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Brissa Ortega and Devin Joll haven’t decided on the best way to inform some 35 of their friends, relatives and co-workers that they are no longer invited to the couple’s wedding in November.

Ms. Ortega, 33, a product marketing analyst at the software security company Synopsys, and Mr. Joll, 34, at first planned to marry in August 2020. They had invited about 80 guests via phone and word of mouth before postponing the event because of the pandemic, telling any who asked that they planned to reschedule.

After considering new dates in August 2022, as well as in April 2023, the couple settled on Nov. 27. While replanning their wedding, they noticed “a spike in prices” charged by many vendors, Ms. Ortega said. To reduce their expenses, she and Mr. Joll, who live in Santa Clara, Calif., whittled down their guest list to around 45 people before booking their venue, a resort in California’s Napa Valley, earlier this month.

Now that they have secured a location, they face a conundrum: how to inform the uninvited — or whether to tell them at all. “I don’t think for the time being we are going to say anything,” Ms. Ortega said, “just because it is going to be such a small wedding” compared to the event they had postponed.

Though etiquette has grown more relaxed, revoking wedding invitations is still seen by some as a major faux pas. But the lingering pandemic has forced couples to do just that over the last two years, for reasons including changing Covid protocols, rising costs and a wave of postponed events that has left many scrambling to find available venues.

Even if invitations were only delivered via word of mouth, guests should always be told when they have been disinvited, said Elaine Swann, an etiquette expert and the founder of the Swann School of Protocol in Carlsbad, Calif. She suggests disinviting people the same way they were invited. If guests received save-the-date cards by mail, for instance, they should be notified by mail that they are no longer invited.

No matter the medium, couples should be transparent about what led to their decision, Ms. Swann said. “This is where it is acceptable to be very honest and say, ‘We’ve decided to have a much smaller affair.’”

Mary Guido, who runs Mary Guido Atelier, a wedding planning business in Washington, D.C., recommends being “both prompt and personal” when informing guests they have been disinvited.

After the pandemic set in, she and her now-husband, Nicholas McMurray, 33, drastically downsized their nuptials on May 30, 2020. Ms. Guido and Mr. McMurray, the managing director of public policy at ClearPath, an organization with a focus on clean energy, kept their date but opted instead for a self-uniting ceremony at the Tregaron Conservancy in Washington with only a photographer present. Their previously invited guests — there were 175 — were disinvited by phone.

“They were very compassionate and understanding,” said Ms. Guido, 30, who is also the director of global events for the International Women’s Forum.

Read more about the 2022 wedding boom in our ongoing Year of the Wedding series.

By the time Ashley Montufar, 31, and Zachary Burgess, 30, decided to postpone their original wedding date of Sept. 26, 2020, they had already sent save the dates to roughly 100 guests, who were first notified about the change of plans via social media, phone and word of mouth.

After postponing because of Covid, the couple, who live in Millington, N.J., didn’t immediately want to reschedule for the same reason. To afford themselves some flexibility, they initially held off on detailing any future plans, simply telling guests the wedding was on hold and that they were looking into new dates.

Ms. Montufar, an engineering associate at ExxonMobil, and Mr. Burgess, a digital and analytics lead at the consumer health care company Haleon, ultimately decided to exchange vows before five family members in June 2021, on the rooftop of the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn. A reception would follow months later, in September. For reasons including cost and the safety of their guests, they chose to invite only 40 people to that event, which they held in the back yard of their home.

Ahead of the reception, those on their original wedding guest list received one of two postcards in the mail. One, as Ms. Montufar put it, told recipients: “We eloped — but come celebrate with us on Sept. 4, 2021.” The other conveyed the news that the two had legally wed and included a link to a website displaying photos and videos from the ceremony.

The couple considered reinviting people from their original guest list to their reception when some last-minute pandemic-related vacancies emerged. But they ultimately chose to fill those seats with other acquaintances, such as siblings of some of the friends in attendance.

Ms. Montufar worried that decision might upset their disinvited guests who saw photos of the reception on social media. “I felt so bad,” she said, “because obviously they saw one of my good friend’s little sisters there, and it’s like, ‘Oh, they invited the little sister but they didn’t invite me.’” No one has since expressed disappointment to the couple about their invitation being revoked, but Ms. Montufar still feels guilty about doing so, she added.

Because it can appear disingenuous, reinviting guests can be as much an etiquette minefield as disinviting them, said Tracy Taylor Ward, the owner of the event planning company Tracy Taylor Ward Design in New York. But these days, “Given the state of the world and ever-changing pandemic conditions, we encourage everyone — couples and their guests — to give each other grace and operate under the assumption that loved ones are acting with the best of intentions,” she added.

If reinviting a previously disinvited guest, couples should “be as honest as possible” while taking an informal approach, said Gayle Szuchman, the president of Events by Gayle in Norwalk, Conn. “Even consider adding some humor,” Ms. Szuchman added, “something like, ‘Let’s try this again,’ or ‘Please be our guest, again.’”

Still, hosts shouldn’t be surprised if reinvited guests turn them down.

Taylor Bowling and Lawrence Bowling, both 34, had also already mailed save the dates when they scrapped their original plan for a November 2020 wedding with 210 people in Charlottesville, Va. They ultimately decided to elope a month later, marrying at the French Huguenot Church in Charleston, S.C., on Dec. 22, 2020.

By then the Bowlings, who live in Mount Pleasant, S.C., had informed 100 people on their original guest list that they would be invited to a smaller celebration of the couple’s marriage in 2021. Their other 110 original guests were mailed notices that didn’t overtly disinvite them, but explained that the couple chose to have a more intimate event.

In reducing their guest list, Ms. Bowling, who runs the interior design business Home Taylored, and Mr. Bowling, a platform architect at the software company ServiceNow, considered friendships that had changed during the pandemic. “You definitely lose touch with people,” she said.

As the date of their June 2021 wedding celebration neared, with vaccines more widely available, the Bowlings became open to hosting more people. They contacted 10 from their original guest list by phone or text message telling them to expect an invitation in the mail. None opted to attend, though, citing a variety of conflicts.

“I hate excluding people from things,” Ms. Bowling said, noting she sensed some awkwardness when those reinvited guests declined.

“You really have to trust your decisions and do what is best for the two of you,” she added. “After all, a wedding is a celebration of your love, and the more you can focus on that and remember why you even plan all these things to begin with, the better.”


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