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Social Graces: Etiquette for a party during the pandemic

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: You've been invited to a party. You aren't sure about the number of attendees, if the event will be outdoors, whether social distancing will be in place or if masks are required. How should you ask the host?

A: Upon receipt of an invitation, it is customary to reply immediately, so as not to forget and to allow the host to have accurate planning numbers. Any questions you may have should be discussed at that time. Prefacing this sensitive subject with a nicety is most polite. This discussion will offer an opportunity for clarity and self-assurances.

A brief explanation asking specifics regarding social distancing, masks, etc., and ending the conversation with your decision of attendance or not is a well-respected way to handle this situation. If you disagree with the details offered, refrain from expressing your dismay, and end the discussion with well wishes.

- Karen Thomas, etiquette expert

A: Remember when the biggest worry we had about going to a party was what to wear and should I eat before I go in case the party is stingy on the appetizers? Well, thanks to COVID-19, we all have so many more concerns. Great hosts will anticipate that their guests will have different risk thresholds when it comes to protecting themselves and will lay out thoughtful information that will help guests plan accordingly (or send their regrets). If there isn't any information on the party invite, you may consider making a call to the venue to ask about their service protocols and requirements as a starting point to gauge your comfort. If the party is at a private residence, you may have no choice but to address your questions directly to the host.

As a wedding and event planner, we are suggesting the following ideas to our clients as they plan their parties in the era of COVID-19:


Instead of making your party "cocktail attire" or "black tie invited," dub it "pandemic black tie," or make a note that "masks will be offered at the door to all attendees," which implies that guests will be expected to wear masks.

In a separate card or footnote, show your love and appreciation for your guests' health and safety by listing protocols that will be in place. Whether it's seating guests in smaller groups, extra cleaning measures or hand sanitizer stations, it might not be the sexiest information, but it will show your guests you care.

Get ahead of fielding a million calls, texts and emails with these questions by acknowledging in the invitation that some people may just not be comfortable in a crowd right now, and that's OK too. Good hosts will never make a guest feel bad about not attending their soiree. Offer a virtual way to attend the celebration for high-risk guests to toast from afar!

- Lori Stephenson, owner of Lola Event Productions

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