How to have a meaningful wedding day when you can't have your friends and family under one roof

Business Insider US
Skye Gould
A small or virtual wedding doesn't have to be a sacrifice.
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images
  • Many engaged couples are having smaller weddings or opting for virtual ceremonies to celebrate their nuptials.
  • Even if your loved ones aren't physically with you, you can still have a meaningful wedding day that makes you feel connected to them if you get creative.
  • Setting a dress code, sending a party favour in the mail, and setting up a time for guests to say a toast can make virtual attendees feel included.
  • You can also make better use of your money and time with a small, in-person wedding by incorporating more entertainment or having your attendees participate in your ceremony.
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Weddings haven't stopped because of the coronavirus pandemic, but they do look a bit different than they did six months ago.

Some couples are choosing to cut down their guest lists, while others are opting for virtual weddings. Although it's disappointing to not be able to celebrate your marriage with everyone you love in one room, there are still a number of ways couples can make their loved ones feel important and included.

Insider spoke with Kristen Maxwell Cooper, the editor in chief of The Knot, and Janessa White, the co-founder of Simply Eloped, who gave their best tips for creating a meaningful wedding day.

Set expectations for your guests early in the planning process.

Whether you're having an in-person celebration, a virtual wedding, or a hybrid, you want to set the tone for your event early and give your guests an idea of what the day will be like. White said a great way to do that is to send a really fun invitation to let them know how you'll be celebrating.

It's also important to send the invitation as early as possible, especially if you had invited someone to your original wedding and then had to disinvite them as a result of the pandemic. They'll likely understand, but it's important to communicate with them openly and emphasise their safety if you had to cut them from the guest list. 

White suggests making a Facebook group for the people you would have invited to a larger celebration. The page gives you the opportunity to post periodic updates from every step of the journey, including engagement shoots, cake tastings, and the wedding itself.

The Facebook group is also a great place to share your registry, as guests who can't physically attend might want to celebrate your wedding with a gift. 

If you're adding a virtual element to your celebrations, coordinate with your guests to make them feel more involved.

Virtual celebrations have become really popular amid the pandemic. According to Cooper, approximately 36% of couples surveyed by The Knot plan on adding a virtual component to their celebrations for guests. 

Making virtual guests feel included is important.

It might feel a bit weird to celebrate a wedding through the computer, but there are actually a lot of ways to make a virtual wedding feel fun. 

"A really fun way to make people feel involved is to have everyone dress in a standardised way," White gave as an example, adding that a dress code or a theme are both great options.

If your virtual guest list is small, you can also make your loved ones feel included by sending them something physical to mark the day. "Whether it's party favours or a bottle of Champagne, sending them something hard and tangible in the mail makes them feel really involved," White said. 

Cooper also thinks virtual attendees will feel more included if they're given an activity to do during the celebration. One example she gave would be to have friends and family make a signature cocktail at home that they can use to toast to the happy couple. 

White thinks couples can even take it a step further by giving virtual attendees time to make a toast of their own. 

Remember the positives of a smaller wedding, from finances to intimate moments with guests.

Even if a small wedding wasn't what you originally had in mind, there are tons of benefits to a more intimate ceremony, particularly financially. Your money can go a lot further if you have fewer guests, so you can add one-of-a-kind additions to your day that you might not have been able to include otherwise.

"I would encourage couples to really get creative with how they are incorporating their love story," Cooper said, adding that couples could find unique entertainment, such as an intimate magic show.

"Perhaps the couple's first date was over tacos and margaritas, and they decide on an elevated, plated taco dinner for their guests," she gave as another example. 

You can make your guests part of your ceremony.
Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Plus, you can make guests who will be attending the wedding in-person part of your ceremony to add another special element to the day.

"Whether it be inviting those guests to join in on the ceremony vows, sharing a favourite memory of each guest in a thank-you speech given by the couple, asking each guest to share a special toast, or even putting someone in charge of the very important virtual component, the options are endless," Cooper said.

At the end of the day, it's your wedding, and the most important thing is that you plan a day that honours your relationship with your partner. Everything else will fall into place.

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