#Throwback Thursday: Elton John’s 2003 Winter Wonderland Bash Included Fake Snow and Ice Skating Rink

Lorein Abenhaim

The world of celebrity giving is vast, to say the least. With Leonardo DiCaprio committed to the preservation of tigers, and Brangelina having adopted enough kids to form their own model UN, celebrities really make the rounds when it comes to giving back.
More often than not though, the charity stunts celebrities host seem to cost more than they manage to raise for charity. None more so than Elton John and David Furnish’s White Tie and Tiara Ball in 2003 to benefit the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Since 1999, The White Tie and Tiara Ball has become an annual blow out. With themes like “The Glory of Venice,” in 2002 and “Space Odyssey” in 2011, the décor, as well as the entertainment make quite the impression. In 2003, though, the party, while a charity event, was a spectacular display of excess that truly had to be seen to be believed.

Venue: For the past fourteen summers, the White Tie and Tiara Ball has taken over 37 acres of English countryside, next to Windsor castle. With champagne in hand, guests roam around the grounds, passing through the Roman Terrace, the Italian Garden, The White Scented Gardens, the tennis courts, and The Secret Garden – all of which have their own tailored décor and entertainment.
Theme: For the 5th annual White Tie and Tiara Ball, the party grounds we’re transformed into a Winter Wonderland, with the theme being Imperial Russia. A blanket of fake snow covered the Italian Garden, giving it a frosty appearance. Ice rinks were installed, and guests drank while watching figure skaters perform. The décor got even more elaborate when guests walked into a marquee filled with Russian icons and flowers, costing somewhere in the likes of £200,000. Recreating Imperial Russia never looked so enchanting.
Guest List: As expected, the 2003 Ball was a complete A-List affair. With 500 guests frolicking through the gardens, it resembled a celebrity theme park. Famous faces included, Naomi Campbell, Victoria and David Beckham, Kylie Minogue, the Duchess of York, Elizabeth Hurley, Hugh Grant, and multi-millionaire businessman, Richard Caring. You could also spot Judi Dench floating in a hot-air balloon, adorned with the double eagle Imperial crest. That’s one way to admire the 37-acre party.
Attire: The dress code was silver and white and celebrities we’re decked in designer dresses. What really made an impression that night, were the diamonds celebrities sported. Elizabeth Hurley wore a Versace gown with a 180-carat Chopard tiara. While beautiful, the Beckham’s took the crowns for best dressed of the evening. The couple looked radiant in matching silver satin Dolce & Gabbana. As for jewelry, David wore twin Chopard ear-studs, and Victoria wore Graff diamonds on her ears, fingers, and wrists.
Food: To properly capture the Imperial Russian theme, it would only be fitting to serve Russian delicacies. Guests enjoyed chilled borscht, caviar, and peppered beef fillet. They even went so far as to serve edible Fabergé-inspired eggs filled with jasmine flower brulée and wild forest berries for dessert. The royal feast also included frozen Siberian vodka, which was offered in 17 distinct flavors.
Music: Donna Summer, Barry Manilow, and the host himself, Elton John, serenaded the crowd after dinner.
Fun Fact: The bulk of the donation funds were raised through an auction held during the Ball. In 2003, Hugh Grant and Richard Caring got into a bidding war for a private dinner at Elton John’s home. In the end they put their pennies together and shared the dinner, which they donated £380,000 for. Elton John made a generous donation as well, when he auctioned off his piano for £100,000.
Cost: Sponsored by Chopard, the charity bash cost £10 million. Admittance cost was £1,000 per head, and all the proceeds went to Elton John’s AIDS Foundation. Together with the auction, the party raised a total of £2 million. While not nearly as much as the party’s cost, it’s still a handsome donation.