“For many families, coming together to decorate the Christmas tree is the official start of the festive season, but for a growing number of very wealthy people it is just another task to be outsourced to professional help for as much £80,000.
Calling in a Knightsbridge florist to hang a wreath on your front door and install and decorate a fir tree costs a minimum of £1,500. But the battle among London’s elite to produce the most spectacular Christmas displays has intensified, with professional events companies being called in to create winter wonderland house and garden displays that can come with ice rinks, live reindeer and even actors playing Santa or sugar plum fairies.
“Hiring florists for Christmas has been happening for years,” said Becky Handley, director of the event production company Theme Traders. “But in the last few years people have started calling in event planners to come up with themes and make a real production with professional lighting and cherrypickers to decorate the roof.”
Handley, whose company has had more than 50 people working on Christmas installations since mid-November, said the demands of ultra-rich clients were becoming more extensive every year and coming up with ideas for next year’s displays would start in January at Christmasworld, an international decorating trade fair in Frankfurt.
“People want the whole of the front of houses lit up, and bear in mind these houses are pretty big,” she said. “Those with young children want real snow on 1 December, and we can make it happen.
“People also want immersive experiences. They will ask us to provide carol singers, Santa, sugar plum fairies and real reindeers,” she said. “People have gone a bit bonkers about Christmas.”
She said the cost of a “production Christmas” started at a few thousand pounds but could easily stretch into the tens of thousands. “It’s how long is a piece of string really,” she said. “Last year we did one that cost £80,000 – it really depends on what people want.”
Client confidentially clauses prevent Handley from saying too much about the £80,000 decorations, but she said the job involved dressing the whole house, installing an ice rink in the driveway, and going back several times to change the design “depending on [the client’s] social calendar” ….”