Cocktail Party Planning Guide: The Guest List & Invitation
Cocktail party invitations should be sent out 2 weeks ahead of time for the best attendance. If you don’t have contact information, be sure to allow an additional week to gather addresses and prepare the invitation.
The Guest List
Cocktail parties tend to have better than the standard two-thirds turnout, therefore expect at least 75% of those invited to attend. Begin by making a list, in order of importance, of everyone you would like to invite. If you have a guest of honor, you should add any of their close friends and focus on friends that know the honoree.
Your party should look something like this:
Your close friends
New, quality people
No negative Nancys
Mix of singles and couples
In addition to your close friends, include fun, interesting people that will facilitate conversation and keep the party lively. You may wish to add an ego stroke by making a couple of personal phone calls near the party date to assure their attendance.
Good guests that add to the party, make you look good. Be sure to do the same when you are the party guest and you will gain a position at the top of everyone’s invite list.
Draw a heavy, dark line through anyone’s name that is negative, depressing, or just always seems to see the bad side of things. It only takes one to spoil the lovely ambiance and festive spirit you have worked so hard to create.
Just as no one wants to get stuck talking to someone that brings them down, eliminate or at least minimize the bores.
Keep in mind that the secret to fantastic parties are (good) surprises, so be sure to invite a mix of people who do and don’t know each other. Quality is key here.
Don’t be shy about inviting acquaintances or individuals you don’t know well, it will only make you look good in their eyes. Your own cocktail party is a great opportunity for you to make new friends too.
You may also consider individual guests that have things in common or similar interests with other potential invitees. Your objective is, of course, to provide the environment that everyone has a marvelous time.
Take into account any major rifts or conflicts between any two people only if it will cause problems at your party. Otherwise, don’t worry about sorting through your guest list for drama; someone that can’t behave politely as a visitor in your home should be permanently removed from the guest list (and maybe your life).
Cocktail parties are not appropriate for children, under any circumstances. If someone is rude enough to show up with kids in tow, let them know that it would not be appropriate or considerate to the other guests for their children to be present.
Once you have a prioritized list of potential invitees, adjust the list to your desired size, assuming at least 75% of the invitees will attend.
In today’s society, it is totally acceptable to send party invitations via email; however mailed invitations are the preferred method for formal affairs.
You may also consider mailed invitations if your party’s purpose is particularly commemorative, such as a 50th wedding anniversary. Otherwise, the extra zing delivered by mailing is not worth all of the additional time, fuss, and expense.
Evite.com is an excellent free site for inviting your guests via email. In addition to a large selection of invitations and the ability to design your own, Evite provides several unique features that make emailing invitations significantly better than snail mail. Specifically:
Invitees RSVP directly to the invitation
Invitees can change their RSVPs
The host can see if and when an invitee has viewed the invitation
You can store and maintain your database of email addresses on the site
Evite will send out reminders before the party to each invitee
You can, optionally, allow the invitees to see everyone else’s name, RSVP, and comments
Furthermore, the first strong impression of your Evite invitation will convey festivity and create excitement in anticipation of a well-coordinated theme party.
Facebook also offers an “Event” option to invite guests and handle RSVPs. You may wish to send out a secondary invite to keep the event and details in front of your invitees.
However, Facebook is not recommended as your primary invitation because 1) of the large number of generic and group invites people receive, and 2) the event option is text-based with a photo, which cannot adequately reflect the level of fabulousness that your party will be.
Assuming you have accumulated the information in Getting Started and Choosing A Theme, begin the process of gathering email addresses now.
Identify all of the email addresses that you need, then identify the other invitees that are likely to have the addresses you need. This way you may only have to call a few other invitees to get all of the email addresses that you are lacking.
Obviously, do not contact someone that will not be invited to get someone’s address that will.
Contact everyone necessary by email or phone; leave a message with your request if you reach voicemail. Once completed, begin choosing or designing your invitation while you wait for return emails and phone calls.
From this point on, always collect an email address from new people you meet. Designate a specific place to put them, and you will have them next time you sit down to plan a party!
Putting Together the Invite
Enter the first and last name along with the email address into Evite to ensure that the invitee names display properly on the guest list.
Choose an invitation consistent with your theme and “cocktail party”. Use the invitation text and/or title to identify any special purpose, such as a birthday or anniversary.
Evite’s “design your own” option lets you choose each component to use, and is a great solution for color themed parties. You simply select the background, text color, and graphics to display. If you are particularly ambitious, you can upload your own graphics to be used.
In addition to the basics about the party, if applicable, include:
Any special driving instructions
Guidance on parking
Specifics on how to get in to the party
Evite will provide a link to Google maps on the invitation, but be sure to verify that it is correct.
Once you have prepared the invitation, take the plunge and invite your guests, you have plenty of time to work out the rest of the details once the invitations have been sent.
A week before the party, call everyone that has not viewed the invitation, in case they never received the email. Evite shows you the last time each invitee has viewed the invitation or if they have seen it at all.
To create a party atmosphere from the moment the first guest walks in, arrange for a few of your close friends to get to the party early. When guests show up on time and the party is already going, people will quickly learn to be on time to your parties.
Plus, the “in” circle that gets a special invite to arrive early will feel like VIPs. Contact your key friends a few days before the party and have their cocktails ready when they arrive.
Now is time to start planning all the fun details, starting with the party layout.