Par-tay! Safe summer party planning tips and ideas

June 2, 2021

With the warm weather (finally!), COVID-19 vaccinations available to people age 12 and older, and the unofficial start of summer upon us, people feel like celebrating. Time to party!

But, it’s important to note that even though we’ve come a long way from last March and the start of the pandemic – it’s not over yet. In Colorado, less than half of the state’s residents have been fully vaccinated. That means when you throw your summer soiree, there’s a good chance you’ll have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated party-goers. How do you plan a festive event while still keeping everyone safe and comfortable?

Kids playing under a canopy in a park with green grass as part of safe party planning ideas.
Safe party planning is key when hosting guests who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Two suggestions: host a party outside and keep gatherings small. Photo: Getty Images.

UCHealth Primary Care – Aspen Creek Medical Center nurse practitioner Staci Ruddy offers guidance for safe party planning as well as some fun ideas. Her first recommendations: keep the gathering small and hold it outside if possible.

“If you’re indoors, try to keep windows open and use a larger space that allows for social distancing,” Ruddy said.

Invitations and setting expectations

If everyone attending is vaccinated, then no safety guidelines are needed for your party since the risk of spreading COVID-19 is very low, she said. However, when there’s a combination of vaccinated and unvaccinated people attending an event, it creates a need for limitations.

But how do you know who’s vaccinated and who’s not? Ruddy recommends stating your expectations in your invitation. At this point, people know the drill regarding mask-wearing, so it’s unlikely they’ll be put off by you addressing it head-on. (Click here to learn more about getting a vaccine)

If you have expectations for people who are not vaccinated, have traveled recently, or are otherwise at risk, spell it out if you want people to wear masks and practice social distancing, which is what the CDC recommends.

A plate of guacamole
As part of safe party planning be sure to set expectations about safe party protocol before your guests arrive. Photo: Getty Images.

“Now we have this hybrid of people who are vaccinated and those who are not. I think it’s reasonable to say that we want to keep our community, family, and friends safe, so we’re asking that you not attend or attend virtually if you feel you could be at risk. And, if you have not been vaccinated that you plan to wear a mask while you’re [at the party],” Ruddy said.

Serving suggestions

Research shows that there’s no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through food, so you don’t have to worry about that. However, you will want to keep surfaces clean and serve individual snacks.

Ruddy offers a few options for serving your guests food and beverages in a low-risk manner. For one, you can serve a pre-packaged picnic meal to everyone or host a picnic in a park where everyone brings their own food. You can also hire a food truck for dinner and an ice cream truck for dessert.

If you’re hosting a barbecue, just have one or two people at the grill to flip burgers and brats and consider giving every person their own disposable serving utensils for the sides.

Staci Ruddy talks about safe party planning
Staci Ruddy

The same goes for serving the drinks. Make one person the bartender, so you’re minimizing the number of people that come in contact with dishware and glasses. You can also pour drinks in advance and set them out so that everyone can take their own.

What to do with the young unvaccinated children?

If your party is a family affair where adults and kids will be in attendance, the unvaccinated kids should carry on as they have throughout the pandemic: masks, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing. Since children are not always great about social distancing, Ruddy recommends planning games that will keep them outside and busy without being too close to each other.

“Planning games such as kickball and soccer, where’s there’s not so much physical touching of an item, will makes things easier on the kids – and adults. Another idea is sidewalk chalk where you can space kids apart,” she said. Other fun kids’ ideas include a scavenger hunt, bubble wands, and a watermelon eating contest. Plan ahead and get creative.

Other safe party planning and festive ideas

On the safe side, put out extra masks (think cute and fun) and hand sanitizer. In fact, consider giving those away as party favors.

On the festive side, add lanterns or candles, flowers, and place cards. Place cards can also help you ensure that people are six feet apart when sitting down to dinner.

In addition to planning games and activities for the kids, you can also plan activities for adults and families. Play an instrument? Invite guests to bring their own and form their own jam band. Have access to a pool? Make it a pool party. Some other ideas include:

  • A painting party.
  • Outdoor games such as corn hole, horseshoes, or a scavenger hunt.
  • An outdoor movie.

We live in a beautiful place. Instead of hosting at your house, consider a public park with BBQ grills or an activity-themed party such as a bike ride or hike followed by a picnic. Before you send out invitations, be sure to read the latest guidance from the CDC and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on gatherings and events.

About the author

Joelle Klein is a Colorado-based freelance health and lifestyle writer. She regularly writes for UCHealth Today, Colorado Health & Wellness Magazine and Bottom Line Health. Her articles and blogs have appeared in 5280, Skiing, Fit Pregnancy, Pregnancy, the Denver Post, PBS Next Avenue, AARP, and the American Lung Association, among dozens of other health-related print and digital publications.
Joelle earned her bachelor’s degree in English at New York University and her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) and American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). Joelle lives in Denver with her husband and their two daughters. In her limited spare time, she enjoys cooking, reading, hiking, biking, camping, theater, travel, and spending quality time with her family.