Whether you’re ready or not, September is almost here. That means there are only a few precious weeks of summer weather left before the air chills, the leaves change and pumpkins start appearing all over the place.
It also means that you only have a few short weeks left if you want to hold an outdoor gathering of some kind before the weather turns too cool or wet for comfort. Given that we’re operating in a world that most of us couldn’t even imagine last summer — where grabbing face masks and hand sanitizer are as much a part of our daily routines as picking up our wallets and keys when we head out the door — can you even hold an outdoor party safely?
Yes, you most assuredly can. It just takes a little bit of extra planning and attention to detail.
We’re going to walk you through the best tips we can find for party planning during a pandemic. Here’s how to be a gracious (and safety-conscious) host for your backyard barbecue, dinner party or some other shindig.
1. Limit the Size of Your Party
While the rules are subject to change according to need, Indiana is currently allowing gatherings with up to 250 people — so you probably don’t have to worry about violating any laws with your party. Just the same, you don’t want to invite more people than you can safely accommodate given the need for social distancing.
If you have a small yard, you’ll need to restrict your guest list sharply. If you have a relatively vast area in which to party, you can invite more. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on party size, so you simply have to use common sense. Spend a couple of minutes figuring out how many people you can accommodate given the need to keep separate groups or individuals six feet apart.
2. Consider the Guest List Carefully
While you may hate the idea of leaving anybody off your guest list, you need to err on the side of caution when you send out the invitations. Here’s what to keep in mind:
- Someone who is immunocompromised or caring for someone with health issues probably shouldn’t attend.
- It’s smarter to invite people who share the same household together — and it will make your set-up easier. A family or housemates can all sit at the same table and socialize — while singles are more restricted.
If someone you know is pretty adamant about foregoing masks and ignoring the dangers of the virus, it’s okay to not invite them. You have to keep the health and safety of the majority of your guests in mind, not the preferences of one or two.
3. Ask Your Guests for Their Consideration
You want your guests to feel comfortable attending — and that means asking everyone to do their part. Make it clear when you issue the invitation that people need to wear a mask when they’re socializing between eating and drinking.
Also (even though this should be a given), remind your guests to please stay home if they’re feeling sick or there’s any chance they may have been exposed to the virus.
4. Make Assigned Seating Seem Charming
Unfortunately, even casual affairs need assigned seating these days. Print out a place card for each of your guests with their names and arrange their places according to family or group.
If you want to add a little extra charm, you can attach the place cards to an individual bottle of champagne or wine and use them as your markers on chairs or tables. That’s an elegant way of reminding your guests that they need to watch where they sit — and creating a sense that it’s okay to relax a little with a drink and unwind.
5. Eliminate the Biggest Potential Sources of Contagion
The biggest attraction in a party is — quite naturally — the food and drinks. That’s also the biggest problem you face when holding a party during a pandemic. You don’t want people sharing out of common bowls or serving trays and pouring drinks out of the same bottles.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to work around the issue if you follow these tips:
- If you choose to grill any food, put one person in charge and make sure that they wear a mask while cooking. Ask guests to wear their masks when they step up to get their hotdogs, burgers or steaks.
- Skip the grill entirely and order out. Many restaurants are offering takeaway service or catering options that will allow you to buy complete, prepackaged meals for each guest.
- Eliminate communal items like condiments and drinks. Buy single-serving condiment packages, instead, and serve all your drinks — whether it’s water, soda or wine — in individual cans and bottles.
Don’t forget to use plastic cutlery and paper plates at your gathering (even if that’s not your usual thing) and set up a recycling and garbage bin nearby so that nobody has to handle the used items later.
6. Don’t Forget the Bathroom
Bathrooms are a bit of a challenge because your guests are going to need access to the facilities. To minimize the chance of contagion, skip the nice guest towels you normally use and put paper towels out, instead.
You should also make sure that there’s plenty of soap, sanitizer and antibacterial wipes on hand — and it’s okay to remind guests who have forgotten that they need to wear a mask inside the house.
Most people are deeply feeling the need for a little social interaction after months of isolation, so a party — even with the necessary restrictions — may be a very welcome retreat, indeed.