The times are feeling a bit apocalyptic. As I write this, last night’s Chicago snowfall has eclipsed the furniture in my backyard; my car is but a memory; my driveway never existed. The topography of my neighborhood is flat and blindingly white. It doesn’t matter — we weren’t going anywhere anyway.
I cannot believe that it’s been almost a full year since COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. In preparation for writing this, I looked back at my last “Letter from the Editor” which happened to be in April of 2020. I was filled with hope — as I still am now. But, I was also filled with naiveté.
As a company, PartySlate was launching our #CelebrateSoon campaign, a reminder that our global situation was temporary. My letter’s short-sightedness wasn’t in the messaging, because I believe it as firmly today as I did then: people still want to celebrate the most important moments in their lives with the most important people in their lives. But, I misread the timeline.
Ten months later, we’re still social distancing. We’re still wearing masks when we leave the house. We’re still wearing a nice shirt on top paired with pajamas on the bottom for Zoom meetings. But I was also naive about the events industry. Over the past year, I have been wowed.
Albert Einstein famously said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” To that I say, Sir, the events industry is filled with geniuses. I have witnessed adaptation at lightning speed. Groups mobilized into coalitions to advocate for the events industry at state and national levels, requesting funding, but also clear safety standards for events.
Closer to home, PartySlate immediately began offering a free digital education series focused on topics that our self-described “tech-geek” co-founder Julie Roth Novack is well-versed in. We were working to help a temporarily-halted industry persevere.
In the meantime, the industry’s most creative and nimble minds turned to virtual events. Event planners learned about technology; caterers turned to home delivery for virtual events and expanded their offerings to include online cooking instruction for virtual engagement; entertainment companies took their talent online and some hosted concerts on social media to lift everyone’s spirits.
In the absence of guidelines for in-person gatherings, event planners, venues, caterers, and more worked together to define their own. They devised plans for safe event check-in, spaced-out seating, comfortable food service, and so on. They teamed up with medical professionals to offer services for on-site COVID-19 testing at events. And designers, with an eye for beauty, stepped in to create custom masks for safe celebrations that were still chic (see a fun example here).
As events have gradually reopened to smaller groups, we’ve seen the rise of terms like “hybrid” to describe events that combine in-person celebrants with those joining remotely. “Micro wedding” is the rising term for nuptials with fewer than 50 attendees, and “minimony” describes 10 or fewer guest gatherings. In short, the industry has innovated.
Here’s how I know events will be back — and even bigger than before. Last Friday night, four friends and I waded through snow and sat outside (chairs 6-feet apart and in 4-degree weather) to celebrate “Galentine’s Day” together. It is not a tradition; in fact, I’ve never before celebrated this made-up holiday. But our need to gather was so strong that we ignored the silly play-on-words and fabricated nature of the “holiday,” donned boot and glove warmers, swaddled in blankets, and celebrated. We agreed to an hour-long timeframe to avoid hypothermia, but ended up breaking open new packages of warmers and stayed nearly three hours, trading stories serious and hysterical until we couldn’t feel our toes. We luxuriated in just being together.
While #CelebrateSoon last April might have been too optimistic, our hope wasn’t misplaced. With so many clever and safe ways to gather and a vaccination rollout plan underway, “soon” is closer than ever.