GETTING RED-CARPET READY...
1. Secure your win for most organized host: Let guests know the timetable up front, from pre-show cocktails (it's most fun to point out the worst-dressed actors with a drink in hand!) to dinnertime. Drop-bys will know the best time to make their entrances and exits.
2. Shift furniture to the sidelines, then scatter cushions or thick blankets up front. Add extra plop-down spots where you can.
3. While you're at it, lose coffee-table clutter. "Just put out magazines with awards news or gossip to get everyone in the mood," says Los Angeles-based event planner Yifat Oren.
4. Serve snacks in low bowls and cocktails in short or stemless glasses, so everyone has a clear view of the screen.
5. No need to buy fancy serving platters. Instead, use these everyday items to serve and carry food:
• Cutting boards
• Cookie sheets or baking pans
• Checker, chess or backgammon boards
• Silver vanity trays or small mirrors
6. Not a lot of serving space? Take your apps vertical: Pile cake stands on top of one another or use a tiered serving stand. Or, divide each appetizer among various serving pieces so partygoers can try them all from wherever they're seated.
7. Click off overhead lights, which can wash out the TV screen. Instead, turn on table lamps and light candles around the perimeter of the room.
8. New York City-based event planner Amy Atlas suggests adding sparkle to pillar and taper candles: Run a glue stick over them, then dip in gold glitter.
9. Glam up drink glasses with gold: Add flecks of edible gold leaf (available at cake shops or amazon.com) to glass-rimming sugar and twist glass rims in the mixture (first twist in a little water or citrus juice to get the sugar to stick) before pouring drinks.
ONCE GUESTS ARRIVE...
10. Hand out DIY Oscar ballots: Cut two slits into printed stationery and slide in a pencil for each guest.
11. Challenge guests to predict the outcomes of a few awards, and give the winner an Oscar-style grab bag stuffed with movie-themed treats, like movie candy, 3-D glasses and an Oscar-nominated flick.
12. Write movie quotes on paper cocktail napkins or cardboard coasters and fan them out on the coffee table for partygoers to grab as needed. Or, write your favorite quotes from past Oscar-nominated flicks on blank paper coasters. Play "Guess which movie" with your pals and give prizes to the winners.
IF THE SHOW STARTS SAGGING...
13. Why not have your own red-carpet moments? Set up a backdrop for mock Oscar photos by hanging red streamers or fabric on a bare wall. See what friends will do when the paparazzi aren't watching.
14. "Let guests socialize without interrupting the show by serving the snacks at a distance from the TV and couches," says Yifat Oren. Make sure there are clear paths in and out of the viewing area so guests can easily sneak away to chat or refill plates. Keep some tunes going at a low volume for entertainment during commercial breaks.
15. "Four hours in front of the TV is a long time!" says Colin Cowie, a Manhattan-based celebrity event planner. Keep some party snacks reserved for later in the night-have them pre-plated.
Tips by Erika Lenkert except tips 5, 6 by Susan H. Gordon | Tips photography by John Kernick