This year has been quite a wild ride so far—and particularly so for those planning a wedding, and, ahem, possibly changing those wedding plans. Restrictions on large groups of people, state lockdowns, and the overall health threat of COVID-19 have forced many couples to make unfathomable decisions about their big day. Some have been forced to cancel the event altogether, while others have rescheduled for a later date when they predict the world will return to some sense of normalcy.
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If you and your spouse-to-be are among this league of engaged couples, it can be tricky—and well, painful—to send out the difficult news. When you’re struggling with disappointment yourself, remaining upbeat in your messaging can feel futile. And, on the other hand, if you’re a twosome intending to walk down the aisle in 2021, is it insensitive to start planning? What about if you recently got engaged?
Here, wedding pros and stationery experts shed their best advice on how to send the right message, no matter your situation.
What to Say If You're Canceling Your Wedding
The question was asked and answered. A date was set. Deposits were made. And though you never thought it would happen, you’ve been forced to cancel your wedding due to a pandemic no one could have predicted.
As soon as you’ve made this difficult choice, Ashling Loh-Doyle Nunnelly, the owner of Lotus and Ash, suggests communicating with your guests ASAP. She urges couples to be honest and blame COVID-19 for the decision. “Don’t hide it! Say you are canceling in the first few sentences. People have been on their computers a lot, and you don’t want them to miss this because they are skimming. It’s good to acknowledge that we are in unprecedented times, and that’s the reason for canceling,” she adds.
If you have the bandwidth, you should also anticipate what questions guests may have about another future wedding date, refunds on hotel blocks, and so on. Here, Loh-Doyle Nunnelly suggests a template for sending a cancellation message.
Dear family and friends,
After thoughtful consideration, we have decided to cancel our wedding planned for this fall in Napa Valley.
There are a lot of unknowns around the current pandemic, and the health and safety of our friends, families, and essential workers are our highest priority. Though we have been looking forward to gathering together to celebrate, we acknowledge that it is not possible to do so safely at this time. We are, of course, disappointed, but we are thankful to have such a great support system to help us manage these strange times.
We have reached out to our hotel blocks, and they have agreed to give our guests a refund. If you have already booked your stay at [hotel name], please call them at [hotel number] by [date] in order to process your refund.
We appreciate your understanding as we all try to navigate this unprecedented moment.
Please reach out to us if you have any additional questions.
Philip and Carlos
What to Say If You're Postponing Your Wedding
Rather than canceling your wedding completely, you’ve spoken with your vendors and selected a new date in the future. If you’ve gone this route, you need to communicate your wishes quickly.
As Mariam Naficy, the CEO and founder of Minted shares, first and foremost, confirm with your immediate family members and wedding party. If you can, give them a ring, and then communicate the message with your guests via email. “Keep the wording brief and to the point,” she recommends. “You can also choose a card design that matches the look and feel of your original invitation to keep all of your wedding stationery coordinated and cohesive,” Naficy adds. See a suggested template below.
Dear family and friends,
Don’t dust off your dancing shoes just yet! Due to unforeseen circumstances with COVID-19, we have changed our wedding date to October 5, 2021. We are hopeful you will still be able to join us for our special day!
Let us know if you have any questions or if we can assist in rescheduling efforts in any way.
With love and health,
Julie and Rob
While an email is a right move for a last-minute change of plans, you're also more than welcome to send this message (and any of these, for that matter!) on printed paper. Below, a few of our favorite picks.
What to Say When Your Plans May Change
In the time of COVID-19, sending out save-the-dates can be a stressful task—especially when it feels like you have a "soft" hold on the date as is. If you feel this way, sometimes it's best to give your guests a heads up, says Jove Meyer of Jove Meyer Events. "Save our date or hold our date is the most common language for save the dates, but in these times, as things are not as predictable, perhaps the wording can reflect your level of certainty and or confidence in your date, based on your location and the local laws around gatherings there," he says.
The following example does just that: Save our date, we are hoping to celebrate with our friends and family on such and such a date! If we cannot safely gather then we will move our wedding to a future date when we can all gather together! Thank you for your flexibility and understanding in these times.
While it can be important to address the current state of the world, Meyer says there's also a fine line. "You want to focus the save the date on joy, love, and celebration—not COVID-19! But we also want to be prepared," he notes. "I suggest the messaging with your names, the date, and love be the focus. The COVID-19 details can be small, but present. If not on the save the date, they can live on the website." Here, three fun options.
- Save our dream date, we have a backup one, just in case!
- Save our dream date, given everything that is happening we have a backup as well!
- Save our date! Health and safety are a top priority for us so if we are unable to celebrate on our original date we will change it and you'll be the first to know!
What to Say If You’re Having a Zoom Wedding
At the start of this year, Zoom wasn't part of your everyday vocabulary. But now? It’s become a go-to option for couples anxious to wed, especially since some states (such as New York, California, and Colorado) are deeming virtual vow exchanges as legal. If you can safely social distance from the religious leader or officiant, you can host a digital wedding in your backyard and invite others to tune-in for the celebration.
