I mean, it's not a title anyone wants to write is it? But since we know that having a socially distanced wedding is a reality that our couples may face in the coming months... We want to help prepare you. So, is it possible to have a wedding with restrictions still in place? Is it possible for your guests to adhere to the distancing rules? It is. Be prepared to approach it with an open mind and be willing to make some changes. But rest assured that although your vision for your day may change, that it will still be full of love, magic and cake. Or cheese, if that's more your thing.
Before you decide anything, speak to your venue. They will very likely have new guidelines around capacity in order to make sure that weddings can be carried out safely following social distancing rules. To what extent venues change their capacity allowances will vary as you guessed it, each venue is different (some may have joining rooms that can be opened up for example). We keep banging on about it, but keep those lines of communication open with your suppliers. By having these conversations, you're giving yourself and your venue the opportunity to make the absolute most out of your day, even with guidelines in place. We spoke to Elmore Court, a venue member from our supplier directory, and here’s what they had to say about measures they are taking.
We’ve had a close look at how things could be set up at Elmore Court in a sensible way that keeps people safe whilst not losing atmosphere and too much intimacy. It does of course have an impact on room capacity though we are able to utilise interlinked and adjacent secondary spaces to ensure the key moments are inclusive and are accordingly looking at different ways of making this work. We think it important that we provide flexible options for our couples using both physical space and audiovisual technology - Anselm, Elmore Court.
Ultimately, the safety of your guests is why you’re having to make these changes, so let’s consider that for a minute. Speak with your venue for guidance on how best to seat your guests. Both at your ceremony and should you be holding it at the same place, your wedding breakfast. It may be that you need to look at extra tables with fewer guests per table for example. That would, of course, mean additional table decorations which may have an overall impact on your budget. But if you are spending less on food because of fewer overall guests, are you able to transfer that suddenly available catering budget over to decor? Or potentially simplify your decor designs to lower that cost. Talk to them about how to navigate your drinks reception? Can you be outside where possible? Can they provide more seating so guests can comfortably choose a safe place to park themselves, be that inside or outside? What do your guests need to know about your venue to help them stay safe? If guests are staying at your venue overnight, is it possible for them to use the bathrooms in their rooms to allow easier and freer access to public toilets? Is there a system that bar staff will be following to ensure they can safely serve guests? Is there a particular way in which people are expected to move about the venue or any spaces they should avoid where it’s not possible to be safely distanced? It’s great to be able to give guests a heads up on all of this information so that they know what to expect when they arrive at your venue. Keep in mind when seating guests that not everyone needs to be positioned two meters apart. You're often inviting multiple members of a single household, like couples (who can be seated next to each other and smooching if they like) or flatmates (who could be given a rowdy table of their own). So you only need to distance members from different households.
It’s likely that the names on your full guest list consist of some or all of the following categories:
Immediate family: parents and siblings
Extended family: Grandparents, Auntie Jane, Uncle Bob, Cousin Sue
Closest friends: Those who you go way back with and couldn’t do the day without even if you don’t speak that frequently or those you see and speak to on a daily or weekly basis.
Good friends: Those who you could see yourself having the day without. Their absence wouldn’t ruin your day.
Work colleagues: Pretty self-explanatory although we know sometimes they can also fall into the close friends group.
Plus ones for any of the above. And maybe you had this category before COVID or maybe you didn’t, but…
Vulnerable. Afterall as we’ve already discussed, guest safety is of the utmost importance here. You may find it hard to know where to start when placing levels of importance upon the people in your lives. A good place to start is by deciding who you really can’t bear to have the day without. That way, you have your ultimate ‘most important's’ - anyone else is then a bonus. And it’s good to note that those most important people may not be family or extended family. It may be that having your best friends by your side takes precedence over everyone else. And that is ok. This isn’t an easy thing to do and you’ll likely feel hugely conflicted about it, but it will essentially make the decision a lot easier if you rank guests by those you'll miss the most. Plus by grouping people it makes it more fair - groups will be more accepting of their omittance from your day if they can see that someone else who plays a similar role in your life has been ‘treated’ the same.
