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: 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? These days, we have so many more concerns.
Good 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 invitation, you might start by calling the venue to ask about their service protocols and requirements. If the party is at a private residence, you 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 “black tie,” dub it “pandemic black tie.” That will make it clear that social distancing and mask-wearing will be expected. Or make a note that “masks will be offered at the door,” which implies that guests will be expected to wear masks.
• In a separate card or footnote, show your 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 will show your guests that you care.
• Get ahead of fielding a flood of calls, texts and e-mails by acknowledging in the invitation that some people might not be comfortable in a crowd now, and that’s OK, too. Good hosts will never make a guest feel bad about not attending. Offer a virtual way to attend the celebration for high-risk guests to toast from afar.
LORI STEPHENSON, owner of Lola Event Productions
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 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 respectful 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