Hoping to throw a New Year's Eve party to remember? Take some advice for a 2013 to remember from Dominick, who plans weddings and private parties for Washington-area revelers as the founder of A. Dominick Events.
What's a common mistake that inexperienced hosts make?
I think they try to take on too much. The host doesn't have to be Martha Stewart. Everything doesn't have to be homemade. You can buy things frozen and put them in the oven. Your guests would prefer that you spend time with them. If you have a rug that you love and would rush to take care of if it got a stain, roll that up. If their host is frantic, guests get uneasy. They want a relaxed, fun time.
And nothing says a good time like food -- what's a safe bet to serve?
Do ahead as much as possible, focusing on things that can be baked in advance. With the weather the way it is, things like pot pies are warm and soothing and not necessarily something you'd make every day. There are often kids at these parties, too, and you want to have activities for them. We do a make-you-own pizza station, with the dough all rolled out. When the kids are entertained, it allows for parents to have a good time, too.
Champagne is obvious, but any other alcoholic tips?
I think a punch is a really fun, festive thing to do, and it can be Champagne-based. Take a Cool Whip container and freeze cranberries and herbs and other things that look festive in water. The block of ice floats in the punch and looks pretty and keeps it cold.
What about atmosphere?
I'm all about lighting. Use real candles -- lots and lots of candles -- and then dim everything else as much as possible.