As we begin to see the roll-out of the highly anticipated COVID vaccines, there’s finally a small light at the end of the tunnel that everyone’s been waiting for. You and your partner may be jumping for joy at the thought of a wedding free of restrictions, but there’s still much to be done in the coming months before “normal” becomes a reality.
However, for those with late 2021 or 2022 weddings, therein lies the question: can I ultimately increase my guest list? We surveyed some top industry experts to share their expertise.
With the pending promise of full vaccine distribution by May, it’s an exciting thought that you can potentially do away with the idea of limiting who can attend your big day. However, there are still many variables to bear in mind before adjusting the headcount.
Daniela Grafman of Vision Event Co. recommends: “Couples should still think conservatively about their guest lists, having an A list and B list is most ideal at this time. We recommend keeping the guest list expansion to last-minute invites as you get closer to the wedding date and really know what is allowed and what is feasible. Also consider, while capacity restrictions are loosening and more people are getting vaccinated, how comfortable will guests feel in a large crowd, if long-distance travel is required to the wedding, and the inevitable possibility of restrictions resurfacing at any time, all of which may cut down the guest list.”
On the other hand, Matt Campbell of My Wedding Songs advises considering your budget first. “The percentages of people being tested for COVID-19 and testing positive are dropping across the county. Thus, governors are opting to expand the number of people that are allowed to attend a wedding. Before couples expand their guest lists, budgets must be reevaluated. Increasing the guest list will increase costs for catering and bar bills. Plus, will your venue(s) and local hotels be able to accommodate the increase in guests? Take a glance at your wedding checklist and verify you can safely invite more people to your wedding based on the budget and logistics.”
“I think people need to ask their guests about their comfort of attending if they are vaccinated. Keep in mind we are still at capacity restrictions in some parts of the country, so your guest may have to be pared down due to venue limitations. I would also let guests know that COVID protocols will be in place to ensure a safe event,” suggests JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregli.
If you do want to invite more guests than you originally planned for, there are a couple of things to consider before extending the offer.
For example, Liz Chan of Lizzy Liz Events re-iterates that comfort will be key. “Some family members may have RSVP’d because they knew it was going to be a micro wedding, but when people hear you may have 100 guests at the wedding, your most important people may want to drop off. So just be aware that people are still cautious weaning back into the world.”
Jennifer Henderson of A Fresh Event says, “If expanding your guest list, keep in mind that even if restrictions have been lifted, they can be implemented once again. So, just be prepared for your list to change on a dime -- hopefully, it won’t have to, but you’ll be glad you were ready if it does!”
Additionally, Keith Willard of Keith Willard Events notes, “Not everyone is like-minded. Everyone is getting vaccinated or recovering from job loss on different timelines. We still need to be careful and thoughtful about our guests and what is happening in their life. Be concise. If you are re-inviting people, make sure that they mean something to you. With COVID, couples started pairing down their lists to those that mattered the most to them. This idea should not be thrown out the window just because we are able to.”
Now, here comes the tricky part. How do you send RSVPs to those that previously didn’t make the cut for your guest list? Don’t worry – it’s not as intimidating as it seems.
Bri Marbais of The Bridal Finery advises, “We definitely recommend a personal phone call if possible rather than a mailed invite or email. This will add that extra touch of sensitivity that guests will really appreciate. Because we all have been living through this in somewhere or another together, guests will completely understand.”
Kristen Gosselin of KG Events & Design adds: “Being as candid and transparent with details on the wedding website is the best source of information for your guests, and it’s the easiest way to streamline your communication with them. In this era of such unpredictability, traditional wedding etiquette has become impossible during this time, so there is no right or wrong to how each couple handles the invite process. When a wedding is condensed to family and bridal party only, of course, your friends from work would understand that they did not make that exclusive list. And in case there are spaces in the guest count that can be filled, they will be thrilled to have made the list!”
That said, Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events warns against going overboard. “If you do decide to expand your guest list, be very careful not to over-invite people. We do not yet know how the rest of the vaccine roll-out will go, what effects the variants will have, and if vaccinated people can still infect others. Which means we don’t know when things will be back to ‘normal,’ so shooting your guest list up from 50 to 500 is not wise. Be conservative with your numbers so that you don’t end up in a situation where you have to uninvite people.”
While the prospect of inviting more friends and family to your wedding is undoubtedly exciting after nearly a year of quarantining, make sure that you’re following proper etiquette and not getting ahead of yourself.
According to Kylie Carlson of The Wedding Academy, it’s crucial that you avoid prematurely announcing anything that isn’t set in stone. “Don’t be overzealous and begin posting your plans to extend your guest list on social media. If things change (which is quite likely), you may have some seriously hurt feelings from loved ones. It’s better to quietly send out additional invitations rather than getting everyone’s hopes up that they may be able to celebrate with you.”
Loren Petrowski of Marry You in Hawaii says, “Definitely check with your venue first and see what is possible before approaching a new guest list. With President Biden’s recent announcement to have vaccines out by the end of May, I think many will be very excited - perhaps prematurely - to get back to pre-pandemic times, as [we] have seen with some states relaxing mandates. These actions could cause spikes once again and adversely affect events reopening.”
Lynne Reznick of Lynne Reznick Photography agrees, noting: “Couples shouldn’t throw caution to the wind just because the vaccines are here. The roll-out of the vaccines are taking time and facing various challenges state-to-state. It’s important that couples act with cautious optimism as they expand their guest lists and re-envision a larger wedding celebration. It will be better to set strict expectations for guests right from the start that may be lifted on the wedding day, rather than trying to enforce new rules late in the game.”
Now that we’re waiting (not-so-patiently) to watch the next few months unfold, it’s important to remember that a lot can change, yet those same safety guidelines will potentially still be in place. Hope for the best, but prepare to be flexible when it comes to your guest list so that your wedding can go off without a hitch.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. As always, thank you for supporting our sponsors!