7 Do’s and Dont’s: The New Age of Wedding Etiquette
Chances are, we all know a couple who postponed their wedding because of coronavirus.
With the state of the world right now, it might seem trivial to be upset about ‘just’ pushing the wedding back a calendar date. As a 2020 bride myself AND a vendor trying to help my couples navigate this…I can tell you there’s a lot more to it.
In the midst of the pandemic, a handful of COVID wedding support groups have sprung up on Facebook. (I’m in a few). I wanted real feedback to better gauge what couples impacted by coronavirus are collectively feeling. So, I posed two questions:
What can family and friends do to make you feel more supported right now?
What’s helped and what hasn’t?
I received over 250+ comments from brides in the groups “Four Weddings and a Virus” and “The Bridal Journey Wedding Support Group for COVID 19.” There’s a reason these couples feel more comfortable airing their grievances to strangers. A lot of them are missing that connection with their loved ones.
How Do Couples Really Feel about their Postponed Wedding?
The couples I spoke with in this weird postponement limbo are all going through various stages of grief.
They’re sad. Disappointed. Confused, frustrated, and angry.
And all the while, they’re trying their best to put on a happy face for everyone else. They feel guilty and shamed for feeling sad about their wedding in the middle of a pandemic.
The momentum of excitement and joy leading up to the day has been replaced with anxiety and dread. Weddings take months, even years, of time and savings to dream up. Consequentially, postponing the wedding often means derailing other life plans…like moving in together, starting a family, buying a home, starting a new business, etc.
For some, there is a greater sense of urgency to celebrate with aging family members or loved ones with degenerative/life threatening health conditions. Obviously, their safety and security this year has taken precedence. It stings to think about what could happen between now and then.
In particular, a postponed wedding can mean a lost opportunity to include them and capture memories like this.
How can I support my couple who had to/may have to postpone their wedding?
If you had your dream wedding, with all your people physically present, is it really fair to say “it’s ‘just’ a wedding, focus on the marriage”?
We’ve entered a new age of wedding etiquette. Those of you who are already married will agree: planning a wedding is stressful enough. But doing it during a global pandemic? Unprecedented.
2020 couples feel robbed of that same joyous experience they’ve shared with so many of their loved ones. Weddings, like milestone birthdays, graduations, and giving birth, are rites of passage. They’re grieving the lost moment…and rightfully so.
Your Step-by-step Guide to Supporting Coronavirus Couples
This post is for friends, family members, and even fellow vendors, who want to support their couple but may not know the right things to do or say. I’m glad you’re here and thank you for making the extra effort to be more empathetic and mindful. They need your support.
This is also for all the couples out there caught up in the middle of this s*** storm. I hope this post helps you feel seen and remind you that you’re not alone. If you’re having trouble expressing how you feel right now, feel free to share the link with your people. Thank you to all of those who weighed in.
1. DO: Validate Their Feelings
The best thing you can do to support couples who postponed their wedding is offer a safe space to vent. It’s ok to be the first one to bring it up. Instead of assuming it’s too upsetting to talk about, let them have the option to divert the conversation or open up. Meet them where they’re at.
Validation + hope ✔️
- “I’m sorry you’re going through this. You have every right to feel this way.”
- “No matter when it happens, your day is going to be beautiful.”
- “This totally sucks. You deserve your dream day just like everyone else.”
- “I’ll support whatever decision is right for you.”
- “I’m always here for you if you need to vent.”
Don’t try to sugar coat the situation or gloss over it with poorly timed humor. Keep it real and genuine. Acknowledge that none of us know what the future holds and this situation is less than ideal. Remind them their feelings are valid and just listen.
The following are only a few of the comments couples say actually make them feel worse. I know most of these sentiments come with good intentions, but our culture of constant, upbeat positivity in the face of adversity is toxic. Ignoring or downplaying all perceived ‘negative’ emotions all the time undermines our mental health.
Toxic positivity (not this) ✘
- “It’s a small problem in the grand scheme of things.”
- “It’s about the marriage, not the wedding.”
