The holidays have always provided a perfect backdrop for entertaining and social gatherings, so as 2020 winds down, of course, we have parties on our minds—but perhaps for different reasons.
The concept of a safe gathering looms large for everyone these days, and some may be struggling with how to pull off the annual tradition of a holiday open house or staff Christmas party. Others who, earlier in the year, found themselves postponing special events until things got back to "normal" have now decided to move ahead—albeit with slightly altered plans. And then there is the faction of people who want to give 2020 a hearty goodbye and welcome 2021 with gusto.
Local professionals say a little creativity, careful planning, and knowledge will make for smooth planning and throwing a party that might be more meaningful than you ever dreamed it would be.
"It’s important to address the elephant in the room right away," says Lina Hoekman, who owns Colorado-based Lina Hoekman Events. "It is important to recognize that everyone is not in the same place, and some are just super sensitive to their safety right now." Hoekman highly encourages party hosts to not only talk through important safety measures when planning the event, but then also to promote those measures to guests when the invitation is delivered. "Get it out of the way, so you can focus on the event at hand and the fun," she says.
Some of the best ideas she has seen in the past few months include bracelets colored green, yellow, and red that signify the wearer’s sensitivity to safety. Those wearing a green bracelet are fairly comfortable being in a group, and a red bracelet tells guests to keep a little more distance. Hoekman has also seen masks customized to the theme or color palate of the party and also those with sayings that celebrate the day.
Hoekman handles event planning for many different kinds of events, including weddings, showers, birthdays, retirement celebrations, and mitzvahs. She says it has been rewarding to see people decide not to postpone their event but rather plan a smaller gathering with the people closest to them. "There has been so much joy because the event ends up being hyper-focused on the person or couple being honored," she says.
Although the size of the space and guest count are obvious things to consider, Hoekman says you can also stagger arrival times to keep guest numbers down at any one time or consider multiple sessions in which your open house might have an afternoon group and an evening group with a break in between.
Also consider using the outdoors even in the wintertime. "There are ways to make use of the outdoors feel intentional," she says. "Tents, heaters, throw blankets, and a hot cocoa station while having a great view of the mountains would be beautiful."
Hoekman agrees that New Year’s Eve will be an epic celebration this year, and she believes live streaming will be massive. "From virtual dance parties where the DJ is live streaming in everyone’s home to game playing, it will be easy to gather people near and far, and everyone, no matter their comfort level, will be able to participate," Hoekman says.
Food for Thought
There are even greater safety measures to consider when it comes to food and catering, and a little knowledge will go a long way toward ensuring your party is a success. Michelle Talarico, co-owner of the Picnic Basket Catering Collective, says the business began understanding the new safety measures early on, so they could continue to serve their clients while also being a part of the solution. "We have very strict professional cleaning and sanitation protocols we are following, including holding safety meetings at every shift," Talarico says. "We think this sets us apart as a company and provides peace of mind to our clients."
She says there are ways to seamlessly execute the safety measures without putting a damper on the fun. Staffed events are more popular now because food can be plated by the servers and then brought to each guest and cleared away the same way. Individually portioned and packaged food is a great option for a cocktail party. Guests can pick up a personal box that has a variety of hors d’oeuvres inside or a selection of fruits and cheeses to go with the beverage or wine that is being served.
Still, Talarico suggests trying to keep things smaller, or if a larger gathering is on the horizon, such as a retirement or office party, she suggests choosing a warehouse space and hiring professionals to serve.
And if in doubt about how to plan your gathering, a responsible and professional event planner such as Talarico and Hoekman have the expertise, knowledge, and staff to help guide you into having a great celebration.
"Parties are so important and this year in particular," Hoekman says. "We have been shocked into seeing how important relationships are and how they refuel and recharge us. When you think back on the highlights in your life, it’s the gatherings with loved ones and special people that you reflect on and remember."
Lina Hoekman Events
Picnic Basket Catering Collective