Can you believe it’s nearly September? This year has flown, and yet it seems that the days have dragged on. It’s no secret that the last 5-6 months have been difficult. With the onset of COVID-19 and safety measures designed to contain the spread, we have all been put to the test. I personally miss seeing my friends and family in person and I’m sure you do, too.
But we can’t ignore the desire to gather together, especially after so much time apart! When done safely, a small gathering held with plenty of space could be an elegant social boost we all need right now. Here are a few socially distant Labor Day party ideas, plus a guide for you to throw a safe and thoughtful Labor Day party for your family and friends.
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Host a Labor Day Pool Party
If you have a pool, what better place to host an end of summer party? Instead of BYOB, how about bring your own towel and float!
Consider what you can serve that is grab-and-go. Create a menu of single serve foods, like salads and dips, that can be served in mason jars.
This Honeycrisp Salad with Sage and Maple Vinaigrette is the perfect refreshment on a hot day, yet has a few fall flavors mixed in. Whip up a batch of Tzatziki, spoon it into the bottom of a mason jar, then pop carrot and celery sticks into the jar for an all-in-one snack. For dessert, how about no-bake cheesecake jars. All of these can sit in a decorative ice bucket in the shade without fear.
Of course, you can’t forget a signature cocktail, my favorite part of any party! Here’s a roundup of cocktails you can make in a batch, then pour into individual mason jars (or cups with lids) to nestle into their own ice bucket. Make a few non-alcoholic ones for the kids, plus have bottles of water on hand as well.
I strongly suggest not having any communal bowls of chips and salsa or the like. If you do plan to have those snacks available for everyone as a communal serving, give each guest their own serving utensil that only they touch.
Progressive Labor Day Party
If you live close enough, consider rotating houses for a progressive Labor Day party. Host homes can create the menu together or go potluck! Your progressive dinner party menu ideas can range from simple to elaborate. Start at one family’s house for appetizers, another for the main dish, and a third for dessert. This will eliminate spending a long amount of time at any one house. Try to be outside for as many courses as possible.
If you’re looking for unique tablescape ideas, think about the current season. Gingham, pumpkins, wood, and fall herbs make great fall buffet table decorations. Here are a few of my favorite, dreamy fall tablescapes to borrow inspiration.
Cover all food when you’re not serving and only serve with utensils. By the way, this is good etiquette even when there isn’t a pandemic!
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Labor Day Party without Food?
In the words of Julia Child, “A party without a cake is just a meeting.” No offence to Julia, but she wasn’t living in these extraordinary times! One way to host a safe Labor Day party is to have a gathering without food, which could be a prime spot for passing germs around.
Instead, set up your yard with socially distant, non-contact games like badminton, bocce, or cricket. There’s nothing better than playing a round of croquet with a fresh cocktail in hand. If every guest can’t have their own mallet or raquet, grab a few containers of wipes for easy sanitation between players.
Throw a Labor Day Picnic
If you really want to be with your family friends, but don’t want to risk the possible points of contact, have everyone bring their own picnic. This can actually be a really fun way to host a Labor Day party from a distance! This is especially great if you have a large back yard or safe park nearby. Every guest brings their own food and drink and you can still be together while you’re sitting on your own family unit’s blanket. Taste of Home has 75 ideas for you to pack in your picnic basket – surely you’ll find something your family enjoys or try a new recipe!
To make the day more fun, you can encourage your guests to bring some (small) décor to liven up their party picnic area! Like decorating your table, think about fall inspiration since we’re going into that season. Since this is a summer sendoff, you can also hold onto the season a little longer and incorporate flowers, bright dinnerware (acrylic is great for a picnic), your favorite tropical decorations, or some red, white, and blue.
We’re all looking for ways to make this difficult time a bit easier, and adding this fun element gives everyone a chance to exercise their creative muscles while seeing loved ones and staying safe.
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Tips for Hosting a Safe Labor Day Party
While you’re doing your best to host a safe gathering. it’s important to keep in mind the possible times of exposure before and after your Labor Day party as well. In this instance, being overly-prepared will go a long way to ensuring everyone’s safety – both at the party and whomever you and your guests will interact with in the coming weeks.
Keep Your Labor Day Party Guest List Small
Start things off by making sure you have a smaller guest list. Smaller groups are safer than a large party with lots of people mingling. Your Labor Day blowout might be a tradition for your whole neighborhood, but this year it should be kept to your family and closest friends only.
Also consider whether children and dogs will be allowed at the gathering. While they tend to be the life of the party, young ones and pets can make social distancing more difficult.
Once you’ve created your small guest list, ask your invitees to think about who they have been in contact with already and who they might see in the coming weeks, especially if anyone works outside the home and may come in contact with more people. Remind your guests to think about their possible exposures between now and your Labor Day party and if their attendance would potentially expose others.
Communicating with Guests
It may feel like you’re giving too many details when discussing your Labor Day party plans with your guests, but I think there’s no such thing right now. Preparing your guests with your plan for their safety and letting them know how you’ll be cleaning your home is imperative for their comfort and to set your expectations for the party.
If you have any special considerations, share them when you invite your guests so they can make an informed RSVP. For instance, are you planning to cook the main dish but everyone should bring their own side dishes (not for sharing)? Would you like guests to bring their own beverages? If you’d like guests to wear masks at all times except for eating, tell them that ahead of time. Be clear and ask your guests what you’d like them to do.
Invite Guests by Phone
One piece of etiquette that will always remain is that a great hostess always puts her guests’ needs and comfort first. While I’d normally frown upon the use of a phone call to share an invitation, a digital or paper invitation just doesn’t permit for the conversation necessary to keep your Labor Day party safe for all.
Instead, a phone call allows you to discuss your well-considered hostess plan and answer any questions guests may have. Inviting guests by phone will also allow you to share your boundaries and address theirs so they can be totally comfortable when attending your party.
Make sure to remind your guests that your event is a “come as you are” kind of affair. There’s no need to go to the salon and potentially put yourselves at risk. This party is a no-judgement zone!
Respect the RSVP
Remember, if a guest RSVPs no, you need to respect it. A gracious hostess never asks for a reason or guilts a guest into attending her party. Everyone’s risk tolerance is different right now and all levels of comfort should be respected.
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This time is hard on all of us, but I find that the more prepared you are, the more you can relax while you are gathering safely with friends and loved ones. I hope these tips allow you to plan a safe, elegant, and fun Labor Day party and that everyone is safe and healthy!
I am an expert in elegant interior design – please consult WHO and CDC for complete information regarding safety precautions in your area and always follow guidelines set by the CDC regarding COVID-19. You can find an updated guide for events and gatherings here.