Given the current state of the world, the holiday season will likely look a little different this year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative and still celebrate with those you love near and far. We recently synced up with some party experts on tips and tricks for throwing a memorable virtual dinner or holiday party. Read on and get inspired!
Before hosting a virtual party, you’ll need to go through the typical stages of planning an event starting with choosing the date, time and setting a guest list. While your guests won’t have to travel, it’s still important to keep their schedules in mind and ask around to get a sense of which day works best for them. Since it’ll be hosted via screen, you’ll also need to choose a streaming platform. Lisa Cokinos, Founder of LC Events LLC, notes that Zoom is quite user-friendly, and an added benefit is that the call can be recorded and viewed for at least 30 days after the celebration. Other options she highlights include WebEx and Google Meet.
Jessica Carrillo, Owner and Lead Planner at Art & Soul Events, says that in terms of length, an hour and a half should be plenty of time for the party, but you could make it up to two hours if you have several activities planned.
Set the theme and flow of the event
Another helpful tip from Carrillo is to think about any theme you might wish to integrate into the event, for example, are you interested in having it be funny like an ugly sweater party, or perhaps have guests dress up in festive cocktail attire. Having a theme is a lighthearted way to tie the party together and keep it memorable for attendees.
In addition to the theme, Carrillo says it’s important to consider how the event will flow — the beginning should include a welcome or introduction from the host which is perhaps followed by a game or activities. Moving on from there, everyone might share in some kind of meal, dessert or cocktail, and conclude in a purposeful way with a send-off and goodbyes.
Send the invites
When it comes to getting the invites out, Carrillo recommends Paperless Post and Cokinos suggests Minted, Evite or Green Envelope as tried-and-true options. “The invitation should highlight details including the date and time of the event, login and password information for the streaming platform, the menu and meal instructions (if relevant), as well as a schedule of events so your friends will know exactly what is expected of them,” explains Cokinos. Carrillo adds that you’ll also want to make guests aware of any pertinent information tied to the theme and attire on the invite.
Plan an activity
One challenge of a virtual party is that without direction it can lead to everyone talking at the same time or a couple people monopolizing the conversation. To combat this, think about some lively activities that gets everyone involved. Cokinos says you might look to incorporate a virtual trivia game like QuizUp or Cards Against Humanity. A few other holiday-themed suggestions from Carrillo include sharing a family slideshow; prompting guests to think about and share what they’re thankful for in 2020; lighting candles together; an ugly sweater competition; or sharing your favorite holiday ornament/sentimental object. If kids are involved, she recommends printing out coloring pages to go along with the theme of the party or letting them pick a fun virtual background. A karaoke or dance party are always entertaining ideas, too.
To add a little “wow” factor, Cokinos notes you could add a virtual photobooth to your schedule of activities. “Companies such as Studio Z Photobooth and The Snap Bar have created digital photobooth options that are easy to use with any platform and can capture Stills, GIFs and Boomerang (Burst GIF).”
Consider food and drink
Carrillo points out that it might be difficult and a little awkward to have a full meal during a virtual party, so as an alternative option, she notes that everyone could enjoy their favorite dessert and cocktail on screen. If you definitely prefer on sharing a meal with your guests, Cokinos tells Lively there are a few options you could explore. “Many caterers have pivoted their offerings to include boxed meals for small gatherings,” she notes. “Contact your local caterer and engage them for a dinner party/holiday meal offering and have those meals sent to your guests that day with any relevant heating instructions.” Another idea is to make the meal an activity in itself. “Assign each guest a name and that guest will receive a surprise meal from another guest via UberEats or DoorDash,” Cokinos says. One last suggestion is to choose a simple recipe that everyone cooks and enjoys together virtually.
Ask for help
Lastly, another handy tip is to consider roping other people into the event based on their skills. “Sometimes the planner doesn’t like to be the host,” says Carillo, adding that if you have a person that naturally likes to speak, perhaps ask them to serve as host, or if there’s someone who’s very technically inclined, you might ask them to send the invites out and get the meeting room organized.