Doll, come on in and meet beautiful salonniere, India Hicks, who’s here to share her top hostess tips as she recalls attending two of the most famous royal parties in history. She is 678th in line to the British Throne after all. The daughter of David Hicks, the famed interior designer, and Lady Pamela Hicks, the daughter of the Earl Mountbatten of Burma, British-born India has blended her chic and royal roots to make a name for herself as the empress of island style. India has her own line of home products called Island Living by India Hicks, her own line of fine jewelry and her own isle-style blog. She has also penned three lifestyle books, built and restored five major properties, designed products for companies including Crabtree & Evelyn, hosted television programs, modeled for top fashion houses and, yes, run marathons. Given this beauty’s busy-bee propensities, it’s a good thing that she, her partner, David, and their five children have a Bahamian sanctuary to call home. Let’s jump in, doll, shall we? Bare feet first, of course.
Your entertaining style?
Barefoot under the stars with lots of candlelight, a mixed bag of guests and several snoring dogs.
Your favorite place to entertain?
On the top of the small hill in our garden, between the swaying palm trees, just as the sun sets and the sky turns blood-red.
India’s outdoor dining table in the garden of her Bahamian home
Tip for making your guests feel welcome?
Music, candles, flattering lighting and a tray of well-made cocktails.
Trait you most admire in a guest?
Go-to hostess outfit?
A long, silk kaftan, damp hair tied into a ballerina bun, gold bangles and bare feet.
What did you learn from your parents about entertaining?
A well thought out placement is essential.
Last party you hosted?
A mid-summer dinner on our terrace with a long table stretching from end to end, lots of teenagers, lots of friends, lots of family and several people being thrown into a warm pool.
India’s table at her recent mid-summer dinner party
How do you stay party ready?
I keep assorted cheeses and crackers on hand. David says cheese never goes off; it simply changes its name.
Let’s play favorites:
Linens—India Hicks for HSN linen sheet collection
Party dress designer—Ralph Lauren
Party shoe for all-night dancing—Haviana flip flops
Hostess gift—Baby pineapple plant, very ornate and can one day be eaten.
You were one of Princess Diana’s flower girls at her wedding to Prince Charles. What do you remember most from that day?
How crumpled her dress was when she came out of that carriage
Twelve-year-old India, second from the left, at the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana
What do you remember most about Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton?
Watching the Buckingham Palace balcony being vacuumed as armed SAS [Special Air Service] officers patrolled the roof top
Party you wish you could go back in time to attend?
Studio 54 in its heyday
Most fascinating person you met at a party?
Does Robert De Niro for coffee one morning count?
India in her office
Who is your dream dinner partner?
Nick Cave, songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and lead singer of the Bad Seeds. He’s a real entertainer and was bloody brilliant at charades after dinner one evening.
What is the party invitation you’d most like to receive?
Dinner with Hilary Clinton in the White House when she is president.
How have your travels influenced your entertaining style?
Once on safari in Africa, we were celebrating one of David’s birthdays. He was served a large cake, shaped in an unusual mound, with a candle on top. The staff clapped and sang and chanted, “Cut it, cut it, cut it, cut it.” David sliced open the cake to find that it was made from fresh elephant poop. We may not bake poop cakes, but we are influenced by the drama of outdoor entertaining, the fun of a relaxed atmosphere and the charm of local customs.
India’s Thanksgiving dinner table
What is the most interesting entertaining custom you encountered on your travels?
Not being allowed to show the backs of our knees, as women, in Malawi. Apparently it arouses the men too much. But having to eat alligator in Cuba so as not to offend my host was trickier.
If you could host a party anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Rajasthan, India, the land of kings. All that color. All those exotics flavors. Dramatic tents and a few elephants.
India prepares for a dinner party on the beach
Next party you’ll host?
Who knows, but February, March, April, May and June always test my imagination. David and four out of five of our children have birthdays then. One year we had so exhausted our birthday party themes that we ended up hosting a food fight on the beach with whipped cream, damp spaghetti and jelly. It was a huge success.
Photos courtesy of India Hicks, Veranda and Habitually Chic