Virtual pub crawls, backyard picnics and drive-bys (no, not that kind) are taking place over the country as Australians find new and inventive ways to celebrate milestones.
We’re used to marking moments – like birthdays – with as many friends and family members as we can find. In the current climate of social distancing and staying home, it’s birthing a whole new kind of party.
Bruce Keebaugh, from Melbourne events and hospitality empire The Big Group, said the most important part of celebrations has always been about the people.
“You have to have the right people and right mood, once you have that, I have always said you can have a party in a box,” Keebaugh told The New Daily.
“Now what that box might look like – or what’s inside – is anyone’s guess.”
Pivoting to party mode
There’s so much technology at our fingertips that – while it’s not exactly the same – makes it super simple to have your nearest and dearest on a screen with you at any time.
Keebaugh said he’s embracing the iso-party trend, even throwing his own for his recent birthday.
The theme was Mexican, and it was complete with a piñata, margaritas, sombreros and a lovingly made fiesta cake by his wife, Chyka.
If you’re thinking about holding a virtual iso-party, Keebaugh’s top tip is to set a theme.
“Think about setting a funny theme, send out the shopping lists and recipes for all your guests to cook and then you can share the same drinks and food at the ‘party’ – plus it gives you something to do all day,” he said.
“If you wanted to get a little fancy – send to all your friends a party box that contains the food, wines, cocktails and decorations for them to ‘set and forget’.”
For those who have a bit of cash to splash, there’s extra ways to up your party game, Keebaugh said. And you’ll help out a fellow human, too.
“Support the artists – there are so many people within the entertainment sector doing it hard, why not employ an online comedian, singer or have someone arrive for a friend and entertain them from the correct social distance – it’s like the Gorilla Gram for 2020!”
What about the kids?
You might’ve noticed the trend of drive-by parties popping up – they gained traction in the US and as such, have spread to Australia.
The concept is simple: the birthday holder (often a child) stands in their front yard while their friends drive past in a convoy of cars festooned with balloons and signs, waving and singing.
Melbourne dad Mark has chaperoned his kids on quite a few of them – he said they’re the hot new trend in child land.
“We did one the other day, with music blasting, and the family next door came out and started dancing, too,” Mark told The New Daily.
But before you get carried away, drive-bys could contradict social distancing regulations. We checked with the health department for clarification.
“People may find that state or territory restrictions for non-essential travel would prevent drive-by celebrations, and they could face fines or enforcement action,” a department spokesperson said.
“Families should consider using digital apps like Zoom, Skype and others to connect to celebrate special occasions with family and friends.”
Kelly King runs Sydney-based event business Little Miss Party Planner and has too been looking at ways to keep facilitating fun times in isolation.
Throwing a kid’s party at home doesn’t have to be hard, she said. Look around your house for inspiration: transform your living room into a movie theatre with plenty of pillows and hung sheets, set up a drinks and snacks station to fuel up before heading ‘into’ the cinema.
Ms King also suggested using what the kids are already into – one of the big ones at the moment is TikTok.
“Use what dress-ups you can find, make up some dance moves to your favourite song and one parent collects all edits,” Ms King suggested.
“Tribute is great for video collages. Play the dance video to the party hosts while enjoying a private party at home and really make their party.”
Same same but different
Melbourne woman Amy Bugela wanted her isolation birthday to closely resemble a regular birthday – but of course, with a twist.
Usually, Ms Bugela said, she’ll head out for a nice dinner with family, then hit her favourite bars with friends. And that was the plan for this year.
She organised a virtual pub crawl, complete with music and costumes – it started at 7pm with eating Italian and listening to Ennio, and ended at midnight in a pub listening to disco, plus everything in between.
“There was a very beautiful moment when my friend Holly read us her incredibly gorgeous children’s storybook that she had just completed – like a real-life book reading,” Ms Bugela said.
“That was a nice moment of peace in the generally loud and raucous party.”
She hosted the party on Zoom, and did have one piece of advice for those looking to hold their own iso-party: “I only organised one Zoom meeting – I should have organised one meeting for each pub stop on the crawl, because the extroverts at each stop wouldn’t leave and ended up staying the whole time.”
If there is a next time, she’ll segment times and pop people with similar interests at the ‘same pub’.
For a virtual party, just embrace its challenges and quirks, she said. For example – you’re not going to be able to have the same intimate conversations on a Zoom call with 50, 20 or even 10 people.
Instead, Ms King said, ask your attendees to set up a chalkboard in their ‘space’, and instruct them to don their best party gear. Ahead of time – via the invite – set a time for dinner.
Pour a glass of wine and start your Zoom dinner party – use the chalkboards to write messages to each other during dinner, while eating ‘together’ will bring you a level of connection.
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Picnics – like you’ve never seen them before – are a cornerstone of Ms King’s business. And they’re quite easy to hold in isolation, whether you’ve got a backyard or not.
“Utilise anything in the house. Create a space that appeals to your needs,” Ms King told TND.
“Turn the living space into a mini disco or set up some rugs and cushions with some lighting for something relaxed and memorable. Antipasto boards are my favourite social accessory when it comes to entertaining. Easy to prepare and affordable, too.”
You’ll probably never spend another birthday like this again, so make it memorable – splash out on a champagne tower or some Moet, Ms King said.