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Social Graces: Here's how to kindly uninvite wedding guests during the coronavirus pandemic

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Home and Consumer News

Q: Your wedding is approaching, and you need to limit the number of guests in attendance to follow social distancing guidelines. How should you uninvite people?

A: Uninviting guests is much easier than it normally would be because no one is going to be surprised that a global pandemic has forced you to modify your wedding plans. You may even find that many guests will be relieved to be uninvited so that they don't have to send regrets, as many may be worried that your event could put their health at risk.

The key is to let your guests know as soon as possible and ideally offer them an alternative to an in-person celebration. You might write a note like this:

"Dear (guest's name - this should be personalized)

"In light of the current global health crisis, we are modifying our wedding to make it as safe as possible and to follow social distancing guidelines. Because of this, we hope you will accept our apology as we will not be able to include you in our special day, in-person.

"We will be having a virtual celebration for our original guest list after our very small in-person wedding, and we hope that you can attend that event. You are so important to us, and we would love to have the opportunity to celebrate this moment in our lives with you however we can."

Other important elements are to follow up any gifts with thank you notes immediately as you usually would and if you've already secured wedding favors you can even send them to guests who can't attend in person, so that they feel like they're a part of your day.

The purpose of a wedding is to bear witness and celebrate the union of two people, and even during this challenging time, with small weddings and virtual celebrations, you can still create that connection.

- Lisa Orr, etiquette and protocol consultant


A: With today's tech, no one has to be officially disinvited. Everyone can be included even if it's limited to the virtual world. To protect guests from feeling downgraded to the virtual nose-bleed seats, set aside time after the ceremony for a private e-toast. (Maybe send a Champagne care package beforehand.) Acknowledge their supportive participation and say that, under better circumstances, you wish you could clink glasses in person but look forward to doing so when you can. This is the modern equivalent of inviting a guest to the ceremony but not the reception.

However, how do you decide who makes the in-person cut? Before you rank your relationships, first ask for opt-out volunteers. There's social pressure to attend a wedding, which might force high-risk or risk-adverse guests to reluctantly forgo their COVID-19 concerns. Giving them an opportunity to opt out might be a welcome relief.

If your local government or venue has strict COVID-19 guidelines, like mandatory masks or travel restrictions, explain these constraints to your guests.

Another option includes limiting plus-ones. Or reduce the headcount by replacing wedding staff and asking essential guests to act as the officiant, musician, hairdresser, makeup artist, photographer, etc. This makes a wedding an intimate community event.

Whatever actions you take, do it as a couple. Marriage's purpose is to lend support in good times and bad; consider this good team practice for the future. And when breaking the bad news to anyone, do it with care. Draft a polite, apologetic response, and customize it to each relationship. Don't text, email or send the news secondhand. Make an audio or video call to each person. Or deliver the bad news in person (6 feet apart, masked), offer consolation air hugs, and give them their own hand sanitizer wedding favor.

- Katrina Majkut, author of "The Adventures and Discoveries of a Feminist Bride: What No One Tells You Before You Say 'I Do'"

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