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How to Host a Great New Year's Eve Party

Here are tips ranging from hiring staffers to getting out of dull conversations

Why spend those torturous hours waiting for the new year huddling with your friends, together with the masses, in an overpriced restaurant or overpacked nightclub? This year, take it upon yourself to host a posh New Year's Eve party.

Step 1: Picking the Right Size

First, you'll have to decide just how big that New Year's bash is going to be. For a simple dinner party, invite up to 12 guests to come at 9 p.m.; a late dinner event wraps up for a clean and civilized midnight turnover.

Anyone with more than 12 guests should embrace the full-scale party, which includes anywhere from 20 to 200 guests, preferably flowing between rooms and even a heated outdoor area if available. Those with large outdoor spaces may want to consider a tent rental. Consider hiring a top-notch DJ to spin more than your iPod tunes, or even try a theme, such as "'70s Decadence."

Step 2: The Guest List

A poorly assembled guest list is like social cyanide. Decide how many people you wish to invite, and then divide the guest list between two categories: fun and work. The fun category should include anyone considered an asset to the party, and it's best to balance your party with four of them for every one guest who means work.

A chatty girlfriend who can talk to anyone? Fun. A hot health-club trainer who makes clients' wives a little nervous? Fun. A demanding client who is always snippy with your staff? Work. A friend from your Yale days who drinks too much Chardonnay then tearfully wonders why she has no boyfriend? Work. You get the idea.

Take a look at the guest list and see if anything is missing. Think about things like the ratio of single to married guests, which can be a big factor in the party's dynamic.

For a little extra sparkle, find a staffing company that specializes in fine-looking help to tend the bar, spoon the caviar and even clean up the mess, all while looking great. The fun part is, you can even go online and cast them yourself!

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Step 3: To Eat or Not To Eat

Smaller dinner parties are best kept formal, with a proper five-course meal complete with soup terrine and cheese plate. The beauty of a dinner party is the ability to enjoy the food and more in-depth conversation.

A bigger party, however, is not about eating. You should assemble a few high-end snack areas like a charcuterie board, decorative crudités or a good caviar bar with Beluga -- or even quality Paddlefish. (Really, as long as you hide the container, few will know the difference...) Bring out dessert, the "last call" of a private party, after midnight; it's also a good excuse to serve sobering espresso or coffee.

Step 4: Crowd Control

Neighbors usually don't like noise. Warn your neighbors, or if you think it could get crazy, even offer them a room at a local hotel. (Don't suggest a place that's too luxe, or they may take you up on the offer!) Keep the music low until most of the guests have arrived, then pump it up as the evening continues.

If it's an outdoor tent, keep the area closed off until the bulk of guests have arrived and then make a formal unveiling. It will keep the party interesting and limit the amount of time your neighbors have to put up with the noise. When the big night arrives, make sure you work the entire room and only get into long conversations with people you want to see. As a host, you have endless excuses to get out of dull conversations, ranging from, "I need to re-ice the caviar" to "I think I need a costume change."

Step 5: The Big Night

Be bold. Wear something a tad outrageous or a knockout Etro get-up. Being more dressed up than your guests will maximize your thunder and also make you feel like it's your birthday without having to add a year to your age. Hats make a great accessory.

Don't work the door yourself -- ask some of your hired staff to show guests in, and make sure they have a drink to get started.

By 11:55 everyone should be gathered in a central area, with Auld Lang Syne or a good song selected in advance for the post-midnight kiss. Prop yourself up on a table or chair for the countdown, and make sure you have a good crowd at your side. Staff should also participate; it's a special time for everyone, and this will make them more energetic for cleanup. The countdown should be from 20 seconds, and don't forget to make any last-minute toasts or resolutions for a happy New Year!