virtual Halloween party

Socially-Distant And Spooky Halloween Party Ideas For 2020

Molly Grace8-Minute Read
August 15, 2022

While many of us would prefer to spend this, the spookiest of holidays, sharing candy with fellow costumed partygoers and drinking smoking cocktails with dry ice in them, the global pandemic has unfortunately made these things inadvisable for the time being.

Obviously, your and your family and friends’ health and safety should be the No. 1 priority right now, regardless of how much you want to have a big Halloween shindig. However, it’s still possible to celebrate October 31 relatively safely, provided you follow social distancing guidelines and only party with the people in your household or tight-knit social circle.

Bummed about a socially distanced Halloween? Don’t be. Here are our tips and ideas for how to throw a Halloween party that’s low-risk and fun.

First Things First: Keep It Safe

In the era of COVID, getting together with others is about understanding the level of risk that a gathering poses, how you can manage that risk, and acting responsibly so that you don’t endanger yourself or others.

While any in-person interaction carries some risk, there are ways to lower the risk of transmission while satisfying our inherent need to socialize. Just remember that there is no zero-risk social gathering and that your first priority should be the health and safety of yourself, your guests and anyone else you may come into contact with after potentially being exposed to the virus.

When planning your get together, remember that the keys to reducing transmission risk are face masks, good ventilation, proper spacing between people (at least 6 feet) and limiting the amount of time spent together.

Here are some ways you can help protect yourself and others this Halloween season, based on current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Follow Local Regulations

Make sure you’re familiar with any laws or regulations your community or state has put in place to limit the spread of COVID.

Many areas still have limits on the number of people who can attend a gathering, particularly if that gathering is happening indoors. In some places, you may have to limit your guest list to fewer than 10 people.

You should also keep in mind that just because your Halloween party is compliant with local policies doesn’t mean it’s objectively safe; even very small gatherings have been known to spread the virus.

Stay In Your Bubble

If you’re used to big bashes with lots of friends and family packed together in your home this time of year, Halloween marks the beginning of what will likely be a fairly lackluster holiday season for most.

It’s not just important to keep your guest list limited in number; it’s also vital that you consider who;s invited. Out-of-town guests are a no-no, for example.

Consider limiting the guest list to those who live in your household or those who are part of your social distancing bubble or “quaranteam.”

If you or someone you live with or provide care to is in a high-risk group for severe illness from COVID, it’s best to only party with those in your household or take the party online and try a Zoom gathering.

Take It Outside

Though it’s starting to get chilly, the foliage during this time of year makes a gorgeous backdrop for a Halloween party. Light a bonfire, break out some cozy blankets and encourage attendees to opt for warm costumes – a fuzzy animal onesie, perhaps?

When you hold a party outdoors, not only will people likely have more space to remain at least 6 feet apart, but the fresh outdoor air will more quickly disperse respiratory droplets hanging in the air, lowering the likelihood that you’ll breathe in enough of the virus to become infected.

If you can’t have your party outdoors and decide to have a small indoor gathering, you should open a few windows or doors if possible to increase ventilation.

Have Rules And Stick To Them

Though no great party host wants to make their guests follow a bunch of burdensome rules, having guidelines that lower the risk of COVID transmission is a must.

Masks, obviously, should be a requirement for any guest who attends your party. And no, costume masks don’t count. According to the CDC, a costume mask should not be used as a substitute for a cloth face mask “unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.”

Additionally, the CDC advises that you do not wear a costume mask over a cloth face mask, as this can make it hard to breathe.

In addition to masks, guests should know that they’re expected to stay at least 6 feet apart from each other and that they should stay home if they feel sick or have likely been exposed to the virus.

Keep in mind that everybody’s level of comfort during this time is different. Make it clear to your invitees that there’ll be no hard feelings if they decide not to attend.

Be The Host With The Most (Masks)

Though most pre-party prepping involves putting out things like chips and dip, for this party you might instead consider putting out some fresh, disposable masks that your guests can use if they forget to bring one.

In addition to providing masks, make sure there is plenty of hand sanitizer, liquid hand soap and tissues to go around.

Consider BYO Everything

Speaking of chips and dip, it’s not a good idea to have everyone sharing food, drinks and utensils right now. Consider making your party a bring-your-own-drinks and bring-your-own-food party. Have disposable utensils, plates, napkins and cups available as well.

If you want to provide food for your guests, think about how you can minimize people touching others’ food or sharing serving utensils. Lay out individually wrapped snacks, such as small bags of chips or candy (it is Halloween, after all). For meals, have one person with gloves or thoroughly washed hands carefully put together individual plates or trays for everyone.

Same goes for drinks or cocktails. Though the punch bowl filled with dry ice is usually an obvious choice for a Halloween party, allowing multiple people to share a ladle is an unnecessary risk right now.

