How to host a New Year's Eve party

Dec 26, 2012 at 9:00 a.m. ET

There's no better way to start off the New Year than with family and friends. Throwing a fabulous party that your guests will love will take some planning, but will all be worth it in the end — or should I say, beginning?

New Year's Eve party

invitationStep 1: Invitations

Get your invitations out as early as possible! Make sure that your guests will have at least two weeks to RSVP. Formal invitations are not a necessity, but having them will add some excitement and anticipation. If you already have a theme in mind, there are plenty of card and stationery websites (such as Smilebox and Shutterfly) that offer invitation card templates for you to use. Another option is an email invitation that allows your guests to RSVP directly to your inbox.

Step 2: Theme and decor

There are countless themes for a great New Year's Eve party, ranging from a fancy cocktail night to a low-key sports-themed get-together. Use the occasion as an opportunity to dress up and make your home sparkle. A black-and-gold theme for your party makes it easy to decorate and is the perfect festive setting for the night. Christmas lights are relatively inexpensive and can be hung from the ceilings and around furniture for a more celebratory vibe. Scatter confetti, party hats, party poppers, sirens and party whistles around on tables and countertops in your home. Many party stores offer party favors as a package, like this New Year's Party Kit from Party City. Whatever you decide, the night will be sure to offer fun and festivities for everyone.

champagneStep 3: Food and drink

A New Year's Eve meal is best reserved for a small group of close family and friends. For the party, snacks and finger food is the best option for feeding your guests. Chips, salsa and guacamole are staple party foods that most everybody will like and eat. Other savory options include cheese bites, mini hot dogs, mac and cheese bites, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken or steak skewers, and a vegetable tray. People will be mingling, so these foods will make it easy for your guests to enjoy themselves and eat at the same time. Desserts such as fruit, brownies and cookies are great for a party setting. Get creative with cupcakes and hand them out with cake candles for your guests who came without dates to blow out at the beginning of the New Year. If you're planning on serving alcohol, buy plastic party glasses so you can be festive without worrying about anything breaking. Leave some sliced strawberries or whole cherries out for people to eat with their champagne (or cider, for guests who don't drink) and make sure you have enough plates, utensils, napkins and cups for all your guests.

Step 4: Safety

If you're planning on providing alcohol at the party, it's always good to make sure that your guests have a safe way of getting home. It's good to designate a room with extra pillows and blankets for guests who may have to spend the night. Many taxi services offer free transportation on New Year's Eve, so do some research on your local cab companies and have their contact information ready. Never let anyone drink and drive!

Step 5: Have fun!

Party hosts often get too caught up in making sure their guests are happy and forget to enjoy the party themselves. Don't let yourself get stressed — remember that your guests are there to spend time with you. Take breaks from your hosting duties and sit down with your guests and soak up the festive spirit. There is no better way to start off the New Year than with people you love the most. Learn from the past, welcome the future and enjoy the present.

Happy New Year!

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