- “We’ll all laugh about this someday.”
- “Think about the story you get to tell your kids!”
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “It will all be fine/ ok/ work out.”
- “Weddings are overrated anyway.”
- “At least you have each other/ your health/ a roof over your head/etc.”
Showering silver linings on someone when they’re not ‘there’ yet can come off as insensitive or dismissive. “Someday” has not yet arrived for a lot of these couples- they are still living through it. And no empathetic statement has ever started with the phrase “at least.”
For someone on the receiving end, hearing things like this can make you want to punch a hole in the wall and/or scream. (If you really want to keep it light, ask if you can provide them anything to punch instead).
It’s more than ok to be grateful for what we have and sad for what we don’t. There is no right or wrong way to feel right now. I highly recommend checking out psychotherapist Whitney Goodman’s account (@sitwithwit) for more helpful advice on the difference between toxic positivity and active listening.
2. DON’T: Offer Unsolicited Advice or Opinions (Unless Asked)
I wish this went without saying, but this is THE golden rule when it comes to weddings. Planning during a pandemic only compounds this.
I guarantee you, your couple has spent months, pouring over the best way to move forward. Some have already paid for their wedding in full and would stand to forfeit thousands. Others who have already postponed may be mentally preparing to do it all over again.
There are a lot of alternative wedding planning ideas circulating the web right now. While I applaud those couples hosting zoom weddings or taking photos with masks, please respect that it’s not the right choice for everyone.
Unless your couple is directly seeking advice from you, please refrain from sharing opinions about what you would do or what you think they should do. Let’s keep the focus on them.
3. DO: Honor The Original Postponed Wedding Date
Even if your couple has picked new dates for their postponed wedding and/or events, they will still be sad for awhile. Especially when those dates come and go. All of those pre-set calendar countdowns are quiet reminders that this really isn’t happening.
Let your couple know you’re thinking of them and are still excited to celebrate with them. They could really use a healthy distraction right now.
***Preface: It’s a good idea to check in with your couple to see if celebrating the date in a bigger way (ex: drive by parade) would make them feel better… or worse. They may prefer a quieter gesture instead. 🙂
Free Ideas to Support Coronavirus Couples
- Call or Facetime them to chat
- Acknowledge change of date invites and RSVP asap (whether or not you plan to go)
- Organize a drive-by parade
- Share/tag them in old photos
- Send voice memos or videos of your well wishes
- Coordinate a Zoom Happy Hour
Going the Extra Mile
*** PSA: The financial burden of the pandemic has affected us all differently. Don’t feel guilty or obliged if the following suggestions are not within your means. Words of affirmation or some form of quality time (social distance style) will do the trick! ***
- Write them a thoughtful card
- Deck out their car or doorstep in fun decor
- Have take out delivered or drop off baked goodies
- Send a care package or flowers
- Order a wedding registry item early
- Make them something special (photo album, cake topper, etc)
4: DON’T: Complain about Inconvenience or Change of Plans
>> Whatever you do, RESIST THE URGE TO MAKE THIS ABOUT YOU. <<
Couples are stuck between a rock and a hard place, with very limited options right now. Here are just a few examples of the roadblocks they’re hitting with a postponed wedding date. (Hint: it’s not as easy as you think).
Even if the venue doesn’t cancel FIRST, weddings are going to look very different this year. It’s likely social distancing, sanitation rules, and public mask requirements will force concessions on almost every detail of the wedding day. Fair to say, these are not the kind of images your couple wanted to mark this milestone.
Depending on the state, some venues are also requiring couples to scale down their guest list by 50% or more to keep their 2020 date. (And they still have to pay the same amount for it!)
The hardest part of wedding planning is choosing the guest list. Please be understanding if your couple opts to move forward with a smaller ceremony (with or without you). These decision were made out of necessity, not any ill will. I promise they’re as bummed as you are.
