Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ringing in 2012: Experts Share Their Tips For Hosting A Sublime Celebration at Home

Everyone loves a good wrap-up party. So what better way to say, "Au revoir!" to the year that gave us so much to celebrate  the death of Osama bin Laden, Prince William and Kate Middleton's Wedding of the Year, and Chicago's new mayor, Rahm Emanuel (we'll miss you, Richard Daley!)  and to welcome in a brand new one than by hosting an intimate New Year's Eve celebration at home, surrounded by dear friends and loved ones.

If tossing a New Year's bash sounds like a daunting task to you, don't fret. Luxe File talked to some of the city's leading party-goers, and givers, and got their top tips for giving "good party". Answers ranged from "do-it-yourself" DJ'ing and organizing A-list guest lists to designing cocktail libraries and serving presidential-preferred sips.

Justin Jacobson

If Chicago were a party sandbox, Justin Jacobson would be at its center, building fantastical settings and inviting you to come inside to play.

Herewith, some event advice from BizBash Chicago's "Event Producer of the Year":  

Clean House: First impressions count. Before you start decorating, make sure your party pad is clean. Skip doing doing the deed yourself and hire a pro to do the messy work for you. The cost is minimal and you’ll enjoy the results long after the party’s over.

Décor Dress-Up: Christmas is over so replace all the green and red in your space with touches of silver and gold. I suggest filling up ultra-large glass vases with silver and gold Hershey’s Kisses  they look spectacular and you’re guaranteed a kiss at midnight. But what is a New Year’s Eve party without lots of streamers, balloons, and confetti sticks? Hit your local party store and stock up.  

Do-It-Yourself DJ: Music adds personality to any event. If you have time, reach out to your guests before they arrive to find out which songs they liked best from that year and add their suggestions to your iPod. Create a playlist with their songs and a few of your favorites and you’ll be good to go. Finding ways to incorporate your guests’ preferences into your event is the sign of a good host/hostess.

Hats Off to You: Nothing screams “Happy New Year Theme Party!” quite like top hats and tiaras. So while you’re at the party store, you might want to splurge and pick some up. Guests will love them and they make perfect favors.

Palate Pleasers: Every good host knows that keeping guests happy, is keeping them well fed. Keep things simple with a selection of small bites. I like serving a selection of cheese spreads, mini beef sliders, chicken and beef skewers, and grilled cheese bites.

3…2…1…: It’s New Year’s Eve, so be sure to have a couple bottles of champagne chilled and ready to serve once your guests arrive and when the New Year’s countdown begins. I always splurge on top-shelf liquor and keep bottles of Grey Goose and Ketel One close by along with an assortment of juice and sodas. Pick up a couple bags of ice, so you don't run out.

Extra Tip: We all worked hard in 2011. New Year’s Eve is about rejoicing with good friends. Don’t over-complicate your event and have fun. After all, it’s just a party, not your taxes.

Misc.: If you decide you would rather go out than stay in, join Platinum Events at “A Starry New Year’s Eve 2012” at the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, 8:00PM-2:00AM. 

Lee DeWyze - American Idol Winner, Season 9

Highlights include premium open bars, passed hors d’oeuvres, and a champagne toast.  Live DJ sets and special performances by American Idol’s Lee DeWyze; OAR's Chris Culos; Celebrity DJ Chris Kennedy (aka ”Chris Masterson"); Chicago's DJ Timbuck2; The Gold Coast All-Star Band; Saam from Hey Champ and more. 

General Admission tickets cost $160 per person; VIP tables are available. For more information or to purchase tickets, click HERE.

Rachel Schwanz
Caterer & Event Planner

If there is anyone in Chicago who knows how to throw a party, it's caterer and event planner extraordinaire, Rachel Schwanz, whose posh parties are always the talk of the town.

Rachel shares her tips for turning your home into a party palace:

Make It Work: Any space, no matter how small or large, can be staged for a party by moving furniture or storing it away. You will want to make room for a bar and determine where food will be placed. For the bar, I recommend using a counter or a table console. Turn bookshelves into a cocktail library by removing books and replacing them with alcohol and bottles of wine and champagne. 

