How to Host a Cotillion

By Jonathan Johnson , last updated March 19, 2011

Learning how to host a Cotillion can be a daunting task. This type of formal ball has been around since the 1700’s, when it was a common, formal social event among the upper class of France and England. Living up to the rich history and prestige of the Cotillion can be difficult, but certainly not impossible.

When organizing this type of event, the absolute first thing to consider is the guest list. Knowing approximately how many people will be attending your cotillion is important, as this will determine your venue, how much food to have, and where to put seating. This is especially important to know before choosing a venue—you don’t want the room to appear too empty, or not have enough seating or dancing space for your guests. Typical size for a cotillion is between 100 and 400 guests. Choose a venue that has both adequate seating room and plenty of space to dance, preferably in the center of the room.

Invitations should be sent out at a minimum a month in advance. Address the invitations formally, and be sure to include your name (or the hosting organization’s name), the invitee’s full name, and the specific date and time. Guests should be advised to dress formally, and asked to RSVP by a certain date, to give you time to organize catering and other necessities.

Catering should be done by a reliable catering business. Being served cold or unappetizing food could turn off your guests and make them unlikely to return to any future events you may host. In addition to a main meal, hors d’oeuvres should be served throughout the evening.

Music should be considered in relation to your guests. Consider the age group, the purpose of the evening, and the tone you would like to set. Hire a proficient DJ who understands your intentions.

While dancing should take up the main part of the night, the host should always have a speech and several formal toasts prepared. These should be done at the beginning of the evening, preferably after food has been served and before dancing begins. The host’s speech should last between five and ten minutes. Invite one or two guests of honor, who should also prepare short speeches. Be sure to conclude the evening with a few toasts.

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