How can I best “look to the interests of others” in the midst of a pandemic?
Hi there! I’m Sarah, and I am the Graphic Designer here at GraceLaced. I'm popping into GraceLaced blog today to share some tips on hosting a socially distant celebration that I recently learned while planning my sister’s bridal shower.
Hosting a celebratory get together during a pandemic can be complicated to say the least.
Not everyone feels the same way about how to interact with COVID-19, whether it be precautions that should be taken, the severity of the pandemic, or what is truly safe and what is not. However, in times like these, it is important to look to God’s word for direction:
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” -Philippians 2:3-4
The celebration I recently planned was a bridal shower for my sister who is getting married later this year. So first, I asked my sister what she felt the most important things were for the shower—the party was celebrating her after all! She said the most important thing to her was that her friends could be together. I chatted with the other ladies helping to plan the party and together we found a way to make that happen.
I also thought about those attending, and the wide range of outlooks people may have on the pandemic. We can’t assume that others will feel the same way as ourselves, so I tried to plan a party that was safe and comfortable for all people. I wanted to create a space where people could feel comfortable and safe, all the while making sure the event felt special and my sister felt celebrated.
Here are some recommendations if you plan a socially distant celebration:
1. Remember that guests may feel differently.
None of us are here to judge how people feel and act in these unprecedented times. We can take a cue from Romans 14:3 where Paul reminds the early Church, “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?”
The best approach is to have a heart that desires to serve others as you welcome them; rather than judging their actions and opinions, acknowledge the difficulties everyone is experiencing and respect the needs others may express . That being said, we did our best to design the party in a way that accommodated all levels of safety-mindedness, while keeping my sister’s wishes at the forefront.
2. Think about the guest list.
Take a look at your state’s guidelines for outdoor get-togethers and keep your celebration small by inviting no more than that number. Allow guests to RSVP online so they can see the party details, precautions, and who else is coming when determining if they would like to attend. One idea to keep numbers small is to plan for the guests to come in shifts, setting up a schedule in advance.
If there are individuals on your guest list who are in a high-risk group or aren’t comfortable attending a larger gathering, make sure they feel freedom in declining an invitation to the party. Snap photos you can send to them, or even setup a zoom link where others can join in on a particular portion of the celebration, like when gifts are opened or when the guest of honor shares a testimony or makes a speech.
3. Strategize the setup.
Since outdoors is safer than indoors, plan on having your celebration outside. It will be wise to have a couple canopy tents on hand in case of rain (or to provide a bit of shade), and plan on hosting either a brunch party in the morning or dessert gathering in the evening to beat the heat. Prior to guests arriving, space out chairs to allow proper distancing from the start. Provide a plethora of hand sanitizing stations around the party area and have extra masks available for anyone who may have left theirs at home. We picked up some Grapefruit and Lemon Hand Sanitizer sprays from Trader Joe’s - they have cute packaging that blended in well with our party decor!
4. Food safety is a must.
Eliminate situations that might require people to touch the same thing by making pre-boxed meals and snacks for everyone. Order boxes and containers online and make them super cute by tying them with ribbon and flowers. Foods that work especially well in a brunch box include:
- Finger sandwiches
- Cups of diced fruit and berries
- Assorted charcuterie, like cheese and crackers
- Muffins and scones
Place bottles of sparkling and still water in pretty plastic or galvanized tubs filled with ice so that no one has to handle pitchers or scoop ice. If you want to serve a special drink or treat during your party that won’t work in a single-serve box or bottle, have one or two individuals pass them out with gloved hands to guests upon arrival.
5. Communication is key.
I find that people are more at ease with good communication, and everyone from your fellow party planners to your guests a will benefit from a clearly communicated safety plan, including food prep and bathroom precautions.
Although you may be hosting an outdoor party, there will be times when guests will need to go inside to use the restroom. Ensure that ahead of the party you let your guests know the plan for use of the bathroom, but also have this clearly posted inside the bathroom and even on the door as guests enter your house to use the facilities. Ask that only one person at a time, wearing a mask, use the restroom. Requests that guests flush with the seat down and wipe all knobs on their way out and you lay out handy disinfectant wipes so they can do so. By having a plan and communicating it before and during your party you can ensure everyone is on the same page and it will be much appreciated by your guests!
6. Make it fun!
Just because the party is designed for safety does not mean it can’t be super fun! Come up with some no-contact games everyone can play together, like a trivia contest centered on the theme of your celebration or even the individual you are celebrating. Provide prizes that you can send digitally and that can be shipped directly to the winner or used online (like a GraceLaced gift card!).
Since I was helping to host a bridal shower, we played a “Bride and Groom” game that proved both cute and hilarious! Download our PDF version here.
7. Tailor it to the guest of honor.
Even in the midst of a pandemic there are so many occasions and people to celebrate like graduates, new moms, and brides-to-be! Decorate your celebration with photos of your guest of honor and things they love. Serve some of their favorite foods and play their favorite music - help them to feel honored, loved, AND celebrated.
My sister loves flowers, so we made sure the party felt like flower-overload. Since the party was outdoors, we used a mix of planted and vase flowers to give an enchanted garden feel. She is also very into art and adventure, thus printed maps and pieces of art decorated the garden as well, and we couldn’t help but sprinkle cute photos of the bride and groom all over the place!
8. You can only take responsibility for yourself.
As you and I both know, we can’t control other people. We can plan ahead all we want to create the safest possible environment for a get-together, but in the end, successful safe practices remain in the hands of those attending. This should not discourage us from planning events responsibly, though, and should instead encourage us to be hosts - and guests! - who serve those we love as we celebrate them. In the end, my sister felt incredibly loved and celebrated in a season that has been difficult to be a bride, so I would consider that a great success!
Celebrating those we love is a joy and an honor that is given to us by the Lord. I pray that as you honor milestones in the lives of your loved ones you do so safely and with a heart that seeks to serve them and honor God.
DISCLAIMER: I did not do this all by myself. Several of my sister’s closest friends and I worked together to make this happen. It really was teamwork at its finest! Many thanks to Lisa Ann Campbell, Joan Barkley, Kathleen Barkley, Rebecca Watts, Katherine Long, Anna Scott Smith, and Betsy Byrd.
Photos by Mary Alexander & Kathleen Barkley.