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Hosting a Small Outdoor Gathering (Covid Style)


It’s officially been a full year. A full year of cancelled events, drive by birthday parties, zoom happy hours and distanced socialization. It’s been hard on all of us. And as the infection numbers start to drop, the vaccinations start to rise and the weather begins to warm, we are all feeling that itch to get together with friends and family again. But how do we do it safely? We’ve rounded up a few tips and a little advice to minimize the risk at your small outdoor gathering.

First, we always recommend visiting the CDC website for guidance. They note that virtual get-togethers carry the lowest risk, with “more risk” associated with “smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).” Know the risks and also your risk level tolerance before inviting anyone over.

The Invite

Limit your group size. Seriously, keep it small. It’s totally reasonable to want to get together with family and friends but remember, the fewer the people the lower the risk.

Set expectations. We know, we know... It feels so uncomfortable imagining having to have “the talk” with guests before they arrive. But setting expectations ahead of time will lessen those awkward lean-ins for hugs if you’re not ready for them or the unknown questions of what to bring and whether masks will be required. It also helps to remind people that your event will have a zero symptom policy.

Be ready for rejection. While you might be ready to mingle, your neighbor might not be there quite yet. Be gracious and understanding if one of your invited guests declines your invitation. Everyone is doing the best they can for themselves and their families.

The Set Up

A fire pit. The warm glow of a fire is always perfect for adding additional ambiance and glimmer to your summer night. But during a pandemic, a fire pit can also serve as a natural barrier to help keep your guests from sitting too close together.

BYOB (bring your own blanket). Asking guests to bring their own blanket will ensure everyone feels safe and comfortable within their own space! Like a fire pit, blankets also serve as a natural barrier, creating a “home base” or safe space where each family can gather closely without invading another family's personal area. Blankets can also make for less “path crossing” keeping the atmosphere extra safe!

Sanitary station. You know you’re living through the Covid-19 pandemic when…. (haha) Yep! But really, if it allows us to see family and friends, we’re in! So whether you’re able to set up a hand washing station outside or provide antibacterial options instead, keeping your guests at ease will ensure your gathering runs smooth and Covid chic!

The Food

First things first! If you are prepping food, make sure you wear a mask and gloves as you prep, even if you aren’t requiring masks at the party.

Utensils. Wash your hands and grab a pair of gloves and then get going to create individual utensil sets for guests to grab! Try something simple like this or if you’re not up for making your own, try these instead.

Individually packaged is best. Experts agree that it is currently best to limit contact with shared items. So instead of serving a side from a community dish which encourages guests to serve themselves using one tool amongst them all, we suggest pre portioning ahead or grab individual bags! Check out these for food items like sweet potato fries or fruit salad in a bag. Another idea is to purchase pre portioned items such as chips and guac. Things like these tend to be a hit with the kids!

No shame in takeout. There is certainly no shame in foregoing the kitchen to order ahead instead. In fact, now may be the best time yet! During the pandemic small businesses and restaurants have gotten really creative with ways in which they can continue offering what their customer would like. So the options available are endless! For instance, when hosting a relaxed night with neighborhood friends check out Board and You for beautifully crafted charcuterie boards. Then, place an order at The Popcorn Station for individually wrapped gourmet popcorn for a fun snack for the kids. Whatever you choose is literally only a call away!

Grilling. Ahh… The smell and the sizzle. Grilling is a staple at most backyard gatherings. And this year we’re even counting on it to be a large part of maintaining sanity! If you’re planning to provide the meat (or maybe veggies too) you might find it helpful to designate one person titled as, “The Grill Master”! Ask this person to wear a mask when cooking and prepping whatever you have planned. The grill also provides a high heat environment where the virus can’t thrive, so your guests will have additional peace of mind that the food they are about to eat will be sterile.

Condiments and dips. Instead of sharing bottles among your guests consider preparing a variety of pre portioned cups with lids to set out ahead. Prefer to reuse? Try these dip bowls instead! In addition to keeping everyone safe, either of these thoughtful extras will inadvertently add a splash of color to the table spread too! And the best part? No need to wipe down bottles in between each shared use. Less cleaning equals more time for laughs and visiting!

Desserts. Opt for treats that are easy to serve and quick to grab... and with a little bit of sprinkle to add some pizazz! Most popsicles and ice cream sandwiches come pre wrapped which make them an ideal choice. Our favorites are found locally at Steel City Pops! Most bakers will now ask if you’d like for your items (especially cookies) to be single wrapped, so save yourself some time and request just that! Contact our favorite bakers, KK’s Bakes or 1little2littleCookies to make your first get together an extra special experience!

The Toilette Room. The bathroom is probably least exciting to think about but also quite necessary. If your guests must go inside consider attaching a small note onto the bathroom door with your personalized pandemic guidelines. Provide antibacterial soap for handwashing and opt for throw away towels instead of cloth hand towels. We also suggest leaving antibacterial wipes out and instructing everyone to wipe down the faucet handles and door knob on their way. Lysol Disinfectant spray is also an option if you prefer guests leave the air germ free. Last thing: make sure to set out and to set a non touch garbage can near the door for easy throw away on the way out!