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NEW YEARS EVE PARTY PLANNING

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/7/2006 | Social Issues

Trust us on this: the best New Years Eve parties are not necessarily the largest ones. In fact, you would probably be better off inviting close friends and family and concentrating on quality rather than quantity. Besides, smaller gatherings mean you can keep your New Years Eve party planning down to the bare necessities, and not spend large amounts of money to impress your guests. Heres a list of a few basic requirements that can make a New Years Eve party a success: 

Advance notice: Thankfully, the date for your party will always be December 31, but will your guests be able to make it on that day? Perhaps you need to enforce the RSVP part of your invitation to make sure you dont end up as part of a five-member group watching Times Square festivities on TV. 

The best way to ensure that your friends turn up is to call them and inform them about your party well in advance. There will always be last-minute dropouts, but if you tell your guests early, they will plan for their evening at your place too. Also, as a backup, send out e-mail invitations the day after you make your phone call. Careful, though dont give the impression that its open house unless you genuinely mean your friends to bring as many guests as they can. Specify what kind of party it is open or restricted. 

Food: Since this really does not top the list of priorities at a New Years Eve party, keep it simple and light. You must have cocktails, of course, and snacks and finger foods to go with it, but do not arrange a sit-down dinner. That cramps your guests and does not really allow them to mingle. Besides, since snacks like nachos, pretzels, cheese, nuts and chicken wings can all be bought, a menu that includes these and similar items saves you the bother of cooking on the big day.  

If it is an exclusively family gathering, you may announce a potluck dinner, and ask each guest to bring something. But just make sure that no two people get the same dish. Whatever you do, dont go for the hassle of serving people individually. Just put the food on a buffet table and let guests help themselves. Since seating may be at a premium, and people will be standing and eating, use non-breakable cutlery and crockery. Besides, paper plates and cups also save you the bother of washing up the morning after. 

Drinks: Your New Years Eve party planning is incomplete if you havent made your wine list. This is one occasion when you cannot afford to have a short supply in your cellar or fridge. So check beforehand and see what you need to buy. And as everyone who has tried to buy alcohol on December 31 knows, the stores go mad that day, so shop for your supplies in advance. And yes, clichÚd as it is, New Years Eve is one time when you need to bring out the bubbly, so keep champagne in stock and serve it in stem glasses, not beer mugs.  

Decoration & music: You will need balloons, of course, streamers, party hats, confetti, horns, noisemakers, etc. So buy them in advance to lay out a full-blast welcome to the New Year. And dont forget the dance (fast and slow) music.  

At the end of it all, make sure everyone goes home happy, and dont allow any drunken driving.