Christmas has been and gone for another year, and while some of you might be looking back at the 25th of December all misty-eyed, most of us are probably just happy to be rid of the in-laws for another year. And speaking of 'another year', New Year's Eve 2015 is now just around the corner!
Fake enthusiasm aside, ringing in the New Year is more or less a mandatory part of the holiday season for many of us, though it's not always straightforward planning a big night out and it's certainly not cheap: these days, it seems like even grotty Walworth crack dens see fit to charge you £50 for the privilege of having the music turned up to 11.
Fortunately, provided you're not completely bone idle, you have other options to celebrate New Year's Eve, including the good old-fashioned house party. But before you start sending out Facebook invites, here's what you should know.
What Kind of Party Do You Want to Have?
Ask yourself these simple questions right at the start of your party planning process: do you want a fairly refined night with good but exclusive company? Then maybe a dinner party (or its lazier cousin, the wine and cheese night) could be just the ticket.
Or, in all honesty, are you going to be a gurning wreck by the time the clock strikes midnight? If that's the case, we'll tell you what you need to consider before sending out that open invite to the Mongol hordes. But first, just figure out a vague theme for the party (e.g. food and drink vs loud music, dancing, and indiscriminate snogging) and jot down a provisional list of guests. Now you've got an idea and some rough numbers to play with, we can move onto step two.
Selecting a Space
Take a good look around your home and be honest with yourself: do you really have enough space to cater for a New Year's Eve pissup? And are you prepared to deal with the fallout, which typically includes all of the following: clogged loos, vomit in the sink, booze stains on the carpet, noise-complaints from the neighbours, and a good few hours' worth of cleaning the next day to set everything right. If you're happy with all that, congratulations: you're just as foolhardy as we are. And you now need to identify where your bash is going to be centred
We say 'centred', because while you'll try your best to keep the carnage to one or two rooms, ultimately your entire pad is going to be subject to all manner of depravity. But, you can at least try to keep things under control by giving your guests a couple of main areas to congregate. Typically, you'll want to clear some space for a dance floor, and unless you live in a palatial country estate, this is probably your living room.
If you don't want people dropping fag ash all over your house, you'll also want to make some kind of provision for smokers (an ashtray and some kind of attempt at outdoor seating should be good enough for the reprobates). And you'll also want to pay attention to your kitchen, because where the fridge is, the drinks live, and people will be.
If all this is starting to sound like a bit of a ball-ache, see if you have other options: while New Year's Eve is obviously a big money-spinner for bars, pubs and clubs, if you're getting a big crowd together, it may actually be more affordable than you think to hire a space and let someone else clean up all the sick. Your call.
Preparing Your Home for Your Party
So, you've decided to ignore our warnings and go ahead with your house party. Good on you. Now, it's time to start organising your party. We'll assume your competent enough to pick a time, date, and invite people round (if not, drop us a comment below and we'll crack on with that incisive 'How to Use Facebook or Type Out a Text' post...). What's less straightforward is preparing your pad for the hammering it's going to take.
Start by clearing out your living room: in order of play, you'll want as much standing around, politely mingling, boogying, pulling space as possible. Depending on the size of your living room, big tables are probably a no-no and should be stowed away, though smaller side tables can be useful for people to rest drinks on and usually fit snugly into corners. You may also want to keep your sofa, but pin it back against a wall. Pretty much everything else should be moved out and locked around under armed guard, including: TVs and games consoles, art, musical instruments, electronics, any actually good booze you might happen to own, basically anything with a RRP of more than 50p.
The exception here is speakers, which are obviously key to your bash. Ideally, these should be placed somewhere safe: wall fixings are perfect, because drunkards can't really stumble in to them, but if this isn't an option, those side tables could come in handy again (somewhere near the sofa is also a good bet, as people already sitting down tend to fall over less readily).
All the above holds true for your kitchen, main bathroom(s), and other 'public' areas: if it can break, ideally it gets stashed away. With regards to your kitchen, you want as much counter space as possible, so move non-essential culinary kit into a cupboard (leave the kettle, toaster, and maybe microwave out for late-night munchies and hangover refreshments the next morning).
