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How to Host an Event During a Pandemic

Your Guest Count: Think Smaller

With fewer people it is easier to keep safe social distancing practices. Your first step is to be sure you are in compliance with any state and city ordinances for the number of people that can gather at once that may be in place. Venues may have their own set of guidelines as well so the easiest way to ensure your event is compliant is to check with your venue. They will be able to provide you with specific limitations as well as best practices. From there, you will want to consider the size of your space to decide how many people you can comfortably host in a socially distanced manner. 

Your Venue: Open Air is a Great Idea

Whether it be your own backyard or one of the Austin areas many great outdoor venues, experts agree that there is more danger of spread in enclosed spaces, so outdoors may be the way to go! When choosing your event site, keep the following in mind:

  • Texas Summers are hot! If you plan to host during the summer make sure that there is plenty of shade and consider an evening event.
  • Is there enough covered space to host our event in inclement weather?
  • Will there be enough lighting when the sun goes down?
  • Are there enough restroom facilities on-site

Seating: A Socially Distanced Layout

While now may not be the time for those big long farm tables you envisioned, there are still ways to seat your guests safely and with plenty of style! 48” round tables seat up to six and are a great option for seating different groups or families together. Many hosts are opting to seat by household to minimize risk, which is a great idea! High-top cocktail tables are also a great option for allowing guests to spread out! Your Vanilla Orchid Event Specialist can assist you with gathering any rentals you may need from our partner providers. One more tip, place hand sanitizer in a few key spots around your event!

Your Menu: Consider Your Food Service

One of the most important aspects of any event is the food you serve and gauging your comfort level is important. Do you still want staff on-site, or would you be more comfortable with a delivery? At Vanilla Orchid we are offering options for delivery of both hot meals, and delivery or pick up of cold meals with reheat instructions. Vanilla Orchid is also able to safely staff events with special guidelines in place. Currently, we are recommending that clients stick to single serve menu items and disposable serveware whenever possible. With everything from picnic lunches, to individually packaged hot meals, your Event Specialist can help you find the perfect menu to meet your guests needs! 

For more formal events many of our clients still prefer to have staff on site. While a giant self-serve buffet or grazing table may not be recommended at this time, a Chef Action Station is the perfect way to give your guests something special while keeping them safe. Each action station is manned by one of our expert chefs and whether you choose a fun brunch option like omelets or eggs benedict or crowd favorite gourmet grilled cheese, each guest can customize to their liking and be served directly by our chef. 

Inclusion: Include At-Risk Individuals Not Able to Attend

No matter how safe your event is, chances are there will be guests who are more vulnerable to Covid-19 or are simply not comfortable being around large groups at this time. And that’s OK! We highly encourage anyone who is not comfortable attending to stay home! And it’s very important that you as the host provide a safe and easy way for guests to opt out without feeling the social pressure of attending when they don’t feel comfortable doing so. One easy way to do this is to actually “encourage” those who want to stay home to do so. Be upfront and open in helping your guests feel safe and comfortable, especially those who aren’t able to attend. Want to go above and beyond in making your vulnerable guests feel special? Find a way to include them in the fun. Schedule a specific time to FaceTime, Zoom or Skype (for you old-schoolers) your guests into the event. Including them will make them feel special and included. If you’re planning a wedding, we recommend scheduling this call earlier, before the event gets too busy, or assigning a trusted family member to make the call for you so you don’t forget. 

Change: Alter The Traditional Event Setup

It may seem challenging to change the style of a wedding, conference, or event, but their are actually *endless* ways an event can be changed to incorporate social distancing while still being special and meaningful. Everything from drive-through weddings to drive-up movie theaters have become the norm in 2020. Ask yourself “if this event was going to be drive-thru, how would it work?” Even Austin’s Trail of Lights is going back to their roots this year and changing the format to a drive-thru experience. 

Go Virtual: A Common 2020 Event Type 

If hosting an in-person event seems too daunting during Covid-19, there are still options! Holding a virtual event has become the norm for many annual events, conferences, and fairs around the globe in 2020. Everyone from Warren Buffet to Zac Brown Band have held virtual events this year. There’s no reason you can’t do the same! But be warned, a virtual event is deceptively challenging. Specifically, in keeping the attention of your guests. Careful planning and the inclusion of physical food/drink/gifts is important. Checkout Forbes article on “How To Host A Successful Virtual Event” for more ideas. 

Our Vanilla Orchid Event Specialists are ready to answer any questions and help you plan a fun and safe event! 

Authors: Katherine Hinton & Ivan Mills