Above courtesy Trish Badger Photography.

Normally, November and December calendars are packed with office parties, cocktail hours, get-togethers with friends, and lots and lots of family time. But this, of course, is not a normal year—and there will be nothing predictable about this holiday season. What used to be solved by slapping a bow on a bottle of wine, now might require a festive Zoom background! 

To solve your what-the-heck-do-we-do-about-Thanksgiving-and-Christmas-and-everything-else woes, we enlisted our friends at Planned With, a full-service event company that specializes in planning parties of all sizes and styles to help. They are currently helping clients dream up all sorts of alternative ideas, including a focus on micro gatherings to bring back live events. 

“Right now, our large-scale live events and weddings are either postponed, or aren’t happening as we know them,” says Emily Rudelson, one half of the stylish couple that owns Planned With. “So we’re reimagining our live stuff into hybrid events, which combine in-person and virtual experiences, and offering new creative ways to get people together in the face of Covid.”

Here are her biggest tips for making people merry this year. 

  1. Decide whether you’ll host your holiday event virtually, in-person, or even a hybrid—partially IRL. There are many online platforms offering free options or trials right now to suit your event, like Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Group FaceTime.
  2. Get guests excited with a digital holiday event invitation with Paperless Post’s virtual party designs.
  3. Consider using the affair as an opportunity to give back to a nonprofit in the community.
  4. Go all out with your holiday decor and tablescapes from BBJ Linen. Think patterned linens, candle light and striking and dramatic florals.
  5. Deliver festive holiday event kits with things like cocktail recipes, bar accessories and holiday decor to help your virtual guests celebrate with you at home.
  6. Bundle up and get outside. Take advantage of the cooler temps and set up a beautiful al fresco setting with guest seating spaced a safe distance apart. Rent outdoor lounge designs from Party at the Moontower or Birch and Brass and invest in patio heaters if it’s gonna be chilly!

    Above courtesy Marco Wang Photography.
  7. Individualize your menu and cocktails. Individual charcuterie boards, boxed sushi, personal cakes, veggie-filled mason jars and go for single-serving beverage options like cans or bottles. Even go for specialty items like caviar, boozy marshmallows, GoodPop poptails or CBD-infused water.
  8. If you’d prefer no fuss catering, think about hosting a food truck at your house! Austin’s Silvercloud is a fleet of vintage silver Airstreams that are set up for bubbly, beer or customized bars. For contact-less dinner service, get all of your catering delivered from CONTI-GO Dispatch.
  9. For more socially distant activities, we suggest an outdoor fire pit for hot chocolate and roasting s’mores, wreath-making or gingerbread decorating tables, or a backyard screening of your favorite holiday movie.
  10. Make sure to provide plenty of sanitization options for guests like hand sanitizer stations and custom masks from local designer, BTR Design Studio.
  11. Invite a DJ and dancers to your Zoom for an after-dinner dance party with The Flashdance and a virtual Smilebooth.

Make sure you stay up to date on the CDC guidelines and communicate them to your guests ahead of your party. When everyone knows what to expect, there will be much less stress going around!