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How to Tastefully Downsize Your Wedding Guest List During COVID-19

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Need to scale back your wedding celebration but are worried about hurting feelings? Check out this guide to tastefully downsizing your wedding in light of COVID-19 or any other reason.


One of the biggest lessons we’ve all learned over the course of the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic is things can change at any moment. Restrictions can be imposed in an attempt to keep us (and our loved ones) out of harm’s way, and they can be lifted just as quickly. Weeks and months can truly make a difference! As a result, planning a wedding during a pandemic is tricky, to say the least. 

With the pandemic continuing into much of 2021, couples are now facing new decisions, like opting to downsize their wedding versus postponing their celebration. But, before you officially downsize, you’re going to have to tackle a number of questions head-on:

  • How do you downsize a wedding?
  • How do you choose which guests receive a coveted invite and which guests receive an apology note?
  • What is the best way to you inform guests of your decision?
  • How can you still include the loved ones who you can’t host physically due to pandemic restrictions?

We’re going to dive into these questions and more as we explore how to tastefully downsize your wedding (hopefully without any hurt feelings).   

Focus on Safety: 

Rather than focusing on the fact that the wedding you had hoped for might not be in the cards, try to focus on the safety of you, your partner, and your guests.

At its core, a wedding is a party (albeit a very special one). Even though you are sure to have fun at your party in the moment, the repercussions could break your heart. The second you hear a guest may have contracted the virus as a result of attending your event, the joy you experienced could quickly be overshadowed. So, allow us to state a (slightly hard to swallow) fact: it’s not worth it.

Doing your part to help to maintain the health of your friends and family by keeping them safe means you will have many, many more opportunities to gather together in the future. As much as it may sting now, future gatherings and more time spent together during the years to come makes this decision worth its weight in gold.

Decide with Time to Spare:

As we noted above, regulations and restrictions in cities and states are constantly changing and ever-evolving. As a result, the temptation to wait to make a formal decision about your wedding is real. And, we understand why! However, we would implore you to not wait too long to decide.

The longer you wait to announce you’re downsizing your wedding, the more work you will need to do to undo the plans you’ve set in place. For example, if you already sent invitations, you will need to send a “change of plans” announcement of some sort to everyone who received a formal invite. However, if you make the call to pivot earlier, the process becomes much easier and likely less expensive.

Plus, downsizing early means you will be able to prevent guests from spending too much time debating attending versus keeping themselves safe. This is especially important for guests who will need to either fly or drive a long distance to attend.

We’re beyond the year mark of the pandemic, so we can generally sense where things are headed. Though things can change, owning your decision to host an intimate or micro wedding means you can move forward with confidence rather than hitting the panic button days or weeks before you walk down the aisle.  

Start Small Then Build Up:

Once you have made the decision to downsize your wedding, one of the harder parts of the process officially begins: choosing the guests who you would like to attend in person. In order to make this process easier, start small.

Your immediate family (think: parents, siblings, and perhaps grandparents) will likely be top of mind. For some, that might be the full guest list you can invite. And, that’s fine! If you still have room to include more people, look to aunts, uncles, and cousins. Then move onto close friends.

The key people to leave off of your guest list in order to stay focused: plus ones, coworkers, friends you don’t reach out to often, and guests of your parents. In general, we’re BIG fans of small weddings.


Personalize Your Communication: 

After you determine your official intimate wedding guest list, the next step to take is to formally inform your guests of your decision. Rather than giving into the temptation to simply post the news on social media, look to the mail instead.

Think about working with a stationery designer or graphic designer friend to create a worded announcement you can mail to the guests who you can no longer host at your wedding. This article has a number of excellently worded ideas!

As you’re working on writing your note, turn back to the first point and focus on safety. Mention you’re planning to solely invite your immediate circle, but guests can join from home to witness moments like your ceremony and first dance virtually over Zoom. You can even make mention of a future celebration with everyone gathered together once it’s safe to do so again.

Kindness, at this point, is key.

Limit Social Media:

One of the things many of us miss at this point is seeing friends and family in person, not to mention attending events together. On your wedding day, the guests who cannot attend will likely feel like they’re missing out on what could have been. To keep feelings in mind, consider asking the guests who will be attending your wedding day to limit how much they share on social media. Posting a few snaps is totally fine, but filling an Instagram feed with wedding photos will only lead to FOMO.  

Consider adding a virtual component:

There are plenty of moments that guests look forward to witnessing on your wedding day, and you can still include those attending from afar in all of your festivities! Consider checking out virtual wedding services like Wedfuly or LoveStream to get help in making your live streaming component top-notch. (PS – we have exclusive discounts for both of these services in our Wedding Deals section so don’t miss out on these special offers!)

If you’re looking for a cheap option in a pinch, look to Zoom! At publishing time, you can host a free 40-minute meeting with up to 100 participants over Zoom, which is just enough time to air a wedding ceremony. In order to invite your guests, email them a link with the password and ceremony time. You can even ask them to dress in their “wedding day best”. Then put a tech-savvy friend in charge of making sure everyone is able to tune in. If you’re looking for additional Zoom opportunities to include your guests, think about streaming toasts and your first dance. You can also schedule in time to chat with everyone online. 

Look to the Future:

The good news is hope is definitely on the horizon, and we should be ushering in a new normal sometime soon. Love most certainly is not canceled, and gatherings will happen again. So, look to the future!

Think about hosting an anniversary party a year or a few down the line. While it might not be your wedding day, the date isn’t what’s important – the fact that you’re with your favorite people is what you should focus on. And, when you do gather, it’s the people who will (finally!) surround you who will make you the happiest.

Are you downsizing your wedding? What are the key things you have found to be the most helpful? Share with us in the community!


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