Everything you need
for epic entertaining this winter

If you haven't already, it's time to begin planning for the year’s most festive celebrations.

Not one of us at Cottswood doesn’t love a good seasonal shindig, but we also know they don’t happen without plenty of preparation. Whether you are hosting an elegant dinner or a casual cocktail party, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of everything you’ll need to do before your next get together.

First, send out invites with RSVPs

Whether you’re sending out classic paper mailers or making the party known through social media, requesting guests to RSVP will take the guess work out of your preparation. Stressing out over not enough guests showing up—or far too many—is a surefire way to kick things off on the wrong foot. Know the numbers in advance and prep accordingly.

Then, take a tally of what’s on hand

Gather together your flatware, linens, candles, barware, and place settings. Make sure you have everything washed, cleaned — and most of all — the right amount for all your guests. Don't forget some extras for multiple courses or dropped utensils. Take note of what you’ve got and what’s missing.

Then, pull out the special servingware for your special soiree

If you’re a swinging single or got married in this millenium, chances are you didn’t get a set of china as a wedding gift. Splurging on your own set of ‘special’ servingware, fancy flatware, and glamourous glassware is well worth it if parties are a regular part of your yearly routine.

Cottswood’s design experts have picked out a few of our favourites that are sure to make your table shine.

  • Jonathan Adler

    1948° Five Piece Dinner Set


    Olivia Trays Set of 3

  • Jonathan Adler

    Eve Two-Tier Tray

  • Jonathan Adler

    1948° Modern Platter

  • Global Views

    Majestic Platter-Stainless Steel

  • Jonathan Adler

    Malachite Dessert Place

Centrepieces: The star of the table

A show-stealing centerpiece that catches the attention of every eye in the room is key to setting the stage for the entire affair. Whether you are ordering an arrangement through a stellar florist (like our friends at Fabloomosity) or taking the DIY approach, it helps to have a striking vessel to start with. Bring one of these beauties to a professional two weeks in advance of the party, or fill one out yourself, for a spotlight-worthy centerpiece.

  • Global Views

    Milos Vase

  • Global Views

    Diamond Cut Globe Vase

  • Arteriors

    Faceted Vase

  • Global Views

    Metallic Dipped Tall Vase

  • Arteriors

    Swain Centerpiece

  • Global Views

    Vesper Bowl

  • Milos Vase
  • Diamond Cut Globe Vase
  • Faceted Vase
  • Metallic Dipped Tall Vase
  • Swain Centerpiece
  • Vesper Bowl

You need a bar cart in your life

There wasn’t a single one of us who wasn’t totally jealous of Don Draper’s bar setup, but bar carts aren’t just for mid-mod Mad Men fans. They come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, and finishes to fit every taste and budget. Even if you’re not a drinker, they’re great for serving up other party fare.

  • Jonathan Adler

    Jacques Bar Cart

  • Global Views

    Rupert Bar Cart

  • Global Views

    Campaign Bar

  • Global Views

    Grid Block Bar Cart

  • Arteriors

    Connaught Bar Cart

  • Jacques Bar Cart
  • Rupert Bar Cart
  • Campaign Bar
  • Grid Block Bar Cart
  • Connaught Bar Cart

Fill it up

A proper bar cart deserves a proper bar stock. At minimum, you should have gin, genever, vodka, white rum, amber rum, cognac-style brandy, rye whiskey, orange liqueur, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, simple syrup, orange bitters, and aromatic bitters. Don’t forget the garnishes too: olives, citrus fruit, cucumbers, fresh mint or rosemary are musts—as well as plenty of ice. Make sure you’ve got enough wine, champagne, and beer in the fridge, while you’re at it. For your underage or dry-night guests, pick up some bottled water (both flat and sparkling), sodas and juices or, better yet, serve up a mocktail! Not everyone likes to drink (or can drink), so why should they miss out on the fun?

Tools of the trade

Unless you’re a fan of the ‘farmer pour’ (aka ‘just winging it’), cocktails require a few essential tools. You should have a jigger (for measuring), bottle opener, corkscrew, bar spoons, cocktail shaker, shot glasses, and an ice bucket at the very least. Invest in a pretty set that you’ll enjoy for a lifetime of parties to come.

Unless you’re a fan of the ‘farmer pour’ (aka ‘just winging it’), cocktails require a few essential tools. You should have a jigger (for measuring), bottle opener, corkscrew, bar spoons, cocktail shaker, shot glasses, and an ice bucket at the very least. Invest in a pretty set that you’ll enjoy for a lifetime of parties to come.

