How To Communicate Changing Plans


March 9, 2021
Words by Kate Darnell
Photos courtesy of Dana Cubbage Photography

It’s no doubt one of the biggest things keeping you up at night as you plan (or re-plan) your wedding in the year 2020 is your guest list. The questions that are likely haunting you: Whom do you invite, how you should communicate, what you should communicate and when? Never fear, we have some helpful answers to your burning guest list questions.

Our original date was in April this year and we were forced to postpone and now are only feeling comfortable with a small guest list in the spring of 2021. We initially had 150 guests and now are only having 25. How do we communicate to the people who were originally invited that now are not?
A: First of all, take a deep breath. Your story is, unfortunately, pretty common and many other couples were faced with the same devastating decision. But, keep a few things in mind. The 125 guests you plan on “uninviting” will likely be relieved of your news, if you communicate it properly. It’s not a secret that the world is in the midst of a pandemic and large weddings have been featured in the news media as “super spreader events.” Countless people have contracted COVID-19 due to these irresponsible celebrations and yay for you not wanting to add to that headcount! Now, how do you communicate your un-invitation to guests without hurting feelings or making them feel like they are on the D-list? Personalized contact. Sending a letter or getting on the phone are a couple of ways to let them know that you plan to marry with a small group and they’re not on the list. Simply saying, “out of an abundance of caution for our loved ones (and you’re one of them!), we’re going to do a really intimate wedding with only immediate family,” should suffice. This will take care of the majority of your guest list, but there will be a few people that might be a little harder to break the news to – people who you’re close to and you want there, but if you invite that person, then another person needs to get the invite or you offend them (you know, the domino guest list effect). In those cases, use the same approach as outlined above, but perhaps give them an option to celebrate separately with you. Setting up a time with them to look at the photos or video with you when the wedding is over might be a good option. Or, you could even have them on Facetime with a guest at the wedding so they can view it virtually. The goal is to make them feel included even if they aren’t physically there. You can’t do this with everyone; so only offer this option up to those that you’re closest to. You might be surprised how understanding people will be about your decision. Just be honest, loving and firm in your decision and your guests will likely be loving and kind in their responses. Another option is to host a celebration later on for the guests who weren’t at the small, rescheduled event. This “marry now, celebrate later” approach has been adopted by many and is a great excuse to wear your wedding attire again and be with your entire extended guest list at a fun, casual party. Show your wedding video and recreate your wedding cake to give guests a little taste (no pun intended) of what your wedding day was like.

Q: We have gotten lots of wedding gifts from people, but have had to postpone our event twice and now plan to elope because it’s just too daunting to go through it all again. Do we send gifts back to people now that we’re not planning on the original event?
A: Receiving a wedding gift isn’t like getting a payment for services not rendered. You don’t have to “refund” them. What you might want to do is alert your guests of your plans so they know you’re not going to reschedule again. You can do this a few ways – either via email, phone calls (depending on how large or small your list is) or via letter. Then, you’ll want to make sure you send a hand-written thank you note for the gift. The only reason someone should be offended is if you fail to send a thank you note or acknowledge the gift they sent.

Q: What is the best way to let guests know that we’ve changed dates without paying to redo our invitations and send them all out again?
A: Ask your stationer or invitation designer to send you a digital version of your original design that allows you to alter the date, time or destination and then send that information out via email and put it on your personalized wedding website. If you don’t have a stationer or invitation designer and you ordered your invites online through Minted or another online retailer, contact the company you purchased them through and see if they can get you a digital (editable) version of it. So many businesses are doing all they can to help consumers right now; you might be surprised what people are willing to do for you!

Q: We get so many questions from guests about our upcoming destination wedding and back and forth decisions on if they are coming or not. Many people are not RSVP’ing even though we’re trying to book room blocks and such. What do we do and how do we get them to make a decision with so much uncertainty right now? We only have 35 guests, but it’s starting to get overwhelming.
A: That sounds overwhelming. You sound like you need a good bottle of wine and some chocolate. Go get those and come back to read on. I’ll wait…
Got it? Okay good.
Even with a group of 35, you’re going to have some people who aren’t sure if they should travel or not. My suggestion would be to find out what it is holding them back. Are they worried about it being cancelled and losing their deposit or airline ticket? If that’s their concern, let them figure out their own travel plans and communicate that you’re not trying to pressure them into making a decision because things do seem uncertain, but that you need to know no later than XYZ date in order to keep things on time. Just be firm in that but also understanding to what they may be going through. Perhaps they have a loved one they live with who is really high risk or they just don’t feel comfortable getting on a plane or driving the distance to your wedding. At this point, understanding and love will be your biggest ally. Lead with that. If they still don’t let you know by your deadline, lovingly let them know that you absolutely have to move on without them in order to keep things rolling. Then let it go. It’s on them.

This article first appeared in Destination I Do’s Special Digital Edition 2020

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