New Year's Eve Party Planning Ideas

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With the final days of 2018 now upon us and 2019 fast-approaching, many people are considering how they’re going to ring in the New Year. Just because you may not be able to make it to the Times Square Ball Drop on the last day of the outgoing year doesn’t mean you can’t have a celebration of your own that will be memorable long into the New Year.

Whether this will be your first year to put together a New Year’s party or you’re a party-planning veteran, it never hurts to consider something new for your end-of-the-year soiree.  While any New Year’s get-together is an inherently celebratory affair, you can make it even more festive by picking out a special theme for the evening. Choosing the right theme can set the tone for the night, and on a night with friends and family gathered to reflect on old memories while looking forward to crafting new ones, your party’s theme should match this sentiment from start to finish.  The following suggestions might help you select the theme that best suits your evening and provide a few guidelines for the occasion.

Getting Started

To help prevent potential frustration and save yourself time, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when deciding on a party theme. Everything from choosing the right concept and setting a budget, to finding invitations can determine the success and fun of your party.

Be sure to choose a party theme that excites you, as you’re the one who will be the host or hostess. Being enthusiastic about your theme will definitely help increase the “party” in your party planning.  Some possible themes could include:

Wellness Party

Focus on New Year’s resolutions by hosting a wellness party. Family and friends can eat healthy bites and partake in activities to promote mental and physical health. Whether you plan to teach a few yoga moves or send guests off with healthy recipes, this can be an unexpected and productive way to ring in the New Year.

Family Pajama Party

Grab the popcorn and a few of your favorite movies for the evening. You’ve likely been gifted with or already own a pair of PJ’s, so hosting a cozy pajama party can be a fun evening in. Set up a fun snack bar and set blankets aside for a relaxing countdown with loved ones.

Backyard Bonfire

Although it’ll likely be chilly outside, you can still take the party outdoors with a backyard bonfire. You can prepare a small dessert bar with hot chocolate and s’mores. In addition to keeping the fire going, you should have a few blankets and pillows on hand to keep the guests warm and comfy.

More Ideas

Other themes for the evening can include hosting a masquerade party; a “Decade Party,” with a fun evening of flashing back to the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or other decade of your choice, with period-appropriate karaoke to liven up the evening; a “Black Light Party” (also called a Glow Party), switching out your regular light bulbs with black lights for a unique and colorful evening; or a Western New Year’s Eve party, inviting attendees to break out their cowboy boots and 10-gallon hats. 

Depending on your theme, you may want to include a playlist for the evening to have music in the background.  For example, a Decade Party would include music predominantly from the era tied to the evening’s theme. A 50s party would include music from Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Bill Haley, Chubby Checker, Nat King Cole, the Drifters, and the like. An 80s-themed party would include a playlist that had songs by Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Flock of Seagulls, Queen, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel, Tears for Fears, and others. A Western-themed New Year’s Eve party may include both classic and contemporary country songs from Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Hank Williams Sr., George Strait, Brad Paisley, Shania Twain, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and others. Regardless of your theme, any New Year’s Eve party’s decor should include balloons and signage, decorations (metallic decorations always add more to the look of any party), noisemakers, hats, and New Year’s Eve-themed props such as paper glasses, top hats, and masquerade masks. 

Find themed decorations that are unique to your guest’s sensibilities, and your party style. Since the evening will be about making your theme entertaining, you should start looking for themed decorations and/or planning out DIY projects as soon as possible. 

Guest List

Once you’ve settled on a theme, make a guest list. Write down who you’re wanting to invite, so you can get a working idea of the size of the party, along with how many invitations you’ll need to order. This will keep you organized and on track with what you need to buy.

Send party invitations out at least three weeks in advance. Choose invitations that match your theme (if possible) and send them early, so that your guests can RSVP during the busy holiday season. Don’t forget to include the important information about the dress code (smart casual, cocktail, lounge suit, black tie, white tie). Consider a similar invitation card style to your New Year’s cards for continuity.  Note: While sending out invitations by email may an economic alternative to ordering invitations, the latter will give your party guests a keepsake for years to come.


Select a space to host the party, one that’s big enough to accommodate your guests. With a theme in mind and a guest list, you can decide if you want to have your party at a venue or at your own home or apartment. Should you be looking for a more intimate get-together with family and friends, you might opt to host the party at your home to help save money.  Should you be expecting more than 50 guests, you should research affordable venues near you and which are easy to access, keeping in mind the needs of your guests, should any of them require special accommodations.


Settle on a budget for food and drinks. Once you have your theme, guest list, and invitations taken care of, you can set a budget to cover your party’s necessities. Since this is New Year’s Eve, you’ll want to offer a nice selection of drinks and serve foods that aren’t over-complicated to make and easy for your party-goers to consume.  Regardless of whether or you’re serving alcoholic beverages, it’s a great idea to set up a special drink bar. You can personalize the bar area with drink recipes, fun sayings, and drink add-ins. You can also offer a water bar with different fresh fruits to keep your guests hydrated. Remember, if you’re going to be serving alcoholic beverages, be sure those traveling by car have a designated driver for the evening.

Menu & Games

For the menu, your guests have probably had their fill of heavy foods during Thanksgiving and Christmas, so finger foods and small bites are ideal for any New Year’s Eve party. Easy-to-create foods make less of a mess and help you to spend less time in the kitchen. Some New Year’s Eve bites would include sliders, stuffed mushrooms, spinach dip, lobster mac and cheese cups, roasted vegetable skewers, fruit skewers, fried or marinated olives, smoked salmon pinwheels, panko crusted chicken bites, oysters, shrimp cocktail, guacamole and tortilla chips and a cheese platter.

For fun, host games or activities that are entertaining but not so time-consuming that your guests will feel like they don’t have the chance to mingle with other partygoers. One or two short games are good to have in mind to give your guests some activities and keep them in good spirits.  Ideal games for such an occasion would include Pictionary or making a game out of guessing your guest’s New Year’s resolutions. Give partygoers cards and have guests finish the sentences with hopeful wishes or tongue-in-cheek comments. Gather the cards, read them aloud randomly, and let the group try to figure out who wrote what. Print off cards with these fill-in-the-blanks:

  • My top resolution for the New Year is to: ________________________
  • The bad habit that I want to kick this year is: ___________________
  • The good deed I want to do this year is: ______________________
  • The person I want to be more like this year is: ___________________
  • The skill I want to learn this year is: ____________________________

With the right games, food, friends and family, your New Year’s Eve get-together can come together to create lasting new memories and good times for all your of guests, starting their New Year in the best way possible. 

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