Avoid that 10 p.m. slump with the right food, games, and music.

While it's usually no big deal if your holiday party wraps up before midnight, New Year's Eve is the one night of the year where keeping guests energized, engaged, and having fun into the early hours of the morning is a must. "It is very important to have a plan since New Year's Eve is just one of many holidays—Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa—that run back-to-back," says event planner Gail Johnson. "After the busy holiday season, people just want to put on their comfy pajamas and watch a Netflix movie marathon." Get your favorite couch potatoes up and out to ring in the new year in style with these five essential party plans.

friends celebrating New year party
Credit: svetikd / Getty Images

Mix up your guest list.

Nothing makes or breaks a party like the guest list. "The right mix of guests is important," says Johnson. "Make sure you consider the group dynamics to include people that don't know each other, as well as acquaintances, family members, co-workers, or neighbors." Think about the personalities of the people on your list, too—don't hesitate to combine groups and see how your childhood best friend gets along with your favorite co-worker. "I always have fun identifying the different types of personalities," says Johnson, "like the comedian, the party girl, the hype man, the private dancer, the nerd, the conversationalist."

Have plenty of food.

One secret to keeping your guests energized? Just keep feeding them. Every time you refill the appetizer tray, bring out a new sweet treat, or hear the delivery guy ring the bell, the party gets boost. But you need to put together the right menu, says Johnson: You don't want to serve a full meal starting at 10 p.m., but you also can't expect people to party until dawn on a bowl of pretzels. "The food is an important element because you must provide the perfect balance—not too heavy or too light," she says. "It will be a late night and most guests have already eaten. However, the food should be flavorful, taste delicious, and be displayed impressively."

Fill the dance floor.

Whether you want a wild, old-school house party or a more dignified, Gatsby-inspired cocktail hour, you need the perfect music. "A great playlist will guarantee a successful party," says Johnson. "Music is an important element to keep people awake—you want your guests up on their feet dancing the night away." Plan a mid-party Soul Train line, suggests Johnson, where "everyone forms two lines with a space in the middle for the dancers to strut or dance down the aisle." (Her go-to tunes for the moment: Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up," Earth, Wind & Fire's "Let's Groove," and The Jackson Five's "Shake Your Body Down (To The Ground).") "There are no rules," says Johnson. "Just showcase your style, creative dance moves, and boogie down the Soul Train line."

Ready the mics.

Once the dance floor empties, suggests Johnson, switch to karaoke. "Karaoke is a great ice-breaker where your guests can channel their inner rock star by singing renditions of one of their favorite songs," she says. "Even the worst singers can look cool doing it!" Of course, how cool you truly look depends on the song you choose: Offer selections for every type of singer, from recent uptempo hits like "Shake It Off" and vintage ballads like "I've Had the Time of My Life" to classic standards like "My Way" and do-you-remember-all-the-words challenges like "Baby Got Back."

Set up some low-key activities.

If you nailed the first four elements of a great New Year's Eve party, then you might not even need games or activities—but it's a good idea to have them ready just in case. Johnson recommends setting up a DIY photo booth using a plain wall or colorful fabric as a backdrop, and editing images on the spot in the Simple Booth app. Or put a modern twist on a party classic: "Charades is an outrageously funny party favorite because it will energize your guests, get them out of their seats and actively participate in the festivities," says Johnson. "Download the Charades app on your phone and let the party begin."


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