Celebrations have never been the same since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, in the digital and virtual age, get-togethers are not impossible even when you’re social distancing.
Virtual dinner parties have increasingly become all the rage since last year. This 2021 onwards, the pleasure of socializing is within reach of those who prefer the comfort and safety of their own homes.
Whether it’s a simple get-together for your close-knit team at work or an intimate birthday celebration, you could use a few good ideas for your next virtual party. Here’s what to do — and not to do.
DO: Plan Ahead
While there are many drastic changes to the physical aspect of gatherings, one thing remains clear: If you want to party, you have to plan it. The venue is in the name — virtual dinner party. You don’t have to worry about renting actual physical space or about COVID-19 safety precautions.
Here’s what you need to prepare:
- Invitees – This is your party. You have the liberty to choose the people you want to virtually hang out with. Remember also that each conference call application has limits to the number of people you can accommodate in a “room”. There are, indeed, limits to how many of us get to gather in a virtual get-together.
- Date and Time – Before deciding on a specific “when,” check everybody’s availability. Consider who’s working from home, who’s out in the evening, and what time everybody needs to say goodbye. This proves easier for friends or colleagues who work in similar schedules.
- Mood and Theme – Once you get to decide how the party should feel, everything else falls into place. Is the group in the mood for a fancy soiree, or do your colleagues want to feel like you’re going out to dinner right after work? Maybe you can organize a Halloween costume party, and the scariest look gets to win a prize before the party comes to a close! A unified theme sets the mood for the gathering, helping you determine what colours to wear, what kind of decor to put up, and what food to serve.
- Menu – A select few say that food and socializing don’t have to go hand in hand. However, with various social restrictions and the limited number of choices for decent social activities, what could go wrong with eating and drinking together… apart? The easiest way to go about it is to let everyone pick their meals — as long as you make it feel like a proper party by involving everyone in the planning. Before the event date, agree on details. Will you be making dinner together, or would it be better to have food delivered by the same caterer?
- Invitations – Going full-on digital, you can send your invitations via email, text message, or chat. You can also design your own Evite. If all attendees are on Facebook, consider setting up a Facebook event. Just don’t forget to set it to private unless you’re willing to have uninvited guests crashing your virtual party.
DO: Keep It Simple
Virtual dining: what a concept! Most of us didn’t think we’d need it, and yet, here we are — using all the tools at our disposal to adjust to the new normal.
A simple, albeit major, aspect of any dinner party, “Where are we going?” can now be answered with all-too-familiar names such as Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet. For a simple virtual dinner party, use a video conferencing app that’s available to everyone. One which, you know, everyone can use easily. Consider this especially if there are elderly people attending: they need to be able to catch up with their loved ones without having to stress over how to answer an incoming video call.
For tech-savvy personalities, you can up the virtual party game by utilizing Kumospace, Hopin, and other video conferencing services that simulate real-world environments.
In preparing post-dinner socialization, remember to stick to 1 or 2 activities that you can all do together all throughout. Simple also means short: most dinner parties go at 1 hour, tops. Let the good times roll by faster — unless you’ve all agreed to stay longer.
DON’T: Be Late
Just because it’s a virtual party doesn’t mean people can get away with coming in late. If you’re hosting, take it upon yourself to remind the attendees 30 or 15 minutes before the agreed time. You can also delegate the task to someone who’s more keen on tardiness.
To add a little fun, decide on a friendly “punishment” for those who snuck into the call after the agreed call time. Maybe you can get them to sing a power ballad (if you’re hosting a virtual karaoke) or add one more to their tequila shots for happy hour. Keep it safe, civil, and fun!
DO: Dress up and Decorate
Dressing up for a virtual dinner party is a two-faceted endeavour. You have to dress for the occasion, and you have to dress the occasion — you are fully in charge of how your own space looks when you enter the virtual dining venue.
- How Do I Look, Hun?
Again, this is one of those, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” moments. Nobody’s saying you have to be in a cocktail dress or a tailcoat. But let’s all be pretty and presentable — or pretty presentable, at the very least.
If it’s a pyjama-themed party then, by all means, lead the way with the loungewear. It helps to be in tune with the mood. It’s for your own enjoyment, after all.
- Should I Get Rid of that Lamp Behind Me?
Find a spot in your home where the background won’t be much of an eyesore. You can spice up your background by decorating your immediate surroundings. Stick to the theme, while you’re at it. Encourage everyone to do the same.
If there’s not much time to rearrange in your area, most conference call apps offer virtual backgrounds. You can even suggest a uniform background for everyone to use, so all of you feel like you’re in the same room — albeit miles apart in reality!
DO: Keep Your Guests Engaged and Invested
Fun should be at the core of every party. Digital gatherings make way for dead air and delays in between. Prepare games and other activities to keep them engaged and entertained throughout the event.
Treat it like a normal, pre-pandemic dinner, and don’t beat around the bush. Allow time for people to talk, and keep the conversation flowing. A trip down memory lane, a little recollection of embarrassing moments — anything that’s light to the heart, and funny to the bone. Be wary of sensitive topics (think: shop talk, politics, or family issues). If you can help it, try to leave them off the (virtual) table.
For the social media-savvy, let them post photos and videos of your fun gathering. Fancy a nice, interesting hashtag to perk up the Instagram captions? Go for it!
DON’T: Forget to End It Properly
If it’s hard to begin, it’s even harder to end. Your party can only go 2 ways: (1) everyone is evidently enjoying it; or (2) the energy has dropped so low there’s a risk someone might hightail it out of there.
Give the first option a great chance of succeeding by keeping expectations clear. When you’re hosting, you have to take a firm lead on how the party goes, considering the physical and time limitations of your virtual gathering.
Make exceptions for invitees who have valid reasons to leave early (e.g. medical conditions, kids or senior parents to tuck into bed). Everyone can end the call on a high note. It’s up to the host to steer the party in the right direction.
DO: Enjoy Your Own Party!
You should be able to connect with your guests and cherish the memories you create during your party.
With elle cuisine, feel free to be a guest at your own virtual dinner party! We offer Stay Home Catering that provides you with a selection of food products that allow you to experience gourmet cuisine in the safety of your own home. We also offer virtual cooking lessons if you want to make your own dishes. Call us now at 647.430.3553, and bring the elle cuisine experience right into the comfort of your own home.