On Stage

Party Planner

Setting the stage for a good time

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I’ve lost track of the amount of events I’ve hosted since I moved into my York neighborhood Victorian on New Year’s Day almost 17 years ago, but if I had to venture a guess, it’s probably somewhere near 200.

In addition to birthday parties for myself and countless others, scores of brunches, going-away gatherings, bachelorette blowouts, theater fundraisers, wedding showers, Halloween shindigs, meatloaf cook-offs, white elephant gift exchanges and solstice suppers, I’ve also presided over a fair number of New Year’s Eve soirees.

Over the years, I’ve found that throwing a successful social function is similar to producing a limited-run play. And when it comes to hosting the final party of the year—whether’s it’s a cocktail hour in advance of one of the many events happening out on the town, a dress-up dinner or a dance party free-for-all—critics can be appeased by following a few simple rules.

Much like the rehearsal process, setting the stage for a good time requires some forethought. Shopping for food, drink and other associated props such as party favors, a tub of sparklers or related decorations should always be done at least a day in advance, if not longer. That way, if you find yourself minus a needed ingredient or two on the day of the big event, you’ll spend a whole lot less time at the store than you would if you were starting from scratch. This means you’ll have more time to clear the living room for the dance party, make sure the bathroom is presentable and prepare appetizers in a timely fashion. 

Furthering the theatrical theme, be aware that lighting and sound are also vital line items to consider. If it’s New Year’s Eve, your guests will likely be dressed up, and low lighting—combined with the glow of Christmas tree and candle lights—will make them shine. When it comes to music, make sure to assign a DJ or have easily accessible tunes at hand. Whether it’s Tony Bennett’s “The Best Is Yet to Come” or David Bowie’s “Golden Years,” you’ll also want to find a perfect tune to ring in the New Year.

Additionally, don’t sweat missed social cues (unless it’s the midnight countdown) and be prepared for anything—whether it’s surprise guests, someone spilling an entire glass of red wine on the carpet, a passed-out partygoer found snoozing under a pile of coats, or a guest who wants to ring in 2018 by hijacking your carefully selected sonic soundtrack with a set by the Grateful Dead.

After the countdown, but before going to bed, make sure the set has been at least partially cleared by putting away any perishable food, starting a load of dishes and making sure any flammables are extinguished. After all, the last thing you want to start a New Year with is a house fire.

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