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10 Steps to the Perfect Cocktail Party


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Renowned party planner, David Tutera describes successful cocktail parties as theatre.  The host is the director, you have a space that needs props and activity to keep your audience amused and entertained at all times, and the event needs a directed beginning, crescendo and an end.  We couldn't agree more - cocktail parties are one of the hardest parties to pull off, but if it's done well, your guests will talk about nothing else for weeks and you will be the Academy Award winner of party planners! 

Hosting the perfect cocktail party doesn't take a genius, but it does take a host who can keep the activity flowing throughout the party.  If this is you, here are our 10 steps to the perfect cocktail party.

  1. Start with glamorous party invitations that let guests know when, where, who and what to wear.  Let your guests know it will be a cocktail party so they can dress accordingly and let their imaginations create the idea of the party.  Set the scene with the theme of your party invitations - there are lots of chic designs available to buy online to set the mood for the party from the very first contact with your guests.
  2. Once you have decided on the space for your cocktail party, make lots of spaces for your guests to mingle.  You don't want one giant area where everyone congregates, rather many spaces where guests can move freely, relax and rest their drinks, nibble on the food and be entertained by the wonderful music and company.
  3. Spread the decorations around the party to complement the mingling spaces.  Cocktail party decorations can be as simple as decorative candles, vases with fresh flowers, candle bags or luminaria, and elegant string lights.  If you have the budget, you can create stunning cocktail party spaces using uplights and coloured lights hired from event professionals.  You want to create an elegant and ambient space without harsh lighting - keep them dim and low - whether you are hiring professionals or decorating yourself.
  4. Always put the bar as far away from the door as possible.  You don't want your guests mingling near the entrance way, so place the bar at the back of your venue so guests arrive and greet people on the way to getting their first drink of the night.
  5. Serve canapes and nibbles throughout the party and with waiters or on platters that are rotated and freshened throughout the event, not in one buffet space.  Again, this is about ensuring that there is theatre throughout the party and also that guests have ample food to buffer the cocktails they are enjoying.
  6. Create a sexy ambience with carefully chosen music.  Party music should enhance the ambience and conversation, not overtake it, so go easy on the volume.  You will need to adjust it several times throughout the party as more guests arrive, settle in and begin to talk more loudly and as the guests start to depart.  Try to set the volume of the music at a level so that guests can talk without raising their voices.  Select music according to the party theme and guests - and if you have several speakers available, place them around the room so that the room is "filled" with music rather than it only coming from one location.
  7. Serve a selection of cocktails to suit many tastes.  One of the main pleasures of organising a cocktail soiree is the cocktail menu.  It's wonderful to have a signature cocktail that suits your theme, but you also need a few other options to please all manner of tastes.  On the other hand, don't have too many options as you will overwhelm the guests with choices and also make it difficult to mix the drinks for guests quickly.
  8. Have a dedicated bar with staff to serve drinks and freshen the food throughout the night.  If your budget doesn't stretch to professional caterers and bar staff then think about asking someone you know with bar skills to "work" behind the bar mixing drinks for guests.  The event will go much more smoothly if you have someone who can do this quickly and easily with a bit of theatre for guests.
  9. Have non-alcoholic cocktails and drinks available for guests who are driving.  As the party host, it is your responsibility to make sure guests are safe in your environment and one of the most important aspects of safety is ensuring you have plenty of fresh water available for guests to drink, plenty of food to go with the drinks, and non-alcoholic options available for those guests who need to drive home.
  10. Be the last person your guests see on the way out.  Say goodbye to guests as they leave by standing nearby the door.  You can then help guests get their coats, bags, and find their cars - and organise taxis if needed. 

Cocktail parties are such a wonderful soiree to host - we would love to hear your tips for the perfect cocktail party too!



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