How to Politely Uninvite Guests From Your Wedding Due to COVID-19

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Photo by Erich McVey

COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives in the most profound way. Brides-to-be around the world have grappled with changes and even cancelations. Of course, one of the biggest shifts is towards smaller, more intimate events, to adhere to the latest restrictions. If your wedding is on the horizon and you’ve decided to go ahead, choosing which guests can still attend is a colossal decision. However, making it and letting people know doesn’t have to be stressful. Here’s our expert-backed guide to doing so smoothly and with style.

Downsizing Your Guest List

First things first, get to know the current wedding limits imposed by your state. When you have a definitive number, you can begin looking at your former guest list and making cuts. “It’s never easy—but break it into categories: family and friends who absolutely need to be there and family and friends who would like to be there,” advises event planner Terrica Skaggs. “Those whose attendance isn’t necessarily mandatory can attend virtually or be invited to an anniversary celebration later.”

If you’re struggling to decide who to invite to your intimate affair, consider going back to the basics. Start with the people that matter the most and take things from there. “I would recommend limiting it to parents, siblings, close aunts, uncles, cousins, and best friends. It can be tough, but you want to surround yourself with those who make you laugh and who you literally couldn’t imagine not being there for the wedding,” says planner Feyisola Ogunfemi.

Meet the Expert

  • Terrica Skaggs is the chief event planner and designer at Cocktails and Details®. An award-winning wedding planner, Skaggs has over 14 years of experience in the wedding industry.
  • An engineer turned wedding planner, Feyisola Ogunfemi is the owner of Statuesque Events, a Washington D.C.-based full-service wedding planning company that specializes in multicultural and luxury events.

In an ideal scenario, you and your partner would agree on every decision. But life isn’t perfect. Chances are, you may feel differently about certain guests. Be sure to consider one another’s feelings during this conversation. Talk openly and hear each other out. “Be kind and show each other grace about why they feel as if someone’s attendance is important,” says Skaggs. “While you may feel differently, your partner’s reasoning could be rooted in nostalgia and emotion.”

Giving Guests Notice

Once you’ve made the final call, it’s time to let people know. Fortunately enough, there are a couple of ways you can tell people the news. Ensure that you take a personal approach, rather than mass-messaging the group. “While your guests will certainly understand in this current climate, do you very best to alert them in a personal and intentional way,” says Skaggs. “Phone those closest to you to update them. Get cards designed by your stationer with a message of regret that you have to rescind. Sign it with a little note.”

Should you decide to send each former guest a note about the change of plans, getting the wording right is essential. Naturally, you need to make it clear that these circumstances are out of your hands while letting the recipient know they are important to you. 

Example 1: Keep it simple.

Dear [Names],

Due to the current climate and for everyone’s safety, we have a change of plans for our wedding. We will be limiting our guest list to an intimate number. Please accept our apologies for not having you with us on the big (small!) day. We cannot wait to celebrate with you in style at a later date. 

Kind regards, 

[Names]

Example 2: Explain it’s family only.

Dear [Names],

In light of current circumstances and for everyone’s safety, we have a change of plans for our wedding. We will be limiting our guest list to family members only. Please accept our apologies for not having you with us personally for this occasion. We cannot wait to celebrate with you in style at a later date. 

Kind regards, 

[Names]

Example 3: Offer an alternative.

Dear [Names],

Due to the circumstances out of our control, we have a change of plans for our wedding. For everyone’s personal safety, we will be limiting our guest list to an intimate number. Please accept our apologies for not having you attend in the flesh. However, we would love you to attend virtually and have more details about this on our wedding website. Looking forward to celebrating with you! 

Kind regards, 

[Names]

You can set up a Zoom video for them to watch the special occasion. “You can also close with a link to watch virtually or the anticipation of an invitation to a future celebration,” says Skaggs. “Be sure to play up how you still want them included and involved. This should assuage any hard feelings.”

Want to go into more details about the new arrangement? The note you send out should be concise. However, you can add a longer explanation on your wedding website too. “Adding an explanation to your wedding website is a great option, but should not take the place of sending a formal announcement,” says Ogunfemi. “Your guests likely do not check your website every day or every week, so sending a notification is ideal to ensure that everyone is in the know.”

Worried about what people will say when you tell them? Avoid overcomplicating things by getting involved in social politics. “Those who truly love you, will not make an already stressful period even more stressful by focusing on themselves,” says Ogunfemi. “It’s best to respond respectfully and let them know that if you could, you would include them, but also don’t internalize the stress because an outburst shows that that guest likely was thinking more about themselves than about you.”

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