Cocktail Party Checklist: Free Detailed Planning Guide

cocktail party cocktail party
  • 3 Weeks Ahead

  • Choose a date & time: Verify date for conflicts, Call key invitees to choose best date 

  • Choose a theme 

  • Invite guests: Make the guest list, Gather addressss, Create an invitation

  • 2 Weeks Ahead

  • Send invitations

  • 1-2 Weeks Ahead

  • Send any remaining invites or additions 

  • Map the party layout

  • Plan the bar setup

  • Start 5 shopping lists (see shopping checklists): Decorations & Supplies,  Liquor Non-perishables & Frozen, Foods Perishables, Last minute Items

  •  Plan decorations, then add items to the appropriate list

  • Incorporate birthday festivities 

  • Order decorations from PartySwizzle.com

  • Plan drinks, then add items to the appropriate list : Alcohol->Liquor list, Mixers->Non-Perishables list, Garnishes->Perishables list

  • Plan food, then add items to the appropriate list 

  • Determine dishes, serving trays, glassware & pitchers needed: Bar supplies, Two hors d\'oeuvre serving trays, Cocktail glasses, Bowls or dishes for garnishes, nuts, toothpicks (fresh & used), dipping sauce, shrimp tails, etc.

  • Pitchers for: Specialty drink Juices & mixers Water Liquid waste at the bar

  • Label dishes and pitchers to avoid confusion later

  • Check indoor & outdoor lighting and walkways for needed repairs 

  • Determine any household and home improvement supplies 

  • Buy Decorations & Supplies

  • Reserve any needed rental supplies

  • Hire bartender, if applicable

  • Install dimmer (rheostat) switches

  • 1 Week Ahead

  • Launder tablecloths, towels, rugs

  • Check weather & plan outfit

  • Drop-off dry cleaning

  •  Create party playlist in iPod or make CDs

  • Buy Non-perishables

  • Buy Liquor

  • Order flowers, if applicable

  • Call all invitees that have not viewed the invitation

  • Polish any silver you will be using

  • 3-4 Days Ahead

  • Light house cleaning

  • Thorough bathroom cleaning

  • Clean fireplace, if needed

  • Pick up dry cleaning 

  • Arrange for a few close friends to “help” and get to the party 15 minutes early 

  • 2-3 Days Ahead

  • Prepare anything you can freeze for your hors d\'oeuvres (this may require an extra trip to the grocery to buy some perishables on your list)

  • Clean/mow/trim/shovel outside areas including front walk, door mat, front door, and smoking area

  • 2 Days Ahead

  • Clean out your refrigerator, you will need the space

  • Upload/clear out pictures in camera 

  • Peel doilies for serving trays

  • Call any important invitees that have not RSVP’d

  • Arrange furniture, stereo and lighting 

  • Start placing decorations

  • Clear area for coats, put out umbrella stand

  • Confirm bartender & rentals

  • 1 Day Ahead

  • Defrost frozen foods

  • Buy Perishables

  • Pick up rentals

  • Pick up flowers

  • Prepare sauces & fillings

  • Prepare anything that is served chilled 

  • Prepare Jell-o shooters, store on baking sheets in refrigerator

  • Prepare anything that needs to marinate overnight 

  • Setup the bar including alcohol, unopened mixers and pitchers 

  • Finish placing decorations

  • Setup smoking area

  • Charge camera battery

  • Make simple syrup, if needed

  • Mix specialty drink

  •  Listen through playlist to see if any adjustments are necessary 

  • Set fireplace, if using

  • Cash and cab numbers on hand 

  • Remove any “interesting” prescriptions from the medicine cabinet 

  • Stock extra roll of toilet paper in bathrooms

  • Day Of Party

  • Morning: Prepare garnishes, cover with a wet paper towel

  • Prep as much of the food as possible : Herb garnishes, Drain ingredients, Pre-cook any food possible, Take out butter & items for softening, Prepare spreads, Cut vegetables Assemble hors de oeuvres that won’t get soggy, Crisp Bouchees

  • Afternoon: Put out any signage, Last minute tidying and spot-check decorations, Empty trash cans, especially bathrooms, Assemble hors d\'oeuvres, store on baking sheets in refrigerator

  • Run dishwasher 

  • Set outdoor decorations & lighting   

  • 3 Hours Before:

  • Buy last-minute items and ice. Store ice in freezer and ice chests. 

  • Empty dishwasher and set out bus trays for dirty glasses and trash

  • Put away any valuables

  • 2 Hours Before:    

  • Adjust thermostat. Cooking, guests, candles & stereo will generate extra heat.

  • Get yourself ready

  • Get yourself ready

  • 1 Hour Before:

  • Take out any hors d\'oeuvres to be served room temperature 

  • 30 Minutes Before:

  • Turn music shuffle off and crossfading on (for iPods). Start the pre-party playlist (30 minutes of songs before the party playlist). See Making Music.

  • Arrange first hors d\'oeuvres on trays

  • Turn on and adjust outdoor lighting 

  • Light fireplace, if using 

  • Have your key friends, which you invited to come early, mix you a cocktail 

  • 15 Minutes Before:

  • Light all candles, then adjust dimmers

  • Fill the ice bucket

  • Take any chilled mixers and garnishes to the bar, fill pitchers

  • Remember: never put ice in juice and specialty drink pitchers

  • Pre-heat oven, if needed

  •  

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