Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean a fantastic celebration of one of life’s happy moments (big or small) is out of the question—you just need to get a little creative to make your fête feel as special as a traditional in-person celebration.
Here are a few ideas for how to celebrate in style, fresh from notable local event planners and party experts.
If you’re wondering about the number of guests you can invite, Indiana’s stay-at-home order expired May 1, and the state’s reopening plan, “Back on Track Indiana,” has five stages, each with a larger number of people permitted to gather. (Note: Some counties have restrictions and timing that may differ from the state guidelines.)
We are currently in Stage 2, which allows for gatherings of 25 people or less as long as the CDC’s social distancing guidelines are followed. Stage 3 permits gatherings of 100 people (scheduled for May 24th if key principles of health remain positive). Stage 4 authorizes gatherings of 250 people (scheduled for June 14th), and Stage 5 allows for even larger scale events (tentatively scheduled for July 4th). No matter the size of get-together you choose, these tips and tricks will help make your party organized, memorable, and best of all—really fun.
KAROME WALKER, OWNER OF KV EVENTS
“I was recently able to plan and execute a baby shower for a client during this time. Even though the party was virtual, I still decorated her house; she left for a bit and while she was gone, I came in and decorated and set up her food. Then when she came home, I had arranged for all of her local friends to drive by the house in a parade—and they dropped off her gifts at the end of her driveway while she was at the front door. After all the guests had finished the car parade, they drove home and everyone got on a Zoom call together for the virtual portion of the party.
“If you wanted to take the idea a step further, you could set up a backdrop on the driveway and have guests stop and take a quick photo with the honoree—from six feet apart, of course—as they are dropping off their gift. You could also set up a table of party favor bags that each guest could pick up that would include the games for the virtual party, a signature themed snack, and a thank-you note.
“Once the virtual portion of the party started, I was able to lead a few classic baby shower games. I got the games off of Etsy; I downloaded them and sent them to everyone beforehand, so all the guests could play on their phones, their computers, or however they preferred to play.
“Once the games were finished, my client opened up her gifts and we were able to see them all and ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over them, just like we would at a traditional baby shower. Although it wasn’t the type of shower that my client was originally envisioning, it turned out to be so much fun and was absolutely memorable.”
LORI SOLOMON, OWNER AND LEAD PLANNER OF BOLDLY CHIC EVENTS
“An engagement party is traditionally a great pre-wedding event, but as everyone is starting to pivot and regroup in these times, it’s all about finding creative ways to celebrate together. Most of the recent engagement parties I have seen have remained virtual, and if people do gather, they are keeping it to ten people or less and adding a virtual component. A lot of virtual parties have been on Zoom or Houseparty; there are some party games already within Houseparty that are convenient for people to use.
“For invitations, most of my couples have added a Zoom link to their wedding website, but also people have been designing beautiful paper invites and sending them via snail mail with a link to the virtual party and a passcode. People are trying to create excitement as they plan, just as if they were doing it the traditional way. Themes are still happening—I have seen a fiesta theme, one of my clients is considering a Kentucky Derby theme—and those ideas help create excitement for everyone.
“Recently, one of my clients had a maid of honor that put together 15 boxes that she shipped, one to each attendee of the virtual party. Then at the appointed time, everyone got online and opened the boxes together. Some of the items inside the box were decorations, some were games, and there was a cocktail mix—it helped everyone feel that they were together. Another one of my couples asked the host to keep all the chat function records of their virtual party, and they turned all the really nice things that people chatted to them during the party into a big print that they can hang and keep.
“Overall, virtual engagement parties are usually a bit shorter in length, about an hour or under, but I haven’t seen any of the joy or zest go away. Everyone is still excited to be at a party, and it’s fun as an event planner to see people being so creative.”
JEAN RIVERS, OWNER OF BLUE LLAMA EVENTS
“Just because there are fewer people at an event doesn’t make it any less special, so if you decide to try and host a small graduation party in your backyard (following CDC and local guidelines), there are some precautions you can take to help ensure your guests safety—like spacing your tables six feet apart. Also, instead of setting up a self-serve buffet, I would recommend having partitions over the buffet and having one designated person serve everyone else. Of course, it’s also a good idea for people to wear masks.
I foresee in the future that we will have some events with 250 people, but I can imagine that some guests may not want to put themselves in that situation, so finding ways to engage everyone is ideal. One thing we’ve been working on for our parties is a live streaming element: There are a lot of audiovisual (AV) companies out there that can help you, so if some of your guests can’t make it to your event, whether because of the pandemic or otherwise, you can livestream the party and they won’t feel like they’ve missed out.
If you do decide to livestream, try and set your camera away from the wind—like in a tent with sides—because any gusts will interfere with the sound quality. You’ll also want to make sure you have a strong Wi-Fi connection.
In terms of gifts, there are lots of different apps, Zola being one of them, where you can set up a registry for the graduate, and anything anyone buys can be shipped directly to the recipient’s house.”
YARIS MUJICA, OWNER OF PARTY WITH THE PINK ELEPHANT
“My advice is to throw a virtual party! With all the video conferencing apps out there, you can invite all of your friends and family, and you can include people that you wouldn’t normally be able to invite, like those who live out of town or even out of the country. I think no matter what kind of party you’re having, it’s fun to send an invitation. I recommend using one of the online invite sites—they have a lot of free websites that do them, like Smilebox and Evite—because even using a virtual invitation makes it more exciting for the birthday honoree.
“If you have younger children, you don’t need to do their entire party online, because they may not always have the patience for that, so you can always just bring everyone together for the singing of the birthday song and blowing out the candles, and that’s it. No matter how long the event, one special touch you can do is to take screenshots of the virtual party, make the pictures into a collage, and then email it out to all of your guests afterwards.
“Some people may not be overly tech-savvy, so instead of hosting a virtual party, you could ask your friends and family to write and mail cards and letters to you and then present them all to the guest of honor in a ‘birthday box’ that you’ve decorated. Then, if you want, you can video the recipient opening it all and send the video to everyone who participated.
“If you want to get a little more hands-on, I love the idea of a ‘birthday boy or girl tour.’ With a birthday tour, you choose five friends or families and then you drive your birthday boy or girl to each of their houses and do a quick, socially distanced hello, and perhaps a treat swap. For example, you could give each family that you visit a cupcake, and they can give your birthday honoree a card or a little gift.
“To make your own house look extra-special, you can whip up a birthday garland and use it to decorate your front porch; I recently did a birthday balloon arch for someone’s porch—balloons are my specialty—and she loved it! You can also make your own yard signs, or fill one of the rooms in your house with balloons. I think this time has required all of us to learn to be creative in different ways, and that can make for really lasting memories.”
Stephanie Groves is an Indy-based freelance writer who has celebrated the birthdays of three out of the four other members of her household while sheltering-in-place.