Let’s talk about something near and dear to a Newporter’s heart: The Cocktail Party. It wouldn’t be a summer in Newport without them! Over the years, having given and attended my fair share of cocktail parties and events, I have amassed quite a few ideas and thoughts on the subject, and I’m happy to share them with you. After all, with a name like Pardee, I’d best know how to design a good party.
First, my entertaining philosophy: for a very few halcyon hours you provide guests the opportunity to step out of their everyday world, put their cares aside, be tended to and then depart with a memory, a “souvenir of life”. What could be more fulfilling.
In order to help achieve cocktail party bliss, here are my 12 Pardee Party Tips for entertaining Newport-Summer-Style:
1. Location, location, location – Newport is in no short supply of gorgeous venues for parties.
Recently, in an interview with The Salonniere, I was asked about my dream party location. Answer: The small, exquisite (and seldom made available) Chinese Tea House at Marble House.
Balancing on the cliff’s edge, its view sweeps up the mansion-studded coastline.
2. Theme – I’m a big fan! A theme insures a level of anticipation for the guest as soon as the invitation is received and provides the host a focus around which to organize. A theme also answers my husband’s often-asked question -“what’s the occasion?”
For example – the last party I hosted had a “Bellinis and Blossoms in the Garden” theme during the Newport Flower Show in June. Many donned colorful dresses, hats and flowered ensembles. Gorgeous! (More images here.)
3. Eclectic Guest List – We all enjoy a scintillating conversation at a cocktail party – meeting, connecting, sharing. When planning your guest list, take a few extra minutes and be creative. Of course you have your go-to guests, but how about adding some new, fascinating people whom you have recently met…why not?
A Newport party trademark: generations in attendance. At a recent party I attended, there were four generations represented. That is not unusual and one of many Newport traditions that I love.
4. House Guests – It wouldn’t be summer in Newport without cocktail parties and house guests! Mix. Combine. Enjoy!
5. A Selection of Good Wines and Champagnes
Reminder: consider a signature non-alcoholic beverage. Years ago I designed a “Papillon”…San Pellegrino dressed up with 7 dashes of bitters and a big squeeze of lime. And for a festive touch, perhaps a slice of watermelon on the glass’s rim.
6. Reliably Yummy Food – My recommendation: unfussy hors d’oeuvres. Some passed, some stationary. And for so many practical reasons, I always specify one-bite, pop-in-the-mouth hors d’oeuvres – no dripping on your dress, crumbling on the hostess’s rug or smearing your lipstick.
FYI, Newport Fun Fact: the choice in Newport for years (though not mine) has been “Newport caviar”…a toast round spread with crunchy peanut butter and topped with crumbled bacon.
7. Brightly-Colored Attire – clothes, accessories and jewelry…it is summer in Newport, after all!
8. Luscious Flowers – But not overdone; my favorites are smaller arrangements, and more of them, in monochromatic colors.
9. Space Allotment – Be mindful of this detail – a space that’s too large for the number of guests can cause them to feel “adrift” and uncomfortable.
A couple of thoughts regarding outdoor cocktail parties:
10. Citronella Candles – During the summer months in Newport, the mosquitoes can be quite challenging. Citronella candles are an absolute must.
11. Flattering Lighting – Guests want to look their best. Downlighting, uplighting and harsh outdoor lighting can be quite the contrary. Let ambient light and candlelight carry the night; it’s also romantic!
12. Valet Parking – As mentioned, parties in Newport tend to be a mix of ages and generations; valet parking adds ease to the experience.
I welcome hearing about your party tips! Please feel free to share them below…and send this post to a favorite friend. Happy Party Planning!