The Ultimate Guide To Throwing a Socially-Distanced Holiday Celebration
The holidays are right around the corner, and while the global pandemic might make it more difficult to celebrate as a group, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do something festive.
To that end, below is your guide to a socially-distanced holiday celebration. Read over these tips to learn how you can throw a memorable party for your guests — no matter where in the world you all live.
Set up a “Zoom room” for the occasion.
“Travel may not be something everyone is open to, but you still want to be able to celebrate with your friends and family,” says Keith Willard, President, Keith Willard Events in Palm Beach, FL. “Zoom has several free options to allow you to connect face to face.”
Regular Zoom meetings are time-limited when there are more than two participants involved. If you think that your party is going to go over a 40-minute time frame, getting a Zoom room for the event will be a better option.
In order to gain access to a Zoom room, the host has to subscribe to premium Zoom features. That said, all the rest of the guests have to do is join the Zoom room by pressing a button once the link has been sent out.
Send out real invitations.
“An invitation to a party always sets the mood. Even if the party is virtual, you should still send a fun invite to get everyone excited and ready to celebrate. Honestly, these days, it’s just fun to get invited to anything, so a paper invitation or an e-vite will undoubtedly spark interest among your guests,” says Brian Worley, Creative Director and Owner of B. Worley Productions in Atlanta, GA.
In the case of a socially-distanced holiday celebration, sending an e-vite might actually be a better idea than mailing traditional invitations. Not only is this option more economical than splurging on fancy, paper invitations from a stationary store, but it’s also likely to be more useful. After all, with an e-vite, you can embed the link to your video chat platform right into the email.
That said, even though sending out an invitation for this type of party might be as simple as sending an email, you still want to take the job seriously. You will want to make sure that your invitation contains all the relevant information about where and how the party is being hosted, as well as giving instructions for how guests can log on at the time of the event.
Dress up for the occasion.
One other thing that you should mention on the invitation is the dress code. These days, virtual meetings have a tendency to be very casual. but, if you want your party to be special, you can ask your guests to get dressed up for the occasion.
Getting dressed up doesn’t have to mean wearing something fancy, though. If your family has a tradition of doing an ugly sweater contest, keep the tradition alive and just have everyone go around and show their sweater on camera. Similarly, if your family celebrates the holiday by spending it in bear pajamas, it’s absolutely fine to do that instead.
Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what you wear. Asking guests to meet the dress code is just another way to bring the spirit of the holiday to your party regardless of the fact that you and your guests are all miles apart from each other.
Have a decorating contest.
Next, no party would be complete without holiday decorations. In this case, since you’re not all going to be able to come together to celebrate, you can turn decorating into one of the party’s activities. By that we mean, consider having a decorating contest and naming one of your guests the winner at the end of the event.
Luckily, laying the groundwork for a holiday decoration contest is fairly simple. All you have to do is tell your guests that they have the option of participating by making their own holiday decorations for the event. Once that’s done, you just have to allocate a few minutes of the party to viewing everyone’s decor.
Once everyone has had a chance to show off what they’ve done, let each guest put their vote for a winner into a private chat with the host. After all the votes have been tabulated, you can send the winner a digital gift card or another small prize as a reward for their efforts.
Create a party playlist.
“Any event planner will tell you music is a key part of gathering. Creating a holiday playlist together as a family or even a remote team is a festive way to bond with your guests,” suggests Dwight Zahringer, President of Pure Cabo LLC in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
If you choose to go this route, there are plenty of digital playlist apps that you can use to work on a playlist with your guests without having to send files back and forth. Spotify is one option and Playlist is another. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which you feel most comfortable using.
However, that is not the only way that a playlist can come in handy. “On the other hand, creating the playlist on your own might open the doors for other activities like an accompanying musical trivia or a ‘Name the Tune’ guessing game,” Zahringer admits.
If this type of playlist game sounds like it might go over better with your guests, simply use Zoom’s “share music or computer sound only” feature to play a tune for your party guests without sharing your screen. Then, have everyone raise their hands as soon as they think they know the song that is being played. The first person to guess correctly should get a point, and at the end of the game, the person with the most points should win a prize.
Share a meal.
Even if you can’t gather together around the dining room table this year, there are still ways to share a meal. Andrea Correale, the founder of Elegant Affairs, an off-premise catering company in New York City advises:
“If you live in close proximity to your guests, the chef of the group can prepare pre-portioned meals and perform a contactless delivery. However, if you do not live close to each other, assign each member a course, and send out each recipe to every household to cook for their holiday dinner.”
When it comes to what to serve, you can either go traditional holiday meal or you can choose finger foods that will be easy to eat in front of the computer. With either choice, be sure to make your food selections as festive as possible.
Have an activity planned.
If there’s one thing true about virtual get-togethers, it’s that structure is your friend. Unstructured video chats tend to get confusing and can fall off after only a few minutes of chatting. With that in mind, Brian Worley suggests having a few go-to activities at the ready for your celebration.
“Whatever it is, the activity is the key,” he admits. “Otherwise you are just FaceTiming.”
As far as potential activities go, he suggests doing a cocktail mixing and having a cookie decorating party. He goes so far as to say that you can send over cookies, icing, sprinkles, and the cocktail recipe to each of the guests before the party starts. Then, on the day of the event, everyone can have fun sipping on your signature cocktail and decorating cookies while they chat.
Consider throwing a watch party.
If part of your holiday celebration is getting together and watching movies, the good news is that you can still do that — even over the internet. There are apps that like WatchParty that allow you to simultaneously stream the same piece of media over different computer screens. At the same time, you can still all video chat and share links and files.
With this method, you can either share a file, a URL, or link videos from YouTube. As the host, you will likely have to buy whatever festive holiday movie your group wants to watch, but it should be a small price to pay for being able to keep up with a time-honored tradition.
Do a gift exchange.
Lastly, if you normally exchange gifts for the holiday, there’s no reason why you can’t do so now. With enough forethought and planning, you should be able to mail gifts in time for them to get there for the holiday. Then, you can all open them together on camera.
In fact, this may be a great opportunity for a white elephant gift exchange. As the host, you can either assign everyone a gift or use a random generator to decide who is assigned to each person. Then, set a deadline for the day by which each of the gifts needs to be in the mail. Be sure to leave plenty of time so that it will get there by the holiday.
On the day of the party, you can go around in the circle and open your gifts one by one. You can even take turns guessing who was responsible for getting each gift.
The bottom line
Though having a socially-distanced holiday is certainly not the same as following all of your age-old holiday traditions, there are still ways to celebrate. With that in mind, use this as your guide to throwing a socially-distanced holiday celebration. Whether you’re getting together with family or friends, use the tips in this post to help make your holiday celebration into something really special.