To say 2020 has been a tough year for the wedding industry would be one heck of an understatement.
Back in March, couples due to get married in a matter of days or weeks were anxiously hanging on the words of every announcement, unsure if they’d have to cancel or at least scale down their big day – and you could say they were the lucky ones.
Since then, countless weddings have been cancelled, suppliers and venues have been in danger of closing permanently and Boris Johnson’s latest speech has dictated that even wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be allowed to go ahead as planned, in a set of rules which seems to be constantly changing.
So, it stands to reason that couples are having to think of new ways to create a wedding ceremony and day that still involves as many of their original hopes and dreams for it as possible. But, even in this challenging time, where are the boundaries in doing anything possible to make that big day happen?
This very debate has been sparked by a viral tweet of a wedding invitation, which sections guests into groups of A, B or C. The image, tweeted by journalist Mary von Aue, shows an insert explaining that guests in group A have a guaranteed seat at the event, while groups B and C will have to book a seat online based on availability.
The insert reads: “Dear family and friends, Please understand that our venue is limited in the number of guests we will be able to accommodate for our wedding day. As much as we would love to have each and every one of you join us on our big day, we are forced to split our guests into groups to ensure we do not surpass our capacity restrictions.
Group A: Please RSVP as soon as possible. We appreciate your promptness as we will be able to extend any vacant seats to additional guests.
Group B & C: Please keep a close watch on our wedding website for notice that we have space available. If you already know that you are unable to join us, it is helpful that you decline via the RSVP function on the website.
“If possible, we encourage our guests to hire a babysitter for the night and leave your children at home. As much as we love your kids, we are doing our best to make space for all the guests we can. We also ask our single guests to forgo their plus one if possible. We appreciate your understanding.”
As you can imagine, Twitter has had a mixed reaction.
“This is a no-brainer. Take my name off your list, don’t expect a wedding gift, don’t send me Christmas cards and lose my email address and cell phone number. Don’t call, don’t write, no need to keep in touch. Don’t want to see wedding pictures or any future pictures of your kids. I won’t follow you on Instagram,” writes one passionate Twitter user.
While others could see whether the couple were coming from: “To the people who are offended, seriously, put your big girl/boy pants on and stop being such a baby. The girl is just trying to plan a wedding during a pandemic and she is doing the best she can. I honestly don’t think she meant to offend anyone on her list.”
Another Twitter user anticipates being in a similar situation, explaining: “In Covid-19 times I get this. My friends are supposed to be getting married in September and we were invited before all of this started. Now they have to figure out a new plan, being their friends and not family we may be in group B and I’d be OK with that.”
It’s true that outright telling someone they aren’t as important to you as someone else is shocking, and it’s understandable that some people might find this rude. But according to some wedding experts, this is the reality of how the wedding industry is changing.
“With receptions not allowed and weddings ceremonies limited to 30 people, it’s no surprise that couples are having to get creative with their big day plans,” says Sarah Allard, editor of wedding website Hitched.
“From weekday weddings and micro-weddings to shift celebrations (where couples invite guests at different time slots throughout the day or over the course of a weekend), Covid has changed the landscape of weddings at least for the near-future.
“Coming through a pandemic has, understandably, meant many couples simply don’t want to wait any longer and want to be legally married, so it’s likely we will see a lot of smaller celebrations over the months to come. I would advise guests to be as understanding and as sympathetic as possible to couples who are no doubt facing quite stressful and difficult decisions about their day. If you don’t get an invite? Think of another way to celebrate the newlyweds, because we could all use some extra celebrations right now!”
Rosie Conroy, co-founder of wedding floristry and props business Lavender and Rose, says she knows only too well the stress of a cancelled wedding – through her own experience, as well as that of her clients.
“While I work in weddings – doing flowers and styling – and have the perspective of so many of our lovely couples, I also had my own wedding postponed this summer so feel like I can understand it from all sides. We’ve had over thirty weddings cancelled since April, and I know how heartbreaking the uncertainty of everything at the moment can be.
“Couples don’t want to be in a position of choosing who to invite and who not to, but the reality of the situation is that they will have planned this day on a bigger scale to begin with. To have made it to their final selection you’re already one of their favourite people in the world, and in an ideal situation they obviously hope you can celebrate with them. If this year has taught us anything it’s that we shouldn’t make assumptions, and that in the end it’s our connections and loved ones that matter the most.”
Conroy’s advice? Go with the flow. “I’d say, pop it in your diary, if big weddings are allowed next year go and dance into the night with your gang. If it has to be smaller and only super close friends and family can attend then send your couple a card, wish them well and wait for all the social media spam to hit and get your fix of the big day that way. Remember that lots of couples are choosing to do intimate ceremonies and looking to host an all-in celebration further down the line when restrictions have lifted, so there could be light at the end of the tunnel even if you don’t make it to the ‘I dos’.
“There’s nothing sadder than sourness in a friendship, so even if you’re feeling sad about missing out, imagine having to be the couple facing a day without their whole cohort and making these difficult decisions. Be kind, it’s cool.”
So, what would you do if you received that wedding invitation?