Leah Sachs, a stationer and calligrapher, suggests sending out an email as soon as you have the information with a subject line of "Same date, new plan!" In addition to the nitty-gritty details of attendance, she urges couples to communicate how much it would mean to them if their loved ones were there, even if it’s only through interwebs. “Ensure that your note includes how excited you are to have your loved ones still participate in your big day and that having them there to celebrate ‘with’ you, even from afar, means the world to you,” she adds. Take note of the wording below.
Dear family and friends,
Due to COVID-19, we are unable to have our wedding on [date] as planned. However, we still very much want to begin our lives together and have decided to host a virtual video ceremony instead. We hope you will join us via Zoom for this special, happy occasion!
Below, you’ll find all of the information you need to dial-in to our Zoom wedding. Though not necessary, we would love it if our guests popped a bottle of Champagne instead of a gift to honor the start of our marriage.
We hope to ‘see’ you there!
Maria and David
What to Say If You Eloped
When you’re engaged, the anticipation is half the battle of wedding planning. You can’t wait to become spouses, and when a pandemic threatens to delay the big day even longer, some couples, well—simply can’t wait. If you and your partner have decided to elope rather than having a wedding, Jen Avey, the vice president of Destination Weddings Travel Group, suggests getting the message out to guests ASAP. She also encourages twosomes to consider having a first-anniversary party in 2021 or later, so your loved ones have a date to look forward to in the future. Here, Avey’s template suggestion:
Dear family and friends,
We hope this finds you well and staying healthy during these uncertain times. We are writing to let you know we’ve had a change of plans for our original wedding celebration due to COVID-19. We decided to elope!
While we wish we could celebrate this special day with all of our friends and family, we just couldn’t wait to say ‘I do’ and make it official! But don’t worry, there will be a larger party next summer to celebrate our first anniversary together, so be sure to look out for those details in the coming months.
We much appreciate your continued love and support, and while we feel it was the right decision, we hope you understand it wasn’t easy to make.
Maggie and Elizabeth
What to Say If You're Keeping Your Original Wedding Date
While the future is impossible to predict, your guests are likely wondering about your plans—even if they are months away! At this time, Loh-Doyle Nunnelly recommends sending a respectful and grateful message to your loved ones. “Your wedding is important, but you want your guests to know that their health and safety come first. Understand that this might be a controversial decision, so don’t mince words,” she continues. “Acknowledge that although the situation is dynamic, you feel comfortable going ahead with the original plan.”
Your wedding website makes a great place for updated information on hotel blocks, travel information, and plans. It is easy to update, and you can use it to link out to additional info and resources.
As with any email about your wedding, Loh-Doyle Nunnelly warns that you'll likely be bombarded with questions, particularly if you're planning a destination wedding or asking guests to travel. Be prepared with answers, and even consider creating a FAQ on your wedding website.
Dear family and friends,
We hope you and yours are healthy and safe during this time, and we appreciate all the love and support we’ve received from each of you.
Although the COVID-19 crisis has created much uncertainty, as of now, we will be proceeding with our wedding on March 27, 2021.
We understand that the situation is in constant flux, but based on the current CDC guidelines and the recommendations of our state, we feel that by next spring, it will be safe to gather and celebrate. We will keep you informed if that should change, however, so please continue to check out our website for updates.
To our international guests, we understand it may be difficult or even impossible to travel by fall. Still, we hope you will be able to join us virtually on Zoom.
Please also feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions or concerns.
Thank you for your patience and understanding, and we cannot wait to be together with you in person again come spring!
Stephanie and Mike
What to Say If You're Just Starting to Plan
When you’re newly engaged, and you’re starting the wedding planning process, it’s usually met with excitement from everyone near and dear. But during a pandemic, it can feel uncomfortable to share happy news or to send out save the dates when 2020 already feels so unbearable for many. Loh-Doyle Nunnelly says in a trying time, etiquette still counts—and timing and wording are important than ever.
The Save the Dates
Save the date cards should be sent six to nine months before your big day, and you should stick to this timeline for now. However, the wording here is especially important, mainly if those on your guest list (or in your wedding party), had to cancel or postpone their own ceremonies. “Save the pandemic puns for Reddit," Loh-Doyle Nunnelly says. "Our couples have been opting for classic, timeless salutations. Some of your guests might be having a difficult time, and you don’t want to come off as careless." The best way to do this is to avoid the topic of COVID-19 completely, as in the following example.
Blake and Ryan are getting married!
September 21, 2021
New York, New York
The Engagement Announcement
Though it may feel strange to be overflowing with joy during a period when so many are struggling, remember, it’s okay to be happy for your recent engagement. Loh-Doyle Nunnelly says most people are craving good news, so give them something to smile about! “Don’t worry about wedding planning before sending this out. Just enjoy the engagement,” she explains. “You don’t need to include any wedding details but if you have a photo from the engagement, feel free to include it.” Here, Loh-Doyle Nunnelly's recommended wording.
Michael proposed to James at home on September 6, 2020.
We hope you and yours are healthy and safe during this time. No wedding plans have been set, but we can’t wait to celebrate our marriage with you in the future.
Anyone who receives the engagement announcement should also be invited to the wedding, so send accordingly.
While these templates are great starting points, feel free to get creative here as well. This is your wedding, and we recommend sending every message—whether it's a simple email, website update, or printed stationery—your own way.