A Quick Guide to Hosting a Killer Cocktail Party


Here at the The Royal Exchange of Sydney, we've hosted and helped organise a good deal of cocktail parties, big and small. As much as we take pride in saying that these parties were successful, each one of them required deliberate planning and diligent work.

Whether it's a casual social gathering or a corporate fundraiser, hosting a cocktail party can be a challenge. If you're in such a position, we're glad you're here.

So we've broken down cocktail party planning to chunks of quick and manageable tasks to help you get started. Follow these and be able to enjoy some cocktails yourself on the day of your party.

1 . Get some help.

You may be able to pull off a cocktail party on your own but if there’s help available, take advantage of it. Having a team or a handful of people to lend you a hand will get things done faster, help you come up with better ideas, and make it more likely to cover anything you would probably overlook on your own.

2. Make a detailed, well thought out, and workable plan.

Planning increases efficiency and reduces the risk of mistakes. Plan as soon as you can so you can get the ball rolling and have plenty of preparation time. List everything you need from the big ones such as the venue and the menu up to the smallest details such as the decorations and your playlist. Once everything is on the table, you may then set your priorities, work a preparation schedule and delegate tasks to your team.

3. Secure an appropriate venue.

More than half of the planning comes after you’ve decided where to hold your cocktail party. If you’re hosting at home, you need to figure out how your space can be arranged to accommodate your guests and manage foot traffic among food and drink stations. If you’re renting a party venue or a restaurant, make a checklist of what your cocktail party and guests need and find a place that meets your requirements. Make sure to review and fully understand every clause before signing the contract.

4. Design an impressive drinks list

Drinks are the focal point of cocktail parties and creating a cocktail menu is a fun chance to demonstrate your creativity. You may opt to have a full bar, a themed bar, or a signature cocktail bar, depending on your estimate of your guests. Be sure to stock up on wine, beer, water, mixers, and garnishes, and don’t forget non-alcoholic drinks.

To know how much drinks you need to prep for, it is safe to estimate that guests will drink one glass of wine, champagne or cocktail or one bottle of beer each per hour.

5. Plan a variety of cocktail food and serve them strategically

The traditional fare served at cocktail parties is hors d’oeuvres, canapes, and bite-sized foods that don’t require plates. Make your menu interesting by offering food with seasonal ingredients, a handful of simple hors d’oeuvres and a show stopper to be served at the peak of the party. You may opt to have the food passed around by servers or placed in buffet stations distributed across your venue. Serve your food in batches, with snacks coming out first.

6. Cover the miscellaneous stuff

Secondary things such as invitations, decorations, and entertainment matter when you’re planning a cocktail party. Paying attention to these small things gives the impact that your event is well thought out and makes your guests feel that they’re going to something extra special and that they’re worth impressing. Send out beautiful invites with complete details as soon as your guest list, venue, and menu are confirmed. Match the decorations, lighting and playlist to the theme you decided. And thank your guests for coming with creative party favours.

7. Go Great Gatsby on hosting

On the day itself, your biggest role is to make your guests have a good time and have everything they need.  In a nutshell, here are some of the things you would be doing:

  • Greet your guests at the door and offer them refreshments as soon as they come

  • Introduce guests to others they haven’t met yet

  • Supervise food and drinks

  • Facilitate activities if there are any

  • Wrap up the night

  • See guests go, thank them for coming, and make sure they have a safe ride home

  • Provide a designated driver or the number of your trusted cab company handy in case a guest has had one too many to drink

Preparation is Gold

Ultimately, the key to hosting an impressive and memorable cocktail party is mindful planning. No matter how much you need to do and how many guests you need to take into account, things will fall into place when you’ve planned them right.

Now make that party happen.

The Royal Exchange of Sydney is a classic venue in the Sydney CBD offering a stunning space for lunch, cocktail parties and private events. View our event spaces, facilities, and packages here. Make a reservation here. Or contact us on 02 9147 4347 for more information.

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