Planning a Corporate Cocktail Party

Planning a Corporate Cocktail Party

Planning a corporate cocktail party is a little different than a cocktail party with friends. That’s not to say that your colleagues are not your friends, but rather the purpose of the event may be different.

Corporate cocktail parties can feel like obligations, but they can also be a ton of fun. If it isn’t already obvious, establishing the objective of the party and communicating it in the invitation is important. Also, including a timeline for the event lets guests know what they’re in for. If there’s an award or an important speech to be made indicate it in the invitation.

Unless you’re asking guests to RSVP for a corporate cocktail event like this, you can expect a 60% turnout. Also, Vancouverites are terribly last minute when confirming an invitation so don’t panic too much. Basing your planning decisions on 3/4 attendance rate will give you enough cushion. If you’re not convinced, consider adding some extra menu items like cheese and charcuterie boards as back up. That way if they’re not consumed at the event, they can be put out in the staff kitchen the following day.


If your cocktail party isn’t at the office, the venue is the biggest decision to make. Factors like location and time of year impact the decision. That means possible tenting an outdoor event in the winter and transportation as well. A novel solution – for this late September cocktail party at UBC Boathouse in Richmond, guests were shuttled from downtown Vancouver and promptly given company jackets upon arrival for the outdoor portion of the cocktail party.

Food Ratios

We generally recommend a 50/50 split between meat and vegetarian options.

In a recent VHS survey, British Columbia has the most vegetarians per capita of any province in Canada with 13 percent and a further 26 percent of the people surveyed trying to eat less meat.

It’s also critical to get the amount of food correct. As a general rule of thumb, 4 to 5 bites person outside of meal times, and anywhere from 10 to 20 bites in lieu of a meal.

Tray Passed Hors d’Oeuvres

When guests arrive make sure there are appropriate appetizers to go along with the cocktails. Take time to consider the pairing. Subtly flavoured vegetarian or seafood canapes to start to awaken palates rather than overwhelm. Make sure they’re easy to eat with one hand. If the hors d’oeuvre is on a lollipop stick, have a container close at hand for used ones.

Signature Cocktail

Always a good idea. Pick something light and refreshing like a simple sparking wine with crème de cassis. In a corporate cocktail setting, guests will usually have two drinks.

Food Stations

A combination of tray passed hors d’oeuvres with food stations works best in a cocktail party setting. Guests caught up in conversation will still be served via tray passed hors d’oeuvres, while others can partake in the stationery offerings. Flow is really important when laying out a buffet station. In the middle of the room if possible and accessible from all sides. Tent cards are also a must. Guests with dietary concerns won’t eat anything if they don’t know what it is. It’s also not enough to say what the item is; include other ingredients that may be of concern.

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