how to host a virtual celebration

This month, Dufresne is celebrating its 35th anniversary and we can’t help but think about how much celebrations have changed in the past year. It seems like overnight we had to completely rethink the way we mark occasions from the safety of our bubbles.

Now that we’ve had 12 months with varying degrees of restrictions in place, we have seen the full gamut of occasions—holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, retirements, and even a few weddings. We’ve changed how we celebrate, but what hasn’t changed is our need to feel connected and to make others feel special.

There’s no question that celebrations have become smaller and more intimate, but we have to applaud the people who have found creative new ways to celebrate joyfully, taking virtual parties to a whole new level. As we approach our milestone event, we’re taking a look at some of the inspiring ideas that gave life to our celebrations over the past year. And, who knows—even when things get back to normal, we might be keeping some of these.

Host a Virtual Happy Hour
Sure, any Zoom call can be accompanied by a cocktail, but we love the idea of everyone mixing and enjoying the same drink during virtual happy hour. To make it easy and cost-effective for everyone on the guest list to take part, put together and deliver kits containing the ingredients to each participant before the party. If you are going to make this a regular event, have your guests split the cost of the supplies or consider taking turns hosting and putting together the kits.

Provide each guest with enough ingredients to make one or two cocktails. Hard alcohol and wine can be decanted from a large bottle into tightly-sealed 2–6 oz glass jars, or purchase “mini-bar” size bottles, while mixers like beer and soda should be given in their original cans or bottles. If there are any homemade ingredients on the list, like simple syrup, those can be given in a jar or you can provide the recipe and have your guests prepare them beforehand.

Don’t forget to include fresh herbs or fruit for juicing or garnish, and any unusual or uncommon ingredients, like flake salt or vanilla beans. To round out your cocktail kit, be sure to add something fun like a cocktail umbrella or, if you can get it there quickly, a small bag of slow-melting craft ice.

At party time, whoever is acting as the host welcomes the guests, then guides the group through the mixing of the drink. Before the guests take their first sip, make sure they hold up their creation and propose a toast. After that, you can just let the party unfold while everyone enjoys their drink and looks forward to the next event.

Organize a Drop-Off Potluck Party
One of our favourite new traditions that came out of Christmas 2020 was the “drop-off potluck,” which was just like a regular potluck, except the dishes were brought TO the participants instead of the other way around. Although it took a few logistical tweaks, like packaging in individual servings, and a bit of effort to distribute the packages to friends and family, the results were so worth it.

To get your drop-off potluck off to a good start, have your guests RSVP by signing into a shared document online and adding their name and dish to the list. You shouldn’t have to moderate the list—most people won’t put themselves down for a dish if they already see it there—but if you start to see some holes in the menu, you might want to add a list of suggestions to the doc. Be sure to give some guidance for serving sizes, as well, so everyone gives and receives a similar amount of food.

Close to drop-off day, check in with your guests to make sure they have all of the addresses and any special instructions, and remind them to watch for deliveries or provide a secure place for them to be left (a cooler or large tote is ideal). For food safety, it’s best that all cooked dishes are delivered cold with reheating instructions.

Because the participants will likely want to eat on their own schedules (and not on camera), start a chat or Facebook group for pictures and comments and let the participants add to the conversation at their own pace.

Let’s Netflix and Party
Some of our favourite birthday parties as kids were movie parties with a handful of friends and heaps of popcorn and cake. Even though parties are on pause, you can still recreate the experience from home with a Netflix watching party. And, spoiler alert, you don’t have to be a kid to have a fun movie party!

Teleparty is a free Chrome extension that lets you watch a movie with up to 50 of your closest friends. All you need to participate is a laptop or desktop computer with the extension installed and a subscription to Netflix or Disney+. And, although the service is only available as a Chrome extension, if you prefer to watch on the big screen you can use Chromecast to cast to your smart tv.

Using Teleparty couldn’t be simpler, but make sure your guests each have an active Netflix or Disney+ account and have installed the extension before the party starts. Once you have chosen your movie, Teleparty provides you with a unique URL to share with each guest, allowing them to watch on their own device, perfectly synched with yours. Teleparty also includes a group chat feature that lets everyone comment on the action and be a part of the fun without getting shushed.

For an extra-special touch, deliver a care package of movie-night drinks and snacks to each of your guests on the day of or before your party. You can’t go wrong with classic popcorn and soda, but feel free to take it up a notch for the grownups with craft beer or individual bottles of champagne. If it’s a birthday party, or you just love cake, include a cupcake and candle or sparkler for the perfect finishing touch.

Of course, you don’t need a reason to celebrate the people you love. We encourage you to take one of our suggestions and throw a “just because” party at home. If you do, tag #DufresneStyle on Instagram so we can join the celebration.