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Seven Tips for Organising a Cocktail Party

We’ve all been to a cocktail party that the host or planner just didn’t get right. There are many faux pas that crop up time and time again when planning a cocktail reception.

But don’t fear, there are ways to ensure that your cocktail party is a great success, so take a look at our list of top tips to organising a cocktail party that your guests are sure to love.

Prepare as much in advance as possible

No one likes an absent host at a cocktail reception, so when you are organising a cocktail party, make sure everything is ready before people arrive so you can actually spend time with them.

This is one of the most important things to think about when organising a cocktail party.

Ingredients – organisation or a party planner

How to execute – prepare as much as you can the night before, then give yourself a deadline of around 30 minutes before your guests are meant to arrive, so that you have time to relax before they arrive.

It is also helpful to have a friend or partner over to help, as it makes prep a lot more fun and means the guests come into a ‘party’ setting rather than just the two of you being stressed. If this seems overwhelming, you could hire an event manager responsible for keeping things running smoothly on the night.


Having a theme ties everything together and makes the event more cohesive.

Ingredients – Your imagination

How to execute – When it comes to organising a cocktail party theme, it doesn’t have to be anything outrageous or excessive like Moulin Rouge or pirates, and you definitely should not force your guests to dress up unless absolutely necessary.

If you want to incorporate a theme, just focus on a colour, season or specific flavour to help coordinate everything. This will also help to make decisions easier regarding food and drinks that you can fit within the theme.

canapes for a cocktail party


Canapés are an essential part of any cocktail party; they stop everyone getting too drunk and provide a topic of conversation to help break the ice. This is where a catering company could help make your life a lot easier.

Ingredients – related to your theme e.g. if your theme is summer have bbq dishes and small servings of potato salad for example.

How to execute – a general rule of thumb is to have between 6-10 different styles of hors d’oeuvres, and assume that each person will eat around 3-4. Obviously tweak this to fit your own party. For example, younger men will tend to eat more, and older guests will tend to eat less.

If you’re only having a small gathering, you don’t need as much variety. Don’t put all the food out at once, keep it circulating so people don’t get stuffed early on and then are sluggish for the rest of the evening. Keep a couple of nibbles behind in the kitchen to treat anyone that helps you out.

cocktail party drinks


It may seem obvious when planning a cocktail party, but the drinks are an important and essential party of any cocktail reception.

Ingredients – basic spirits are essential but only go for the really high quality brands if you are serving these as single shots. If you are serving mixed drinks you can get away with some more generic brands.

You also need a decent selection of wine, as not everyone will want to drink spirits or cocktails. Mixers and garnishes shouldn’t be forgotten as they can really make or break some drinks

How to execute – Offer guests a drink when they first arrive to make them feel at home and break the ice. From here you should have ‘bars’ stationed around the rooms to allow guests to create their own drinks, and take some of the pressure off the host.

Each station doesn’t need to have identical drinks on it, but they should all be accompanied by glasses, nibbles and napkins.

cocktail party decoration


When organising a cocktail party, it’s very important to consider the décor.

Decoration is key to the atmosphere you want to set, and by creating a welcoming environment, you can be guaranteed that you have relaxed guests and a good evening.

Ingredients – lighting, music, scent (make sure you have air freshener in the bathroom)

How to execute – keep the décor in line with your theme, keep the rooms you are using lit and make it clear which rooms are off limits by keeping the lights dim, the doors closed or simply don’t decorate them.

Keeping Clean

These tips will help you keep the party clean as it goes without taking up too much time.

Ingredients – bin bags, club soda, paper towels

How to execute – before the guests arrive make sure to double or triple bag your bins. This prevents leaks and tears and means during clean up you can swiftly remove them with little to no fuss.

Also keep club soda, paper towels and mops in a close by, but discreet place so you can get to those drips and spills before they turn into stains. Leave cleaning until the guests are gone, they’ll appreciate you spending more time with them and if you start cleaning it may give an unconscious signal to people that you want them to leave.

Finishing Up

You’ve had a great night, but the party is winding down and its time for people to leave.

Ingredients – being firm but still friendly

How to execute – If your party is rounding up but there are still a couple of resilient guests at your venue, try turning off the lights in unused rooms and bringing the lights in used rooms up to full brightness. Follow this with turning the music down, very low, or even completely off.

These tricks should indicate the end of the party without hurting your guest’s feelings.

So, there you have it, my top tips to making sure that you have a successful cocktail party that your guests are sure to remember fondly.

If you are feeling that organising a cocktail party could be a bit too much for you, you can always hire an experienced event manager from the Concerto Group.

Have you had any great cocktail party experiences, and if so, what made them so special? Let us know any other extra tips you might have in the comments below.