11:00: MEET, GREET + MINGLE
Greet guests at the door and point them to the coatrack. Leave a party prop, like a boa or beaded necklace, on each hanger so guests can toss one on when they take off their winter gear.
Hand out empty champagne glasses and direct everyone toward the self-serve punch bar.
Leave out a bowl of noisemakers for guests to grab at will. Place a stack of cards, pens and a small box on the table and ask guests to write down their wishes for 2010. Take turns reading them out loud (anonymously!) over cocktails later in the night.
11:15: START THE PARTY
Set out the first round of savory appetizers.
Do your best to help solo guests become acquainted with the group. Now's the time to play matchmaker -- before midnight nears!
Designate someone to snap photos or take videos with promises to e-mail them to friends the next day.
11:30: MAKE A FINAL LAP
Refill the platters of Blackened Shrimp with Roasted Garlic Aioli and Blue Cheese Figs in a Blanket that guests have devoured.
Grab a round of punch from the refrigerator. If there's still some left in the first batch, rotate that pitcher back into the icebox for more chilling.
Adjust the thermostat and the stereo volume as needed. If you?ve got a fire going, throw on another log.
Pick up crumpled napkins and put empty glasses in the dishwasher.
11:45: CUE THE CELEBRATION
Ask a friend to help you place postmidnight sweets on platters now, so there's nothing left to do at 12:01 but bring them out. (This will also give the Black-and-White Chocolate Truffles a chance to reach room temperature.)
Give a subtle signal: Dim the lights and blow out candles in the kitchen and dining room, or wherever guests may be mingling. The party will naturally begin moving into the living room for the midnight countdown.
Unwrap a few bottles of champagne and place them in the fridge. If some go unfinished, use them to make mimosas for brunch the next day.
Give Dick Clark the night off. Direct attention away from the tube and toward a big clock that has a second hand.
Toast with Pink Bubbly Ginger Punch. Don't forget to kiss!
Make homemade confetti. Event planner Karen Bussen says to cut patterned gift wrap or tissue paper into 1-inch squares. It's easier to clean, too!
Use smaller platters and appetizer-style plates to serve the savory snacks. Rotate one small plate of them in at a time so food never sits out too long.
Wrap glass hurricanes with colored cellophane (red and gold represent good luck and prosperity), then stick candles inside.
Add a personal touch. Write each guest's name on a champagne flute with a china marker before they arrive. Leave out the pen and a few extra glasses for unexpected arrivals.