doing anything that might permanently harm relationships.