Wedding guest list planning during a pandemic - how to navigate the changing restrictions
If you are reading this and planning your wedding celebration for 2021 and 2022 in Ontario, you are not alone in dealing with who to invite! The reality is this - couples have had to reduce guest counts for weddings, no exception. Unfortunately, it’s been almost a year since they’ve been forced to invite, uninvite, tentatively invite and last minute invite their favourite people for their celebration, and we don’t see this changing until the end of the year. Well now we (myself and Jennifer See Studios) know you might be thinking “this blog post doesn’t sound very upbeat or light hearted”… and to be quite honest this first part isn’t. We’re hitting you with some provincial facts and links to the government’s website on all things covid-19. But it’s all out of love. But we promise you’ll want to keep reading for the informative stuff and lots of cute photos along the way!
As per the Ontario provincial website gathering restrictions are based on what area of the province you are located in - classified into colour zones. Within each zone there are different gathering restrictions: whether you’re planning a staffed event at a public venue or you are hosting your wedding on private property (at home, an airbnb, family property, etc). The ceremony and the reception are being treated as different and distinct guest counts which means creating multiple or ‘contingency’ guest lists. So be sure to check which zone and venue type you and your wedding fall under and then cross reference that with your guest count numbers!
To download the PDF released by the Government of Ontario (March 2021) with the full response framework click below.
If you want to know what zone your wedding will fall in, or more information on each zone check out this link
We’ve been so happy to hear and chat with couples working through this tough planning process who have had an open mind and still have so much optimism around their celebration. Here are some of what some of our Covid Planning MVPs have had to say;
1. "We can have 70 of our 125 at the ceremony which is awesome, and will have everyone else zoom in. We are planning to send everyone a bottle of bubbly for the occasion.”
2. "Taking it day by day and communication with your vendors. Things are changing every day so it’s really all you can do. Good friends and a supportive partner to help keep you level headed are important. And of course wine!”
3. “Honestly we realized that an indoor venue wasn’t going to work for us so we’re in the process of booking an outdoor tent. It seems that there may be more flexibility with outdoor spaces so my advice is to have 2 lists. Keep your core people on that list and have a secondary list that you can invite last minute if the restrictions lift. And give people the head up that they may be invited a month out from the wedding. Keeping people in the loop is appreciated!”
4. “What helped me when I went into problem solve overdrive was ‘what is the most important thing about the day.’ As long as we could still get married, I reminded myself I could still celebrate with everyone another time. We also had our ‘no debate’ list which helped us stay focused when we went back to the drawing board”
Couples have begun to get creative and work with wedding planners on how to make their day special or unique while still adhering to the restrictions. We asked a couple of questions of Toronto wedding planners; Lynzie of Love by Lynzie and Jasmine of All That Jaz Weddings & Events, on how their teams are dealing with the zoning restrictions and how they are assisting their couples throughout this process:
Any advice for couples and their ever changing guest lists?
Lynzie: “If you are getting married in 2021, the ideal situation is to reduce your guest count to 50 or less. The safest bet right now is to plan for tight restrictions- our team is planning weddings for this spring, summer and fall with guest lists of 50 or less and are optimistic to be in the Orange zone for these events. If we're in a zone higher, magical, but for now we're remaining pragmatic and listening to the government forecasts regarding vaccines and numbers. If you are dead set on larger, the answer is to postpone. I don't think it's worth the potential loss of money or the disappointment to be planning for over 50 people.”
Jasmine: “Create your A-E list based on the restrictions we saw last year. 10, 25, 50, 75 and 100. By taking the time to complete the list now, it will save you a lot of stress if you have to make a quick decision.”
Things to think about when deciding on who to invite to your wedding?
Lynzie: “There are a couple important questions that I think you should be asking yourself when you are deciding who your core 50 people are- are they directly related to me? If it was my last week on earth, would I want to dedicate a 60 min conversation to this person? Will I be thinking about them all day if they are not present at the wedding? If the person doesn't answer yes to one of these questions, then maybe it's worth putting them on your virtual attendee list. Virtual attendees can still share in your ceremony by getting dressed up and toasting to your vows from a far. We've even been creating custom gift boxes for couples that are delivered to virtual attendees on the morning of the wedding. You can still make these guests feel special.”
Jasmine: “There are many factors to consider when deciding who goes in what category. Start with your immediate family and talk to them about their comfort level with the wedding and guest count.”
How to deal with un-inviting some of your guests
Lynzie: “By now, everyone is used to uncertainty and knows that there are limitations around events and weddings. My suggestion is to maintain an open line of communication with your guests, no matter how informal. Whether it's a BCC email to your entire guestlist or formally mailed cards, your guests will appreciate knowing your approach. Explaining to them that your guest list has to be reduced due to COVID-19 and that you are keeping it to immediate family or close family and friends, they will understand. You could also section off your guest list and share messages in groups like "If the restrictions are still 50 people or less, we'll be asking you to attend virtually" or "if we're able to have 50 people, we'd like you to be there in person. As the numbers are limited, please notify us well in advance if you won't attend". And if they don't understand, well truth be told they don't deserve to be on your guest list in the first place. It's hard enough for couples to be reducing their guest lists and forfeiting the wedding they dreamed about, than to have Negative Nancy making it about her.”
Jasmine: “Be honest and upfront as soon as possible. Give your guests time to cancel any accommodation/reservations they have potentially made, and invite them to join virtually. By now, most people understand that there is a chance they won't be able to attend a wedding this year. This isn't news to anyone and most guests have been very understanding of the situation.”
We are sure that if you are planning for the second time around, or you’re having to rethink a smaller celebration, that you of course want it to still feel personalized, unique, and honestly, not feel like a Covid wedding. We’ve rounded up a few ideas on how to still incorporate traditional wedding day elements into your celebration!
Have a champagne toast but just do it virtually! To make your non-attendees feel extra special, you could even have bottles of prosecco or champagne dropped off to everyone beforehand!
Get creative with your postponement announcements! Work with a stationary designer, or call your punny friend to come up with something cute to let your guests know your plans to postpone the big celebration. Some cute ideas we’ve seen are
“Same time, Same place, New date”
“Good things are worth the wait”
“Love is infectious, but so is the coronavirus”
“Let’s try this again”
“Save our date again”
Lots of couples or guests like to hold on to a printed invitation as a keepsake for the future. Opt for other beautifully printed pieces such as welcome booklets, or individualized love notes/cards to each guest, there’s lots of other ways to incorporate pieces onsite throughout your celebration. If you’re planning to live stream your ceremony, you could still send out printed invites to the virtual event, or even a ceremony card.
We know this isn't easy information to digest for people wanting to have a big party on their wedding day! So grab a drink, take a deep breath and head over to our initial blog together about replanning - it's a bit more light hearted!
As always - reach out if you need to - remember YOU CAN COUNT ON US