Checkout some of our favourite barware below and at Global Views.

Marcel Ice Bucket
Gravitas Bottle Opener
Global Views
Edgar Cube Stopper Decanter
Consider hiring a bartender...
If you have your heart set on serving hand-crafted cocktails at your party, we highly recommend hiring a bartender (or enlisting a friend). Otherwise, you could spend your entire party mixing and shaking—but not in the way you should be. Pitcher drinks are another great idea that will make your guests just as happy, and allow you to enjoy yourself too.

Plan a manageable menu 
Unless you’ve got one special favourite dish in mind, try to avoid food that requires elaborate or multi-day preparation. Opt for something simpler, or even better, supplement the menu with some appetizers from the frozen food section. With some creative plating, your guests will never know the difference. If wow-worthy food is a must, consider hiring a caterer and avoid the fuss (and the mess)! Speaking of menu planning, consider guests that might have special dietary needs. Are there any vegetarians or vegans? Do any of your guest have food allergies? Will anyone need a kosher meal? You won’t want anyone left offended, sick or starving at your party.

Space planning 101
You don’t have to be a professional space planner like the experts on Cottswood’s interior design team to plan a party, but you do need to think about flow. When you're arranging furniture and thinking about where to locate food and drinks, consider how people will move through the house. Generally, everyone is going to walk in the door and then go straight for the food and drink, so make sure there's a clear path to the goodies. Think about places where bottlenecks may form and try to eliminate them by creatively positioning furniture. If, for example, you have a small kitchen, putting out food in a different room will keep everyone from winding up uncomfortably jammed into a tight space.

Unless you’re hosting a sit down dinner party, you probably don’t need as many chairs as you may think. Most of your visitors will probably spend the majority of the party on their feet. Usually people will only sit down at the very end of the party, after most guests have already left, so provide one or two conversational groupings of chairs, but don't feel like you have to have a seat for every single person. You don't want to wind up with a whole roomful of people standing awkwardly around a bunch of unused chairs.

If you think your space might require a more customized solution, give our team at Cottswood a call.

Plan out the table in advance
If you need help visualizing where everything is going to go, look no further than your friendly office staple, the Post-It note, to mark where the dishes and decorations will go. If you’re having a self-serve buffet, put the main dish near the beginning with the sides nearby. salad and dinner rolls next, and the dessert on display toward the back of the table so guests can gush over it as they served themselves dinner.

If you’re having a sit-down meal, set out the full place settings you’re planning to use (with all the cutlery, glassware, side plates, napkins, coffee cups, and chargers) to make sure it all actually fits on the table. This will give you time to mitigate any space challenges in advance. If you need a bigger table, we can help with that. Prepare some place cards to let everyone know who is who (and to help you decide who should sit next to whom).

Create different ‘zones’
If you think the party might get a little loud, set out some additional chairs in an adjoining room for those guests who want to relax or have a quieter conversation away from the rest of the bustle. Need a few occasional chairs for your special occasion? Here are some of our current favs.

Keep necessities in plain sight
If you will be expecting your guests to serve themselves food or drinks, be sure the tools they’ll need to get the job done are visible. Bottle openers, cutlery, napkins, plates, glasses, ice, and the like should be out in the open, near other “like” items.

Play some tunes
Music provides a little background noise to make people comfortable during those awkward introduction stages, and it also helps set the tone for the entertainment to come. Make a playlist to set the mood and have it playing before guests arrive.

Check the thermostat
A bunch of people socializing together in a room can generate a lot of body heat. If you're having a large gathering, you'll probably need to do something about the temperature: turn off the heater, open up windows, maybe even turn on the A/C for a little while to cool down the room before people arrive, so you don't wind up with a sweltering home two hours later when it's too late to do anything about it. 

Break the ice
If you’ve invited guests who don't know anyone else at the party, don't just put a drink in their hand and leave them to fend for themselves. Make sure to introduce them to one or two other guests, and mention something they might have in common, so they're not stuck floating around on their own. 

Ask for help
Hosting a party is a big job. No matter how much you prepare in advance, you'll probably find yourself scrambling to get something ready at the last minute. Enlist the assistance of a spouse, family member, or close friend so you'll be able to greet your guests, rather than running around in the kitchen.

It’s totally okay if it’s not totally perfect
Despite your best intentions, things always take a little longer than you anticipate. It's okay if you don't have all the food on the table right away; just make sure there's some food on the table, lots of drinks available, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Relax and enjoy yourself, and your guests will too.

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