As we walk this path with COVID-19 as a constant companion, we need to think about how to live our lives and still be compliant with local guidelines, keeping one another safe from contracting the virus. In this new normal, celebrations don’t have to stop, but doing them safely is of vital importance. Here are a few tips on how to keep your guests safe.
Keep Your Guests Safe: Setting
Getting the setting right is the first step to making your gathering safer. Here are a few tips to make your party as safe as possible.
1. Physical Distance
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends maintaining six feet of distance between every household unit, approximately the distance between each person standing with their arms out and not touching. There are several ways to ensure this happens at your gathering:
- Set up tables at least six feet apart and encourage people to not sit at each other’s tables. This will ensure that those from different household units will not be in each other’s spaces.
- Use tape to mark off the spaces that ensure physical distance. By creating these spaces, you will be able to provide people a safe place to interact and remind them that this is an important part of us all living safely with COVID-19.
- Prepare people ahead of time. Let your guests know that you will be providing spaces for people to safely socialize and that the expectation is that your guests will comply with social distancing guidelines.
Research shows that the spread of COVID-19 is slowed or decreased when everyone wears a mask, so the best way for you to slow the spread at your gathering is to make sure everyone is wearing a mask. Again, if you let your guests know in advance that this is an expectation, it will help things go more smoothly.
Buying disposable masks to have on hand for anyone who doesn’t bring their own is a good way to make sure guests comply with this rule. If you like crafts and want to do something specific to your theme, you can always sew cloth masks to give out as favors or even use heat transfer vinyl to create a custom mask for your event. Plain colored masks are also available online and in many stores.
3. Keep It Clean
The CDC has said that one of the most important ways to prevent the spread is to wash our hands or use hand sanitizer when washing isn’t possible. If your venue is indoors, be sure that guests know where they can wash their hands. For an outdoor setting, set up a handwashing station with running water and soap.
On their blog, Everyday Party shares a way to create a simple handwashing station with a drink dispenser, a bucket, and hand soap. This simple solution can add to the decor and serve as an easy reminder for people to wash their hands. You can also place hand sanitizer at the entrance, on tables, or in seats for your guests to use. If you’d like to get creative, you can create DIY labels to decorate mini hand sanitizer bottles and hand them out as memorable favors for your guests to take home.
Keep Your Guests Safe: Food
Food is a highlight of most parties. In this post-coronavirus world, food is an area we need to manage very carefully. Here are some tips for providing safer food options for your guests.
4. Skip the Buffet
Step one is to skip the buffet table. A buffet has been a prime location for spreading germs even before COVID-19, and now, the shared utensils and guests breathing so close to the food are a recipe for disaster. The best choice is to skip this altogether, but if a buffet is absolutely essential to your party, here are a few tips to make the process safer:
- Don’t share utensils. Ask your guests to serve themselves using their own disposable utensils and to use a fresh set for any return trips to the buffet. This has been standard practice at commercial buffets when it comes to plates—it just takes it a step further to protect guests from cross-contamination.
- Require masks at the buffet. While you may already be requiring your guests to wear masks, the buffet table is one area where it needs to be mandatory! This prevents the spread of germs to the food and to the others in the line.
- Only use one side of the table for serving. Walking down both sides of the table will prevent effective physical distancing, so don’t allow guests to proceed down both sides of the buffet table to speed up the process.
- Require physical distancing. Allow guests to visit the buffet one household group at a time or mark spaces for guests to stand on while in line. This will help prevent people from sharing germs.
- Have servers for the food. If you want to save on utensils, you can have people serving the food cafeteria-style. Be sure masks are used by both guests and the servers.
- Set the food out in individual servings using disposable containers. Many school cafeterias are also taking this route for their foodservice in light of the pandemic. By providing individual servings, guests can take what they want without having to touch or breathe on the food that others will be enjoying.
This concept is just like hosting a pot-luck where everyone brings a dish, but the difference is that each guest brings a picnic-style lunch with them and doesn’t share food. Years ago, a boxed-lunch fundraiser was often used to raise funds for community projects, so this idea has a rich American tradition! You can have a contest on who can bring the best boxed lunch decorated to match your theme, or you could even auction off the boxed lunches to raise money for a cause.
The CDC states that the risk of contracting COVID-19 by eating or handling food packaging is very low, so this could be a great way to change up your event. As always, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before you eat.
