‘Tis the season for outdoor entertaining. And with vaccination roll-outs in full swing, it’s likely you might be ready to host a backyard party in the near future. But with a year of social distancing and a global pandemic under your belt, hosting in 2021 may seem like uncharted territory. How many people should you invite? How do I decorate an outdoor space so it’s chic and makes guests feel safe?
To be clear, according to the official website, the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) still “recommends that you do not gather with people who do not live with you at this time. Attending events and gatherings increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.” However, if fully vaccinated, “you can gather in a home or private setting without a mask with other fully vaccinated people of any age [and] visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness.” As it happens, an outdoor, backyard gathering is considered safer by the CDC than an indoor, poorly ventilated area. Before planning or attending any soirée, make sure to adhere to CDC guidelines and those of your state or city.
According to lifestyle curator Stacie Krajchir, the first thing you need to do when planning a backyard soiree is consider what you’re working with. “Look at your yard or space and decide how many guests can fit comfortably,” she says to TZR. “Decide if you want to host a small intimate gathering or a larger one. Get your outdoor space guest-ready, clean, declutter, trim hanging branches, clean the barbecue, and test the outdoor heater.” With a pandemic still technically in the midst, make sure you wipe down and disinfect all high-touch areas like tables, chairs, door knobs, etc.
Krajchir also recommends planning logistics ahead of time. “Think about the seating vibe you want — are you feeling a cozy lounge style vibe, with throws and pillows on the grass, or if you are working with a concrete area, do you have enough seating [for a table setting].” For larger parties of maybe 20 people or more, it might be wise to create a picnic-style event in which the environment feels more open and COVID-friendly. For a smaller, more intimate gathering with close friends and family, perhaps try a seated affair with place cards and plated meals.
Seating arrangements and the party planning in general should of course also be based on the particular health and safety guidelines in your particular region as well as your guests’ comfort levels. “Be sure guests have access to restrooms, hand towels (throw away), hand sanitizer, hand soap, etc.” says Krajchir.
Now that the basics have been covered, ready to get the party started? Ahead, Krajchir’s tips for throwing a memorable backyard shindig.
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Set The Mood
Just because you’re dealing with outdoor elements doesn’t mean decor is a non-factor here. Krajchir says to ask yourself: “Do you want an al fresco vibe, splashes of bright colors, natural table decor? Once you decide on a theme you can dive into creating chic decor!” Use small side tables, benches, and your dining area to help display festive vases and floral arrangements. Also, music is always a quick and easy way to create ambience, so make sure to invest in chic bluetooth speakers that can double as decor!
Presentation Is Key
“Melamine dishes are great options for backyard parties, as they’re easy, lightweight, and come in so many styles, and patterns to fit your party decor,” says Krajchir. “Use a folding table for a buffet. You can also have guests bring a picnic basket if they are still practicing higher COVID safety [standards] and prefer to handle their own food.”
“I think candles are always a great way to help set the mood — I like to use different sizes to create layers,” says Krajchir. “Don’t feel obligated stick to one size. Mix tall and short pillar candles together. Candles on a large mirror sets a more intimate mood.”
“Plan a signature drink for your party, and be sure to have ample water, non-alcoholic beverages, and kids drinks if you are hosting littles,” says Krajchir. And whether you’re planning a barbecue-style meal or appetizers, the lifestyle expert recommends keeping things simple. “Decide if you want to cook, order out, or pre-plate,” she suggests. “A grazing board is always a hit — consider weather, how hot it will be, and how your food will hold up.”
Don’t Forget The Games
You can’t have a party without games. Krajchir suggests creating stations for various activities and snap-able moments, “[like a] Polaroid camera, bocce ball, corn hole, bubbles, crafts, etc.” For smaller affairs, card games and puzzles could be a fun way to get everyone involved.