Throwing a birthday party during a pandemic can present considerable challenges, but parents, party planners, venues and entertainment resources have all gotten creative in COVID-friendly celebrations. Guest lists are definitively smaller right now as party hosts strive to keep safety in mind, but that doesn’t mean there’s a limit on fun! From birthday parades and festive front-yard signs to Zoom parties and extra-special décor, we take a look at some of the hottest trends in party planning, perfect for times of pandemic and beyond.
Our expert panel includes: Jessica Ganther with Party with Jess, Chelsey Flint with Chelsey Flint Events, Akwe Trevillion with See Signs Celebrate and Katrina Uhls with Unpluggits Paint & Play.
Top tips for all ages
- Choose the party situation your family feels most comfortable with, whether that includes friends, family or just those in your household.
- Set a clear budget, then select areas where you can save and one or two items to splurge on, whether with your money or time.
- If you’re hosting at a party venue, ask what your group’s exposure would be to other groups, how the venue sanitizes (and how often) and about any other pandemic precautions that have been put in place to keep guests safe.
- Whether at home or at a venue, use disposable plates and cutlery and individually packaged drinks and snacks when possible to cut down on hand-to-hand contact. And be sure to have plenty of hand sanitizer handy!
Let’s be honest, first birthdays are often more for the parents than the child. And parents absolutely deserve a celebration for conquering that first year! For toddlers and preschoolers, Ganther encourages parents to remember that littles don’t get hung up on party details like the perfect menu or matching décor. Instead focus on surrounding littles with people who love them (whether in person or virtually) and a theme that makes their eyes light up.
- If you’re keeping the party to immediate family, create a fun backdrop for a photo shoot or a cake smash, then send video and photos to family and friends. Or set up a Zoom party so everyone can watch (and sing Happy Birthday!) in real-time.
- For littles who love animals, check out options like Magnolia Blossom Ranch, where you can visit the amazing alpacas one group at a time, or schedule them to come to you!
- Babies and preschoolers alike adore balloons and that includes little party guests! Send party balloons home as a favor.
- Opt outdoors by planning a party for littles at a local park so guests can be socially distanced.
Instead of purchasing more expensive themed paper goods and décor, choose the primary colors within your child’s theme (like red, purple, orange, blue and green for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle extravaganza) and score plates, cups, napkins, balloons, streamers, favors and other décor in those colors from Dollar Tree or the like. Choose just a few items, like one oversized balloon or the cake, to feature the theme in detail.
Hiring a local party planner can cut down on day-of stress for parents and allow them to truly enjoy the party. Local party planners like Ganther and Flint work with all budget levels and can design and style the entire party, or just provide items like a custom cake, favors or special décor. Some even offer contact-less drop-offs of decorations, or yard sign companies like See Signs Celebrate set up and take down your birthday message of choice, no contact required.
Whether hosting a party at home or at a local venue with safety precautions in place, choose an activity party-goers can enjoy alongside each other. Party venues like Unpluggits are getting creative to offer safe options onsite or to-go painting or ceramics kits for at-home party fun. Outdoor venues like Cadence Equestrian Center offer built-in distancing and exciting activities with equine friends.
- Birthday party parades capture all the festivity and allow your kids to invite a full guest list, all while keeping a safe distance as they drive by to honk and wave. As a thank you for coming, provide prepackaged treats for guests to grab as they drive through.
- Matching masks make awesome party favors for this age group! Hand sanitizer with labels customized to the party theme are also popular.
- Top themes include donuts, superheroes, mermaids and the wild West. For kids moving beyond themed parties, Trevillion advises choosing colors and a hobby they love to feature.
- Host a camping or outdoor movie party for a few friends or just the family.
Balloons always make a party feel festive! Instead of expensive helium-filled bouquets, save by making a DIY balloon arch, or purchase one from a local party planner.
Customized yard signs are all the rage and a perfect backdrop for a birthday parade. Especially if you’re opting to not have a traditional birthday party this year, a creative yard display will make your birthday child feel celebrated and special. Locally- and family-owned See Signs Celebrate offers customizable options at $85-100. (P.S. these are awesome for any age!)
The perfect recipe for tween and teen parties is often good food, great music and space to hang out and chat. Ganther advises that for tweens and teens, planning a party is less about choosing a theme and more about creating a vibe.
- Selfie and Tik Tok stations are the new photo booths for this age group. Create a fun backdrop, set up a few lights and the guests will do the rest!
- Customized Snap Chat filters take the party to social media.
- Slumber parties with just one or two friends still feel special. Purchase or DIY matching pajamas and enjoy time with besties. Or kick things up a notch with a come-to-you (or go to them) Mobile Laser Forces party.
- Take the family to enjoy an activity together. Locales like Riversport and Main Event cater to indoor or outdoor adventures perfect for tweens and teens, and Unpluggits offers ceramics options for older kids or families.
Instead of purchasing a cake, grab cake-making supplies and host a bake-off between a small gathering of friends or family members.
Create a custom backdrop for all those selfies. Check out Pinterest for DIY ideas, hire a local party planner to customize one to your teen’s tastes or book a front-yard display through a local company.
For even more party planning resources including insights on at-home parties, birthday parades and other covid-friendly celebration options, check out our wealth of articles focused on helping you pull off a memorable birthday party!