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Get Your Cocktail Party Planning Into High Gear To Introduce a Special Friend to Others
When interesting people and conversation, mingling, good food and drink are your party planning goals, cocktail parties are the perfect answer. Clever cocktail party planning is all that can be achieved with good planning and a little effort.
Here are some serious secrets to planning a great cocktail party:
- Invite interesting people who like to mingle and talk.
- Stage your food and drink so people need to move and want to move.
- Plan 6-8 really tasty, but easy to eat, canapés.
- Engage your guests at the party and with other guests through fun ice breakers.
Guests are the key ingredient
Cocktail parties are an ideal way to introduce new people to a group of others. However, choosing the right guests is important. If you want to introduce an out-of-town friend, your boss, an important client, or even your new love to someone they want to get to know, consider these points:
- Invite guests who like to talk and have something to say.
- Do not invite guests who provoke arguments or unnecessarily heated debates.
- Let your guests know a little about your special guest in advance.
- If it’s important for your special guests to meet and mingle with certain people, let them know and make sure they get to know each other.
- Keep an eye on your special guest throughout the evening.
- Consider asking a trusted and close friend to “shadow” your special guest. Winding it alone or with an empty glass can help.
- If possible, send invitations at least three weeks in advance and get commitments from people who will attend. This may require some phone calling. But…it’s important to your cocktail party planning process and more importantly, the mix and mingle factor for a great cocktail party.
- You want to invite enough people to make your house feel full, but not full.
Mix and match logistics
Planning a great cocktail party allows and encourages guests to move around and meet new people. Strategically planning your food and drink can help with this. Place your food and drinks around the party area so they’re easy to reach and people need to find what you’ve prepared… and other people.
Wine and wine glasses can be placed on the sideboard. Punch or specialty drinks can be served from the dining table or side buffet. Soft drinks, ice, alcohol and garnishes should be near the kitchen. Make sure you have plenty of drink napkins wherever you have food or drink.
Keep small plates of nuts and candy around the house. Use your cocktail table for your two canapés. Place other canapés where you want your guests to wander—living room end tables, dining tables, on the porch, poolside, or on the balcony. If you have a kitchen pass-through or an open counter between the kitchen and living space, it’s ideal for hot canapés that need to be refilled.
Such a logistical plan will keep party and party goers moving and mixing. Another tip to preserve your furniture and make it easy for your guests is to place coasters around the house. They make it easy to set the glass down and get a tasty mouthful.
If you plan to hire help, get a bartender first. You will need one for every 50 guests. If you choose to be a server, have them remove dirty napkins, canapé plates (if you are using them) and empty glasses. If your house or apartment is a tight squeeze with all your guests, consider passing the canapés by the server. This will reduce mixing and blending.
Tasty canapés are a hit
6-8 really special canapés are better than a hard-to-handle table of chips, dips and fish. Choose a variety of ingredients and make sure they can be picked up with one hand and eaten in one or two bites. Serve slightly hot and slightly cold. Plan for 10-12 canapés per guest. Here are some suggestions:
- Bacon wrapped scallops with a sherry and teriyaki marinade
- Ramaki – Roasted Bacon Wrapped Chicken Liver and Water Chestnut
- Brie bites are toasted on savory crackers and preserved on top
- Mini skewers with a piece of chicken and a piece of pineapple
- Crab dip in mini cream puffs
- Cheddar is spread over rounds of toast topped with mango chutney and broiled until the cheese is warm and the bacon bits crisp.
- Mini quiches or savory tarts
- Broiled Blue Cheese Stuffed Button Mushrooms
- Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan and Toasted Hazelnuts served with individual spoons.
- Cold cocktail shrimp with horseradish mayonnaise dip
- Savory finger sandwiches with egg, salmon, chicken, lobster and shrimp salads
- Fresh fruit kabobs on bamboo toothpicks – no more than three small colorful pieces of fruit on each.
- Eggs topped with petite shrimp
- The peanut butter on the savory crackers is topped with the relish of dill pickles
- Boiled and cooled halved baby red potatoes with sour cream, caviar and a light splash of good vodka. (Be sure to cook the potatoes in salted water)
- Pickles, olives and pickled vegetables (green beans, cauliflower, asparagus tips, mushrooms)
- A shot glass of gazpacho topped with a piece of crab meat
The food ideas are endless. Just remember that they need to be able to be eaten with one hand and in 1-2 bites and your guests will feed them!
A fun and not too hokey ice breaker
Write an interesting fact about each of your guests on a self-adhesive sticker. Leave a sticker behind and give each guest a sticker with a fact about someone else as they arrive. Ask each guest to find the person the sticker belongs to during the party. Once they find the person described by the sticker, they must hand in the sticker so they can place the sticker on themselves where others can see it.
It gives each guest a reason to explore, mix and mingle with people they might not know, and once the sticker is displayed on a guest it gives everyone something to discuss with that person when they meet them.
Here are some ideas for fun facts that will start a conversation:
- Just returned from a trip to China
- Just won a sports competition
- There is a new baby
- Only jobs changed
- Moving to a new city
- Wrote and published a book
- Is a professional singer/dancer/musician
- Ran a marathon last year
- It is a vintage car
- Loves live concerts
- Collects coins/stamps/recipes
These are all fairly gender neutral and “safe” topics to discuss with a new acquaintance. The idea is that two people who don’t know each other have something interesting to talk about and have some fun with it.
Try some of these ideas and you’ll meet your cocktail party planning goals. You and your guests will have a fun and memorable evening to remember. They might even have a new friend or two!
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