Practice Good Hygiene

Make sure to clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces right before your guests arrive.

Proper hygiene is especially important in the bathroom. While it’s unclear how much these rooms and infamous “toilet plumes” can contribute to spreading the virus, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

What is a toilet plume? Basically, every time you flush a toilet, the force of the flush sprays microscopic particles into the air. If COVID is present in these particles (which current research suggests is possible), it’s conceivable that the airborne droplets could increase the risk of infection.

Because of this, you may want to put a note in your bathroom reminding your guests to put the lid down prior to flushing.

You should also provide liquid hand soap and paper towels in any bathrooms guests will be using.

Be OK With Cancelling

Normally, cancelling a party at the last minute is a hosting faux pas, but under the circumstances, you should feel free – and, in fact, obliged – to cancel your party if you suddenly aren’t feeling well, have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID or if your ability to hold a socially-distanced gathering changes.

Keep an eye on COVID numbers in your area. If your region is experiencing a surge in new cases, it may be a good idea to cancel or move the party to video chat.

Now that you’re aware of all the things you’ll need to do to lower the risk of you or your guests transmitting the virus, here’s how to throw a totally spooktacular Halloween party.

Go All-Out With Decorations

The key to a terrifically terrifying Halloween party is properly setting the mood. Fortunately, many of the best Halloween decorations are cheap to buy or easy to DIY.

For a backyard party, placing a few small clusters of pumpkins here and there is a simple way to suggest a Halloween vibe. Sprinkle some hay around the yard for added effect.

For a spookier setting that’s easy to create on your own, pick up some black poster board or construction paper. Cut out some eerie, shadowy shapes to place around your yard – an owl perched on a branch, bats hanging from the trees or a foreboding figure peeking out from a hiding spot.

Don’t forget the impact of good lighting: set up a strobe for a scary effect or hang orange or purple string lights or place LED tea candles around your space for a warm glow.

Create A Spooky Photo Backdrop

Every good party needs a great photo backdrop so all your guests have something to show for it on their social media feeds.

Hang a pretty metallic backdrop or create your own background with some black and orange streamers or balloons. Depending on whether you’re going for gruesome or glamorous, glue or tape on some tiny plastic spiders or add some glitter to your backdrop.

Though having photo booth props is a popular addition to a party backdrop, you should probably skip these this time around – you want to avoid objects that multiple people will be touching and potentially putting near their faces.

Screen A Scary Movie

If it’s not too cold where you are and you have the equipment to pull it off (including a projector or the ability to rent or borrow one), you might consider inviting some people over for a socially distanced, backyard movie night.

Have all your guests bring their own lawn chairs or set up some air mattresses for people to get cozy on – just make sure that only those who live in the same household share seating, to avoid spreading germs.

If the movie is extra scary and you anticipate one or more of your guests will be left screaming in fear, the CDC recommends upping your physical distancing beyond the minimum 6 feet.

For a completely socially distanced scary movie viewing with friends, consider watching together through Zoom or by using the Teleparty (formerly known as Netflix Party) extension on Google Chrome, which allows you to watch movies and TV on several different streaming platforms in sync with your friends.

Encourage Masked Costumes

Keep this year’s costume contest safe by requiring masks and encouraging guests to have fun with it.

The face mask market has been booming for the past several months as stores work to create masks to match every mood.

Now that Halloween is upon us, there is a huge variety of Halloween-themed face masks to choose from, from adorable pumpkin and candy corn patterns to scary, costume-worthy masks.

If you’re looking for a mask that complements your costume, Etsy is a great place to start.

Set Up Some Backyard Activities

Keep your guests entertained with some games that can be played while 6 feet apart. Cornhole or pumpkin bowling are great choices because they’re played in turns, meaning whoever isn’t taking their turn can back away a safe distance while they wait for the next player to go.

Another option is to have your guests each bring a pumpkin for carving. Set up individual stations in your yard for each person to create their jack-o’-lantern masterpiece. Once it gets dark, hold a pumpkin lighting ceremony.

The Bottom Line

Halloween is going to look different this year – all of our holidays are. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t still have a fun and spooky Halloween. We just have to take certain precautions.

If you want to have a party during a pandemic, you’ll need to do a lot of planning to keep yourself and your guests as safe as possible. To lower your risk of spreading COVID, consider limiting your guest list to just household members or those within your social bubble. Or, throw a virtual party instead.

Though you might miss spending Halloween mask-less and packed into a poorly ventilated room with all your friends and acquaintances, spending the night bundled up watching movies in the backyard or carving pumpkins together from a safe distance can be just as memorable and just as fun.

Check out more tips for homeowners on the Rocket Homes℠ blog.

Molly Grace

Molly Grace is a staff writer focusing on mortgages, personal finance and homeownership. She has a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University. You can follow her on Twitter @themollygrace.