It is the season to be merry — and wary of spreading COVID-19. As families and friend groups prepare for the holidays ahead, the planning process is vastly different than years past. If you decide to host an in-person gathering, it’s essential to first look at the local regulations for gatherings in your community, including party size limitations. By keeping the number smaller, you lower the risk of everyone in attendance. And you can then get creative with the events of the holiday celebration!
Here, we spoke with party planners for their best, most unique ideas for a socially-distances holiday affair, from decor and food to beyond:
Provide a festive PPE kit upon arrival
It’s not ideal, but wearing masks is one of the most important ways we can protect ourselves and others, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rather than having your guests wear the same ‘ole mask they’ve been sporting for months, create a ‘welcome’ personal protection equipment kit as a gift, suggests Shayla Englund, an event planner and lifestyle concierge for As You Wish. It can include a festive mask (like these) and an individual mini bottle of hand-sanitizer. While Englund says you should communicate guidelines ahead of the party via an email or handwritten invite, it also helps to hang kind reminders throughout your home about keeping space, keeping masks on, and other precautions.
Create an outdoor winter oasis
If you live in a metropolitan area, you’ve likely been impressed with how your favorite restaurants have transformed their outdoor dining areas. From individual pods and makeshift greenhouses or igloos, they’re doing all they can to keep serving well into the coldest days of the year. Get inspired by their effort for your own holiday party by creating a winter wonderland oasis in your backyard or patio.
Since it’s safest to be under the big ‘ole sky, event planner Laura Maddox suggests keeping the whole event outdoors rather than sharing the oxygen indoors. You can make it cozy, comfortable and dreamy with these touches, recommended by Maddox:
- Rent heaters or purchase fire pits. Especially if you’re in a snowy climate, these can be a gamechanger for outdoor gatherings.
- Provide blankets for everyone. If you have the budget, you could consider personalizing them with something like ‘We’re surviving 2020’, or just pull the stash you already have.
- Have the outdoor bar ready. Booze has a way of warming you up fast, so Maddox recommends having the drinks flowing.
- Provide a dress code. Not only is an ‘ugly holiday sweater’ a fun way to make everyone laugh, but it will also keep people toasty! Make sure you let your guests know the event will be outdoors so they can dress accordingly.
Believe it or not, event expert Kylie Carlson says it’s not too difficult to plan your holiday party’s layout with social distancing in mind. Even if you are forced to take the celebration indoors, you can be mindful of safety by mapping out seating arrangements based on the number of people attending. And anywhere and everywhere can be a ‘seat’.
“You can assign a living room loveseat to a party of two, a nicely decorated table and chairs for a small family, and so on,” she continues. “Utilize the furniture you have, and if need be, think about securing some budget-friendly rentals to ensure that everyone has a comfortable place to relax for the evening.”
Be liberal with humor
By now, we have been through the wringer with the pandemic. Plenty of ups and downs, good times and frustrating ones. And most of us are used to wearing a mask, giving everyone their personal space, and spending a lot of time indoors. Even so, many may be disappointed that the holidays will feel and be different this year.
That’s why event planner Jamie Chang recommends infusing some humor into your home with socially-distant party hats. “It could be a big hat, an inner tube, or some wings, just something that naturally creates space between people,” she continues. “It’s fun, funny and practical, and will keep your guests apart and will make for some good photos, too. You could even have them make their own accessory when they get there, like a little arts and crafts project with a winner for the best creation.” You can ask your guests to decorate holiday wreaths and they can take these wreaths home as a nice reminder of this party.
Plan an activity
Typically, your whole extended family or your closest pals pile onto a couch for a cuddle puddle. However, staying away from grandma and your bestie from high school is a kinder gesture. To keep the festivities light and happy, event planner JoAnn Gregoli suggests coming up with various activities. This adds a ‘schedule’ of sorts to your event, and it allows your guests to connect without physically touching. She recommends ornament-making crafts, a cooking baking contest where everyone brings their signature batch, a tree trimming adventure with mini trees, and so on.
Be mindful of dinner
Buffet or family-style dining is usually how holiday dinner is served. However, this year, both of those pose a threat of contracting COVID-19. Instead, Chang recommends taking a different approach by having one person — preferably the host — in charge of cooking, ordering, plating and serving. Everyone can contribute funds to take away the financial pressure, and they can control and limit contact between guests.
Another idea, also from Chang, is to have everyone BYOF: bring their own food! “It’s a potluck style meal without sharing. This keeps everyone safe — and ensures a good meal — as everyone is in charge of their own food,” she adds.
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