How to Plan a Cocktail Party

The first step in cocktail party planning is to create your guest list. You do not want to target one personality type. Variety is the spice of life. Include guests that are interesting, cheerful, outgoing and friendly. If you are hosting a business cocktail parties, then is the right one to pick. They are very hospitable in entertaining the guests. If your business is aerospace engineering, your neighbor would probably not have much in common with the other guests. So carefully select the proper guests for the proper party type.


Once your guest list is created, you need to create a budget and a checklist. Be sure to consider everything when creating a budget. You will need to allow for: food; invitations; cocktails; bar supplies; ice; drinking glasses; decorations; a bartender; a caterer. A bartender and a caterer are optional, of course. A checklist will keep you on track with your cocktail party planning and keep you from forgetting something.

The third step is to send out the invitations. You want to send these out at least two weeks in advance of the cocktail party. Invitations can be professionally printed, or easily made by you using some of the popular software products available. Be sure to ask your guests to RSVP.

The next step in cocktail party planning is to create your menu. Cocktail party menu planning allows you to get creative with the food. Cocktail party food usually consists of “finger food,” such as hors d’oeuvres and appetizers, creating great flexibility. Decide how you plan to serve the food: on trays or buffet style. Plan to place small bowls of snacks and nuts about the room so guests can nibble. Include foods that can be prepared a day or two in advance. This will save you time and stress on the day of the party.

Now for the fun part: the cocktails! You can serve wine and beer only, or you can opt for a stocked bar. For a fancier style party, you may wish to consider champagne. An important consideration in Cocktail Party Planning is whether or not to hire a bartender. One option is to set up a bar area, and allow guests to serve themselves. If you are hosting a large party, a bartender is a wise choice. You will be busy with other host or hostess duties. A bartender can be useful in monitoring the guests to be sure none of them are drinking too much to drive.

It is not a bad idea to have a designated driver on hand if you can swing it. It is not uncommon at really large parties to have a “taxi” service so to speak, which consists of a van and a teetotaler. It is always better to be safe than sorry. If a designated driver is not an option, have the phone number handy of a reputable local cab company just in case.

There are some other things to remember when cocktail party planning. Make sure you have enough serving dishes and glasses. Depending on the cocktails you serve, you may need the following: wine glasses; highballs; tumblers; martini glasses; beer mugs; margarita glasses. You will need plenty of ice. Allow not only ice for serving, but for icing down beverages as well.

Basic stock bar beverages include vodka, red and white wines, beer, and whiskey. A more advanced bar would include gin, tequila, vermouth, triple sec, bourbon, and rum.
Beer kegs are a great option for a party. They can be chilled in advance and your guests get beer on tap. Don’t forget mixers! The most common include: orange juice; tonic water; cola; ginger ale; oranges; lemons; limes; margarita mix. The mixers will depend largely on what cocktails you offer. Include soft drinks and bottled water for those that are not drinking alcohol. Prepare to offer coffee as well. You will need coffee, sugar, cream, mugs, coffee maker, etc.

Select the music you plan to play, and have CD’s on hand prior to the party day. Do your shopping a few days in advance. Try to get as much as possible done before the day of the party. The day before the party, do your decorating, set up serving tables, and set up the bar area. You will be busy on party day with other activities, such as table setting, icing down party beverages, creating your flower arrangements, and preparing any food items that need to be fresh, such as fruits and salads.

Be sure to allow yourself sufficient time to review your checklist. You will need time to get dressed for the party. Be a little selfish if you can; take a nice relaxing soak in the tub and unwind before the party. You want to be totally refreshed when your guests arrive. You successfully completed your cocktail party planning, so now you deserve to enjoy the event. Relax and have fun. Your guests will enjoy themselves much more if they see that their host or hostess is enjoying the party as well.

Brady Smith is a party planning enthusiast. For information on Cocktail Party Planning, visit

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