Strict social distancing rules are forcing individuals to find creative ways to celebrate special occasions as the pandemic continues to impact the world. With lockdown measures seeming to be extended, more and more special moments risk being celebrated within the four corners of the home. Birthday trips? Cancelled. Anniversary outings? Impossible. Baby showers? Unsafe. Weddings? Downsized. But just because these events look different amidst the current health pandemic doesn’t mean they cannot be meaningful. With creativity and intentionality, you can make these events more memorable than ever, and when I say memorable, I mean in a good way!
Here are seven tips for celebrating special occasions during COVID-19.
#1 Keep it meaningful.
It’s time to really dig deep to uncover what really matters to those you wish to celebrate. What is their love language? If it’s act’s of service, clean the house. If it’s touch, give him or her a full body massage. If it’s words of affirmation, write a beautiful letter. Does she love flowers? See if you can find flowers outside or at your local foodstore. There are so many ways we can celebrate our loved ones if we simply think outside of the box and truly reflect on what matters to them.
One of my favourite examples of meaningful quarantine celebration is the birthday surprise orchestrated by Lincoln Deal. Lincoln celebrated his expectant wife’s birthday in such a beautiful and sentimental way.
Lincoln entitled the event, “Beth’s Surprise Birthday Bashment (Lockdown Edition)” and writes: “Just because we all have to stay home for a while, doesn’t mean we can’t still make beautiful memories. I took Beth out to the living room for a surprise Birthday Lunch. Handpicked flowers from the porch, and a delicious meal (allegedly prepared by yours truly.) In addition, Baby Deal signed their first card to mom expressing birthday greetings and her favorite cake was all in place. ”
#2 Engage the community.
Without school and regular social engagement, kids are missing their friends and, due to strict social distancing guidelines, the elderly are missing their regular visitors. In fact, anyone who thrives on social contact, which we all do to some degree, is feeling a bit out of place and longs for community. Well, guess what?! You can still incorporate your neighbours, friends and loved ones in your celebrations. Here are a few examples that I love.
Invite friends and loved ones to decorate their vehicles and do a drive-by. Guests can drop off cards and gifts (obeying safety protocols of course) or simply shout “Happy Birthday!” from a safe distance. Kids especially love this approach because they get to see their friends and feel celebrated. Decorate the yard for an added touch.
Collaborative Birthday Song
Invite your neighbours to sing “Happy Birthday!” to your loved one. She or he will be sure to blush and have a memory to last a lifetime! See the videos below for some inspiration and a feel-good moment.
#3 Leverage your space.
If you have an spacious backyard, now is the time to make use of it! You can plan a picnic, scavenger hunt or even a wedding by leveraging the space that you already have.
The Grimwades, a popular YouTube family based in the UK, planned a Easter Egg Hunt in their home & yard space which their children absolutely loved! Now, we aren’t expecting to be in lockdown until next Easter, but you can apply this very principle to a scavenger hunt.
Don’t think a lockdown anniversary can’t be romantic! Celebrate with a beautiful candlelit dinner in the backyard or at the dinner table.
What about weddings? The global lockdown has forced many to shift gears regarding their wedding plans. Yes, weddings have to be a lot smaller than perhaps originally planned, byt they can still be absolutely beautiful, meaningful and incredibly romantic. Take this couple for instance who chose to get married on their doorstep. Yes, you heard me right, their doorstep!
For more about this beautiful love story, read their VOGUE feature here.
#4 Make use of technology.
You can also use technology to host teleconferences and family nights, put together videos and collaborative songs for your loved ones, or to simply FaceTime or video call to say, “I’m thinking of you on your special day!”
Zoom, a teleconference application, has just taken off during this pandemic. For my husband’s birthday, we hosted a Zoom Birthday Party and Game Night. It was so much fun! We played games like Family Fued and Pictionary, all over the internet!
As you can saw with the wedding previously reference, their reception took the form of a Zoom block party. What will you need? A bomb playlist (or live DJ), a MC to keep everyone engaged and a basic schedule. (Zoom calls can get awkward pretty fast if there is no structure.)
Instagram & Facebook Lives
Over on Instagram, I’ve seen livestreams of all kinds: birthdays, anniversary Q&As, gender reveals and even baby showers. Here are a few of my faves!
Upset that your baby shower got cancelled? Why not plan a virtual one? Many of the shower games we know and love can be performed virtually with a bit of prep and a heads up to guests.
I stumbled onto the Cameo app just before my husband’s birthday, and let me tell you, it was a God-send! On Cameo, you can pay to have celebrities send shoutouts. There are athletes, singers, actors, wrestlers and almost any category of person you can think of represented on the app, and for any budget! I paid a nominal fee for a former Greenbay Packer (my husband’s favourite football team) to give him a birthday shout on and he absolutely loved it. (Wife win!)
#5 Focus on key details.
When it really boils down to it, what really makes an event? For birthdays: birthday cake, a bit of decorations, games or activities and maybe music. You can get your hands on those things, even in quarantine.
I love how the JnBaptiste’s celebrated their daughter Joy’s birthday. The original plan was a pottery paint party at an art studio with all of Joy’s friends and then a trip to Disney World for the weekend; however, with the lockdown in full effect, Joy’s parents had to think quickly and pivot. They started off by surprising her with a princess dress ( a gift from grandma) and then celebrated with a cake, a family picnic and pool party. Joy told her mom, Telia, it was the best birthday she’s every had! Why? Because small details matter!
Photos courtesy of Telia JnBaptiste.
Telia writes: “Joy was BEYOND excited for her birthday. After she changed out of her princess dress into her new swimsuit, she ran up to me and gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘Mommy, thank you for my party!’ And as she walked away, she said, ‘This is the best party EVER!’ It was all worth it to give her fun memories of her special day.”
Another tip is to invite the honouree to participate in the prep. Allow your child to help bake his or her birthday cake for example.
#6 Make it personal.
Customize anything and everything you can: shirts, face masks, etc. Whenever he or she looks at the item, they will be reminded of their first, and hopefully last, quarantine celebration. For our anniversary, which happened to fall during quarantine, I had shirts made for my husband and I. We both attended work (remotely) that day and joined all of our Zoom calls in our anniversary shirts. It was sweet.
#7 Break routine.
My final tip is to simply break routine. Do something a little different that day. If you’re married and celebrating an anniversary, dress up or pull out some lingerie. Perhaps try a “Yes!” day where the honouree gets all of their (reasonable) requests fulfilled. If mom is busy all the time, encourage her to take a day off to relax while you care for the kids or clean the house.
Days can just mull into each other during this time so any change in routine can add a much needed change.
Yes, COVID-19 has changed our plans in a MAJOR way, but you can still celebrate special moments in a way that is both meaningful and memorable. As Telia JnBaptiste put it, “Be creative with your approach, and if all else fails, messy is fun!”
I hope these tips inspire you to make the most of every moment.