New Year's Eve Party Ideas

Invitations

Decorations

Creating "vice stations" with all the indulgences people tend to give up in their New Year's resolution is a cool, easy way to decorate for your party. Fill a candy table with clear glass jars of colorful candies and scoopers and bags where guests can fill their own.

For a cookie and dessert buffet, load platters of different size and heights with your favorite desserts on another table. If video games are your guilty pleasure, set up a gaming area. And if your goal is to quit smoking in the New Year, set up a retro smoking area (outside and away from non-smokers, natch) with upscale ashtrays and cigarette holders.

Here are more ways to spark your creativity however you choose to spend the holiday:

Wild New Year's Eve Cocktail Party

Since you're not planning a sit-down affair, you have room to adorn tables with funky hats, party poppers, tiaras, noisemakers and streamers. And since New Year's is second only to Valentine's Day in kisses, leave baskets of mints in your bathroom to get everybody ready for action.

Start your party with a bang by putting a large bowl of party poppers by the front door. As they arrive, guests get a gift and a great conversation starter. Not only do they have to look for someone to open the popper with, they're then armed with the corny joke and goofy party hat usually packed inside.

Snack bowls placed strategically around your home are handy for keeping guests munching without having to fight the crowds at a snack table. Fill some bowls with confetti and place them within easy throwing reach for midnight.

Glitzy New Year's Eve Dinner Party

As guests arrive, greet them from the cold with a room lit by candles. Blowing out the candles when it's time to eat not only gives guests a clear signal to sit down at the table, it also hides any mess in that area.

Set your table with shimmering black-and-silver accessories — napkins, napkin holders, chargers, runners and vases. These set an elegant, old-Hollywood tone and are easy to coordinate with your all-white basics. Use a decorative clock as your centerpiece. This clever finishing touch is holiday-appropriate and helps ensure that you don't miss the countdown.

Get the group excited for the ball drop by artfully displaying party hats and noise makers around your TV area. Keep your guests comfortable with lots of floor pillows if there aren't enough seats.

Sophisticated New Year's Day Brunch

A fancy but low-key brunch on New Year's Day is a great way to welcome the brand-new year. Tasteful, understated decorations in icy-cool silver tones are a welcome break from the glitziness of the night before.

Although sparkling wine is the signature drink of the previous evening, splurge on nice champagne glasses for your brunch (plastic is fine, especially if you've invited a lot of people). Whether you use them for mimosas or just straight juice, a nice glass makes everything taste better.

Make your buffet table the focal point by dressing it with a silver tablecloth. A sprinkling of silver stars on the table or a tiara or horn incorporated into a flower arrangement are a nice, subtle reminder of the holiday.

For visual interest, put your dishes in bowls and platters of varying heights. Not only will each dish stand out better, you'll be able to fit more on the table, and guests will have an easier time reaching dishes simultaneously.

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Champagne

Sparkling wine is a must on New Year's Eve, but do you know the basics on bubblies? Our Champagne primer will tell you everything you need to know before you pop the cork.

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Activities

You can't just sing "Auld Lang Syne" all night and wait for the ball to drop. To get your guests mingling, plan a poker tournament or crank up the Wii.

Organized activities that are fun both to watch and play are a great way for guests to get to know each other, which frees up the party hosts from having to make introductions and keep people entertained.

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Food

Fortunately, sparkling wine pairs with everything, so your New Year's menu is limited only by your imagination. Each of these three inspiring menus is a decadent way to take you from the old year and into the new.

New Year's Day brunch

You can never have enough champagne. In addition to classic eye-openers like mimosas, dress your dishes in champagne sauces and vinaigrettes made with champagne vinegar.

Southern tradition dictates that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will bring you luck and prosperity for the whole year. If you serve black-eyed peas with delicious jerk pork, your guests will feel very lucky indeed.

Decadent dinner party

You know you're going to try to eat healthfully in the New Year, so live it up before then. New Year's is the night to indulge in all of your favorite gutbombs. When you're planning your party menu, think of all the foods that make guests go "Oooh" when you bust them out. Be sure to satisfy all sorts of cravings — from salty and sweet to sour and spicy, in any number of magical combinations.

Crowd-pleasing snacks don't have to be complicated: An assortment of chips with bowls of creamy and spicy dips start the night off right. For dinner, indulge in favorites like mac and cheese, fried chicken, buffalo wings and mashed potatoes with gravy.

When it comes to dessert, think bold combinations and splashy presentation, like a multi-layer ice cream cake, an over-the-top trifle, frosted brownies and banana splits.

Wash it down with a spiked milkshake cocktail. To make, add coffee liqueur to a chocolate shake, and spice up a vanilla milkshake with vanilla vodka or a shot of rum.

Cocktails & hors d'oeuvres

A dollop of caviar goes a long way to adding great fishy flavor and sophistication to your menu.

Skewers made with meat and/or vegetables are easy to eat and to serve. Leave out a bowl or glass where guests can deposit the wooden skewers after licking them clean.

Chocolate is never wrong, especially when it's flavored with nuts or coconut and rolled up into a delicious truffle.

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Drinks

Juice up your sparkling wine with these champagne cocktails. A Kir Royale is the perfect twist for bumping up your bubbly.

Kir Royale

  • 5 parts champagne
  • 1 part crème de cassis

Pour crème de cassis first, then top with champagne.

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