How to Throw a Drive-by Birthday Party

With the emergence of our new normal, what was once a place of meticulously planned and well-executed celebratory parties is now more solemn and somewhat bittersweet. You might have already heard about or participated in one of the new ways we have come to celebrate birthdays since COVID-19 and social distancing swept the country: the drive-by birthday party.

Because they are still new to many, having already been through one with our family, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the whole ordeal and compile a list of drive-by birthday party do’s and don’ts.

The Do’s

  • Set a time and date. Send invitations via Facebook, emailed E-vites, or another “non-contact” way to get the word out to friends and family. And don’t forget your neighbors because chances are there will be singing, cheering, screaming, honking, music, etc. so you don’t want them to feel like they’ve missed out or even worse surprise them with so much unexpected noise.
  • Throw the party in front of your home, or if you are in an apartment complex, maybe designate a fielded area or empty parking lot.
  • Decorate! Pull out all the old decor you might’ve kept: leftover balloons, streamers, and even garland. Use tissue paper to make pom poms. Take and display things you might already have around the house like stuffed animals and toys—why not a zoo themed party?
  • Pull up those DIY party ideas you once found on Pinterest, but never got around to doing. For your kids, young and old, this might be a perfect art project to do together. Better yet, ask them to come up with some decoration ideas of their own using what’s already around the house. Problem-solving and creativity!
  • Play music, but don’t blast it! Especially during work days/ work hours. Be mindful of those working remotely in your neighborhood or apartment complex.
  • Set expectations for your children (especially if they’re young) as the event itself might become very difficult for them when they visually see their friends, but can’t come close to them or play with them. Explain what will be happening during the party. Let them know where they can sit/stand/dance at a safe distance from the cars and people. Remind them that they should never run into the street or towards the moving cars, even if the cars are moving very slowly. I say this coming from experience. My children are usually understanding of this rule, but for some reason, when it was a parade of cars in front of our house, this rule went out the window. My husband and I found ourselves constantly yelling at our kids to stay back.
  • Take photos and videos! Drive-by birthday parties are very quick and it’s easy to miss details, so take lots of photos and videos to enjoy after the fun. During our party, I missed some details on posters and decor that people had done on and in their cars and was so glad to have photos to look through afterward! 


The Don’ts

  • Don’t plan a get-together right after! This literally defeats the purpose of the drive-by birthday party. It’s amazing what I’ve heard about how some of these socially-distant birthday parties were ending in actual parties.
  • Don’t share open food by passing through car windows.
  • Don’t stop to chit-chat with each carload of friends and end up with a backed-up, crowded street with noisy vehicles blocking driveways.
  • Don’t use loose decor like confetti and avoid balloons that aren’t affixed to something. Trust me! It was windy when we threw ours, and I had filled a small pool with balloons thinking how cute, which turned into us chasing balloons around the neighborhood. 

Other Mom Tips

  • Don’t expect gifts. And remember, we are still trying to limit contact as best we can. But just in case, maybe designate a spot furthest from your seating/standing point where people can hop out of their cars to quickly leave the gifts on a table or lawn space.
  • If you plan to give out something to guests, have it in a designated area where they can pick it up themselves. One idea I’ve noticed were people buying packaged goodies from local bakeries and whatnot. I think that’s a great way we can support our local businesses, but have a designated spot for easy pick up.
  • Have family or friends who don’t exactly live with you, but want to watch and be a part of it all? You need to determine if this is OK with you, which may depend on whether these family members and friends have been observing the same social-distancing guidelines you have been. If you decide to include others, do mention all the rules to them so everyone has the same expectations and boundaries. You don’t want Grandma suddenly running up to a car window to collect a gift if you’ve designated an area for guests to leave them. We still need to respect others and what they might deem comfortable social distancing. 

As with most of the new normal, we are all still adjusting to these changed celebrations. With the various reopening plans around our area, I’m interested in hearing whether you will still be incorporating the drive-by birthday party in your future party planning. Suggestions and ideas are welcome in the comments!

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