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15 Ways to Step Up Your New Year’s Eve Party, According to DC Party Planners

From menu planning to confetti cannons, here are planners' best tips.

Photo by cottonbro studio.

New Year’s Eve still seems like a marathon away, but with less than two weeks to go, it’ll be here before we know it. To help kick 2023 off with a bang, we asked some of our most recommended local event planners for tips and tricks. Whether you’re looking to put a few finishing touches on party plans, or starting fresh with a more spontaneous approach, here’s how they suggested making your New Year’s Eve party a great one. 

Setting the Scene

Add a little sparkle!Edible glitter is a great add -in to any cocktail or bubbly for a midnight toast full of sparkle,” says Tabitha Roberts of Roberts & Co. Events. This type we found on Amazon arrives by Christmas and has a 4.6-star rating with nearly 5,000 reviews.

Include confetti. “If you have an extra $1,000 lying around, rent a confetti cannon from Digital Lightning for midnight,” suggests Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events. If your budget isn’t that flush, she suggests grabbing some handheld confetti cannons that you can order from Amazon. “Be prepared for clean-up to be a bear.” 

Craft a color palette, and go all out.You can’t lose with a New Year’s Party in classic gold, black, and silver, but I’d love to see a design featuring pale tones of ice blue, pale green, and white, giving off sophisticated winter vibes,” says Bella Notte‘s Sara Bauleke. “To go the extra mile, you could tie the food in with decor by serving a cauliflower or asparagus soup, followed by mussels, and incorporating a cookie display with Russian tea cakes for dessert.”

Kick up the entertainment. “Utilize live entertainment performers (themed or costumed dancers, for example) to serve signature cocktails or appetizers at a stationed food display,” suggests Jamésa Alexander of Jayne Heir Weddings + Events. “It includes an element of surprise for the guests for a memorable countdown into the New Year.” 

Menu Planning

Offer a non-alcoholic drink—and make it a good one. “Make sure to provide fun alternatives for those guests who aren’t drinking,” says Kaitlin Przezdziecki of Cheers Darling Events, like “a sparkling mocktail in a fun glass, to allow everyone to feel festive at the event 

Consider the setup. “Make both food and drinks accessible,” says Przezdziecki, so you aren’t tied to the buffet or the bar cart all night. “I would suggest mixing up a festive punch bowl with a signature drink, to keep the party festive but leaving time for you to socialize as well!

Give guests a head’s up. “Be clear on the invitation how much food you will be serving,” says Carnevale. “Is this a big spread that would feel like dinner, or is this more along the lines of light snacks?”

Think of a theme.One of my favorite ways to celebrate New Year’s Eve is with a midnight brunch—I love it so much that I’ve convinced clients to do this for their wedding!” says Bauleke. “You can start the party on the later side, with hors d’oeuvres and light fare as guests arrive. When the clock strikes midnight, the brunch comes out and it’s always a hit with guests! If you prefer something low-key, a pajama-themed New Year’s party can also be a blast. Keep things on the relaxed side with a roaring fire or fire pit, some games, and your favorite finger foods, so that people can graze throughout the night.”

Add a personal touch. “For a home celebration, create personalized notes sharing what you enjoyed about each guest in the current year and what you are looking forward to sharing with them in the new year,” suggests Alexander. “It’s thoughtful and shows how much you care.”

About Time

Don’t start too early.Since you know you’ll have guests staying through midnight, I love starting New Year’s Eve parties at 8 or 9 PM,” says Bauleke. “It gives you plenty of time to mingle with guests and serve a meal if you’re hosting a dinner party, but the time won’t stretch out so long that guests feel like they are waiting for the clock to strike midnight.” 

Be Ready for Midnight

Have your party favors ready. “Those last thirty minutes before midnight seem to fly by,” says Carnevale. “If you are going to pass out hats, crowns, beads, and other party favors, start doing that no later than 11:40. Plan for a special drink to toast midnight and pass it out ten minutes in advance.”

Offer mints. “After a night of eating and drinking, guests will be eyeing a mint or gum before that midnight kiss,” says Przezdziecki. “Passing around shot glasses of mouthwash or styling bowls of mints around the party will be much appreciated at 11:59 PM.”

Get Home

Thank your designated drivers. “Reward designated drivers with a fun party treat or favor for the end of the night as they are departing,” suggests Roberts. “DC-favorite treats like Baked and Wired or even a small gas gift card are the perfect way to say thank you for their help in getting guests get home safely no matter where the party is.”

Plan ahead. “If your guests decide to ride-share to your party, encourage them to schedule their ride home before they hit up your bar,” suggests Carnevale. “This will help them get home more quickly and possibly avoid surge pricing.”

Party Favors

Set guests up for success. “Send guests home with a small recovery kit to include liquid IV, Advil, and a face wipe,” says Carnevale, “packaged in a cute bag with a small ribbon.”








Amy Moeller
Fashion & Weddings Editor

Amy leads Washingtonian Weddings and writes Style Setters for Washingtonian. Prior to joining Washingtonian in March 2016, she was the editor of Capitol File magazine in DC and before that, editor of What’s Up? Weddings in Annapolis.