HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE COCKTAIL PARTY

Greeting!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been very busy. One of the things that occupied my time was a surprise cocktail party and book signing I co-hosted with my son & daughter-in-law for my dad’s 88th birthday.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Because it did require a great deal of planning to execute this fete, I thought I’d share with you all the details. So here is my step-by-step plan with links to all the great resources for: How To Host A Very Impressive Cocktail Party.

#1 SEND A TERRIFIC INVITATION: My daughter-in-law, Louisa, created these fabulous invitations on a website we love called Tinyprints. They were printed invites, sent via snail-mail, which is so much classier than evites. We used a photo of my dad from his Army days which also happens to be the photo on the cover of his book. Wasn’t he a handsome fellow?

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#2 HOST YOUR PARTY IN A FANTASTIC VENUE: For our party, we reserved The Presidential Suite at the beautiful and iconic landmark, The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California.

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HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | #Tournament of Roses Suite, #Langham #Huntington Hotel, #Pasadena | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Known as “The Tournament of Roses Suite”, this 3,700 square foot, two-story apartment occupies the top two floors of the hotel. See it there crowning the hotel under the 3 flags? All of us agreed, it was the finest hotel suite we had ever seen. Below is a floorplan of the suite. We used the dining and living room for cocktails and Tapas, then everyone moved upstairs for the book signing and dessert on the balconies.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | #Tournament of Roses Suite, #Langham #Huntington Hotel, #Pasadena | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The centerpiece of the suite is this staircase, at the top of which is an immense landing with French doors that open onto the suite’s 2 huge balconies. Commanding 360 degree views can be enjoyed of the Horseshoe Gardens on one side, San Marino and the majestic San Gabriel Mountains on the other side of the suite. We felt like we were on top of the world.

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HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | #Tournament of Roses Suite, #Langham #Huntington Hotel, #Pasadena | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | #Tournament of Roses Suite, #Langham #Huntington Hotel, #Pasadena | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#3 DEVELOP A COLOR SCHEME AND DECORATE: We decided on a color scheme of Gold and White for our cocktail party.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

My new favorite party decorations are tissue balls. I purchased gold, white and polka dot tissue balls from PartyPoms on Etsy.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Decorations from PartyPoms on Etsy | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I got additional white tissue balls at a cheaper price (also cheaper quality) at Oriental Trading.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Decorations from Oriental Trading | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And I purchased these pretty gold tissue fans from Sweet Lulu.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Decorations from Sweet LuLu | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Gold confetti was sprinkled on the tables that I also purchased from Sweet Lulu. It really made the tables look festive but I will warn you, it is difficult to clean up!

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Decorations from Sweet LuLu | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Decorations from PartyPoms on Etsy | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#4 DECORATE WITH BIG, BEAUTIFUL BOUQUETS OF FLOWERS, FLOWERS, FLOWERS EVERYWHERE! AND ADD A BOUQUET OF BALLOONS FOR GOOD MEASURE: Costco is my go-to resource for big, inexpensive bouquets of fresh flowers. We filled many vases with lots and lots of flowers and placed them all around the suite. It looked and smelled lovely. I tend to think that the use of helium balloons is a bit dated, but I decided to tie a bouquet of gold balloons to a chair in the foyer, just to set a festive mood as people arrived. I purchased the balloons at Oriental Trading and got a tank of helium at Party City.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#5 HIRE ENTERTAINMENT: The hotel suite had a baby grand piano, so we decided to put it to good use by hiring a pianist who was also a good singer.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

She lead the crowd in singing “For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow” when my dad arrived, very surprised. She also lead us in singing “Happy Birthday” and entertained the guests with background music all evening long.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#6 SET UP A SELF-SERVE COCKTAIL BAR: Every cocktail party needs cocktails of course, and because there was no actual bar in the suite that could be manned by a bartender, we decided to set up a self-service bar area where guests could prepare their preferred cocktail.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We featured only the best brands of liquor, with mixers of every kind in small bottles and cans. And don’t forget the sliced limes. The metallic gold and white striped straws came from Enchanted Frog Events on Etsy.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A silver bucket was filled with ice and cocktail glasses were stacked alongside.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Every cocktail party also needs cocktail napkins. We had these personalized napkins printed at ForYourParty.com.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

In another area of the suite we set up a second bar with champagne and red & white wine. And because the party was Spanish themed, after my dad’s heritage, we also offered sangria.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Click here for my Red, White & Blue Sangria recipe.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#7 SERVE TAPAS, THE PERFECT SMALL BITES FOR ANY GREAT COCKTAIL PARTY: Again, as an ode to my father’s Spanish heritage, we served Tapas. However, you don’t have to be Spanish to serve Tapas, which make the perfect cocktail appetizers. I previously wrote a post all about the origin of Tapas that you can read here.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I used miniature frames to identify each dish, writing the names in Spanish. I purchased the mini frames here at Shinoda. Following is what I served.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

It doesn’t get much more Spanish than this: Queso Manchego Con Membrillo. Get my recipe for this classic appetizer that everyone simply loves here. If you have never tried it, do yourself a favor and do. Trust me, it is elegant and delicious and I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone loves it!

