The holidays are on the horizon, which means that many of us will be trying to find ways to and celebrate with friends and loved ones without putting anyone at risk. While there's no safer option than a virtual dinner party, depending on local rules and regulations (and, of course, the health concerns of yourself and your guests), IRL entertaining is making a comeback in some places—albeit in a socially distanced way. So what's the best way to host your nearest and dearest while still being smart about safety? We asked caterer and party planner Stephanie Nass (a.k.a. Chefanie) to share her tips for COVID-appropriate entertaining.
It might sound obvious, but being stingy about your guest list is the most important first step when it comes to keeping everyone safe. "Rather than hosting a dinner for 20 people, split it into two groups of 10 over consecutive weekends," suggests Nass. The upside: fewer people means your budget can go a lot farther. "When your party is smaller, you can really splurge on the little details," she points out.
Embrace the individual
Gone are the days of big buffets and communal plates; now, hosts are reformatting events in a way that allows every person (or family) to have their own individual items. "We used to do these huge grazing tables with breads and cheeses and charcuteries, so now we're recreating that with a miniature cheeseboard for each couple or a 'cheese plate in a jar,'" says Nass. "Just fill a glass jar with a few types of cheese, add some breadsticks, nuts, and a sprig of rosemary, and you're ready to go!"
Even the most careful among us is occasionally guilty of forgetting the six-foot rule. To help guests remember to keep their distance, Nass suggests using flowers or other botanicals to create table runners that double as (elegant) COVID barriers. "We began doing it with hydrangeas over the summer; in the colder months, low mums or miniature evergreen trees are a great option," says Nass.
Bigger tables are also an easy way to encourage people to spread out: "A lot of the long tables that you typically see at weddings or other big events are about three feet wide; I think that we'll be seeing more people move to four- or even five-foot-wide tables to give their guests more space," says Nass.
Embrace the elements
Hosting events outdoors was a breeze in the summer months, but just because temperatures are dropping doesn't mean you don't have to head indoors. "There are plenty of little ways to make their guests feel comfortable in the cooler temperatures," says Nass, who suggests renting heat lamps from a local event rental company, or using a portable fire pit for a super-cozy backyard party. If you're hosting a seated dinner, drape blankets on guests' chairs in case they get chilly. (Wash them before and after, of course.) Just make sure to let everyone know ahead of time that they'll be outside so they can dress accordingly.
Who doesn't like some goodies to take home? Offer guests COVID-smart essentials when they arrive to encourage them to practice good behavior. "In lieu of passed hors d’oeuvres on trays, we’re greeting guests with trays holding mini bottles of hand sanitizer and face masks," says Nass. Bonus points if the face masks are so chic your guests won't want to take them off—Nass offers ones that match her Chefanie table linens, so everyone can feel like part of the event.
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