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Fancy But Casual Ideas for New Year’s Eve at Home


These fancy but casual ideas for New Year’s Eve are the perfect combination of easy-going and classy. Delicious, elevated food and extra special touches will help ring in the New Year and make memories for your whole family.

Celebrating New Year’s at home is my favorite. It’s a relaxed night of family time that is also festive and celebratory. If you’re into entertaining, read on to find out just how easy it is to plan a fun family party.

This post was originally sponsored by Whole Foods Market and posted in 2018. It has since been updated to include more helpful information and doesn’t only focus on a specific market.

Woman holding wine and a confetti popper with metallic garden draped over her shoulders and a pan of lobster nachos on the table.

My family is the epitome of low-key fancy. I barely wear makeup, but I own a champagne saber.

My oldest son pretty much only wears t-shirts but they are exclusive and cost more than a t-shirt should.

After running around for all the other holidays, my family loves to celebrate New Year’s Eve at home. We get into our comfiest clothes, hang out as a family and eat delicious food.

A low-key fancy New Year’s Eve is the best! 

What is low key fancy?

A low-key fancy is another way we refer to our fancy but casual New Year’s Eve. It is a totally relaxed night with some traditions (like these hourly countdown bags), but we also add in new things as well.

Low-key fancy is when you keep things really casual but then splurge for a few things.

It means you pop a bottle of expensive champagne while wearing your favorite beat-up t-shirt.

It means you have pajamas on while you eat your lobster.

It means you drink sparkling cider out of champagne flutes.

It’s a fun way to make a night memorable. And I promise, your kids will talk about it for years to come.

Sometimes, we invite another family over. But they have to be low-key fancy too. There are certain people in your life that you can wear sweatpants in front of.

Those are the only people that make the cut for our favorite night of the year. I really wouldn’t consider this a full-on party. It’s mostly about the food!

I make sure that we have delicious food and drinks to last the whole evening and everyone looks forward to the little surprises I sprinkle in.

Celebrating New Years Eve with a low key fancy night in

There are a few elements of a low key fancy night. It’s best to figure out any activities you want to do and then plan food and drinks around those.

For instance, we know we’ll have dinner on the early side, then we’ll play a game together as a family, followed by watching TV coverage of any countdown shows.

In order to pack in surprises around every turn, it’s fun to use all new things. Serve different snacks than you’re used to. Play a new game. It doesn’t have to cost much, just look for something different and unique.

For me, it’s easiest to shop at a store that I don’t shop at often since my family won’t be familiar with their brands and they always have things my go-to store doesn’t.

New Year’s Eve is the perfect night to make some upgrades. Specialty crackers, cheeses, dips, etc. help things feel different. Sparkling wine is a great way to kick off a low key fancy night.

Low-Key Fancy New Year’s Eve at Home Ideas

A party table for New Year's Eve with lobster tails, lobser nachos and some chips.

1. Plan Your Meal

I don’t usually cook a meal for New Year’s Eve. It’s my night off, too, after all. But we do try to have a meal on the earlier side and then snack throughout the night.

You can cook a special meal if you’re up for it or order in from your favorite local restaurant like we do. It just needs to add to the excitement.

Choose a restaurant that is out of the ordinary to make it feel extra special. But I always discuss this with the whole family because I want everyone to feel like they are part of every decision.

2. Organize the Snacks

And I always make sure that we have one snack that is a little bit more substantial to make sure nobody is starving later on.

This year I decided to do lobster! It doesn’t get much fancier than that!

Woman cutting lobster tails on a cutting board.

I picked up some Sustainable Wild-Caught Lobster Tails, plus some extra lobster meat (already removed from the shell), for nachos later in the night.

Since we don’t usually enjoy lobster at home, I am definitely not an expert at cooking it. This frozen lobster couldn’t have been easier to make and tasted delicious! 

I do as much prep work for the night ahead of time so that I can just relax and enjoy the night also.

Lobster nachos are the perfect party food for a low key fancy New Year's Eve night in.

Lobster nachos are as low-key fancy as you can get! Using pre-cooked lobster meat means this is super quick and easy to put together.

The lobster pieces and crème fraîche made it feel decadent and special, while we still got our favorite comfort food.

It’s one of my favorite ideas for New Year’s Eve and the perfect upgrade of my favorite Sheet Pan Nachos.

A variety of snacks spread out on a table.

I usually buy way more snacks than we need but I know it won’t go to waste. With the kids on winter break, there is plenty of time to eat them all.

I grab a variety of things to graze on. I pick up a handful of things that can sit out all night, like chips, nuts, crackers, etc. that people can grab as they like.

But again, think elevated snacks like Truffle potato chips and Marcona almonds.

And then I’ll buy things that I’ll serve for a little while before putting back in the fridge.

Along with leaving out a snack tray with non-perishable items, I serve other snacks at different points during the evening.