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Manchego Con Membrillo Recipe |www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

This dish is without a doubt the best tasting thing I ever put in my mouth! They are Medjool Dates stuffed with Blue Cheese and Wrapped in Jamon Serrano. Get my recipe for this amazing appetizer by clicking here.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Cheese Stuffed Dates with Jamon Serrano Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I also prepared Gazpacho and served it in little shot glasses with a cucumber stick. It was absolutely outstanding and very attractive too! My delicious recipe for Gazpacho will be coming to the blog in the near future. By the way, “Gazpacho” is spelled wrong on my little framed sign: My bad!

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Gazpacho | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I also served the most classic of all Spanish dishes: Tortilla Española, the national dish of Spain. Again, this is a wonderful dish that everyone loves. You can get my step-by-step tutorial recipe for Tortilla Española by clicking here.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Tortilla Espanola Recipe | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Another very classic Spanish dish is Jamon Serrano Con Melon. In order to make them bite-sized and pretty, I made honeydew melon balls and threaded them on a long toothpick with a slice of Jamon Serrano. If you are not familiar with Jamon Serrano, it is the Spanish version of Prosciutto only much, much better! 

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Melon Balls with Prosciutto | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

As you can see, I like Jamon Serrano. Here, I wrapped it around asparagus and roasted it. YUM!

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Asparagus wrapped in Proscuitto | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | Asparagus wrapped in Proscuitto | www.AfterOrangeCounty.comHOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

Since most of Spain is surrounded by ocean, Spaniards eat a lot of seafood. I served skewered shrimp in two ways: # 1 Wrapped around Spanish Chorizo Sausage and #2 marinated in a Fresh Lime Sauce.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

I also prepared a cheese board with both fresh and dried fruit.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

In addition, we had a crudite tray with several dips and bowls of Spanish olives. Spanish Marcona Almonds were served in a bowl alongside.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

#8 MAKE A TOAST! At our cocktail party we toasted the birthday boy as well as offered congratulations for the publication of his book, a seven year effort finally realized.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

My oldest son Nathan read from the Prologue which, incidentally, he authored. 

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We laughed…

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

and there were some sentimental moments when we cried.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And then we sang Happy Birthday! My father’s favorite dessert is apple pie. It was one of the first things he ate on his first day in America, arriving as an immigrant during WWII on a ship from Spain. In his book he describes his first taste of apple pie, after receiving a slice offered to him from an American soldier. So, we celebrated with apple pie! The number 8 candles came from Sur La Table and the long metallic gold candles from Sweet Lulu.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

A gift table was set up in the foyer area, along with a album with photos documenting my dad’s life. Brad and I gave him this basket of Spanish food delicacies.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

The burlap ribbon and chalkboard gift tag came from Michaels. The #88 tags are from IKEA.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

We concluded the wonderful evening with a book signing. Every guest received a signed copy of Dad’s book. Large posters of the book cover were made at Kinko’s.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

If you’d like to read my father’s fascinating book, documenting his seemingly 9 lives, it is available here on Amazon.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

It was a beautiful party, in a magical setting, with all the people we love, honoring the most important person in our lives. And we made memories that will last generations. CHEERS!

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

So there you have it: HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE COCKTAIL PARTY

PS – It really does take a village to pull off a do-it-yourself party like this one. My son took care of the hotel arrangements, the bars, the books & poster for signing and numerous other details. My daughter-in-law made and mailed the invitations and handled the RSVP’s. She did all the flower arrangements and decorations and set up the bars, food stations & book signing area, transforming the hotel suite into a party venue fit for a rock star. Her father Ed, our all-around go-to guy, flew in with his wife Julia from Alabama for the party and pitched-in in too many ways to count. My BFF and her husband flew in from Arizona and, as always, were invaluable in all they did. She was my sous chef, cooking with me for 2 full days, running to the grocery store for forgotten items and writing the framed menu items in her beautiful cursive. Her husband packed all the serveware that we brought from home, blew up balloons, ran errands, etc., etc. My youngest son, Austin, photographer extraordinaire, captured several of the photos used in this post.

HOW TO HOST A VERY IMPRESSIVE #COCKTAIL #PARTY | www.AfterOrangeCounty.com

And last but not least, my husband Brad, along with my wonderful oldest son Nathan, paid for it all. Thank you all for helping to make this party spectacular!

Thanks for dropping in!  Do please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Unless otherwise credited, all photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.

Comments

  • Juliet Russell

    Celia, I absolutely love your ‘How to host a . . . ‘ posts and this one was no exception. What a wonderful party and how proud you must be of your Dad and he of you. Reading about your cocktail reception put a smile on my face and now my week is off to a great start! Keep ‘em coming . . . ~ Juliet

  • Dear Juliet, what a lovely comment. It warms my heart to know that what I do puts a smile on people’s faces. It makes the effort all worthwhile. Thank you!

  • Luis Lopez

    My 88th birthday celebration was one of the greatest experiences of my long life. It occurred on Good Friday, and I feel guilty for receiving more attention than our Holly Father. Thank you Nathan, Louisa, Celia, Brad, Nellie and so many others for making it happen. My sincere thanks also to those where present, especially my beautiful great grandchildren Elle and Wills and their Grand Parents, Dr. Ed and Mrs. Julia Williams. I love you all!
    But let me warn you: I like all this attention – keep it up and I’ll live to be 100!

  • I’m going to hold you to that dad! I’ll start planning the party of the century right now!

  • Holy Cow! You are truly the Martha Stewart of Lake Arrowhead!! I hope I can sneak in on one of your parties one day!! What a handsome father you have!

  • Cindy I would love nothing more than to have you attend one of my parties. We will have to make that happen soon!