When providing drinks, it’s probably best to stick to BYO-everything. If you choose to provide drinks for your guests, here are a few ideas to consider:
- Only provide closed containers. Letting your guests open their own drinks from a closed container is the best way to prevent sharing germs. This also provides the option for guests to use a sanitizing wipe to clean the container before they drink from it.
- Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize! Provide sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and clean cups if needed.
When it comes to condiments, the best way to distribute them is to set individual packets at the tables for each guest. Salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, and relish are easily available online or at your local grocery store. For specialty condiments, consider putting individual servings into single-use containers and placing them at the table for your guests.
8. Have it Served
Rather than serving food buffet style, have your guests be served restaurant-style. Have some servers bring the food to your guests at their own physically distanced table to prevent cross-contamination. If possible, you can even have a server for each household unit, which would lower the risk of cross-contamination even more.
Keep Your Guests Safe: Interaction
One of the most important parts of having a party is to facilitate interaction between your guests. With the requirement of physical distancing, this can be difficult to manage. Here are some ideas to help your guests feel connected.
8. Moving Chairs
This idea encourages guests to bring their chairs and sit just outside another group’s distancing space so that they can visit or chat. You can do this by using tape to mark off the spaces and asking guests to go from space to space while staying outside the boundaries, which can greatly help to reduce the risks of socializing.
9. Have a MC
Providing an MC to interact with the guests (while appropriately distanced) is a great way to interact with your guests and to have them interact with one another. This would work well at a more formal gathering but could be fun at a casual event as well. Simply have the MC go from guest to guest to get reactions and to help them interact. Easily find one in your area here.
10. Change-up Tradition
Traditional games such as corn-hole or volleyball at an outdoor picnic might not be a good idea right now, but there are plenty of things you can still do to entertain your guests.
- Have a Karaoke party. Have guests sing in their own space with a covered microphone (use plastic bags to cover the mike for each guest or use sanitizing wipes between uses). Make it a contest and have a prize for the best singer!
- Have a dance party. Have each guest use their physically distanced space as a dance floor and dance it out! Play music and encourage people to dance the night away.
- Play Kahoot! or another trivia game. Kahoot! allows you to set up your own trivia game and then your guests can sign on and play with you via their phones. It could be general trivia or trivia specific to the theme of your party.
Keep Your Guests Safe: Favors
Favors are a great addition to any celebration. They definitely don’t have to be eliminated from your party as long as you hand them out safely.
11. Pass Them Out Ahead of Time
Before your guests arrive, place the favors in the spaces designated for each group. This can also work as an incentive to get guests to go to their assigned spot. Just like a seating arrangement for a wedding reception or large formal event, this could require putting a seating guide near the entrance of your party so guests can find where they need to go.
This may seem repetitive, but in the era of COVID-19, sanitization is everything. Wipe down the favors and make sure that your guests have the least likely chance to contract any illness.
13. Wrap Them Individually
It may seem to go without saying, but anything you hand out to your guests needs to be wrapped individually. This allows your guests to wipe them down ahead of time, especially before touching it.
Make It Virtual to Keep Your Guests Safe
While we all would hope to have a face to face physical gathering, you may find the safest way to go in the era of COVID-19 is virtual. This can be accomplished with a few easy tips.
14. From My Screen to Yours
Technology today has provided many ways to facilitate a virtual party which makes connections possible even when guests have to be far away. This not only works for COVID-19 safety but it also can apply for guests who can’t attend because they live too far away.
- Zoom and Webex both allow you to host an interactive party that allows guests to talk and see each other.
- Go Facebook Live! Host the party yourself and invite your friends to watch via Facebook. It’s less interactive than using Zoom, but it can also be less distracting since people will not be talking over each other.
- Hybrid options could involve a Facebook Live at the same time as a Zoom or Facebook chat. This would work for a large event with an MC hosting the Facebook live while someone else manages the chat, highlighting their interactions with the host and the entertainment. If you need an MC, check out our directory here.
- You can even drop off (outside their door) or mail a party favor to each guest and have them all open them together at the virtual event.
Having a gathering during COVID-19 is going to look very different from the gatherings held before. Unfortunately, gatherings have often been followed by outbreaks, especially when people develop delayed symptoms. Don’t let that happen to you. Put some safety measures into place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at any gathering you choose to host right now. We hope these tips help you have a safer event and keep your guests safe. For more help, check out the CDC website for guidance.
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