Party planning timeline

Dec 7, 2009 at 7:55 p.m. ET

It's time to usher in the new year with a fun bash for family and friends. Here's what you need to know leading up to your New Year's Eve party.

New Years Eve

3 weeks ahead

  • Send out the invitations -- use Evite or the "plan an event" option in Facebook. Don't rely on snail mail or word-of-mouth.
  • Make a guest list so you can keep track of how many people you'll have to serve.
  • Plan your menu, recipes and purchases. That way, you can budget, too.
  • Make sure you have all of the cooking equipment and serving dishes you'll need to fulfill your menu. 

2 weeks ahead

  • Hit the party supply store for all of the decorations.
  • Clean your place thoroughly, iron the linens and make sure everything is in the right place.
  • Order a centerpiece if you plan to have one (such as flowers or a fruit basket).

1 week ahead

  • Order any food that needs ordering, such as special cakes, platters and dishes that you're not planning to cook.
  • Buy non-perishable items, such as liquor, juices, sodas and chips.
  • If you want, create mini menus of all of the food and cocktails you'll be serving.
  • Finalize the guest list. 

2 days ahead

  • Create a playlist on your iPod for the night of the party.
  • Send a reminder email or mass text to all of your friends who are coming and to all of those who haven't RSVPd.
  • Rearrange furniture as necessary to complement the party's overall ambiance. Group seating together and have a number of open areas to maximize your space.
  • Start prepping recipes that you can prepare in advance. For instance, if you have to marinate ham in honey, do so two days ahead so the flavor really soaks in. 

1 day ahead

  • Buy all the perishable items on your list.
  • Prepare and cook everything that doesn't have to be made the day of.
  • Do some last-minute cleaning, vacuuming and dusting.
  • Pick up platters and any food you've ordered.  

Day of the party

  • Cook the dishes that have to be cooked the day of the party.
  • Arrange the food.
  • Arrange the bar area.
  • Set up all decorations and centerpieces.
  • Have loads of fun!

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