As for setting up food, kitchens are always a popular place to congregate so consider placing hors d’oeuvres and other prepared dishes on an island or in an area just off of the kitchen. Make sure you have plenty of plates and glassware and silver and crystal should be cleaned before guests arrive.

Le Decor: Create ambiance with candles (votives and scented) and place them all around your space. My current favorite is “White Pepper” by Henri Bendel. New Year’s Eve screams confetti, but I don’t like the mess it makes. Try this instead: Fill vases filled with confetti and metallic ornaments. Get the va-va-voom without the vacuum. Another idea I like is hanging noise maker garlands – from fishing line! – from door frames which guests can easily grab. 

Om Nom Nom Nom: For hors d’oeuvres, my go-tos are Lamb Chops with Chimichurri, Sausage & Gruyere Wontons, Crab Claws, and a presentation of cheeses & charcuterie. For your main course, I would suggest seared steaks, homemade pastas and sauces, and fresh, roasted veggies. Round out the evening with a selection of petite desserts or something more decadent like a gateau or tiramisu.

How you display food is also key. Remember those vases filled with confetti and ornaments I mentioned earlier? They can also double as levels for hors d'oeuvres. I like to add cake stands in varying heights too. Complete the look with metallic branches and lots of glowing candles.

Drink Up: As you don’t want to run out of alcohol before the clock strikes midnight, make sure you stock up on extra bottles of bubbly, vodka and bourbon. You also may like to create a “signature drink” for the occasion. This New Year’s Eve, I will be serving my guests “Terra Rella Punch”, which I’ve named after my place. It’s a simple concoction of white grapefruit, vodka, and Champagne.

Fête Favors: Besides noisemakers, I love a stack of New Year’s Eve top hats. For smaller groups, try this unique idea I picked up from Möet’s Peggy Lanigan: personalize Champagne splits with your initials in Swarovski crystals. Click HERE for more details.

Extra Tip: I have hosted many celebrations at home that end with one or two of my guests needing to stay the night. If you don’t have a spare guest room, an air mattress or pull-out couch will do. Stock bathrooms with clean towels and disposable toiletries they can use to freshen up in the morning. 

Jessica Altieri
CEO & President
WineChannelTV with Just Jess

We know: So much Champagne. So little time. That's why we asked WineChannelTV's Jessica Altieri to weigh in on the best bubbly for New Year's Eve:

Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle Non-Vintage: With its beautiful balance and bursting with delicious aromas of royal gala apple, lime and brioche, this New Zealand bubbly is the ultimate apértif for kicking off any event.

Iron Horse Vintage Wedding Cuvee: Made predominately of pinot noir, this blanc de noir boasts a peach hue and delicious strawberry and cream flavors. It is a wonderful wine to serve at celebrations (and was even one of the late President Reagan's favorites).

Lucien Albrecht Blanc de Blancs Cremant d’Alsace Brut: This lovely sparkling wine, with its aromas of citrus, almonds and baked bread, will complement any dish you serve.

Kim Lichtenstein
Founder & Co-Principal

When she isn’t generating big buzz for her Who’s Who clients, Kim Lichtenstein is planning the glamorous parties and red carpet events we love to read about.

Kim offers coveted tips that will land your NYE party on the newsstands:

Art of the Invite: When I host a party or event, I like to send my guests two invites  electronically and by mail. Mailed invitations should include a personal note and have a New Year’s Eve vibe. For added whimsy, fill envelopes with loose colorful glitter. Create free, customized e-invites that will also keep track of your guests’ RSVPs. Eventbrite is a good site to try. 

Guest List 101: Set up an RSVP email address (example: and provide guests with a date they need to respond by so you have enough time to plan accordingly. Unless informed otherwise, add a “plus 1” for each guest. For large parties, consider staffing a greeter at the door, with a copy of the guest list. Welcome guests personally and with a glass of Champagne.

Say, “Cheese!”: Hire a photographer to take photos of the space before your guests arrive, and to get group (posed and candids) and midnight photos. If your party features something unique, such as a live musical performance, or you want to get some fun, interactive moments with friends, like finding out their New Year’s resolutions or their favorite memories from 2011, opt for a videographer. Use the footage to create a video or photo montage you can present at your next New Year’s Eve party, in 2013!

