I love a good cocktail party. Like in a big way. The mingling, the mixing, the excuse for that extra glass of bubbly – it’s kind of my happy place. Since I adore them so much, I’ll find any excuse in the book to host them, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. So it’s time to share the secrets with all of y’all. It’s my effort to bring the cocktail party back, because there really isn’t anything better. xoxo Abby Capalbo
10 Tips for an Effortless Cocktail Party
1. Do as much before as possible. Actually do everything before. You don’t want to be the host or hostess stuck in the kitchen or shuffling around. You should actually enjoy this party. Novel idea, right? So get everything out and ready to go around 30 minutes prior to the guests arrival, that way you can enjoy those few moments of peace before the fun begins.
2. Let Your Guest Plays Bartender. Now, I try to make sure I circle the room to make sure everyone is fully imbibed, but I also make sure there are “stations” so to speak, scattered about the house for every choice of beverage so my guests don’t feel like they have to wait for me. From water to gin to bubbly to wine, I want to make sure each and every guest gets the cocktail of their choice, whenever they choose to have it.
3. Invest in Additional Glassware. The very first little soiree we hosted at our house I used the stemware from our wedding. By the end of the night, only half of them remained (sign of a good party, perhaps). So I went to Ikea and purchased glassware in all shapes in sizes, and let me tell you that small little investment has come in handy more times than I care to admit. Plus, drinking out of glass instead of paper or plastic cups just ups the ante on any party. Also, I don’t know what it is about those Ikea glasses, but they are hearty.
4. Master the Cheese Plate. I love cheese in a big way. Hand me a wheel of La Tur and a loaf of bread (and perhaps a glass of prosecco while your at it), and I’m basically in heaven. And chances are, your guests feel the same way. It’s really easy to throw together one that will impress your guests, and once you learn the simple steps to perfecting a cheese plate, you’ll never be intimated by whipping one up again.
5. Make your Guests Feel at Home. Have a place for guest to take off their coats in the winter. I actually use a rolling rack with wooden hangers so it’s easy to see where they should hang their coats if I am busy with another guest. Light a fire in the winter or make sure you have a patio heater going in the summer. Place little nibbles throughout the house. Be sure there is plenty of toilet paper in all your bathrooms (silly, but important). Light candles. Sprinkle fresh flowers throughout (grocery store ones are totally fine!). Make your home as inviting as possible, and try to think of all the little things you notice when you’re at someone’s home, other people notice them too.
6. Don’t overdo yourself. I sometimes have to remind myself of this. This isn’t a dinner party for Betty Draper. You don’t need to embrace your inner Julie Child. You just want to create a warm atmosphere where people want to linger. 7. Turn on the Music. This one is important to me. Music sets the tone of any party, and helps fill the room with a happy vibe. I used to curate playlist for each party, but I’m so thankful for pandora and spotify – they have done all the hard work for me. Make sure to keep an eye on the playlists throughout the night…and the volume.
8. Save the Cleaning for Later. Guests feed off their host in a big way. If they see you cleaning up or doing the dishes mid-party, you’ll send the signal that it’s time to wrap things up. Trust me, all those dishes will be there when they leave. And so will that extra glass of bubbly with your name on it while you tidy things up. One of the wonderful things about a cocktail party is, the clean up is pretty easy.
9. Curate your Guest List. I will always stand by the fact that the guests make the party. It doesn’t matter how delicious your dish or how stunning your spread, if your guests are great the party will be great. Bring people together that you think will enjoy each other, and they’ll do the rest.
10. Enjoy Yourself. Honestly, above everything else, it’s the best thing you can do. A happy host or hostess speaks volumes to their guests, and ultimately will have everyone doing the same. Wear something comfortable yet something that makes you feel a bit fancy too. I like to run around prior getting everything ready in a t-shirt and leggings, and then throw on a blazer, some jewelry, a dab of lipstick and some fun shoes when the party is about to start so I look and feel fresh for everyone. I swear it makes a difference.
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Photography: Erin McGinn | Styling: Abby Capalbo