One final note here: when keeping valuables out of harm’s way, bedrooms are your best friend. They're a legitimately private space that (most) people will respect, or at least ask before entering. If yours has a door that locks, all the better; that's where all the expensive bits like laptops, TVs, and consoles can sleep for the night. Bedrooms also double very effectively as cloakrooms on the night itself, further helping to reduce clutter as you attempt to recreate Fabric nightclub in your home.
Preparing for the Big Night Itself
If you've read this far, we'll assume you're still fully committed to trashing your house in the name of good times. Unfortunately, while some of the hard work is done, there's still plenty left to do on the big day and night itself.
Let's start with the obvious: booze. Unless your exceptionally rich/dim, you'll have specified that your bash is Bring Your Own Drink, but a good host also provisions a healthy supply themselves. And unless you're hosting the Guild of Food Writers, quality really isn't an issue: people will be perfectly happy with the cheapest, bottom of the barrel stuff you can find. You can make your skinflint arse look more generous than it is by buying some cheap Cava or Prosecco: around New Year's, there should be some cracking deals going, and you shouldn't have to pay more than £5 a bottle (especially if you buy more than one).
The same holds true for beer and wine: buying in bulk is likely to save you big, while for spirits, look for supermarkets' own-brand fare. If you are buying for an entire crowd, however, use this rule thumb to know how much to buy per head (doubling the amount that the rule suggests, because British) and don't forget to make any non-drinkers feel welcome as well by ditching the orange juice for something a bit more exciting. Some basic nibbles (crisps and dips, or leftover mince pies from Christmas) are also essential, but again, don't be afraid to ask your gang to bring snacks as well.
Once you've stocked up on supplies, you're in the home stretch: crack open your beverage of choice (once you get home, not while driving, though boozing on public transport is obviously acceptable) and spend some quality time with your home, thanking it for staying in one piece for so long. You'll also want to make sure you've got music ready now, but these days, all that means is having a Spotify Premium account (and guess what? You can trial Spotify Premium for just 99p through 31 December) and also making some playlists. Don't have Spotify Premium and won't shell out 99p? In that case, you need to plan this stage a bit earlier, as you'll have to ask a non-tight mate or two to make the opening playlists.
The best thing about using Spotify to DJ your party is that there are now loads of add-ons to make playlist generation and selection really easy: some of our favourites here and over on Lifehacker include Festify, which lets your guests upvote songs, bringing the most popular ones to the top of the playlist and DJ 51, which builds playlists based on songs and artists you have in common with your friends.
Spotify also recently announced a new feature called Spotify Party which is basically its take on 'expert' curated playlists. Another cool tool is AmpMe, which lets you and your friends harness the (individually mediocre) power of your mobile devices to create a kind of smartphone surround sound system. The bummer is it doesn't (yet) work with Spotify, so for simplicity's sake, it's probably best to ignore during New Year's Eve, though it's one to bear in mind for the future.
Let's Get It On!
Of course, if you have multiple friendship groups attending your New Year's Eve lash-up, it can also help to have a couple of ice breakers to hand, and we don't mean Scrabble (unless you're opting for the cheese and wine route, in which case, please proceed...).
A few fun and affordable 'games' that can be had on the cheap include drinking roulette and drinking chess sets, or just go with the tried and trusted beer pong route, which requires little more than beer, table tennis balls, plastic pint glasses, and an eagerness to ruin your kitchen table. Twister can also be a good laugh when drunk, but don't force the fun: in all likelihood, a few glasses of social lubrication will be all it takes to get people mixing. Before you know it, the tunes will be banging, the neighbours will have knocked to say please turn it down after midnight, your dodgy mate Dizzle will be busy spiking the punch, and there'll be a healthy amount of early-stage fornication on the dance floor: congratulations, your party is a success. Now, if only there was a way to avoid a New Year's Day hangover...
How do you throw the ultimate house party and/or celebrate New Year's Eve? This is one of your last chances to head down below and have a rant, so make the most of it and see you soon: waste on 2016!