Ordinarily, we’d say it shouldn’t be something you do over the phone if you can help it but… Global pandemic. Although you are currently able to meet with others from a social distance, it might still feel more comfortable to speak with guests over the phone - which is way better than sending a text or an email. You don’t want tone or intent being perceived any other way than as it's intended. Speaking to someone allows them to hear how difficult reaching this decision has been. And that allows them to empathise with you more. Your first action is to give them some warning. Let your guests know that you’re having to make the difficult decision to reduce our guest list in order to go ahead with your wedding. That you will be contacting them all as soon as you have made the difficult decision of who will be able to attend. Once you have reduced your list, let guests know as soon as you can if they are or aren’t invited. Guests may be considering purchasing gifts for you, booking accommodation or making plans for new outfits and so the sooner you can help them out with those things the better. Let your guests know of ways they can be involved if they can’t physically be there. Will they be able to join in and watch a live stream of your day? Will you be having any celebrations post COVID that they can attend? Are you able to share your wedding film with them so they can see everything that happened during the day and hear your vows and speeches? It might be nice to send a card in the post following up on your call/meet up just to clarify with them the things that you’ll be doing that they can participate in. Maybe you could propose potential dates that you can see them for dinner or a picnic once restrictions are sufficiently lifted.
With all that said there still remains the point of "But how on earth do I tell them? What do I say?" The easiest thing is to simply tell the truth. The safety of your guests comes before anything else. You have whittled the list down by order of family and/or closest friends. Guests will know if they’re not your family (hopefully!) and they will also know in their heart of hearts if they’re not your closest friends. We all have friends we’re close with but we all know that within those friendship groups, some are closer than others. If you're struggling to find the words, perhaps you could use some of ours as a guide to help you.
How you came to the decision you have‘It hasn’t been easy for us to come to this decision’ ‘Going through this process has been one of the most difficult challenges we’ve faced as a couple so far.’ ‘With government restrictions thrust upon us, we have been forced into making the decision to reduce our guest list in order for us to still be able to go ahead with the day we have planned and dreamed about for so long.’ 'The need to cut down our guest list is less than ideal. It is not the day we dreamed of but it’s a day that we still want to happen so very much so we hope you can understand.’
Your ‘why’'To be able to go ahead with our wedding we have had to reduce our guest list which as you can imagine has felt impossible.' ‘It’s so important to us that no one becomes ill as an outcome of attending our wedding and considering you're more at risk, we don't want to put you in that position.’ ‘We are concerned that you will spend money on travel and then not be able to reach us, that you may have to be quarantined, that you could lose money, there are so many variables. We would feel much better about not putting you in that position of uncertainty.’
Keep your hows and whys to the point. Your main reason for cutting back numbers may be due to social distancing guidelines but perhaps, for example, you have lost work due to coronavirus and so fewer numbers are more helpful to you financially. Don’t feel you have to divulge that information unless you want to. Your main overarching ‘why’ is enough.
You may have to deal with some negativity or fall out if you uninvite someone from your wedding. Even with the extenuating circumstances, you find yourself in because of COVID-19, some guests simply may not understand. And what can you do about that? Frankly, not much. You can offer your explanation and apologies and alternative ways that they can celebrate with you but beyond that, their feelings are out of your control. Be assured and trust in your decision to continue to get married. Don't let the disappointment of some ruin what will still be a truly magical day.
You've both been through a lot to get to this point. The stress, the worry, the anxiety, and the uncertainty. We are sure there have been tears, late-night discussions, and maybe even arguments. But somehow, you've managed it. Your commitment to each other has weathered all of that and the team you have formed together has remained unshaken. That's something to be proud of. And that love is certainly something to celebrate. Plus, when you're at the top of that aisle being pronounced newlyweds, you still get to kiss your lovers face off. Take that COVID-19.
When it comes to COVID-19 support for you and your wedding planning we have plenty more reading (and listening) for you. RELATED: Postponed Wedding - 31 Ways To Acknowledge Your Original Date RELATED: How To Have A Virtual Hen Do RELATED: Small Real Wedding