Wedding Dilemmas: Save the Date, Change the Date, Trim the Guest List

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (14/10/2021 updated 19/10/2021)
Categories: | Wedding Planning |
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Save the Date in a
                        paper frame. The words Save The Date are written
                        on three small blackboards and the words We've
                        Got Our Fingers Crossed are above them,
                        overlaying a bunch of white flowers

There are many good reasons to send out Save-The-Date announcements well before your wedding date. The obvious one is to alert people to the when, and the approximate where (as in town or city) so your guests can plan their travel and put in leave applications at work.

Of course, at the moment, the "new normal" is to be confused and concerned. What if your plans are sent awry (or completely scuppered) by another last-minute lockdown, border closure, or government-imposed limitation on where you can have the ceremony and/or reception, and on how many people can be there.

What's the etiquette?

Pre-pandemic etiquette: Only send Save the Dates to people you are definitely going to invite to your wedding. Or to put it the other way around, if you send a Save the Date, the recipient will expect a formal invitation will follow
Pandemic etiquette: A Save the Date is an optimistic expression of your hopes for your wedding

Pre-pandemic etiquette: A change of date after Save the Dates have been sent, or a change of Venue after formal invitations have been sent should only happen in the most dire of circumstances
Pandemic etiquette: Date and venue changes are acceptable where they are prompted by imposition of government restrictions or other COVID19 related occurrences

Pre-pandemic etiquette: Uninviting someone to you wedding is just not done
Pandemic etiquette: Government restrictions can change the number of people allowed to attend a wedding

Good reasons to send Save the Dates regardless

All we can do is plan hopefully. And take a fun approach.

While some advice is that your Save the Date is an opportunity to hint at your wedding theme, I lean towards the school of thought that says your Save the Date is a golden opportunity to be more playful and less formal than you might be with your (traditional) wedding invitation. And in the face of pandemic uncertainty, why not? So don't be afraid to be witty, creative, downright naughty, or completely outside-the-box. But also, keep your focus on joy, love, and celebration.

Other than the date and place ...

Generally, Save the Dates have included the date, the city/suburb, and your names, together with "Save the Date" and something along the lines of "We're getting married" - or words to that effect! In 2021 a bit more is called for. After all, you may well have to un-invite some of the people you sent a Save the Date to in all good faith.

How to word the Heads-Up

Most, if not all of your guests should be aware by now that your wedding plans may change through no fault of your own.  But it is still a good idea to emphasise that. You could add something like "Fingers crossed". Or instead of "We are getting married" something along the lines of "We are hoping to get married"

Also include what your Plan X will be

One of the earliest things you should do in planning your wedding and you can do this even before locking in a date or place, is to develop your Plan X, aka your What If ... Oh Sh*t Plan. Different from  a Plan B (the plan that's all about alternatives to allow your wedding to go ahead as closely as possible to the original plan (Plan A). Plan X is the plan that will guide you when your wedding, as planned, can't go ahead on the day because of restrictions imposed in response to COVID-19 outbreaks. These could be universal restrictions, such as a border closure, or restrictions on weddings, such as how many people can be present, where those people can travel from, and where the ceremony and/or reception can be held

Your Plan X should address three important questions

  • Will we postpone our wedding or make the required changes so we can go ahead on the day ?
  • What criteria will we use to trim the guest list if necessary

How to break the Plan X news?

It all depends on what your decisions are. But whatever they are, don't try to fit them on the Save The Date. A separate note, sent with the Save the Date is a much better strategy because
  • You can use as many words as you need, and still have a readable sized font - this will make sure that everyone gets the message
  • You can personalise the message - using mail merge or by writing individual notes
  • You can give more detail about what your plans are

Mention the controversial?

Given strong and divisive feelings about vaccination, should you mention that vaccination status may be an issue?

Absolutely! Given that restrictions are in place regarding numbers and vaccination status,   including venues where the unvaccinated, or those not up to date with their vaccinated are excluded, but also that, where any person who is unvaccinated attends a wedding, the total numbers of people who can be present are drastically reduced, this is something you will need to address from the get-go. If someone who you invite to your wedding chooses not to be vaccinated, or hasn't been vaccinated in time to be fully protected by your wedding day, what are you going to do? And where do you draw the line? If the person you are sending your Save The Date to is not someone you'd be prepared to uninvite most of your intended guests for, you need to be upfront and tell them that they won't be able to attend if not vaccinated.

Some examples for you to play with

  • We are hoping to share this important occasion with you together with all of our friends and loved ones on [DATE]. If we cannot safely gather then we will move our wedding to a future date. We'll keep you posted.
  • [DATE] is our preferred option. Given everything that is happening we are working on a backup date, just in case the rules around weddings change!
  • Health and Safety are a top priority for us, so if we are unable to safely hold our wedding on   our planned date, we will postpone.
  • This date is important to us because [Fill in the blank] so we hope we will be able to get married then, regardless of any restrictions on travel and weddings. In order to do that, we may have to trim our guest list. If that happens, we plan to have a big celebration when it is safe to do so, and you will be the first to know when and where that will be.
  • While we appreciate that there are reasons while some people may not be vaccinated in time for our wedding, we hope you will understand that government regulations currently require everyone to be vaccinated and that anyone not vaccinated will not be allowed to enter the premises.
Thanks for reading!
Jenny xxx Let's talk
                        soon about how you can have the best ceremony
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