Quarantine birthday, anniversary, movie night: How to throw a virtual party during lockdown

While you can't spend time with loved ones right now, you can still be there for each other virtually.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
Expertise Personal Finance: Social Security and taxes
Katie Teague
4 min read

You don't have to celebrate your birthday alone.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

More and more people in coronavirus lockdown have begun throwing parties, celebrating their birthdays, having graduation ceremonies and hosting movie nights with their friends and family -- remotely, of course. Due to quarantine, friends and family have had to get creative when it comes to celebrating special days. If you're looking to throw a virtual party for yourself or someone else, we've got several ideas to get you started.

For example, you can use a video chat platform like Zoom or Skype to throw a birthday party. You can also plan a night to play virtual games with friends using a video chat service or host a movie night with Netflix Party

Remember that you'll eventually get to schedule meaningful events with your loved ones in person, but until then here are some virtual party ideas to try during social distancing.


Have a Zoom party with friends and family.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Throw a Zoom party

Whether it's your birthday or you just graduated from high school or college, it's a huge milestone that you want to share with your loved ones. And while you can't see everyone in person, you can still share your big day with them by using a video chat service.

You have several services to choose from, like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and Houseparty. Note that not everyone has used a video chat service, so it's best to send out invites to your friends and family in advance with instructions. For example, your parents or friends may have never used Zoom before, so a guide that helps them learn how to use Zoom will help prevent interruptions.

When hosting your online birthday or graduation party, it's best to have it on your TV so you can easily see everyone. To do so, you can either cast the video chat from your iPhone or Android phone to your TV or connect your laptop to your TV.

Decorate your background with banners that say "Happy Birthday" or "Graduation Party," with balloons and streamers. Your friends and family can participate by having decorations too. Give each person time to tell a memory about you so you can reminisce.

Host a virtual game night

Plan a night where all your friends can play games for around an hour or two. Here are some options that allow for larger groups to play.

Jackbox Games: When playing Jackbox Games, everyone signs in from their phones by going to jackbox.tv and entering the room code. You can start a video chat if you want to see your friends while playing.

Heads Up!: Using the video chat app, Houseparty, you can play Heads Up! and other games with up to eight friends at a time. 

Minecraft: If you haven't been playing Minecraft with your friends, now's the time to start. You create a virtual character and join a server with all your friends. You can chat with your guests while playing, but if you want to voice chat, you'll need to use FaceTime or Skype .

You can even plan a scavenger hunt for birthday-related things people may have around the house, like birthday candles and balloons. The first person to snap photos of everything on the list wins.

Angela Lang/CNET

Watch movies and TV shows simultaneously

Host a movie night with your friends using a service like Netflix Party or the AirTime app. Both let you watch movies simultaneously with friends by giving everyone the option to pause or play a movie. 

Netflix Party lets you watch anything on Netflix while you chat in a sidebar with friends. The AirTime app lets you watch YouTube videos while video chatting with friends and has a selection of movies integrated into the app that you can choose from. Both are great options for catching up with friends while watching movies and videos.


Your friends can decorate your driveway with chalk.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Decorate the outside of your home with birthday, graduation or anniversary messages

Make a banner. Blow up balloons. Hang streamers or flashing lights. Decorating the outside of your house is one way to make people on the inside of your house feel loved, celebrated and announced.

You can also get others into the act. Friends and family can decorate your driveway or sidewalk with chalk. They can also decorate your car or front door with balloons and streamers, and window paint (if you allow it). Or they can leave cards and messages at your front door (better for apartment living than chalk art). Another option is to simply ask them to drive by and honk or wave while you sit outside.

Need more ideas to virtually hang out with friends? Here are the best online games to play with friends during quarantine, nine ideas for virtual dates while social distancing and 11 things to do in quarantine when you've already made three loaves of banana bread.

Watch this: Keep in touch with loved ones while keeping your distance