Our Top 10 Rules to Throwing a Great Party

Posted by: samy December 9, 2011 No Comments
Our Top 10 Tips for Throwing a Great Party

Great parties don’t just happen. Here are our Top 10 Rules for throwing a truly memorable one. 

by Erin

It’s the most festive time of year and many of us mark it with, well, festivities.

After years of working in the hospitality trade and throwing parties for others, as well as fêting our own events throughout the year, we’ve figured out a few rules we live by so we can host a great party that will leave everyone talking.

Unfortunately, if you want to be the host with the most, you’ll need to do a bit of planning.  But because we’re feeling more nice than naughty, we thought we’d share our Top 10 Rules to make your parties the most coveted invite in town.

1. Timing is everything.

You should always give yourself – and your guests – ample notice of any soiree you want to throw.  We suggest a minimum of two weeks for a casual get together, but for more popular occasions like Christmas or a long weekend, make sure you get out invites at least a month in advance.

2. K.I.S.S.

At least with the menu.

Pick one or two star items that will require your special touch. But after that buy, buy, buy!  Seriously, no one’s going to care if the apple strudel is your Great Aunt Ute’s prized recipe, or if you nabbed it from the European bakery on your way home from work.  They will care however, if you’re sweating it out in the kitchen for hours while they’re left to awkwardly entertain themselves in the living room without a host.

3. Plan, plan, plan … and then plan some more.

This is our Golden Rule to throwing a successful – and stress-free – party.

Start thinking of the Big Day and how you want it to go.  After you’ve got that image in your mind, write down everything you’re going to need: from menus to decor, get it on paper and then create a Plan of Attack.

4. Plan of Attack.

We’ve endured party nightmares when we’ve run out of serving platters, or been short by one wine glass. We’ve learned the hard way – and with a Plan of Attack, you won’t have to.

  • Write out your menu, shopping list, and what food items will be served in what vessel (this will ensure you haven’t double-booked Grandma’s antique silver bowl for both mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts).
  • Schedule. Give yourself a week to get your stuff together.  Start the decorating a week out. Buy groceries that won’t spoil up to five days ahead of time. Start cooking or baking items that will keep in the fridge or freezer for a day or two, and set the table and bar the night before.  There will be a few items that will need to be done the day of (like picking up fresh bread) but keep those tasks as light as possible.

5. It’s a Party, Not a Bar.

Most people will drink what you give them and like it.

Keep your selection (and your sanity) streamlined. Offer one white and one red wine, a beer and one or two spirits. Don’t forget a sophisticated non-alcoholic option.

For our friends and family, gin and whiskey are the popular spirits; your guests may prefer something else. For mixes and non-alcoholic drinks, have sparkling water, juice, and a soda pop available. Don’t forget garnish: lemon, lime, and olives.  If you’d like to get fancy you can offer orange, cherries, and cocktail onions as well.

6. Err on the side of extra.

Running out is a bummer.

We would rather have left-overs (booze keeps a long time, and hey! You’ve already knocked something off your to-do list for the next great party!)

You will have to stock in accordance with your group’s preferences, and how long your gathering lasts, but as a general rule we always estimate in these quantities to make sure we’ve got plenty to keep the party going:

  • 1/2 bottle of wine per person (if you have 20 people coming over, you will need 10 bottles.  It’s our experience people tend to favour red over white, so we would buy 6 bottles of red, and 4 bottles of white.  Your crowd may be different).
  • 3 bottles/cans of beer per person
  • 3-4 mixed drinks per person (a 750 mL bottle of alcohol will give about 26 single-shot mixed drinks).
  • 1 3 lb. bag of ice per five people (this will take care of drinks and ice buckets).
  • 6-8 hors d’oeuvres per person for cocktail party that occurs over a meal period but no formal meal is served.
  • 2-3 hors d’oeuvres per person for a cocktail party taking place outside of meal times, or to start off a dinner party.

7. Get some help.

If you have more than 10 people coming over, consider asking for a little assistance. Whether that means pot luck, rentals, or hiring a server to help pass the canapés, an extra set of hands goes a long way.

8. On the ready.

Plan to be dressed, candles lit, food and drink set out and music playing at least 30 minutes before the party’s scheduled to start.  Relax, have a drink and be ready – not harried – when the first guests arrive.

9. It’s a dirty job … but you’ve gotta do it.

During the party take a few minutes every hour or so to go through the house to tidy up debris, ensure ice buckets are full, and the restroom has clean hand towels and is fresh.

10. Keep calm and carry on.

If something goes wrong (and it always does) never let ‘em see you sweat.

So the turkey burns, or red wine is spilled on the couch, or the cat launches a lugee on the dance floor when everyone’s rockin’ around the Christmas tree, know that a gracious host stays calm under pressure, keeps smiling through the mishap and redirects attention to something else (“oh, this couch? Don’t worry, I’ll just grab a towel and wipe the mess up.  Hey – have you seen Uncle Rudy take out his teeth? Go watch – it’s a hoot!”)

Remember, the key to throwing a great party is that the host is having just as good a time as the guests. And with a little planning, it’s a sure bet you will.


We take your events from standard to sparkling! Book a wine tasting to elevate your next great party!


*This blog has been updated since its original publishing in 2011. 

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