A roasted red pepper spread in a bowl next to cheese and other snacks on a table.

For one snack time, I put out some Burrata cheese topped with a jar of roasted tomatoes. Burrata is one of my favorite cheeses (it’s SO creamy) and it pairs so well with garlicky tomatoes. (Or make my Burrata and Tomatoes appetizer ahead!)

This literally took 2 seconds to “make” but it looks totally fancy! Super low-key. 

This will stay out for about an hour and then I’ll put it away and then, after a bit, I’ll bring something else out. I keep portions small and let everyone help themselves.

Food ideas for your low key fancy New Years Eve party.

Along with the tomatoes and burrata, I put out some sliced cheeses and salami. Cheese and meats are a staple for our New Year’s celebrating.

I paired them with delicious crunchy items to create the perfect snacking situation. This is the time to splurge in the cheese section and try some new things!

The only reason that I put the foods into bowls or on platters is that it makes them easier to grab and sometimes packaging can take up too much room.

A low-key fancy New Year’s Eve party means you can leave things in the jars they came in.

A drink station for a New Years Eve party.

3. Low Key Fancy Drinks

What I love about this night is that everyone sort of takes care of themselves. I set out little stations, so they know what their options are, and then they grab what they need when they need it.

I usually pick up a nice bottle of bubbly, like this La Marca for myself and some sparkling cider for the boys.

My husband is a beer drinker so I usually look for something in a fun can like those pictured above.

Details make things memorable so I set out pomegranate seeds to add a colorful touch to the wine and cider to make them seem even fancier.

Or you can make a fun New Year’s Eve cocktail or mocktail.

While I love a good happy hour, I don’t usually drink very much on New Year’s Eve. I recently found these lower alcohol Haus aperitif wines which will let me feel celebratory without making me want a nap…

More Drink Ideas for New Year’s Eve:

Putting chocolate truffles on a dessert table for New Years Eve.

4. Set up a Dessert Station

Later in the evening, I like to put out some sweets for us to enjoy. If I put them out too early, the kids (and sometimes me) won’t eat anything else.

Some decadent truffles and a variety of chocolates will make your family’s eyes light up.

Yummy dessert hummus from Whole Foods for New Years Eve.

Dessert hummus is something totally unique to serve. It pairs well with salty dippers like pretzels and also fresh fruit. And chocolate chip cookies are always a welcome dessert idea.

Just setting the treats out on a wooden board made it feel a little bit fancy and my kids loved that they could try a few different things.

You could even set up a Hot Chocolate Charcuterie Board and I know your family would LOVE it.

Need more sweet ideas for New Year’s Eve? Try my Cinnamon Walnuts, make some Spicy Cinnamon Hard Candy, or my Sauvignon Blanc Jello Shots.

5. Decorations

We don’t typically decorate for New Year’s Eve (except for maybe a photo backdrop so we can take pictures with these photo booth props).

We get decked out for Christmas which we then take down immediately so we can celebrate my son’s birthday. So New Year’s Eve is kept pretty simple.

Confetti poppers always add a festive touch but I will lose my mind if someone actually pops one. Confetti is the worst. But poppers do look cute on a table.

I like to look for a few decorative items that might also have another purpose later.

Flowers are always a nice touch and you can make them feel more holiday-themed by tucking little things like noisemakers into the arrangements.

Woman putting up a metallic garland for a New Year's Eve Party.

Garlands are always a good idea. New Year’s Eve demands extra sparkle so anything metallic and loud is a good idea.

You don’t even need to worry about properly hanging them. Just grab some masking or washi tape and hang them up. That’s the beauty of low key fancy!

We usually have New Year’s themed hats and noisemakers lying around, so I let those do double duty as decor.

Spend the night in with your closest loved ones this year.

These ideas for New Year’s Eve are the perfect mix of fancy but casual. It’s easy to have a fun night in with these easy to recreate tips.

Low Key Fancy Items to Shop

  • Play a fun game to get your teens laughing that the whole family can play together.
  • Grab a set of cute silk pajamas to wear. In fun patterns and a modest cut these are a great, comfortable way to enjoy the night.
  • Even if you just use it once a year (but trust me, you won’t!) you need a champagne saber.
  • I got a mini Swan Ice Mold for my 40th birthday and it’s always a crowd pleaser.
  • Get the kids involved to keep the energy up. We play Soda Pong which would be even fancier with this Prosecco Pong game.

Can you share some ideas for New Year’s Eve? Leave them in a comment below!

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  1. Deb Smith says:

    Do you have a recipe for the lobster nachos?

    1. Hi Deb, I don’t have a recipe for the nachos. I just topped chips with a mix of cheeses that we liked and used frozen lobster I got from Whole Foods. Then I just topped with our favorite nacho toppings. So easy!

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