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Throwing a Flawless At-Home Cocktail Party

When hosting a cocktail party, it helps to know a few hints to ensure everything is successful and your guests enjoy themselves. Here are some of our tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Our planning process begins with asking our clients a few key questions:

  • How many guests are you planning on inviting?

  • Is this a casual gathering for friends, are you celebrating a special occasion, a formal event or business networking ?

  • What is your budget for drinks, food, staffing and decor?

  • Will there be a full bar or a limited cocktail menu?

  • What type of food do you want to serve?

  • Will the party be inside or outdoors? If outdoors, what is your plan for inclement weather?

Once we have a good idea of the type of party our guests want and the budget the planning begins.

The Invite and Guest List

Invitations are a great way to set the tone for your party before it has even started. Colour choices, themed parties, casual gatherings can all be relayed through your invitation.

The type of invitation depends on your level of formality, but these days we think it is great to mail the invitation or send an e-vite or email. Just make sure you let your guests know where the party is, the arrival time, a dress code (should there be one) and that they need to RSVP by a certain date.

The number of guests attending is one of the most important elements when planning any kind of event. So keep your list up-to-date with those who have responded and follow up once the RSVP date has passed with those who have not. This makes planning how much food, drinks and staffing so much easier.


Regardless of the type of event, we are firm believers in hiring staff. When you are hosting a party, you can't greet guests, mingle, take coats, serve drinks, prepare food and be the clean up crew all at the same time. Having someone to assist you throughout the evening frees up you, the host, to welcome guests and join in the party. Even if it is a small gathering of friends having at least one person to help means there is no pressure on your guests to lend a hand at the bar, to help serve, to clean up or to do anything other than chat and enjoy time together. For larger events, a bartender along with serving staff is key.

As we like to say, having a little help lets you enjoy your own event.

Cocktail Party Food
Twist Events Passed Appetizers

The Timing

Cocktail Parties are not dinner parties and don’t normally include a full meal. For that reason, we like to invite guests to arrive anytime past 7 or 8pm. Guests will have had some dinner at home and arrive knowing that the evening will not be a full meal, but rather snacks and drinks.

The Bar

Drinks are key at cocktail parties. Whether you hire a bartender to serve drinks, have a self serve station or a mix of both planning what you are serving and how it will be presented is not only fun, but can add to the decor and overall atmosphere of the party. Drink menus listing what is available is a must not only for ease of choosing, but it also adds a great decor element.

One of our favourite suggestions is to greet your guests with a cocktail It makes them feel welcome and lets them mingle as soon as they arrive without having to go search for a drink or wait to be served. Whether it is champagne, a glass of wine or a signature cocktail it makes them feel special, welcome and ready to start the party!

Bartender with Champagne
Twist Events Cocktail Party

A full bar allows guests to choose their favourite drink and works best if you have a bartender mixing up cocktails and spirits. For smaller groups or a more limited budget choose a white and red wine, a couple brands of beer and a few classic cocktails like vodka soda or gin and tonic. For self serve cocktail parties make sure to create satellite stations for guests to mingle and help themselves.

For some fun and added decor, create a signature cocktail to match a theme or celebrate an occasion. And always have lots of non-alcoholic options and fun “mocktails” as well, don’t assume everyone can or wants to drink alcohol.

The Food

One of the best parts of hosting a cocktail party is that the food can be anything. It is more about savoury delicious bites than providing endless amounts of food. We love food stations and grazing areas placed around your space. This encourages guests to move around, socialize and try new things. We also never like to put all the food and drinks in one spot or in one room.

One of our favourite food items for any cocktail party are charcuterie and cheese boards as they are meant to be shared. We always like to offer one or two hot foods that are brought out at different times throughout the evening. From samosas, to mini burgers, to grilled shrimp the options are endless and are sure to please. If the budget allows, a late night food truck with hot fries or poutine is a sure way to make it a night to remember! To end the night a dessert station with cupcakes, donuts, candy and cookies pleases those with a sweet tooth and often is a sign that the last of the food is being served.

The Ambience

And last, but certainly one of the most important elements of any gathering, is to set the right mood. Music is key at any party so make sure you have speakers set up around the room with volume loud enough so everyone can hear it, but can still converse. If your budget permits, live music such as a classical pianist is a great way to start the evening off and welcome guests as they arrive. And of course we love a good DJ. We think it is always well worth the expense to hire a professional DJ as it is a foolproof way of getting your guests up and dancing and making sure the music matches the vibe of the party.

Cocktail Party Dancing
Twist Events Cocktail Party Fun!!

There are so many other fun elements that can be added to a cocktail party. Lighting sets the tone and mood and we believe is one of the most important parts of any event. From candles, to uplighting inside the house, to edison string light, fairy lights, marquee letters to to glow balls in a pool or around a backyard it is important to assess what works for your space. Custom signs with food, drink listed are a great addition along with a welcome sign at the front door. Lastly, if your crowd loves activities photo stations, karaoke, and games are great to keep guests having fun, moving around and socializing.

And most of all, as the host remember to have fun! Gathering people together is one of life's pleasures so enjoy the planning process and your time at the party.

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