(If you are a couple in this predicament, you might find my posts “5 Reasons to Elope” or “10 reasons to Have an Intimate Wedding” encouraging). 🙂
- Limited Vendor Availability and Dates
With all spring and summer weddings postponed, 2021 dates are getting booked faster than ever. Venues often book 1-2 years in advance, which means most weekend dates are not even an option. (Prepare to attend a lot of weekday weddings next year!)
Many couples have found themselves in the unfortunate predicament of either ‘riding it out’ and hoping for normalcy or not being able to secure a new date with all their original vendors. Depending on the vendor, a postponed wedding date may also come with additional rescheduling fees.
- Travel Restrictions and Mandated Quarantines
If the postponed wedding requires travel, of course it’s a drag for you to rebook flights/hotels/etc for new dates. But right now, no one is more inconvenienced, emotionally and financially, than your couple.
It’s a strange year for destination weddings. Couples are wary of borders shutting down, mandated 2-week quarantines upon arrival, or even getting stuck at their destination indefinitely. Some guests may not even be able to secure a US passport this year.
5. DO: Check In On Them
You might think it’s better to ignore the situation because you’re scared of causing hurt or building more tension. But your silence can feel a lot more like indifference.
Unless they tell you they don’t want to talk about it, assume it would mean a lot to hear from you. Don’t be afraid to bring it up first. Because the last thing you want to do when you feel like crap is initiate a conversation to talk about your crap. (Am I right?)
We all speak different love languages. If you’re not a big talker, maybe you can send your couple something sweet or write a heartfelt note. If you’re not a good gift giver, offering to help with a wedding related task can go a long way too. (More on that below).
6. DON’T: Ask Too Many Logistical Questions
Honestly, the last thing your couple needs right now is to be bombarded with questions about their plans. Especially logistical questions that cause more work for them. This is a quick way to ramp up anxiety and stress.
Weddings have so many moving parts. Your couple is essentially back to square one with their planning: trimming the guest list, revisiting their contracts, lining up vendor availability, rebooking events, travel, appointments, etc.
Give your couple time to process what they’re going through. Needless to say, they are asking the same questions as you, but on steroids. Trust that they’ll send you updated information as soon as they can.
7. DO: Offer Specific Ways to Help
“Let me know how I can help” is always a kind sentiment…but does it actually help? It’s a passive phrase that is unlikely to lead to any sort of action from either party. Coming up with ideas on how to delegate tasks has the adverse effect of creating more work for your couple.
In this situation, it will probably be more helpful to be pro-active with suggestions. Offer to take on tangible tasks or favors. Reframe the question as, “Would it be helpful for you if I ____?“
Struggling to come up with ideas? Here’s a short list of ways you can support your couple right now. Crossing anything off their to-do list right now will be a relief.
Actionable Ideas to Help Couples Affected by Coronavirus
- Field and answer follow up questions from guests
- Plan a virtual happy hour or game night for rescheduled bachelor/bachelorette parties
- Help design/come up with verbiage for change of date invites or website
- Offer to store their wedding decor or the dress
- Research/refer new vendors (if they lose some with a date change)
- Honor original payment dates for wardrobe/accommodations/etc (if you can swing it)
- Start a DIY wedding project to work on together for the new date
Postponed Wedding = Opportunity to Strengthen Relationships
To all of the couples out there who were forced to postpone or cancel their weddings: I am so sorry. Give yourselves the grace and space right now to sit with your feelings. The way you process this experience is personal, but take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
You are loved, you are deserving, and you are strong. You got this.
And to everyone else out there, thank you for going out of your way to be there for your couples. I understand supporting loved ones is a form of emotional labor, especially in the middle of a pandemic. You’re an amazing friend/family member/co-worker/person.
(It’s also important to acknowledge that not everyone has the capacity to hold this kind of space right now and that’s more than ok too. See: how to set healthy boundaries without hurting feelings and self-care before helping others).
While social distancing forces us to be apart, we can take this opportunity to slow down and strengthen our relationships. It’s a scientific fact that connecting with loved ones boosts our mental health and bolsters resilience. And we need love more than ever to get us through this. By spreading kindness we can also do our part to spread health.