Hosting a dinner party can be an overwhelming affair—especially on the most anticipated date on everyone's calendar. As the host, you have to ensure that everyone is well fed, comfortable, and most importantly—that no one runs out of booze. Cue dinner menu planning, decorating schemes, trips to the liquor store, and a to-do list that never seems to get any shorter as the big night approaches.
But hosting doesn't need to be anxiety-inducing. By being well prepared and having the right support system, you can effortlessly throw a night to remember. After all, a relaxed host sets the tone for the evening.
While you're icing your champagne and making your party mix for that fête you've decided to host this year, let the memories of stress and chaos from hosting previous parties become auld lang syne. Here are some of the dos and don'ts that we've learned from hosting on New Year's Eve.
When someone offers to help, accept. Don't insist and say, "No, I'm fine" when the answer should really be, "Great! Can you come over early and help me set up?" or "Can you stay late and help me clean dishes?" You really can get by with a little help from your friends.
Arrange Early Arrival
Speaking of asking for help, invite a couple of your closest friends to come over and help you set up, drink wine, get dressed, and light candles. You will feel so much better when the doorbell rings and you're not alone in your apartment with someone's kind-of-awkward plus one, waiting for everyone else to arrive.
If you don't want to bother with a massive spread of food, start the party at 8:30 or 9 p.m. Any earlier and people will expect food since you're cutting into their dinner time. After 9 p.m, it's completely fair game to keep your party to a drinks-only affair, but ensure that you have plenty of snacks—it's never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach.
Set the Mood
Flattering lighting is key for a midnight kiss. If you don't have dimmers, keep most of your lights off and light some candles or buy lower-wattage bulbs. You want your space to feel cozy and warm. No one looks good under bright, incandescent light, and you don't need the wrath of a friend who stumbled into bad lighting while attempting to flirt to dampen your night.
Keep It Simple
You're having people over and you want to impress them, but now is not the time to experiment. It's the time to be happily relaxed while dazzling your friends with your wit and charm. The trick is to choose two to three dishes you're comfortable with and make sure one of them is an assembly-only platter, such as a cheese board, crudité, or an assortment of nuts and olives. It's always better to have fewer delicious crowd-pleasers than a table of so-so dishes.
The golden rule of hosting is to communicate—it's what ties all of the previous tips together. Another way of putting it is "manage your expectations." You can't expect people to know something they haven't been told or to be aware of a boundary that hasn't been drawn. When it comes to the guest list, drinks, food, and house rules, make sure everyone's aware of your expectations ahead of time. Is anyone a vegan? Do you have a "no shoes indoors" policy? Let it be known. That way, there won't be any unexpected blunders.
Most importantly, set the tone for the evening. No one likes a stressed-out host. Let go of the little details and look at the big picture: If you have enough sparkling wine, a fun playlist, and your friends by your side, how can you not have a fabulous night? Just give yourself enough time to put everything together and make sure a friend or two will stay behind for the cleanup.
What are your plans for New Year's Eve this year?