The Scottish Government’s tiered approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic thankfully allows weddings to proceed, but at greatly reduced numbers. Here’s our five top tips to make slimming down your guest list as painless as possible
1. Don’t feel guilty
It seems obvious, but it’s worth making the point regardless: this is not your fault. When you feel cruel for casting your cousins aside, remember that a deadly virus, and all that comes with it, is not within your control.
“All of your family and friends will have seen their lives impacted, so guests will be understanding if they are told that they can no longer attend the ceremony in person,” reassures Pebblefish wedding planner Alison O’Neill. “Many will even be expecting this. So don’t feel guilty. Anyone who cares about you only wants the best and there will be so many opportunities in the future to get everyone together to celebrate.”
2. Know the rules
As it currently stands, at tiers 1 to 3, Scotland’s coronavirus regulations permit no more than 20 people at a socially distanced ceremony and reception. At tier 4, it is a ceremony-only affair for the same number. (No region is level 0 presently, which permits 50 people.)
“It’s probably easier to think of everyone at the wedding as attendees rather than guests,” advises Alison. “When we think about this magic number of 20, it’s important to note that this includes the couple and any suppliers involved: that could be the photographer, or maybe the camera operative overseeing your live stream. Is there a harpist or someone playing piano? They count too. The celebrant and venue staff aren’t included in the final number.
“To fully keep track of numbers, perhaps consider allocated seating for your ceremony. That way, your venue remains fully informed of your final numbers and can even help to show guests to their seats, ensuring all attendees are keeping their distance and staying safe.”
3. Filter by vulnerability and risk
This decision-making process, however heartless it might feel, is purely about health and safety. And actually, it’s an act of love, protecting those you care about so fiercely.
“In my opinion, vulnerability to Covid-19 and travel should be taken into consideration,” say Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki, weddings and events manager at Broxmouth Park. “I would identify who from my guest list is the closest to me and must be at my wedding. I’d then think about those guests that are at risk because of their age or underlying health conditions and who is potentially facing travel restrictions and quarantines if travelling internationally.
“I get it, it’s tough to have to do this and I can’t even begin to imagine what couples must be going through right now, but at the same time, I don’t think anyone would want to put their family and friends lives at risk.”
4. Communication is key
Delivering the news as sensitively as you can, despite everyone being resigned and supportive of the situation, will go a long way with your loved ones. It’s more about how you tell them than when, says Oskar. Unlike in normal planning times, short notice is actually acceptable, if not inevitable.
“I think that under the current circumstances and ever-changing environment, couples shouldn’t put too much pressure on themselves on when to communicate these changes,” he argues. “I planned a wedding that needed a rethink just three days before the special day and we helped the couple make it happen. Get everyone in front of a screen at the same time to make the announcement so that nobody feels singled out – it also allows for all guest questions to be answered during this one live stream.”
5. Inclusion is not an illusion
Just because not your nearest and dearest can’t be there in person, doesn’t mean they can’t be there for you at all. There are plenty of creative solutions to share your day virtuality with those at home, as well as the promise of a potential bigger, blow-out party down the line when the current nightmare is over. No one need feel left out, wherever they’re celebrating from.
“Live streams have proven to be invaluable as couples have been forced to reduce guest numbers and overhaul their entire wedding experience,” Alison says. “Suppliers have worked hard so that the live streaming element has become an extension of the overall plan, even before filming even begins.”
Keeping the stream as interactive as you can will not only be more fun for your friends and family at home, but for those with you, too.
“I had the pleasure of organising a stream and their guests dressed up in the safety of their own homes, did readings during the ceremony and afterwards got 15 minutes to speak to the couple after the ceremony,” Oskar adds.
And it’s not just about the stream: “If someone very important to you cannot attend in person, why not call them and ask them to read out a poem during the ceremony?” Oskar suggests. “I’m also currently working with a bride who asked her loved ones from abroad to post buttons to her, so that she can sew them to her dress and know that they are there with her in spirit – such a thoughtful idea, don’t you think?”