Party On! How to Have a Socially Distanced Party This Summer

Woman at a socially distanced party

I’m going to step outside the budget fashion space for a minute and talk about parties. It’s not too much of a stretch, either. Hosting or attending a party could be an excuse to shop H&M’s budget-friendly summer collection, after all. But I’m motivated to start this party convo for a different reason: Parties are joyful. People escape from stress at parties; they laugh, bond, and create new memories. In this time, when illness, unemployment, and racism are upsetting lives and livelihoods, we need more parties.

The trouble is, traditional summer celebrations violate all rules of social distancing. If you want to keep your space, you simply can’t host or attend a crowded, boozy barbecue or a Sunday evening dinner party. That doesn’t mean we stop partying though. Nope; it means we adapt. We learn how to have a socially distanced party that’s still memorable and fun. I think it’s possible and I hope you agree. If so, let’s spread some joy out there with these eight tips for having a socially distanced party.  

How to have a socially distanced party

1. Have a theme  

You have your traditional party themes, such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, engagements, baby showers, and, let’s not forget the more recently popular gender reveal. These are the relatable, inspiring milestones that family and friends love to celebrate with you.

But you can also take a quirkier approach. Kids do it all the time, by asking for birthday parties themed around their favorite store or body part. If you’re not feeling inspired, take a look at Time and Date’s fun holiday calendar. July has a range of holidays that can anchor your socially distanced party, from Compliment Your Mirror Day (which demands sanitized goodie bags with compacts) to Teddy Bears’ Picnic Day (who doesn’t love teddy bears?).

The point is, pick a fun, even goofy theme for your party. It helps unite your people around an idea that has nothing to do with pandemics, politics, or racism.

2. Choose the right space

Image of big yard with chairs for a socially distanced party

A safe, socially distanced party requires space, and lots of it. If you don’t have a big yard with easy access to a restroom, find a friend or neighbor who does. Beyond that, also consider ambient noise. It’s tough to have a socially distanced conversation if the road or construction noise outside is really loud.

3. Create a tight guest list  

The extent to which you can keep your guests 6 feet apart from one another hinges on your ability to understand the exact number of people or households attending. If your venue has just enough space, one uninvited straggler will wreck the whole plan. Politely let your invited guests know:

  • They must RSVP
  • They cannot bring along extras who reside in different households

You can also give your guests the option to attend virtually. Set up an outdoor monitor and send out a Zoom meeting link for those who aren’t comfortable partying in person.

4. Create pods with chairs and drinks

Here’s where the fun begins. For every confirmed household on your guest list, you need to create a defined space that’s accessible without walking through other defined spaces. Let’s call each space a pod. Pods are 6 feet apart from one another, and you can use chalk on grass or concrete to designate their boundaries. Set up a chair or two as needed in the center of each pod. You could also invest in some cheap foam coolers, and don plastic gloves to drop a bag of ice and some water bottles in each ahead of time. You could even add some packaged snacks like single-serving bags of chips or crackers.

Since some guests might not feel comfortable with you providing refreshments, ask your guests ahead of time if they want to bring their own beverages and snacks. That’ll keep you from spending more than you need to.

5. Set the rules

Remember to communicate any rules to your guests in the invitation and when they RSVP. For example, you can ask them to wear masks and let them know they can access the backyard through the side gate and not through the house.

6. Fabricate some shade

If you can find an enormous yard that’s brilliantly shaded by tree branches, awesome. If not, you can manufacture shade in other ways. An outdoor tent is a classic amenity at a summer party, but you’ll have to be strategic about where to place it. You don’t really want your guests congregating under the tent and away from their pods. That means the tent won’t be a gathering space. Instead, set it up to shade the guests who need it most. Your older guests in particular will appreciate having a shady pod.

Get creative to offer shade to the rest of your guests. Stock sunny pods with cheap umbrellas or unisex floppy hats, for example. Or, hang a triangle sun shade or two to cover large areas of the yard, without restricting air flow.

7. Provide hand sanitizer

Offering each guest a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer and a pair of disposable gloves helps address any situations that can’t be touch-free, like opening and closing the bathroom door.

8. Have a system for the restroom

And speaking of the bathroom, that’s the most challenging aspect of a socially distanced, touch-free party. You can’t assign each pod its own bathroom or even potty time slot, after all. But you can create a system that keeps people from lining up right outside the bathroom door.

Here’s one idea. Draw two squares on the ground with chalk, outside the home’s back door. Mark one as occupied and the other as available. Put a piece of wood or light rock in the available slot. Then, ask your guests to move the rock — using a foot — to the “occupied” square when they enter the home to use the bathroom. When they come back outside, they move the rock back to the “available” square. That lets everyone know visually when the bathroom is available, kind of like the lighted signs on an airplane.

Stock the bathroom with a big aerosol can of disinfectant and ask your guests to give the powder room a quick spray on their way out.

9. Arrange for safe games

Frisbee and catch are off the table, but how about trivia, charades, Pictiontary, or a collaborative app like Spaceteam? To make games like charades or Pictionary work, you could text the topics to the appropriate party guest — so you don’t have everyone reaching into a hat. Alternatively, you and your crew could pass around a sanitized soccer ball, since that naturally doesn’t require your hands. Heck, you even get fancy with an LED soccer ball or a gender reveal soccer ball that explodes in pink or blue.

Partying with distance

In the era of global pandemic, we have to learn some new tricks to find and create joy, even as there are so many reasons not to. Offer friends and family a safe space for togetherness and celebration by hosting a socially distanced party.

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    Catherine Brock

    As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.

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