How to Plan an Easy Cocktail Party

A couple of weeks ago I planned a summer cocktail party and to my surprise (as someone who is not a great party planner!) is was the easiest and most fun party…maybe ever. It was nothing fancy or over the top, just a laid back party with friends, a dollop of sophistication and a whole lot of alcohol.

I know a lot of you are planning engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, or just a chic night with friends, may I suggest the cocktail party idea? It really is quite fabulous.

And not hard at all.

If there was an easy way out, we took it. We kept things extremely simple because I didn’t want anyone stressed for the actual party. I only splurged on the things that I knew would make an impact (i.e. decor and drinks).

I should probably mention that having friends in the wedding business may have made things a little easier for me, but I still think that the cocktail party can be pulled off by just about anyone!

Here’s how:

10 steps for planning an easy cocktail partyPhoto by Park Road Photography

Keep it intimate.

My party was small with only 20 guests. If you want to keep things simple, I would not go over 30. The more you have the more of everything you’ll need and the more you’ll have to coordinate and spend!

Try to get a “bartender”.

If you can, get someone to be your make-shift bartender (in my case an eager brother-in-law with an interest in cocktails!). This adds to the experience of the party. Get them to memorize five simple drinks that can be made to order. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just some straightforward drinks that can be mixed up on the spot.

My dapper brother-in-law acting as chief bartender for the evening.

My dapper brother-in-law acting as chief bartender for the evening.


If you can’t get a bartender…

…then find cocktail recipes you can make in a pitcher. There are some great ones out there, like these yummy basil strawberry margaritas.

Keep the drinks simple!

Three drinks done well are way better than 9 drinks that are mediocre. Practice the drinks beforehand and perfect what you plan to serve, although it’s probably best not to do all the sampling yourself so you can keep a clear head ūüėČ Just like cooking, it’s best not not serve something you’ve never tried before to guests.

Choose a nice setting.

I’m lucky that my family has a house on Green Bluff with a gorgeous view, but I think any nice backyard will do. If you’re planning a cocktail party indoors then any nice room will work just fine!

how to plan an easy cocktail party

Have the party after dinner.

My party started at 7:30pm so my guests knew to eat before they came. It’s not that I wanted to be cheap and not feed my guests, I just wanted to simplify the whole thing so I didn’t have to worry about making a huge dinner too. It also meant that I could spend more on alcohol! But you still need to offer some food options. We had bruscetta, a cheese board, mini baked potatoes, fruit tray and A LOT of cake.

The yummy cake provided by Happy Cake Co.

The yummy cake provided by Happy Cake Co.

Chill your ingredients.

Make sure all your ingredients are cold before the party, if you get them cold enough you probably won’t need a shaker and at the very least there will be less ice melting into your drink changing the taste. ¬†Most alcohol can be chilled in the freezer without freezing.

Get yourself some bistro lights.

I think bistro lights should be present at every outdoor event! They instantly create a great vibe and since they are so cool you don’t need a ton of other decorations. You can rent bistro lights from Amp’d Entertainment in Spokane. Worth every penny!

Use simple decor with huge impact.

Like bistro lights, you want things that will set the atmosphere. I splurged on flowers from Garden of Eden and also got some fabulous vintage furniture from The Attic. This kept setup and clean up very simple. We just put everything out right before the party!

Send some fancy online invites.

I obviously didn’t want to spend a bunch of money to buy paper invitations, but I still wanted something a little nicer than a Facebook Event. I found a great site called Paperless Post, which has gorgeous online invitations that are seriously fancy!

Make a great playlist.

Music is important! Make a great list of songs that will help you set the tone of your party. I chose a mix of mainly upbeat music (since it was a summer party) with a couple slow songs mixed in. I mixed old and new songs and ones people know and a couple people didn’t. A good mix will not overtake the party but enhance it! Here’s my spotify playlist.

Relax and have fun!

A good hostess is relaxed and eager for everyone (including herself) to have a good time. People pick up on stress, so try and stay calm and just enjoy your cocktail (party).

*Photo by¬†Park Road Photography. All other images taken on an iphone…via instagram (pretty fancy huh?!)*


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