Lauren Conrad’s most memorable New Year’s Eve wasn’t at a ritzy event or sparkly soiree. It was in her PJs.
“A couple years ago I rented a home in Napa with a group of friends. On New Year’s Eve, we cooked a big dinner and played games in front of the fire until the countdown,” she tells PEOPLE. “It was a very low-key evening, but I got to ring in the new year with some of the people I love the most — and I got to do it in my pajamas.”
The 30-year-old lifestyle guru and author of Lauren Conrad Celebrate might enjoy keeping things laid-back, but she also knows how to throw a perfect, Pinterest-worthy party. And while New Year’s Eve carries a lot of end-of-year hype, Conrad swears it’s one of the easier events to put together.
“The basic guidelines are predetermined,” she says. “The color story tends to consists of some variety of black, gold, silver and white, the menu calls for a few appetizers and lots and lots of cocktails, and the dress code usually involves some sort of sequin garment. So if hosting parties tends to stress you out, this is the event for you!”
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If you’re getting ready to throw your own salute to 2016, here are a few of Conrad’s no-fail pro tips:
When it comes to sending invitations, “a month is nice,” she says. Although custom-design sites like Minted offer great printed options, she adds, “I think it’s just as acceptable to send an e-vite.”
Get the party going around 9:00 p.m. “Start it later, only because you know that the party is probably going to go past midnight,” she says. “You don’t want your party to go on too long.”
Planning a menu is a cinch. “Typically for New Year’s Eve people will have eaten dinner, so you can get away with appetizers and lots of champagne,” she says. “It’s a little less prep.”
“My husband always does the playlist!” Conrad says, and his penchant for picking the perfect tunes to set the mood. But if she’s in charge, “I pick a few artists and do their songs on a random playlist. It sticks to the same vibe, and it’s not a lot of work.”
If friends bring uninvited extra guests, “obviously you want to do the best you can to accommodate everyone,” she says. “Just go with it.” Get ahead of any possible crashers by purchasing extra food and drinks. “It’s smart to plan ahead and build in a buffer.”
Conrad also has some wise advice for how to survive your January 1 hangover: “I always try to drink a glass of water between every drink and that makes a really big difference,” she says. “And if that doesn’t work, then something fried!”