Cocktail Hour: Party Etiquette and Checklist

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Think cocktail parties and what comes to mind—most likely, it’s a portrait of elegant ladies and gentlemen mingling over cocktails (naturally) and exotic hors d’oeuvres. Whether it’s The Great Gatsby or the endless soirees that occupy Page 3 columns of daily newspapers, cocktail parties are associated with luxury and celebrations. But these occasions can also be appropriate for creating strong social and business relationships. Follow these rules and transform the cocktail party into a pool of opportunities for yourself.

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Guest Etiquette

  • When you receive an invitation with an RSVP, reply within a day or two so that the host can start planning.
  • Adhere to dress codes mentioned in the invite. If you are not sure what to wear, don’t hesitate to ask the host.
  • Timing is everything. Too early and you may interrupt last minute preparations. Never be very late either—no such thing as fashionably late.
  • Unless the invitation specifies it, do not bring uninvited guests along.
  • Greet the host within 10 minutes of arriving. Mingle with other guests but avoid giving business cards unless requested.
  • Avoid proximity with superiors unless they initiate it.
  • Gifts show your appreciation at being invited. A bouquet, scented candles, or a bottle of wine are great picks.
  • Avoid talking and shouting across tables. Pay attention to the person you are talking and maintain eye contact.
  • Don’t overstay your welcome. Adhere to the end time or get ready to leave when you find the venue half empty.
  • Ensure you thank the host for their hospitality before you leave.

Choosing Food and Beverages

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Usually served based on climate, season, and theme, beverages and food complete the party. Most events will offer an assortment of both food and drinks, and it’s important to conduct yourself politely.

  • Stick to mocktails if you are a lousy drinker or have to drive back from the party.
  • Not a cocktail person? Choose a wine instead. Pick whisky or beer only if you are familiar with the drink.
  • Mix your drinks with tonic or club soda if you are in a conversational mood. Slurred speech is a no-no.
  • Avoid shots and champagne unless the host proposes it; these get you drunk quickly.
  • Don’t have too many drinks—two is a safe number.
  • Avoid finger foods or messy and dripping appetisers. Eat with a fork or a toothpick.
  • Choose heavy appetisers with red wine and light ones with white wine.

Parties come and go, but those with networking opportunities requires you to display the right attitude and oodles of self-confidence. Let your alliances know you are interesting as well as interested in their ideas. Come final hour, you will take your leave enriched. Cheers!

Images Courtesy Grand Hotel & Spa York; The Norton Museum of Art; Pexels

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