How to make a small wedding feel special, even for virtual guests

How to make a small wedding feel special, even for virtual guests

You’ve been planning it for months, if not years, and now that your wedding day is in sight there’s another spanner in the works. Your parents insisted you invite all the aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours and in-laws under the sun but now thanks to Covid-19 you have the fun job of restructuring your guest list and whittling it down without hurting anyone’s feelings and without losing the special feeling that’s essential for a wedding day. 

You’ll do something online, of course, but what? And how can you make those joining you over video feel like they’re right in the middle of the celebrations?

Wedding planner Kate O’Dowd of Love & Gatherings says couples impacted by restricted numbers should plan their day as if it was intended to be an intimate event with close family and friends. She thinks it is an opportunity to be even more creative on your big day and wow your guests.

“What’s most important when planning a small wedding is to make it feel purposefully intimate, rather than just a big wedding that’s been hacked at,” Kate suggests.

It’s vital to make virtual guests feel included by still sending a proper invite and a few treats to enjoy on the day.
It’s vital to make virtual guests feel included by still sending a proper invite and a few treats to enjoy on the day.

“With a large wedding, things like table-settings, décor, even food and drinks, need to be uniform, as a logistical requirement and just to make things moderately affordable… but the wonderful thing about doing a wedding at a smaller scale is that it really opens up the possibilities, in terms of doing things creatively. So, you could spend extra time, or budget, customizing elements of your tablescape – think hand-painted base plates, or monogrammed napkins, used instead of placecards; you could have your taper candles illustrated with your signature flower; even just putting effort into custom menu cards that tell your story will make your wedding table feel so much more opulent and considered. 

“You could have three signature cocktails instead of one. You could maybe even offer some choice in the menu… opting for the likes of private hire of a restaurant, or using a caterer in your home can give your wedding the fairytale vibes we’ve only seen in the movies.” 

Wedding guru Peter Kelly (aka Franc) has issued advice for prospective brides and grooms on how to navigate the big day, including some inspiration on how guests can share their love and congratulations with the happy couple in person while maintaining a safe distance.

“Guests can be asked to give a personalized wave, rather than the usual hug and kiss at the wedding. Create your own personalized greeting for your wedding day; this can be described in your invitation or as a sign at your ceremony,” he suggests.

He adds: “No gathering in queues to shake hands with the couple after the service.”

Of course, for those overseas guests who can’t travel to be part of the day, or those unable to attend due to Covid-19 restrictions, Kate says it’s vital to make them feel included by still sending a proper invite and a few treats to enjoy on the day.

“For guests who can’t attend in person, planning is the key to making their virtual attendance feel special. Send them a proper invite, with foolproof instructions on how to log in… and maybe even a dress code, for the fancy factor,” Kate says. She recommends using Paperless Post, which has a special selection for virtual parties if you’re looking for easy and emailable options.

“To really make your virtual guests feel part of the party, you could send a bottle of champagne or prosecco and a boxed mini wedding cake or something else for them to nibble on, during proceedings. I even love the idea of sending some of your signature wedding candles & a little posy for their table, if your budget can stretch.” 

You don’t want your wedding ceremony and festivities to feel like just another Skype meeting or awkward Zoom call. Like anything that involves a camera, Kate says it’s all in the lighting.

“On your end, consider how the wedding will look on camera – natural light is key, along with flattering angles of, well, you and trying your best to get some elements of the décor within shot, without getting overly stagey.” 

A small wedding setup at Cliff Townhouse that Kate O'Dowd was involved in recently. Picture: Love & Gatherings and Ivana Patarcic 
A small wedding setup at Cliff Townhouse that Kate O’Dowd was involved in recently. Picture: Love & Gatherings and Ivana Patarcic 

Franc recommends using guests’ phones to make virtual attendees feel more involved in proceedings.

“I would also look into using FaceTime and phones to share the service if you as a couple would like to share the ceremony to close family members who may not be able to attend,” he said.

Food-wise, Franc says a late-night buffet should be reconsidered.

“Better to have individually portioned food again than buffets. Bags of Tayto, maybe?”

So there you have it. Good lighting, good food (with some being sent to distant guests) and good fun is the key to everyone enjoying your wedding, whether they’re sitting at Table Five with a glass of champagne in hand, or in their living room wiping away their tears of joy with your monogrammed napkins.

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