Lady Wimbledon’s Guide to Hosting a New Year’s Eve Party

What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? Arguably the biggest night of the year, it can be pretty overwhelming. Should you venture out for dinner, drinks and dancing, or host a swanky soiree at home? If it’s going to be the latter, Lady Wimbledon – who knows a thing or two about hosting a big bash – offers her advice to making your mark…

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There are so many of us who would rather turn our backs on packed bars and clubs and celebrate New Year’s Eve with our friends and family at home. This is the perfect excuse to create a relaxed environment that is glamorous enough for guests to get dressed up and welcome in the new decade with a party at your place.

The obvious choice is a themed night. From James Bond to Winter Wonderland or even celebrate the Century with a 1920s, Gatsby-esque affair. They all bring an immediate sense of fun, but fancy dress can also put guests off, so opt for a theme that allows people to make as much or little effort as they like. However, the host should always go all out and embrace the theme they have chosen.

A real Christmas tree is often on its last legs by New Year’s Eve, especially if was bought in the first week of December. Keep it watered and indoor heating at a low to ensure there are more needles on the tree than on the floor. Luckily, in the evening, guests will only see the dancing fairy lights, so an extra set and a few lit up reindeer either side provide a wonderful party atmosphere.

The scent of a room is a luxury guests appreciate. If time allows, make your own dried orange garland or visit a local Christmas market for one. They look festive and smell so good. Alternatively, collect a variety of festive scented candles. My personal favourite is Winter by The White Company.

Lighting is essential. Enough light for guests to take photos, but after 10pm some may prefer a more intimate light to talk or even dance. Lamps are more atmospheric than down lighting, and if your guests will be searching for the perfect Instagram shot, a vanity light off the internet is not as expensive as you may think.

‘New Year’s Eve parties tend to be quite long, so food plays an integral role at the beginning, middle and end of the party’

New Year’s Eve parties tend to be quite long, so food plays an integral role at the beginning, middle and end of the party. It’s easy to over-cater and food waste is such a crime, so dishes that you can eat or offer guests to take home is always good, like cured hams, cheese boards and homemade mince pies.

Canapés at the beginning of the party always help to make guests who come alone feel more at ease. A feast around 10pm can also help break up the long evening. Guests were often asked to bring a bottle and dish when I was growing up, and with so many different dietary requirements to think about, there is no reason why that tradition can’t be kept. For parents who have brought their children, fun party food such as French bread and pizza can help keep their mitts off the crisps.

Talking of kids, there’s not much you can do to keep them from spending most of the evening on a games console, so a separate room or bedroom that has been made into a quiet hangout for them would be appreciated by all.

But for a more integrated feel, I can’t recommend anything more fun than Just Dance 2020, the latest rhythm console game, for bringing together all ages and creating a fun-filled atmosphere. It’s also a great way to burn off those extra Christmas calories in the New Year.

It used to be all about how much alcohol the host needed to provide to ensure there were no last-minute dashes to the off-licence at 2am! Drinks on arrival are key to help guests feel instantly relaxed, and I often find upto 30% of guests prefer something non-alcoholic. There are so many refreshing festive options for guests who want to join in the fun but are responsible for driving or waking up to excited kids the next morning.

For hosts who can’t convince their significant other to run the bar, there is often a guest who feels happy to play bar man, or you could hire wait staff.

Alternatively, create a wide space where guests can help themselves throughout the evening (bring in garden furniture or make a quick dash to B&Q for a £10 foldaway table that can be covered in a festive or white table cloth and sprinkled with fake snow).

Music is key. It’s the time of year we all behave like Millennials, even if we are not. A classic Christmas album for the first hour is always advisable so guests can talk easily and catch up with one another.

After the main food is served, it’s time to crank it up a little. Spotify has many New Year’s Eve party playlists to choose from, and it may be worth paying £9.99 for a subscription as an advert break when everyone is dancing is awkward. Remember to unsubscribe in January if you won’t be using it for a while.

At 11.45pm it is time to pull the kids out of their hideout and ensure everyone’s glass is full and ready for the toast. Take the champagne out the fridge and place it near where you will be standing. We often put the TV on at 11.50pm so guests prepare for the countdown by moving close to the ones they want to kiss or embrace as the clock strikes 12.

Watching the fireworks on the TV is momentous, but sometimes guests want to step outside and watch the display happening in their neighbourhood, or phone the ones they love and can’t be with. Be prepared for a dash for coats and allow the backdoor to be easily opened and closed behind them.

Singing Auld Lang Syne isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who feel it is an important tradition, I would recommend the host should learn the lyrics before the party to help lead the link of arms and the jolly sing-song mirroring the crowds in London on TV.

After midnight, it’s time to really party and you don’t need me or anyone else to give any advice. Embrace that magical freedom of letting your hair down and celebrating the New Year with friends and family in your own home.

Have a good one and don’t forget to book a good cleaner for the morning to help with rooms in the house you never expected to be used!

Happy New Year!