“Hostess with the Mostess”: Keep guests happy by making sure they have enough to eat and drink. Before the New Year’s countdown begins, replenish everyone's glass and pass around horns and noisemakers. Before friends depart, thank them for coming to ring in the New Year with you.

Sweetly Said: Treat your guests to something scrumptious  monogrammed cupcakes! Customize them with a special inscription, such as “2012” or your initials. Have them individually boxed with a ‘Thank You’ written on the front.

Marcus Riley
Multimedia Entertainment Reporter
NBC Chicago 

From high brow fashion shows to champagne-infused beach polo matches, Marcus Riley is the king of the social butterflies.

Marcus remembers New Year's Eve parties past and reveals what he'll be wearing when the countdown begins: 

Most Memorable NYE Party: The year I rented a cottage with a few friends. We all pitched in to cook a meal and drank champagne in an outdoor hot tub while it snowed around us.

Least Memorable NYE Party: The year I got caught in traffic gridlock in South Beach. I couldn't find a parking spot and ended up ringing in the New Year in the driver's seat of my rental car.

Lil' Jon and his Playboy Bunnies

NYE Parties I'll Be Attending: Eve of the Eve, The Playboy Party at the Hilton, and the Hard Rock Hotel party.

A Marcus Riley NYE Party: I always believe that however you start the year is indicative of how you're going to end it so the most important thing is to have the special people in your life around you.

Jay-Z sporting a burgundy velvet jacket 
and bow tie. #winning

What I'll Be Wearing: Burgundy velvet sport coat, black velvet bow-tie, black slacks, and crimson leather John Varvatos Chucks.

NYE Party Essential: Lots and lots of my favorite champagne, Möet Nectar Imperial.

Dana Kessler Weiss

While you’re not (ever) likely to find Luxe File sitting at home watching an episode of Gossip Girl or Pretty Little Liars, it doesn’t mean we don’t want to dress like Aria and Serena! Thanks to Dana Weiss and her brilliant fashion blog, Possessionista, we can duplicate the looks of our favorite thespianistas, but at discounted prices. How divine! 

Here, she shares her pretty little fashion secrets for success: 

Hair How-to: As the hostess, you're not going to want fussy hair. Opt for loose waves or a glamorous ponytail like Reese Witherspoon's (above). Experiment with a rhinestone headband or embellished hair tie for a little drama and to keep hair away from your face.

Makeup Magnificent: Go for a dramatically, feminine look with luxe lash extensions and a smoky eye. I love “Babydoll” by tart because it gives cheeks a soft flush. “Chelsea Girls” lips gloss by NARS is a lovely neutral and stays on all night.

What-To-Wear: Ring in 2012 with embellishment  feathers, sequins, even a tutu. Just not all at once.

Shoe Me: Nothing spells "p-a-r-t-y" like a pair of platform pumps or ankle boots. Just make sure you can walk in your shoes before the big night and scuff the bottoms so you don't faceplant.

Wrist Candy: From Cartier to Forever 21, 2011 was the year of the bracelet. Load up on bangles and baubles and ring the year out right.

Extra Tip: Many things can ruin a perfect evening  tight shoes, clingy clothes, too-heavy earrings. Add a few glasses of champagne to the mix, and you could have a recipe for disaster. Before your party begins, practice sitting, dancing, and bending. If your feet begin to throb or your dress keeps riding up, you'll have time to change.

Photo Credit: Photo of Rachel Schwanz courtesy of Lori Allen/LA Photo Designs

Posted by Kerry & Sally Shorr


  1. I would love to know where I can get the tutu dress its absolutely gorgeous and would be perfect for my 21st birthday!!! is there a place I can buy it from, or something comparable to it????

  2. Ballet-inspired dresses are so chic and utterly timeless. While we don't have a link to the dress featured in this blog post, we love this pretty pink corset and tulle party dress (also worn by The Hills star, Kristin Cavallari, during a Dancing with the Stars episode) by Maria Lucia Hohan. Check it out at:

  3. We are in love this lovely satin tutu dress by Lipsy: