New Year's Eve: How to Throw a Small (But Epic) Party

Purple glowing text that says Happy New Year

By: Naomi J. Myrick, Staff Writer

Throw an epic, yet cozy New Year’s Eve party using these 7-simple steps! Trust me, I've tried them and they all work. There’s no need to host 100+ people, pay fancy caterers, or even physically be in New York City. Turn your home into a tiny Times Square everyone will enjoy!

Let's begin before the clock strikes midnight!

Step One: Invite who ya know

Friends gathered outdoors around a table full of food.There are hanging white outdoor lights and blankets on the ground with a guitar.

You’re an adult, you can be picky with whom you ring in the new year.

Hosting a New Year's Eve event is stressful. It’s stressful even without cooking, cleaning, etc. Keep your own Ball Drop gathering chummy. Invite only close friends. No big deal if a good buddy brings his or her new “friend”, but there’s no need to invite the entire town or county.

Trust me on this; strangers will spontaneously appear if the guest list isn’t managed.

Be that as it may, you should still be courteous. Nothing that says “you were an afterthought” quite like getting a pity invite an hour or day before an event. Emily Post would shake her head—albeit politely.

Whether it is a group text, phone calls, or sparkly printed invites, (don't forget the custom address labels) be sure to clearly invite everyone that you want to see at midnight on December 31st!

Step Two: Provide tons of snacks

Charcuterie board with olives, bread, meats and cheeses.

Most people attend New Year’s Eve parties for three things: food, drink and co-mingling.

Guess what? You can absolutely have snacks for dinner. Let’s face it, NYE is a mass grazing event, and it would be a cryin’ shame if you run out of nibbly things. 

Snacks are also an opportunity to flex those creative culinary muscles, so go for it!

Here are some delicious favorite NYE food ideas:

Step Three: Offer a signature cocktail and champagne

Champagne bottle clinking two champagne flutes with fireworks behind them.

Like Hors D'oeuvre, offering complimentary beverages is also appreciated.

Let your guests know what adult beverages you’ll be offering. And inform everyone if they should contribute something bubbly. Maybe you’ve got it all covered. In that case, you’re fun!

A signature cocktail is just plain classy.  Mix up the Old Fashioned ala 1950’s or be adventurous with something a Gen-Z mixologist would create. It’s up to you, but again, the gesture goes a long way. And you’ll also get the conversation flowing!

Step Four: Plan some games (and prizes)!

Card against humanity game box sitting on the edge of a white table.

I once won an ugly sweater contest at a NYE party with a faux fur hooded sweater dress I bought at TJ Max for $12.

The prize? Moist canned dog food. My friends weren’t cheap (or cruel). It was just a gag gift! While I don’t recommend pet food as prizes, you could pull from that stack of Amazon gift cards you’ve been hoarding. For real.

Even modest herds of people can only graze on food for so long. In the northern United States, it is (usually) too cold to go play outside, so planning many indoor game options is smart.

Some favorite side-splitters I’ve enjoyed over the years are:

Step Five: Provide a comfy couch

Little boy in blue jeans hiding on a tan suede couch inside a couch cushion fort

Waiting for the countdown to midnight is slow for everyone—especially the little ones.

If you’re hosting a family friendly party, then make sure to offer the kids a comfy spot to play games or conk out. Personally, I like to take a disco nap around 4pm, before guests arrive. Hint, hint.

If you’re a super host with a few guest rooms, then you can take this a step further, obviously, and let everyone crash at your humble abode. Small, but epic New Years parties are a win-win!

Step Six: Leave out movies for the night owl people

Snowy owl in the dark with mostly white feathers and some black feathers and yellow beak

You know who I am talking about. Not even champagne and rich food knocks them out.

Ah, the night owls and (caffeine-addicted) insomniacs. They need love, too. SO, be sure to put out a stack of the best NYE films of all time.

Not sure where to start? I’ve got you covered. Hey, and don’t forget the microwave popcorn, because, well, it’s just not the same without it.

Here’s the movie list:

  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • While you Were Sleeping
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Waiting to Exhale
  • Forrest Gump
  • An Affair to Remember (ahh, Cary Grant)
  • Holiday Inn

Step Seven: Brunch recipes for the New Year!

Short-haired brunette young man in gray t-shirt yawning

Wake up, sleepy head! New Year’s brunch awaits!

Even if you didn’t entertain owls with movies into the wee hours, nor did you quarter slumbering guests, you can still make a delicious brunch. And it’s no sweat if you do have mid-morning mouths to feed, because I’ve made a list of three fantastic brunch recipes.

*You can always pass off the leftovers as party favors.*

Three tasty brunch recipes:

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