Prudence Takle, July 17 2020

Managing Your Guest List: Etiquette Tips For Planning A Wedding During The Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19 has hit the wedding world for 6, especially in Melbourne, Australia. We’ve had all kinds of restrictions on guest numbers, square meter space allowances, indoor/outdoor protocols – it’s been a lot to keep up with. While some couples have postponed their weddings for a later date, there are others who simply cannot wait to get married. And let’s be honest, with this coronavirus simmering under the surface, none of us are sure how long it is going to be until you can have a 250 person guest list with a Zorba’s Dance ring around the dance floor – you can’t put your life on hold forever!

Pressing ahead to become a married couple under these circumstances can be an added stress. Especially because it means planning for a wedding of 5 or a wedding of 20 or more. And while we hope everyone is understanding there’s always that cusp – once I invite them, so and so are going to feel like they should have been invited.

And you never know when some aunt will come out of the woodwork with her knickers in a knot!

It’s really conflicting to follow your heart knowing it may put some people offside. Here are some ways to maintain your grace when planning a COVID-19 wedding.

1. Create A Standby List

I keep saying to my couples, during the coronavirus pandemic, wedding numbers go down very quickly but they also go up pretty fast. In May 2020 alone in Victoria, it went from strictly 5 people, to 23 and come July - back to 5 within the metropolitan area.

Notify all your core guests that they are on standby. The absolute "if can have them we will", must have favourite of the faves type people!

Most importantly, don’t make promises to mum and dad or your children if you have them. If weddings are restricted to 5 people – the couple, the celebrant, 2 witnesses you don’t want to feel awful for having to make sacrifices.

2. Consider How To Involve Guests Who Can’t Come

I did a beautiful wedding in March 2020 with only 5 people and we live streamed it to everyone. The photographer and live stream audio guy were the witnesses. That couple are all about family at the very core, so knowing that all their loved ones were going to see it at the same time meant a lot . They really felt connected to them even though they couldn’t be present. 

And hey, the rest of their wedding guest list tuned in too! From loungerooms, balconies, backyards – their family and friends watched dressed to the nines, with babies in arms or drinks in hand. Even Granny Gwen was close enough to tune in via FM radio! Watching the out pour of love and support for them flicker through Instagram Stories and posts after the ceremony was absolutely magical.

If you're not down for live streaming, you can also think of other ways people can get involved. Put a request out to drink a certain drink in your honour or sample your favourite cuisine. It can be as simple as having a toast to you with tea or tequila! Or, I have one couple who are daring their friends and family to go streaking in celebration. Let’s hope the cops aren’t on patrol that evening!

To mark the occasion your friends can wear a certain colour, dress up or dress down, play your favourite boardgame, tune into a playlist you’ve made no Spotify – the options are endless. It’s a lovely way for everyone to feel included and as though they are with you on your special day even if they can’t be there in person.

3. Make Mention of It In Your Ceremony

Call it what it is and acknowledge it in your ceremony… Here’s some words I prepared earlier!

“Being here in the moment, Alex and Chris can’t help but feel a little disappointed all their friends and family can’t be here to see them get married and celebrate with a big party tonight.
Alex, Chris, I know you’re thinking of all the fun ways you’re going to break the news. And you can’t wait to see all the messages of congratulations and positivity coming your way when you do.
Regardless of the circumstances, everyone is thrilled for you! They wish you all the best and cannot believe that the next time they see you, you will be (Mr&Mr/Mr&Mrs/Mrs&Mrs/Mrs&Mr/Mx&Mx)”

4.  Make A Vow to Party (At A Later Date)

Take your promise to celebrate at a later date seriously and place it in your wedding vows or in your ceremony!

“Do you Alex and Chris vow, that when the world returns to a healthier state, you will throw the party of a lifetime for all your family and friends?"
-   "We will!”

5.     Think About How People Can Contribute On The Day

Usually you’d have all these designated roles and responsibilities on your wedding day.

With a more stripped back wedding, those assignments fade away. There is nothing to say they actually have to.

You can still have people do a reading, it can simply be a pre-recorded reading which is played via a laptop or on a screen or within the live stream.

Your uncle from Sydney can even play the bag pipes to close the ceremony! We can even lead into a virtual reception with your original MC and speakers delivering their speech!

Friends can write messages you can get printed on pieces of fabric which you sew into your dress or on a handkerchief come pocket square. Or on gum leaves to shower you with at the end of the ceremony.

Get someone special to organise a meal for you on the day. A grazing box for lunch or a yummy pancake breakky the morning after.

Ask someone else to organise the cake as a surprise. You can even ask your cousin to pick a posy from the local florist and deliver it to you on the day.

Ask a creative friend to style the ceremony site before you get there. And get family members to give you ornaments for the signing table or altar space.

People will feel honoured to be able to make a contribution. Please don’t see it as being rude or selfish. 

6. Politely Uninviting People

A life lesson I’ve adopted is when you have to say no to people, don’t over rationalise. Don’t give all the reasons why you can’t have some people but can have others. Break the news and move on.

Depending on the size of your original guest list and your relationship with each person, you might want to call.

If you call, write a little script. Just so you’re clear on what you’ll say and won’t get flustered or breakdown in tears without saying what you need to say.

If you’ve sent out invites, there are some really cool postponement invites around which you could borrow from. Free wedding postponement notices here.

Or use this one for inspiration.

Simply change the words to:

Well shit.
To all our amazing friends and family, we regret to inform you that our wedding is not going ahead as planned thanks to our least favourite ‘c’ word.
Love is not cancelled. We will get married with a small posse. While we can’t have you in our cheer squad, we hope you will raise a glass on 20/10/20.
It’s one day, in our lifetime together. Your ongoing love and support rocks!
X Alex & Chris

Also think about the actions you would like people to take – to tune in via live stream, to do a nudie run, to send us photos of you in your Op Shop best. With that in mind, choose the best method to break the news.

The only thing that’s worse than being uninvited to someone’s wedding is being reminded of it 8 times by all the communication platforms available!

7.     Dealing With People Who Have Zero Tact

Hate to say it, but there’s always some. Those who send the aggressive text message which leaves you thinking “why are we even friends?” Or people who just won’t give you your space when wedding planning is stressful enough, let alone in a pandemic!

Maybe just share a blog I prepared earlier: Wedding Guests: Etiquette Tips If Your Friends Are Getting Married In The Coronavirus Pandemic.

I’ll agree, it’s a touch passive-aggressive, but it might be helpful to put it out there and feel like it’s off your chest?

For sure there are those people who can’t even see that what they’re doing is wrong. The ones who say “Urgh, I HATE it when people just ask if someone’s pregnant the moment they’re not drinking at a champagne brunch! It’s so rude.” Yet they’re the ones who do it!

Sorry about them. They should really all go and quarantine in an island together! Deep down you know they have a generous heart and are good people despite their actions.

It’s your wedding and mimising your stress is key to enjoying yourself. If you snooze their messages for a couple of weeks don’t worry. Just say sorry about it later – blame it on the stress, so many things to organise etc. 

You’ll never please everyone even with a big wedding so just make sure you’re happy. Being grounded by that will lead you into a joyous day. 

If you’re thinking of adding some of these ideas in your ceremony, have a chat to me about how it might be done.

Likewise, if you’re after a live stream contact to live stream your wedding, I can make some recommendations to suit all budgets.

Finally, let me just say I’m proud of you for pushing ahead at a time like this and for following your heart. You are amazing!

x Prue

Written by

Prudence Takle

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