If you’re ready to celebrate the beginning of a new year with a party that sparkles—as a hostess who shines—these New Year’s Eve party planning tips are for you.

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We are nearly at the end of the decade, and we all deserve to celebrate having made it to the finish line! Start planning your party with this collection of activities, food, and décor. Then head over to the D20 Theory Pinterest page for more inspiration.

Pro tip: Hosting a New Year’s Eve party is also the perfect way to show off your gingerbread village and do a little humble bragging.

Activities

Balloon Countdown

Inflate five confetti-filled balloons. Write the numbers 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8 on the balloons with a permanent marker. Attach the balloons to garland, tape on a door or wall, or leave them loose in the party area. Each hour until midnight, pop the corresponding balloon with a toothpick or pin and watch the confetti fly!

Fair warning: I am still finding confetti in the couch, under the floorboards, and in the back of the pantry two years later. I find it amusing, but you may not be as entertained if you’re anything like my husband, who has since banned confetti balloons from our parties.

Confetti Countdown Balloons

Suggestion: Change the music hourly as the balloons are popped. I stream pre-made playlists on Amazon Music via my Sonos speakers.

Here is a sample from a past New Year’s Eve party:

  • 8pm – jazz for cocktail hour
  • 9pm – Christmas tunes
  • 10pm – top singles of the year
  • 11pm – turn on the TV to watch the live musical performances and ball drop

Trivia

Two or three sessions of trivia between the balloon pops are a way to bring guests together and keep the energy high. Recommended categories include holiday movies/traditions, a year in review, and potpourri. The internet has all of the trivia questions you need to tailor the categories to your guests’ level of expertise in any area.

Small wrapped prizes increase the competitive spirit, and bragging rights are are always on the table! Try these prizes: 50ML (airplane portion) liquor bottle, lottery scratch-off ticket, ornament, or candy.

Reflection Poster Board

Are your guests interested in looking back on the current year and moving forward in the year ahead? They may enjoy a reflection poster board. This is a simple DIY project that only requires poster board and permanent markers. However, it can be enhanced with glitter, washi tape, metallic pipe cleaners, or whatever you have available. Include the following statements and enough room for guests to write short phrases as answers.

We are leaving ___ behind in 20XX.

We are looking forward to ___ in 20XX.

New Year’s Eve Reflections

I introduced this activity in 2018, which was a particularly tumultuous year for me personally. I was leaving behind unemployment and 15 pounds that I had lost that year; I was looking forward to launching this blog. Some guests appreciated the cathartic exercise more than others, and it is up to you as the host to decide if it is right for your group. As we count down to 2020 this year, the activity will be appropriately called, “20/20 Vision.”

Food

New Year’s Eve is a night when guests usually come and go as they fulfill various obligations to other invitations. The ideal food in this scenario is self-serve and grazable.

Christmas Cookie Platter

A good place to start is with a tray of cookies and candy from all of the recent holiday parties and cookie exchanges.

New Year’s Eve Letter Dishes

These white ceramic “N-Y-E” letter dishes are available on Amazon. They’re perfect for holding a variety of almonds or other nuts. Try sweet, spicy, and salty varieties, such as cocoa dusted, chili dusted, and lightly salted.

Popcorn with Gold Sprinkles

Popcorn is another quick and easy snack. Lightly coat with melted butter and mix in gold sprinkles for a festive touch.

Cucumber Bites Appetizer

The holidays can be indulgent, and a light appetizer is welcome at the last party of the year. Cucumber bites with dill sour cream filling are low calorie and add color to the spread. To prepare, scoop out a portion of each cucumber slice with a small spoon or melon baller. I recommend English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds and a thinner skin. Then squeeze the sour cream filling into the cavity through a pastry bag or plastic sandwich bag with the corner snipped off.

Baked Brie with Spiced Nuts and Berries

Brie has been a fan favorite at every party I have ever hosted — which is quite a few at this point. Any baked brie recipe from OX, Katie Rosario would be delicious.

Cranberry Brie Puff Pastry Tarts

If you are up for the challenge of an appetizer that is more time consuming to prepare, these cranberry brie puff pastry tarts from Half Baked Harvest are to die for.

Hot Cocoa Bar Supplies

A hot cocoa bar satisfies a sweet tooth and is optionally boozy. Prepare and keep the cocoa warm in a slow cooker. Make the following toppings available: marshmallows (bonus points for gourmet marshmallows!), candy canes, cinnamon sticks, ground nutmeg, whipped cream (more bonus points if it’s homemade!), gold sugar, and liquor. Bourbon and vodka are staples for boozy hot chocolate, but Gran Marnier orange liquor is undeniably the tastiest pairing.

Serve in mini tasting mugs. The small size is important if you are serving homemade hot cocoa (made from cream and melted dark chocolate, not a powder mix) because it is extremely rich in flavor and is best enjoyed in small doses.

Décor

Choose a classic color palate like black and gold; then add splashes of color. Wrapping paper is a playful and unexpected alternative to a table cloth on a serving table, and it makes cleanup effortless! As a serial hostess, I have cleanup in mind from the very beginning.

Black and Gold Party Décor

Add extra sparkle with a metallic “CHEERS” balloon banner, mini gold star star piñatas, and glitter-rimmed party hats. Products similar to those pictured in this post can be found at party stores, craft stores, Amazon, and select Urban Outfitters stores.

Black and Gold Balloon Garland

Balloon garland on a staircase bannister can make a statement. It can also cost a lot of money if you hire an event décor company. Fortunately, you can create the same effect on your own as long as you have a strong set of lungs or a handheld balloon inflating tool. Attach the balloons to the bannister by threading pipe cleaners through the tied ends of the inflated balloons and wrapping the pipe cleaners around the pole.

New Year’s Eve Cupcake Picks

Thanks to Pinterest, 2018 was the year cupcake picks first made an appearance at my New Year’s Eve party. You will need hot glue, glitter, wax paper, and large toothpicks for this project. The trickiest part of this project is forming decent looking numbers and sprinkling glitter before the glue hardens. If you’ve ever used hot glue before, you know what I’m talking about.

Lay a sheet of wax paper on your work surface. Place four toothpicks on the wax paper. Working quickly, form the number on top of the toothpicks and sprinkle the glitter generously. Wait a moment for the glue to cool down, and peel the cake pick from the wax paper. It should remove easily.

The great news, if you’re just now making these for the first time, is that you only have to make one new number pick for each year of the new decade. Good timing!

Silver and Gold Christmas Tree

In summary, the goal of party decor is to tie everything together visually, and there is one final opportunity for party planning bonus points this year. Decorate your Christmas tree to match the party décor.

Cheers to a safe and happy new year!

Brie has been a fan favorite at every party I have ever hosted — which is quite a few at this point.

You’re ready to throw the party of the decade with this collection of activities, food, and décor. What is your favorite New Year’s Eve tradition or best hostess advice? Let us know in the comments!