How to Trim Your Wedding Guest List

September 1, 2020 | riley

Photo by Peyton Rainey. See more from this real wedding here.

COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and has particularly impacted the wedding industry. Lavish weddings as we once knew them are changing shape overnight. If you’re dealing with rescheduling or trying to trim down your guest list to follow government guidelines and ordinances, know that you aren’t alone. Couples getting married in 2020—and likely 2021—will face a list of new challenges that others have never had to deal with before. Navigating these changes can feel overwhelming and advice on how to change up your wedding has been sparse—until now.

First, start with revisiting your guest list. Trimming your guest list down is already a headache when wedding planning. But now more couples are choosing to throw micro weddings with their closest friends and family. After making this decision, the next question is: how do you determine who will be invited to celebrate with you on your special day? 

Give the Option to Attend Virtually

Virtual weddings are becoming increasingly popular because of COVID. This option is especially important if you have elderly or immunocompromised guests on your list. If you hired a wedding planner, they likely have opinions about which video platform you should use for live streaming. At Junebug, we love Zoom, Google Hangout, and Skype. Go out of your way to make any virtual guests feel included by allowing them to request a song or make a speech if they are near and dear to you and your spouse. 

Plan a Celebration for a Later Date

For some couples, the idea of not having certain friends and family at their wedding is devastating. If you’re still looking to tie the knot now but you do so in an elopement or a micro wedding, consider hosting a wedding reception party in the future. We love the option of celebrating your first wedding anniversary with a giant party surrounded with your loved ones.

Consider Which Guests are Vital

While this may sound like a silly question, which guests can you not imagine your wedding day without? Those guests are vital to you. These are likely the people you first told you were engaged or the first ones you would share any life news with. Jot down their names, then call them or shoot them a quick text to see if they are available for the day that you’re planning to get married. Since COVID micro weddings are only a small number of guests, this shouldn’t require an overwhelming amount of communication. This will help you determine if you have availability to invite other guests.

Questions to Determine Who is Vital

But how do you take the list you’ve already trimmed and make it even smaller? Professional wedding photographer and Junebug member, The Archivers, recommended this list of specific questions to couples facing this difficult task: 

  • Can you imagine getting married without this person’s presence? 
  • How often do you see this person? 
  • Has this person really been there for you throughout your life? 
  • Do you feel competition with this person? Are they going to judge you? 
  • When is the last time you saw each other or had a call?
  • Do you feel comfortable sharing your most intimate feelings and vows in front of that person?
  • Do you feel pressured to invite that person? Is a family member pushing you to invite that person?


Photo by Jesse Schultz Photography. See more of this real wedding here. 

Keep Vulnerable and Elderly Guests Safe

We know we touched on this earlier, but keeping your loved ones safe should take priority. The idea of not inviting the sweet elders in your life may feel like tough love. However, the elderly especially are at high risk with the coronavirus. 

If you have vulnerable guests on your non-negotiable list, think about how you can incorporate extra safety precautions to keep them safe. Whether it’s hand sanitizer at every table, utilizing outdoor space, or passing out masks the guests will greatly appreciate the effort.

If you are worried about the risks, keep in mind that many vulnerable guests may be happy to avoid being in that position. Consider having them virtually attend—as we discussed above. If virtual attendance doesn’t feel like enough, you can send them their own bouquet, visit them in your wedding attire later on, or have them write a letter to be read on your special day. 

International Guests Face Different Risks

There’s no need to immediately uninvite your best friend from another country, but consider the risks they are taking with international travel. Many countries are currently not allowing international travel. If guests are able to travel, there’s a good chance they will have to quarantine when they arrive and when they get back home. 

The future is uncertain, but it’s likely going to be a while before travel resumes the way it once did. Letting any international guests know that you don’t expect them to attend might be quite a relief for them and lift any pressure they may be feeling to navigate the situation.

Photo by Sheyanne Lyn Photography. See more of this real wedding here

Politely Uninviting Once You’ve Already Sent Invites

If you’re looking to make the switch to a micro wedding, but you have already sent out invitations, there are a few ways that you can delicately let guests know that your plans have changed. Don’t forget that everyone —seriously, globally—knows the situation and should be understanding if you are honest and straightforward. 

As soon as you know that you will be trimming your guest list you should communicate the decision. Be upfront and let them know their safety is your priority.

Rather than send out a mass email, opt for phone calls. If you can’t feasibly speak to each person by phone, send personalized letters, cards, or emails. Explain that while it is unfortunate, you are looking forward to celebrating your wedding with them at a later date. 

Use A Wedding Guest Template to Track Your Guest List Changes

We recommend using a wedding guest template to track the number of guests with their mailing addresses, email addresses, and whether or not they will be attending. This allows you to visualize numbers when they’ve RSVP’d, and quickly provide an accurate guest count. The template also allows you to track any gifts and whether or not a thank you card has been sent out!

Communicate Postponements, Too

If you are postponing rather than canceling, send out ‘change the date’ cards as soon as possible. This gives your guests time to prepare for any travel changes and allows them to make plans sooner rather than later. They’re especially important if you decide to change not only the date but the venue as well.

Photo by SASs Photography. See more of this real wedding here

Benefits of Trimming Your Wedding Guest List

Trimming your guest list is less than ideal. We get it. While you may be mourning what your wedding was once supposed to be, going smaller does have its upsides. Micro weddings–while small–can still be extravagant. Use the money you save on guests to upgrade an area of your wedding experience. Whether you’ve been eyeing a photographer out of your budget or can’t get enough of the luxury glassware, you can choose to put the money you’re saving back into your micro wedding.

With a smaller guest list, you are also given more quality time to be present with each guest. While there’s nothing wrong with a wedding of over 100, it can be hard to take the time to talk to each guest or get photos with them. Plus, it will have everyone else feeling safer and more relaxed so that they can spend the day celebrating rather than worrying about getting sick. 

We asked expert wedding photographer and Junebug member LIT Photography what the benefits of a micro wedding are and this is what she had to say:

“They are so incredibly special, relaxed, and focused on what truly matters: you and your marriage.  I’ve found that couples have been able to relax and enjoy more time with the people that are there. The whole vibe has just been so much more chilled out, and they’ve been able to savor every moment.

There are also some budget benefits–although you can go as big or small with a micro wedding as you want. There’s no reason you can’t have all the amazing details like stunning flowers and pay more for your photography because you’re saving money on the food bill, etc.” 

While turning folks away from your wedding day will never be fun, it may be necessary in these trying times. We hope these tips gave you the confidence to make those tough decisions a little easier. To see some Change the Date card inspo, take a look at the examples we put together with Minted. No matter what, know that you’ve got this, Junebabes!

Photo by Asha Bailey Photography. See more of this real wedding here.

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  1. Good Read! Lets face it, theres so many “obligatory” invites that go out when it comes to weddings. Which means more $$$. Save some cash OR really splurge on those that you love and cherish most is the best way to go anyway.

  2. This is a post that is so relevant to the times. It is impossible to delay weddings till this whole pandemic thing gets over. That is why people should know how to plan the wedding and invite guests accordingly. The post will help many couples. I loved the suggestion of arranging the ceremony virtually.

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