New Year's Eve: 5 tips for party planning at home

If an extravagant New Year's Eve gala with formal attire and a costly cover charge isn't your style, it's not too late to plan a cosy evening at home.

Hostess Michaela Morris says it's easy to throw a simple party to ring in the New Year at home

Michaela Morris prefers to spend New Year's Eve at home with close friends, and says planning a fun party can be easy, with elegant results. (Dan Kristiansen)

If an extravagant New Year's Eve gala with formal attire and a costly cover charge isn't your style, it's not too late to plan a cosy evening at home.

Michaela Morris, party planning enthusiast and co-owner of Vancouver-based House Wine, shared her tips with CBC Radio's The Early Edition on how to ring in the New Year in a more homey way.

1. Divide up the work

Morris said the first task is to agree who is hosting the party, but from there it's important to divide up the work to make sure not everything falls to the host.

"We divide things up. Someone can bring an appetizer, someone can bring the dessert," she said. 

Morris admits she is "a bit of a control freak" so the party isn't a full-on potluck — everyone is assigned a specific course ahead of time. 

2. Stay out of the kitchen

Morris will be cooking the main course for her own party this year, but she plans to do all the work ahead of time.

"I can sit down at the table and enjoy everyone's company, because that's what it's all about."

She said there are lots of options that require minimal work for hosts who don't like cooking — or who can't face the kitchen after spending days on Christmas dinner .

​"They can go to somewhere like Oyama [Sausage Co.] on Granville Island or Les amis du fromage [cheese shop] and pick up either a cheese course or charcuterie course, so it makes it easy on everyone."

3. Bust out the bubbly

Opening a bottle of champagne is a New Year's Eve tradition, but Morris said you don't have to spring for real champagne to enjoy some bubbles.

"I say do whatever you're comfortable with," she said.

You don't need to splash out on real champagne to throw a good New Year's Eve party, said Michaela Morris. (Virginia Mayo/The Associated Press)

For sparkling wines, Morris recommended picking up a bottle of Spanish Cava. Alternatively, she said, there are a number of great sparkling wines from the Okanagan, including one made by Blue Mountain Vineyard.

If you are drinking champagne, Morris said you don't need to pick the most expensive bottle.

She recommended Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru Brut Champagne, which goes for $54.99 in B.C. Liquor Stores.

"I say it drinks like some of the champagnes that are way more expensive. Really, really elegant and affordable," Morris said.

4. Surround yourself with good company

No matter what you are eating and drinking, Morris says the key to a successful party is the guest list.

"I'm pretty superstitious about New Year's Eve and whatever I do at midnight on the 31st, I want to be doing for the rest of the year and I love surrounding myself with the people who are closest to me in my life," she said.

5. Play games

Morris said some New Year's Eve parties she hosts turn into dance parties, but many become a games night.

"We may end up playing something like poker, if I have a say in it, or if [Wine Master Barb Philip] and her husband Ian have a say in it, it's going to be something like Celebrity Name Droppers, which I'm always scared of."

Each guest pulls a name of a celebrity out of a hat, and other guests have to guess whose name they drew through a series of hints.

While in the modern world some parties can end with a guest taking over the computer to play their favourite YouTube videos, Morris said she prefers to make the people who attend her parties detach themselves from the screen and their chair.

"I prefer to have someone playing DJ and [have other guests and I] getting up out of the seat and working off that dinner, because we have been sitting around a lot over the holidays."

Michaela Morris tells host Stephen Quinn it's not too late to plan a cozy New Year's Eve Party at home. (Jesara Sinclair/CBC)

Michaela Morris's wine picks and pairings for New Year's Eve

Le Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Brut Champagne, with baked choux and cheese savories known as Gougères.

2013 Quails Gate, Chenin Blanc with pâté or rillettes spreads and cheese.

2012 Produttori delBarbaresco, Langhe Nebbiolo, with Rabbit Stew and a touch of Chocolate (from the New Spanish Table by Anya von Bremzen).

To hear more of Michaela Morris' advice on party planning for New Year's Eve, click the audio labelled: Michaela Morris does New Year's Eve at home.