By Amy Hunt
Celebrating special occasions at the moment is wildly different to what it would have been a few months ago.
Usually a birthday, anniversary, or engagement celebration would mean family and friends getting together, drinks or dinner in a busy, bustling venue, or - in this warm sunny weather - a BBQ in the back garden.
However, with the coronavirus pandemic still dominating all aspects of our lives - and the UK lockdown still in full force - things are set to be quite different for the foreseeable future.
Now, almost all of our interactions (bar those with the people we live with), have been moved online, from our work to our social lives.
But that doesn't mean that we can't still enjoy social celebrations as much as ever - it just means we can't conduct them in the same way as we usually would
There's so much brilliant technology at our fingertips right now, that we can still enjoy a birthday party or a catch-up with friends, or wish someone the best on a special occasion, all with the help of the internet.
So here are a few ideas for marking a special occasion while you can't meet up for real...
How to mark special occasions online
Get everyone on a group Zoom call
Zoom is a video chat service that's exploded in popularity during the coronavirus crisis. And if you're looking to plan a virtual get-together with a large group, it's one of the best ways of doing so.
Simply create an account and set up a meeting, and send the link round to all of the people you'd like to invite. Zoom allows you to see everyone in a grid square, so it's almost like you're all in the same room.
It's one of the best services for video quality too, so you'll be able to chat and 'party' easily. If you're celebrating a birthday, it's the perfect way to sing 'Happy Birthday' to your loved one too, as a group!
Send round an e-invite to make sure everyone sets aside the time
Even in these days of lockdown, with reduced workloads and schedules clear of social commitments or appointments, it's still important to ensure everyone can attend a celebration - and knows exactly when it's happening.
Set things in stone by sending a virtual invite to your online get-together. You can use websites like evite.com, paperlesspost.com to send an email invite, or create your own uniquely designed invitation via Canva. You'llsure everyone knows when and at what time to log on - as well as giving you a chance to enjoy a little creative outlet during the long days of lockdown.
Get a video-calling portal if you can
Video calling tablets can be useful for seeingloved ones on a larger screen, particularly for older members of your family who may not be as comfortable with online apps.
There are all sorts of video calling devices to choose from - be it this Facebook option from £188, which pans, zooms and widens as you walk around the room, or the Alexa Echo show, £49.99, which also allows you to video call with friends and family - as well as enjoy all the other perks, such as calendar organisation, or weather and traffic updates.
Of course, in these strange times, demand for these items is high, so you may need to anticipate waiting a little longer for the device to arrive.
Host a group Netflix party for a chilled out celebration
If you and yours would normally mark a birthday or other celebration with a visit to the cinema, hosting a group party on Netflix could be a great alternative.
With the Netflix party extension in Chrome, you can all watch the same film at the same time, and you can even pause and resume the movie at the same time too, as all screens will be synced up.
Plus, there's even a chat room on the extension where you can discuss what you've just watched.
Send a special gift in the post
Although you might ordinarily go shopping for the perfect gift in the shops to mark a grandparents special anniversary, or a best friend's 50th, now, that just isn't possible.
But it doesn't mean you can't still send friends and family members gifts to celebrate their important day.
On Prezzybox.com, you can send letterbox gifts including letterbox sweets for younger friends or family members, or, send a treat hamper from Interflora, full of food and drink, to a loved one you can't celebrate with in person. Moonpig.com also offer delivery of gift sets - from alcohol, to food and beauty.
Or, it may be fun to organise gift vouchers - perhaps to their favourite restaurant - for them to use when the pandemic is over. It'd certainly be something to look forward to!
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