When was your last dinner party? For me (at least until recently), it was New Year’s Eve—over nine months ago. COVID-19 has interfered. Many dinner parties have been canceled, but not all. Maybe you have read about the parties being held in the Hamptons this summer. These soirees involve a hired concierge doctor, testing before entry, and large numbers of attendees. What I suggest is something more intimate and an event that all can enjoy without having a swab inserted in their noses. But is there a way to host your friends (a limited number for dinner), why still keeping everyone safe? I say yes. Here’s how to host a socially-distanced dinner party.
Space and the ability to social distance are factors. I think it would be hard to do with more than eight people in total. Make sure that these are people you know. You should be familiar with how they each are keeping themselves safe. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions.
Discuss the event with each of your attendees to make sure that they are okay with the event and your procedures. Make sure you explain that masks are required except when eating or socially distanced. Explain how you will prepare the food (with gloves?) or just how you will make sure you are not contaminating the dishes or serving area. Some feel more comfortable with food from a restaurant that is separately packaged for each guest… It’s up to you as host, but don’t be offended by guests making requests. We all need to be comfortable in our choices.
Recognize that it is best to have the event outside. This may be hard given the “in-between” season heat but start the event later—after the sun has gone down. Have lighting or candles. And tell everyone to wear shorts or other casual wear. Just explain that this makes everyone safer.
Set-up separate eating tables for each couple (or anyone already in their family bubble) that are at least 6 feet apart. Choose a great wine for each couple or specialty cocktail—one that they can have at their own staging table. Consider using plastic, throwaway glasses, and plates.
Have another separate table set up for other drinks—cocktails, mixers, etc, should your guests want something different. But only have one couple or group at the table at the same time. And let them be their own mixologist.
If you don’t do separate take out, set up a food serving table for a buffet. Let each couple come up to the table separately and fill their plates. They should wear masks and should help themselves. You shouldn’t be serving them.
Let the drinks and conversation flow. But do it from a distance. You can have a great ambiance and great interaction without jeopardizing any of your friends. Even if cases are going down in your area, everyone’s immune systems are different and each COVID case is unique. You don’t want to risk it.
Have lots of wipes and sanitizers ready for all. And have a designated bathroom with supplies in it to clean, as the guests feel necessary.
Some may think this is too much—or maybe not enough. But I believe this offers a way to keep everyone connected and together without having to interrupt each other on that tedious Zoom call which always seems to end within an hour. Please stay safe, but stay connected with those you care about.
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