With vaccination moving along steadily in the U.S. and Canada, and many places gradually opening up and getting back to some type of normalcy, a lot of us have started seeing “our people” again. From family members and friends, to dogs and babies—no matter how practical (and essential) Zoom and FaceTime have proven to be since the beginning of the pandemic, there truly is nothing like spending actual face time with loved ones. And I’m pretty certain I wasn’t the only one who felt nothing short of euphoric at the thought of just hanging out with people again—even distanced and outdoors if need be. It’s crazy how many little things we all took for granted before words like “lockdown” and “quarantine” became commonplace.
But the pandemic isn’t over yet. Even if you are lucky enough to live somewhere vaccines are widely available and most restrictions have been lifted, the virus is still out there (as are variants!), and a certain amount of caution is still advisable. So, how can you reintroduce small gatherings into your life, while staying as safe as possible? I’ve rounded up a few tips and ideas for hosting a dinner party safely when you feel ready.
No matter how practical (and essential) FaceTime has proven to be, there truly is nothing like spending actual face time with loved ones.
Spend Time Outdoors When Possible
Although the CDC deems it safe for fully vaccinated people to gather without physical distancing or masks, hosting an outdoor dinner party is still the safer option. This is especially true if anyone who is not fully vaccinated (unvaccinated or having only received one dose of a two-dose vaccine) will be in attendance. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy a backyard barbecue, garden party, or happy hour on the patio or balcony, especially in summer? When the weather makes it possible, choose the great outdoors as the setting for your get-together.
Space Out Seating
If you’re having a sit-down meal, carefully consider how and where people will sit. You may want to set up small tables for couples or families, rather than having people gather all around the same one. Another option is to go for a very long picnic table, spacing out seats (of course, you can still seat members of the same household closer together).
If your outdoor area allows for it, set up different zones for chatting and relaxing to prevent everyone from huddling together in one spot. For example, you could have a bar zone with taller stools and tables for drinks, and an outdoor living room-style area with multiple seating options spread out. For example, we have a six-piece outdoor sectional on our patio, which can be easily broken up into several smaller pieces to create a loveseat or separate armchair. So far, this has proven extremely practical for ensuring friends aren’t sitting one on top of the other, while still enjoying time together. Bean bags, floor cushions, folding chairs, and ottomans can also be practical for extra seating.
Avoid Drink and Food Hubs
Before the pandemic, outdoor gatherings and barbecues were often set up with all the food in one area, buffet-style. Try to avoid this when planning your dinner party to ensure people are not all hanging out by your prized Japanese potato salad or your bestie’s famous crab and cheese dip. Prepare individual portions, or opt for a pre-plated meal format to simplify things. Sure, it requires more planning, but it can be a fun change, too! Think individual lunch boxes, charcuterie and cheese cups or plates, or paper bags filled with chips and a small cup of dip. Get creative (or look up ideas on Pinterest and call it a day)!
Make Guests Feel at Ease
Although we all spent way too much time wiping down our groceries and destroying our hands’ microbiome with hand sanitizer early in the pandemic, we now know that COVID-19 is mostly transmitted through droplets and aerosols. So, there’s no need to go crazy on the disinfecting. But you may want to have some antibacterial wipes and gel at the ready to help your guests feel safe, and encourage them to keep their hands and common surfaces clean.
Have some antibacterial wipes and gel at the ready to help your guests feel safe, and encourage them to keep their hands and common surfaces clean.
Also, communicate any COVID-related ground rules beforehand and once guests have arrived, the same way you would if you prefer shoes to be taken off when entering the house. It’s also a good idea to discourage people from bringing along extra guests without letting you know ahead of time, so that you can account for the number of people who can fit comfortably in your space and prevent your party from getting overcrowded.
Let people in on how you’ve planned for the event to go down, so that they are comfortable and at ease. And keep the lines of communication open. Everyone moves at a different pace when it comes to returning to “normal” life, so make an effort to stay open and respect everyone’s boundaries (including if someone isn’t comfortable coming because of the number of people in attendance, or they just don’t feel up to attending social events yet).
While hosting a party or gathering of any sort can require a lot of advanced work and planning, try to focus on what’s important: spending time with your loved ones and enjoying their presence. And if that means taking a few shortcuts around the kitchen or just ordering in, so be it. The main thing is that you get to spend quality time with the people you hold dear, and that you all enjoy yourselves safely. Things don’t need to be perfect. If there’s anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s that what’s important is simply connecting!
What changes are you going to make to host a dinner party safely at home compared to before the pandemic? Share in the comments below!