Communicating with guests has always been a matter of stationery and snail mail, but advances in technology and a pandemic that has upended countless event plans have rendered paper mail unnecessary and, in some cases, even impractical. While the tradition remains strong to send communications by mail, the practice is typically buffered by digital channels to support real-time updates, direct links to resources, and an efficient guest experience.
With COVID altering wedding plans at any given moment, couples have taken to online communications to keep guests abreast of new updates. There are many ways to connect with guests. The typical approach involves a combination of channels to ensure every guest can access important information in a timely manner.
For those planning a wedding this year and next, take heed of these tips to keep your guests in the loop from the very first save-the-date through to the event day itself.
Send save-the-dates early.
Save-the-dates aren't just an opportunity to brand your wedding with chic stationery; they also provide an early notification for guests to start planning. Juls Sharpley, founder of Bubbles & Bowties, explains: “Even though we recommend sending invitations approximately 12 weeks prior to your wedding, people will undoubtedly already have plans in place. If you really want them there, then you need to give them as much heads up as possible so they can plan things accordingly (other vacations, time off from work, school schedules, etc).”
Mara Mazdzer, founder of Fuse Weddings and Events, adds: “Save the Dates are a great way to make sure the big day is penciled in on the calendars of your friends and family and gives guests a heads up on travel for destination events. Be sure that at the very least you've included the date and location, and bonus points for including your wedding website URL with additional information about travel, host hotels, an itinerary for the weekend, dress code details, and any other relevant information guests may want to know.”
Of course, digitally-inclined couples can always opt for electronic save-the-dates in lieu of paper copies. This can be a cost-effective and eco-friendly way to spread the word with minimal effort.
Create an easily accessible wedding website.
Wedding websites have become another way to display your wedding brand, while also conveying vital information for guests planning to attend the big day.
“Wedding websites are wonderful tools that offer comprehensive information about your wedding to the guests,” says Kelley Nudo, client manager for Momental Designs. “Including important information such as hotel recommendations, flight information, directions, schedule of events, dress code details, parking information, registry listings, and oftentimes couples like to share stories about how they met or the proposal for their guests to enjoy. The website can also be a place where guests are able to RSVP, which can save time and give you an instant notification.”
There are countless online platforms for creating your free wedding website, like The Knot and Zola, but they generally come with longer URLs that are hard to remember. Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates, suggests making your website easily accessible with a custom URL of your own: “Make sure you make it as easy as possible for them. I tell my clients to create a vanity URL. Something like lauramarriesmatt.com; then, forward that URL to the more complicated official website URL. This is easily done through the hosting site. This ensures that even your 86-year-old grandma can type in the URL to her web browser.”
Wedding websites aren't just for event details, though; they can also be a hub for sweet stories about the couple, engagement photos, info about the wedding party, and local places to visit. Samantha Leenheer, principal planner and designer for Samantha Joy Events, recommends: “One way to make your website extra useful is to think of it as a travel guide for your guests. Include all of the local airports and travel times, estimate drives times to ceremony and reception, and include your favorite places to go around town. I don't mean the museums and things, but think food! When they come to town, people are hungry so add your favorite coffee shop, breakfast place, brewery, pizza joint, and restaurant. It allows your guests to see the city through your eyes and not get frustrated by researching where to eat in a place they are unfamiliar.”
Factor in old-fashioned guest preferences.It should come as no surprise that some guests won’t be attuned to wedding websites, online registries, or QR code invitations. As a result, couples will need to do a little extra legwork to ensure these guests are still up-to-date with the latest event details.
“Assign one person on each side of the wedding to be responsible for communicating with those guests who are less tech-savvy,” suggests Shannon Tarrant, founder of WeddingVenueMap.com. They can follow-up on all communication with a phone call confirming the details and answering any questions they might have. This will help alleviate the pressure on the couple to single out those attendees.”
Additionally, it never hurts to include an insert with your invitation suite to provide information about travel and accommodations. Many guests may still visit your website for these details, but those who don’t have a smartphone or simply prefer a physical copy will be grateful for the extra thought.
Provide COVID-specific information.Since your wedding should have COVID-friendly measures in place, you’ll need to communicate these to your guests ahead of time. Not only will it prepare them (in case they need to show up early for testing or bring their own mask), but it will also assure them that you’re taking the proper precautions to look out for their health and safety.
“When you host a COVID-compliant wedding, be sure to inform guests on the website about the rules and requirements,” suggests JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. “If pretesting is required, please be sure to give them all the information they need to comply.”
Gregoli continues: “I also like to inform guests of what you are doing at the wedding to keep them safe, such as having hand sanitizer stations set up, masks supplied, and bars socially distanced. Guests' comfort is paramount in making guests feel safe. The new requirement of on-site testing should also be discussed with guests. We have included health officers as part of our team to help guests comply with the rules.”
Be prepared for last-minute communications. Due to COVID, there is always the possibility of unforeseen circumstances impacting your wedding day plans. That’s why it’s essential to be proactive in your preparations, so you can connect with guests at any moment if needed.
“Now more than ever, having up to date contact info (email, phone, etc.) is super important, so make this a priority when securing guest information,” explains Cassie Morales, planner and owner of Heavenly Day Events. “You could also utilize a mass texting app for a small fee to quickly disseminate text message updates to your guest count. Postable is a great tool to gather guests' personal contact information such as their mailing address, email address and phone number.”
Lizzy Liz Chan, wedding planner and designer for Lizzy Liz Events, also suggests making use of social media platforms: “Create a wedding Instagram or private Facebook page where you can update your guests. Make it a private profile so only your guests can add you and see the information.”
If something does happen to change plans in the days leading up to your wedding, you’ll need to get in touch with guests as soon as possible. “Last minute event changes are best shared via email if it’s at least a day or two before the event,” asserts Jamie Chang, online wedding planner and creator of Passport to Joy. “But if the last minute change happens on the wedding day, text messaging is going to be your best option because it will get out to guests quickly. You'll just need to make sure at least one person in every party has a phone that they check. If you have guests who aren't on their phone or check their phone often, you'll need to call those select few to make sure they get the message.”
While you might need to communicate with guests more during the age of COVID, we are fortunate to have countless digital solutions at our disposal to make the process much simpler for everyone involved. Remain transparent, keep your guests updated, and you’ll be well on your way to the big day before you know it!
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