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Anna G. Larson, Published December 28 2013

Tips for throwing a last-minute New Year’s Eve celebration

FARGO – On New Year’s Eve, Trever Hill’s taking a tip from “Auld Lang Syne” and welcoming 2014 with old and new friends.

“Looking around a room and seeing all of my friends – that’s what it’s all about. Us being together,” says Hill, who owns Fargo interior decorating business Home Suite Couture.

The Fargo man enjoys planning a beautiful bash, but he knows that not everyone shares his passion for party planning.

Hill, along with Karen Wonderlich, a Fargo party planner, and Teresa O’Day, the owner of Proper & Prim, who’s known for hosting fun fetes, offers suggestions for hosting a last-minute New Year’s Eve celebration.

Their only requirements for a good time are friends, food and champagne to pop at midnight.

• Seek inspiration.

Blogs and sites like Pinterest help O’Day brainstorm party themes. A favorite is lifestyle blog The Glitter Guide.

• Decide if it’s a sit-down party or open house.

Sit-down dinners tend to be more formal than open-house affairs, Wonderlich says.

• Make a guest list.

“The most important thing is the people that go to the event and mean the most to you,” Hill says. “All of the other pieces will fall into place.”

• Send invitations.

For last-minute parties, email invitations (or phone calls!) are the way to go, Wonderlich says.

“That can take stress off you and cut costs, plus you get RSVPs quicker,” she says.

• Stick to a budget.

“Simple and affordable can be extremely classy,” Hill says. “I like to do stuff on the cheap, but I still like it to be beautiful.”

Bunches of fresh flowers (grocery stores often have market bunches for $5 to $10) and hints of black, silver and gold are festive choices for New Year’s Eve.

“It’s cliché, but people recognize it. It speaks to them, that’s what people’s idea of New Year’s Eve is,” Hill says. “There’s no reason to really go away from that,” he says.

• Stock the bar.

A signature cocktail plus beer and wine is one way to keep drink cost down, Wonderlich says.

“People will drink what you have to offer. They’re not expecting it to be like a fully stocked bar. It’s wonderful but expensive,” she says. “People get stressed about running out of drinks, but when it’s gone, it’s gone. You do what you can afford to do.”

If you’re providing champagne for a midnight toast, each bottle provides bubbly for four to six glasses, depending on how large the pour is.

• Do as much as possible ahead of time.

Setting up the dinner table/food area, prepping the bar and completing other small tasks can help save hosts from panic the day of their event, Wonderlich says.

A few days before the event, she typically cleans her home. The day before, she goes grocery shopping for fresh items and gets the bar and serving dishes ready.

• Check post-Christmas sales to score décor on a dime.

“Buy up all the glitzy gold and silver decorations,” O’Day says. “They’re cheap and really add some sparkle.”

• Transform the tree.

Wonderlich’s clients ask if it’s appropriate to keep their holiday tree for a New Year’s Eve party. She suggests taking off all holiday-themed ornaments and adding more silver and gold to create a New Year’s Eve tree.

• Keep food simple.

O’Day sticks with no-fuss food to ensure she’s not spending her time in the kitchen rather than with guests. She’s had dessert-only parties, and one of her favorite small bites is puff pastry sprinkled with sugar and seasonal fruit.

Wonderlich also suggests food that’s easy to prep and serve. Clients have enjoyed a mashed potato bar (make mashed potatoes ahead of time and let guests choose their toppings), as well as tapas-style meals.

“It’s nice especially when people are drinking all throughout the night,” Wonderlich says, adding that she urges clients to keep their New Year’s Eve menus hearty but somewhat healthy since guests have likely had their fill of sugary treats and rich food.

• Practice food safety.

Common party food like deviled eggs and shrimp need to be cold, Wonderlich says. She keeps a watchful eye on items that spoil easily. Nothing’s worse than sick guests.

• Make a playlist.

Tailor music to fit the crowd, or play your favorite songs from 2013, O’Day says. For party music pronto, a Pandora station’s easy to operate.

• Have something to do.

When people come around 7 p.m., it gets to be a long night, Wonderlich says.

One option is to start the party later, but she also recommends having games so people interact. Trivia and charades are two crowd-pleasers.

“I think it’s important to make people feel comfortable and not have the focus just be drinking,” she says.

• Don’t sweat the small stuff.

“You don’t need matching champagne flutes or anything. People don’t notice the tiny little things that you notice,” O’Day says. “The more relaxed you are, the more fun your guests will have. It doesn’t have to be the event of the century. The overall feeling is important – the fun.”

• Create stations.

Wonderlich likes to divide entertaining areas into stations to keep the party flowing. In one corner, she might set up the bar. In another area, the dessert table. She knows a party’s going well when she sees people interacting.

“If you’re just sitting in a living room struggling to find conversation … that’s why it’s more successful to have people up and moving around. Especially if you’re blending groups of friends,” she says.

• Remember the designated drivers.

Besides stocking a bar with alcoholic drinks, Wonderlich makes sure the designated drivers and others who aren’t drinking have fun sips. Italian sodas are one option.

• Plan for post-toast.

When guests are drinking most of the night, Wonderlich recommends having snacks. She likes egg bakes made in muffin tins (for easy serving) or cookies and milk to serve after ringing in the new year.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525