How To Plan A Cocktail Party

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Cocktail Party Overview

Cocktails parties are classy social gatherings aimed at entertaining business associates and friends. They're also great for receptions and open houses because they're almost hassle-free to plan. It gained popularity in the first decades of the 1900s, but eventually lost steam. However, cocktail parties are back! A conventional cocktail party lasts 2 to 3 hours, during which guests are served snacks and alcoholic beverages while chatting with other party guests.

As host, you have the honor of introducing friends or business associates and make sure that the food, drinks, and stories don't stop flowing.

The Party Host's To-Do List

Pre-planning: A month before the party

A cocktail party is easy to organize if you prepare early and you take note of the things you need to accomplish before the event.

  1. Choose the date. The perfect day for a cocktail party is over the weekend. Since your guests will be drinking alcohol, they can rest the day after.
  2. Pick the venue. If you're planning an intimate party you can open your home for the party. For something more formal or for business, then a hotel or restaurant function room is your best bet.
  3. Who do you invite? Your next step after deciding on the date for the bash is to make a guest list. Depending on the reason for the party (work, personal, get-together with childhood friends) your guestlist may vary. This is to ensure you don't go overboard and over budget. Plus, you'll never forget to invite anyone important.
  4. Order and send your invites. Once your date and venue are set it's time to order and send your invitations to your guest list.
  5. Plan your budget. Even if money is not an object to you, having a budget on the onset allows you to keep track of your expenses and where to allocate the money.

Planning the Details: 2 to 3 weeks before the party

This is the perfect time to do all your research, scouting, and shopping. Here are the things you need to plan for the cocktail party:

  • Food – it is not necessary to serve a full meal at a cocktail party because the goal of a cocktail party is for guests to be able to go around while eating and drinking. That is why simple, finger foods like hors d' oeuvres, canapés, savory tarts, and sweets are perfect for cocktail parties. Add variety by serving fruit slices and crackers with cheese. Of course, don't forget you beverages: cocktails or beer, champagne, and wine are equally fine choices. If you do decide to serve cocktails, make it easy on yourself and pick one or two that can be made ahead of time. Make sure that you have the items needed to make more cocktails in stock.
  • Decorations – cocktail parties are formal events and therefore need very little fanfare. Decorate the venue with fine linen, candles, and elegant flower arrangements. Place the food and drinks table on opposite sides of the room to avoid crowding and traffic.
  • Entertainment – an elaborate form of entertainment is not a priority at a cocktail party. Just play some mellow music that's conducive for conversation or ask someone to sing live while guests are mingling.
  • Designated Drivers – Be sure to remind your guests to plan on having a designated driver or to take public transportation. You should also provide the number for a local cab company or directions to the bus and train lines.

Cocktail Party Etiquette FAQs

It's always good to practice good manners in any social gathering, and cocktail parties are the perfect occasion to apply what you know. Here are a few more party etiquettes you can add to your repertoire:

How many drinks should I stock?
You should estimate about 3-4 drinks per guest. However, you should also keep extra bottles of liquor in case someone in the party drinks more than your estimate. Also, have some non-alcoholic drinks for people who don't want to drink as well as for those designated to drive.

What time does a typical cocktail party start?
The usual time for a cocktail party is between 6 to 8 pm.

How do I become the perfect host to a cocktail party?
As host, it is your duty to circulate around the party and introduce people who don't know each other. You also have the task of making sure guests don't indulge too much on the drinks. In case this happens, have the phone number of a cab company at the ready. Also, keep the guest's glasses and stomach full, and make sure there are plenty of ice and cocktail glasses at the ready.

What are some great cocktail party favors to give?
Favors remind guests of the kind of party they've been to and how much pleasure they had at that event. You can't go wrong with giving out some cocktail-inspired favors like cocktail shakers, wine glass charms, bottle opener key chains, and martini glasses.

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