A cocktail party is a party at which cocktails are served. It is sometimes called a “cocktail reception”. Women who attend a cocktail party may wear a cocktail dress. A cocktail hat is sometimes worn as a fashion statement.
Formal receptions are parties that are designed to receive a large number of guests, often at prestigious venues such as Buckingham Palace, the White House or Government Houses of the British Empire and Commonwealth. The hosts and any guests of honor form a receiving line in order of precedence near the entrance. Each guest is announced to the host who greets each one in turn as he or she arrives. Each guest properly speaks little more than his name (if necessary) and a conventional greeting or congratulation to each person in the receiving line. In this way, the line of guests progresses steadily without unnecessary delay. After formally receiving each guest in this fashion, the hosts may mingle with the guests.
Somewhat less formal receptions are common in academic settings, sometimes to honor a guest lecturer, or to celebrate a special occasion such as retirement of a respected member of staff. Receptions are also common in symposium or academic conference settings, as an environment for attendees to mingle and interact informally. These gatherings may be accompanied by a sit-down dinner, or more commonly, a stand-up informal buffet meal.