A professional party girl’s New Year’s tips

Posted On November 2, 2008

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Debi Lilly knows how to throw a party.

Not just any party, the perfect party. She’s had plenty of practice. After all, Lilly, founder of Chicago-based event planner A Perfect Event (www.aperfectevent.com), has been hosting get-togethers since grade school.

“My friends all used to tease me that if you moved around the corner, I threw you a housewarming party,” Lilly says with a laugh. “I just have it in my blood.”

These days, the professional party planner has much grander galas to tend to, including Oprah’s birthday bash last year. But one of her most memorable affairs was the fete she planned for her husband’s birthday, “a while back,” she says: a 007 James Bond tribute party at a downtown gallery complete with guests that came in costume. Lilly showed up as a Bond girl.

“There were people in scuba gear, snow gear, black tie, it was just hysterical,” she says. One guest came dressed as the character Jaws [from “The Spy Who Loved Me” and “Moonraker”] and went the entire night with aluminum foil wrapped around his teeth.

The martinis, shaken, not stirred, of course, flowed freely, served along with worldly eats such as caviar and deviled quail eggs. And what’s a 007 party without a cigar bar?

“It was the ultimate manly man party,” she says.

For New Year’s, Lilly says she likes to keep things much simpler. One of her favorite ideas is to throw a late-night champagne and dessert soiree: “Since toasting at midnight is the pinnacle of the evening, you don’t want to start too early.”

Lilly suggests having guests arrive at 9 p.m. to begin the countdown. That way midnight is just a few hours away.

A buffet and champagne bar work well for two reasons, she says: It keeps you out of the kitchen and allows guests to help themselves.

Create an intimate atmosphere by keeping your main lights turned off and using lots of candles. Fill vintage bowls with tin noisemakers, horns, etc.

Her last hostess secret? Get your shopping done a day in advance. This will give you time to take a long hot bath the day of the party.

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