Want to throw a great New Year's Eve bash? Don't start too early. Wait until after 8 p.m. After all, it's going to be a long night.

That's one bit of advice for people planning New Year's Eve parties from the owners of an Andover-based event planning and fundraising business: Lauren Frei and Lisa McDonald, both of Andover. They operate Silent Partners and have organized parties for Lawrence General Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence and home parties around town.

Their "do's and don'ts" list for a New Year's Eve party includes:



DON'T SERVE wine and beer only. That is so "yesterday." The party scene is all about drinks like pomegranate martinis, they said. Pomegranate martinis are red and that's a festive color. Guests will like that.



DON'T ASK guests to bring food. It's your party and, therefore, it's your job to get the food.



DON'T DO FLOWERS. Votive candles are "in" this party season. Frei suggests putting the candles all around your home. Votives are elegant and much less expensive than flowers. If you must have flowers, you can do what McDonald did for her family Christmas party. She spent just $20 on red tulips, white hydrangeas and berries. She grabbed some holiday ribbon and made small arrangements in vases she had at home.



DO HOST A SIT-DOWN DINNER PARTY. Sure, it can be a lot of work for the hostess, but the chance to have a little fun when dinner's on the table will certainly liven things up. For example, split up the couples in attendance. Use place cards to split the couples among the guests.



DO PLAN A BUDGET. It's easy to go overboard with spending. Set a budget and stick to it.



DO PLAN a second meal to roll out after midnight. A breakfast theme of pastry, breads and coffee cake is a good idea.



DO HIRE A BARTENDER, if you have the cash, as it will free up the host and/or hostess to mingle, say the organizers. Your guests graciously showed up for your party, so talk to them. They obviously like you! Party-throwers should be social and stuck in the kitchen or behind the bar mixing drinks all night.



DO HAVE MUSIC. Party-goers love to dance, so let them. If you have a piano, use it. If you can set up a mini dance floor somewhere, do it. Or get a karoake machine. It's a huge party attraction and yours promises to be lively if you get one.



DO INVITE THE KIDS to your party. Finding a baby sitter for New Year's Eve is difficult. Just put the kids in a different room | maybe a finished basement or an unused family room. Encourage them to host their own party | complete with the countdown | in their own space. They may not make midnight, but your adult guests will. Make it a night to remember!



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