Coping with COVID: Guest List Adjustments and Etiquette 

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After months of postponing, cancelling, recreating and manipulating their original wedding plans, couples are finally starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.   As we inch toward normal, couples that held out on getting married are beginning to see their wedding vision come to fruition.  It has been a long, hard year but we applaud you for waiting it out…as we know, love conquers all. 

As we head toward normal, many couples are moving forward with their initial vision at their venue of choice with their guest count untouched…however with a year long pandemic still lurking in the shadows, some couples have to make tough decisions.  Whether your venue is still not allowing maximum capacity, the travel restrictions are still in place where you live,  or this year long pandemic brought with it financial hardship, the sad truth is sometimes adjustments have to be made. 

Cutting guests from your guest list is definitely tough. Unfortunately, it has become all too common over the last year.  It is as painful for the couple as it is for the friends and family members, and there is no easy way to do it. Read on for some tips on how to adjust your guest list with both etiquette and grace.

Wedding VIP’s

We highly recommend that your first step in this arduous process should be determining those that cannot be missed. Always make sure your VIP’s are included instead of focusing on who you shouldn’t include. Your wedding VIP’s are usually your immediate family, grandparents, and your wedding party plus their spouses or significant others.  Once they are included in your number, continue adding on your closest relatives and friends until you reach your max. 

Rule of Etiquette: If you are inviting one aunt, it is important that you invite all of your aunts (and uncles too).  However the bride and groom do not have to follow the same rules.  If the groom is not close to any of his aunts and uncles, he doesn’t have to invite them just because the bride did! 

Planners Tip:  Never count on someone responding “no”.  If you have a very strict guest limit, we do not suggest going this route.  When making adjustments, inviting those closest and dearest to you first is the way to go.  If you do get a “no”, then revisit your list to see who you can add.

First Things First

Communication is key when making this tough decision.  Chat with your VIP’s to make sure everyone is willing to be a part of your celebration.  Remember some people are still weary of travel, have underlying conditions and have financial hardships of their own.  Reaching out to your core group will determine who will definitely attend and give you an idea right away about numbers and how far into your guest list you have to cut.  Talking to your vendors about their own capacity limitations and restrictions is also important to do at the beginning of this process.  Having everyone on the same page is a good starting point for this somewhat tough journey. 

Sooner Rather than Later

During COVID, many couples have relied on their wedding website to keep loved ones abreast of any new information..  This is a resource where you can effectively communicate with your guests regardless of where they live. We suggest letting guests know the options you are considering and why you have to consider them.  This can potentially reassure them about the decision that you will ultimately make.  The website is a great emotional buffer for when it comes time to make personal phone calls to the guests that will have to miss out on your special day. 

Remember…Be Gracious in How You Communicate

Text messages and emails are easy, but not the way to communicate under these conditions. For this situation, we suggest a phone call as the only acceptable method to use.  Giving guests the time to chat with you about the circumstances surrounding your decision and to reassure them that this is not how you hoped your wedding would be, is heartfelt and meaningful.  A text or email is in bad taste and certainly not proper wedding etiquette. Although it will be time consuming and tough, it is the only way to conquer this task with grace. 

Include a Virtual Element 

Although we are all probably sick of virtual meetings and events and we are certainly  craving human touch and interaction, offering a virtual element to your wedding is a beautiful way to invite everyone that can’t be there in person to join in on your celebration.  Whether you livestream your wedding or include a digital photo booth in your reception, the inventive streaming options are out there for you.  Couples will often ship cocktail kits or mini cakes to the guests that are not able to celebrate in person.  Small little touches like this make those guests from afar feel special and significant. 

Some Rules of Guest List Etiquette Answered

Do I have to invite all of my reception guests to the ceremony?

Okay, so maybe your venue is operating at full capacity, but your ceremony spot is not.  It is perfectly okay to invite some people to the reception only.  The way to navigate this situation is to leave any and all ceremony information off of the save the dates, invitations and response cards. To invite only a select few to the ceremony, include an extra piece of stationary in those envelopes letting them know their presence is requested at the ceremony as well as the reception.

Can I write “adults only” on my invitation? 

Limited capacity is a tough situation to deal with, and those spots become precious! But unfortunately it is not proper etiquette to write “no kids allowed”.  The only way to express this to your guests is to simply leave their names off the invitation.  If you get a response card with an entire family on  it then you can call and graciously explain the situation surrounding limitations and restrictions. 

How do you decide who can bring a date?

This is especially important right now when we are dealing with a pandemic and its repercussions.  First and foremost, your wedding party should always be invited with their spouse or significant other. After those plus ones are part of your VIP count, then the rule of thumb gets put into action.  If your numbers are limited, proper etiquette suggests that a guest who is in a relationship for over one year, married or living together should be invited with a guest. 

Guest lists are tough to manipulate even when the world is at ease, throw a pandemic into the mix and we are talking about a situation that can border on impossible.  A wedding is a celebration of love and togetherness so naturally we want everyone we love together in one room. Although we are certainly getting closer to pre-COVID weddings, we still have to navigate this situation carefully and cautiously. Nothing will make this easier, but we sure help these tips can take some of the stress out of this task. 

Follow along for our best tips, tricks, and advice that we've gathered after almost a decade of making wedding magic happen! 



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