Hosting a New Year’s Eve dinner party is a great way to spend quality time with friends. But stress-free? Can that even happen?

It really can, if you are organized and you invite friends who are willing to pitch in and contribute.

Stress-free may sound unattainable, but by the time the night is over, I can guarantee our guests will be happy, fed, full of cheer, feel loved, accepted, and even have sore cheeks.

Sore cheeks? Yes, because we laugh so much, it hurts.

The stress that people originally bring to the party will eventually be long forgotten.

Because laughter with good conversation, plus LOVE, heals a lot of pain.

(Push 2 tables together.)

Change it Around Party
My husband and I host a party from year to year called “Change it Around” party. It’s called this because at every course our guests sit by someone new! We change the seating, and the discussion that goes along with the course. You may have read about the entire story that’s included in this book (this post), but if not, this party is a very fun, interactive evening with your guests.

It’s a great way for people to get to know each other more intimately, and make new friends.

(You’ll need 2 matching tablecloths.)

How to Plan the Party
We invite 14-18 people (changing up the invitee list every year), usually through a text or an email.

Set the time (we obviously know the date – 12/31!), which is usually around 7:30 pm.

Plan the Menu and Delegate Dishes
Appetizers
Potato Leek Soup
Watercress Pear Salad with Smokey Blue Cheese
Pepper Crusted Prime Rib
Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus
Hot Lava Cakes

The guest who brings a certain course will know ahead of time (we ask them) to jump up and help my husband and me with that course, when it’s time.

(Borrow table accessories if you need to.)

The cost of the party
You may ask how in the world we can afford such a party? We can’t, so every guest contributes. It’s not a potluck meal, it’s an actual dinner party, so thought has gone into the menu as my guests bring specifically what I ask them to. Of course I will ask, what do you think about … or can you bring this or that? They do get some options. :) And everyone brings drinks! And we always have plenty of water = free!

How to Seat Everyone & Set the Table
We add an extra table to our existing table, extending it into the living room, and bring in black patio chairs.

(Mix and match chairs, using black patio IKEA chairs.)

Pull out the party dishes.

(Water goblets, wine glasses, chargers, plates … Dollar Store.)

Candles and fresh Obake Anthurium straight from the islands. :)

Actually they’re from our friend’s shop, Penny and Lu Lu, where you can buy fresh flowers. So beautiful!

Mix it Up
We mix up the guests. One course may be couples next to couples, the next – girl, boy, girl, boy. Seating chart is planned out in advance with one guest assisting with rearranging the place cards (water goblets) at each course.

(Use water goblets as “place cards”)

Fresh napkins are placed down with each course. We found these at Hallmark on clearance under $2 a pack. Of course we bought them all.

(Open all packs of napkins and have accessible in a basket.)

Making the Party Interactive
At each course we ask a “lively” question, so everyone gets to participate in the conversation.

1. Soup
2. Salad
3. Main Dish
4. Dessert

You know how at some dinner parties, the same people dominate the entire conversation? Not at this party!

Sitting by someone new each course gives you a chance to relax, catch up, and enjoy new conversations.

What Music to Play
Music always helps lighten the mood, so we create a play list that reflects the vibe and the season of the party. It’s loud initially, to get the excitement up and people talking, and then the volume’s lowered when it’s time to start the conversation that everyone takes part in.

(Hook up iPhone, iPad, or computer to sound bar.)

During preparation of each course, the music is turned back up again!

The Table is Set
The table is set a day early. Why?

1. I enjoy looking at it and thinking ahead to good times. It actually makes me thankful for friends.
2. It takes the “stress” away from entertaining when you know your table is completely ready.
3. It’s relaxing to your guests to walk in your front door and see the table is set.
4. It gives you confidence that “you can do it,” for those reluctant to entertain, and a sense of accomplishment.


As 2012 comes to a close, and we bring in the “new 2013 season,” it’s a wonderful time to be with friends you are close to and really love.

It’s the people that really makes a dinner party successful.

The food, music, and atmosphere add the ambience that simply helps foster conversation.

Remember that things will never be perfect.

But will the night be memorable, heart-warming, and life-impacting?

What tips do you have to share in hosting a sit-down NYE dinner?

Thanks for joining me with my iPhone pictures above (all iPhone). And I’d love for you to join me on Instragram and follow along!

Find me on Instagram: SandyCoughlinRE
Fine me on Pinterest: Sandy Coughlin

If you read to the bottom of the post, wondering what the dinner party questions are–we don’t know yet–we’re still working on them… Stay tuned …

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