In what feels like a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we were inundated with summer entertaining ideas this time of year. The latest trends in pool parties, carnivals, summer concerts, barbecues and other summertime activities would flood our social media feeds.

While entertaining friends and family is not completely off the table, many of us are conflicted about how, when and where to proceed with gatherings.

With the nation in different stages of reopening, combined with wildly opposing views on social distancing (or not), it has never been more confusing to determine the right time and place to host even a small-scale gathering.

How we entertain at home has changed and will continue to remain in a transitional period for the foreseeable future. But in an effort to stay connected, celebrate summer and sort out at least a little confusion, take a look at our guide on how to safely plan a small summer outdoor gathering.

Q: In terms of safety during the pandemic, how many people should I invite for a summer party?

A: The answer may vary depending on what phase of reopening your state is in.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Phase One recommends capping the number of people at 10, with social distancing. Phase Two raises the cap to 50, provided people can maintain social distancing.

That said, the CDC explains that “larger gatherings (for example, more than 250 people) offer more opportunities for person-to-person contact and therefore pose greater risk of COVID-19 transmission.”


Q: Should I request that my guests wear a face mask?

A: Evidence confirms that face masks do help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Consider hosting an outdoor event in your backyard or at a local park or more open space if your home presents distancing and/or mask challenges. And it never hurts to have extra masks and sanitizer available for your guests.


Q: What other safety precautions should I take?

A: Many of the initial safety precaution are still recommended: wash hands frequently, stay at least 6 feet apart, limit touching or sharing items and frequently disinfect commonly handled surface areas.


Q: I want to host a pool party. Is it safe?

A: Good news here, and straight from the CDC: “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus.”

To help ensure social distancing, consider limiting tables where proximity and touching surfaces will be more difficult to monitor. Space your backyard seating 6 feet apart. Set up stations with hand sanitizer. If feeding guests, consider pre-made grab-and-go sandwich baskets or bags.


Q: I’m having a difficult time narrowing my guest list to a small number, but safety is important to me. Suggestions?

A: Celebrating a graduation, birthday or other event that beckons a bigger gathering? Consider a two-part party. While this may seem like twice the work, it may be worth a little extra effort to plan on two smaller gatherings on different days rather than one big bash. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an honoree who will object to being the center of celebration on more than one occasion!


Q: If I have a party, I worry that I’ll offend friends and family members who can’t be (or aren’t ready to be) around people. Any advice?

A: First, know you’re not alone. Many people are struggling with how to best accommodate friends and family with varying needs and opinions at in-person gatherings. While keeping in mind that sometimes you simply can’t please everyone, one avenue to attempt may be a “hybrid party.”

Since many virtual platforms (Zoom, Facebook Rooms, Google Meet, etc.) allow for several virtual attendees, rig one of your flat screens to your laptop to include those who crave connection, but are unable for in-person connection to share in the “live” fun.