Cocktail parties are extremely popular, elegant events designed to entertain and bring together business partners, clients, employees and friends. Such parties were all the rage in the early 1900s, but then lost a bit of their prestige at the end of the century. But, thanks to their versatility and easy planning, they have since regained their lost appeal. A typical cocktail party lasts two to three hours. You can taste bite-sized canapés and sip on alcoholic (or alcohol-free) beverages while talking to other guests. As a host, you have the privilege of introducing the guests and ensuring that food, drinks and anecdotes don’t run out. Here’s how to plan the perfect cocktail party.

A cocktail party is nothing without cocktails. As a general rule, you should plan for about three to four drinks per guest. Be sure to also keep extra bottles of alcohol on hand. You should also have non-alcoholic drinks (mocktails) and water bottles available for those who don’t wish to drink or who are designated drivers. You can hire specialized caterers to help you, as professionals are often better at assessing needs and managing inventory. Be sure to add a tip jar so guests can also contribute.

Never serve alcohol without food. However, since the purpose of a cocktail party is for guests to meet over snacks and drinks, it’s not necessary to serve a full meal. Lead your guests on a journey through different flavours. Start with finger foods (e.g. cheese, nuts and olives), and then during the second hour, spice things up with appetizers such as hors d’oeuvre, canapés, savoury tarts and sweets. Then, when least expected, bring out your best dish. You can also add variety by including sliced fruit. Le Windsor can recommend a list of caterers that specialize in these types of events.

At an ideal cocktail party, people should be moving around the room rather than the room spinning around them. This means that the food and drink stations are the most important part of the decor. Don’t put all the drinks and snacks in one spot. Scatter food and beverages across different areas, using the whole space so people have a reason to move around the four corners of the room while avoiding lineups. Decorate the room with a few items such as fabrics, candles and elegant floral arrangements and spread them throughout the room so that people don’t feel like there is just one central area. Prevent accidents by providing places to set down drinks and discreetly dispose of waste, such as olive seeds. The other essential element of the decor is the lighting. Soft lighting will make your guests feel comfortable and add a touch of glamour to the event.

Cocktail parties usually start between 6 and 8 p.m. Elaborate entertainment is not a priority at a cocktail party, but creating a great atmosphere is essential. As a host, it’s your responsibility to try and greet guests upon their arrival by offering them a drink. You should be the first person they see so that they feel welcome. You should also walk around the party and introduce people who don’t know each other. Be sure to play soft music that encourages conversation and mingling. Also try giving the evening an overall theme to keep people from staying in one corner. Try creating a storyline for the event; it could make the party meaningful. During the last hour, stay close to the door to say goodbye, help guests plan their trip home and retrieve their coats and bags. The last impression often has the most impact.


In today’s digital age, cocktail parties are a great opportunity to resume face-to-face discussions and connect with real people. And don’t forget that you’re the most important element of the evening. Have fun and your guests will have fun! Contact us and we’ll help you with the rest.