In pre-pandemic times, wedding season would be well underway, with elaborate celebrations across the region.
But the pandemic has uprooted nearly every aspect of life, including the way we celebrate love.
The coronavirus spreads primarily from person to person, and people are especially at risk in poorly ventilated, indoor spaces.
Couples who were scheduled to get married this summer are making difficult choices: Do they postpone their weddings entirely? Get married with just immediate family there and have a larger party at a later date, when it is safe to do so? Or have the wedding they planned but cut down the guest list?
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All of the options come with logistical challenges, etiquette questions you won’t find in a wedding handbook, and lots and lots of stress for brides, grooms, and guests.
When planning a wedding during a pandemic, the soon-to-wed couple should prioritize the health and safety of their guests, advises the Knot, a popular wedding-planning website that has put together resources for couples navigating this period. For people moving forward with a wedding, the Knot suggests setting backup dates with venues and vendors in case infections surge or gathering restrictions change.
In Pennsylvania, indoor gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited, though up to 250 people may gather at one time outside (Philadelphia’s restrictions are more stringent), but masks should be worn indoors and whenever social distancing is not possible outdoors. In New Jersey, as many as 500 people can gather outdoors and 100 people, or 25% of a building’s capacity, can gather inside.
In between questions about proper face mask etiquette, Jacquelyn Youst, an etiquette expert and owner of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, has been fielding inquires from concerned couples who are worried about what to do about their upcoming nuptials.
“They really do have to take into account the guest comfort level and [if they have a wedding] to not expect for everybody to come,” she said. But “there’s no hard and fast etiquette.”
With that in mind, here’s some advice from the experts on how couples and guests should handle this weird wedding season:
I decided to postpone the big party, but I still want to mark my original wedding day. How can I do that safely?
There’s a number of ways.
Youst said she has heard of couples who got married on their original date with just immediate family or close friends there. Others even held an intimate lunch “reception” or a backyard lawn party afterward at one of their parents’ homes.
We decided to have our wedding as planned but cut down the guest list. How do I uninvite people?
First, talk to your core crew — think family and bridal party — about their comfort level and ability to attend, the Knot advises. Some people may not want to fly across the country right now or may live in a hot spot.
If you have to cut guests yourself, it’s best to let people know of this change of plans with as much of a personal touch as possible. Don’t make it cold and generic, Youst said.
“A polite way would be a phone call,” she said. “Either do it personally on a phone call or in a card in the mail.”
She suggests couples tells uninvited guests that “they look forward to celebrating with them in other ways.”
Do I need to tell my guests why I chose to uninvite them but kept others on the list?
“Most people know what’s going on” with the pandemic, she said. “I don’t think [couples] need to provide a reason” why someone was uninvited but someone else was not.
Do be cognizant of social media posting after the celebration, though, says the Knot, and try to avoid posting photos of guests who were still in attendance.
If I’m uninvited to a wedding, should I still give a gift?
Yes. Youst said she still would send something within two months of the wedding.
“I would give something,” she said, “but maybe something not as significant.”
If I’m invited to a wedding but don’t feel comfortable attending, what should I do? Do I still need to give a gift?
If you have yet to send back an RSVP, simply RSVP no.
If your RSVP is already in, Youst said, tell the couple as soon as possible and be honest but polite. The bride and groom should understand and respect your decision and comfort level regarding the virus.
But this doesn’t let you off the hook for a gift, according to Youst.
“If you got an invitation,” she said, “you’d give the same gift if you were going.”