In light of the current health crisis, staying home is the most generous thing you can do for the bride and groom.

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Credit: Greg Vore

You've returned your RSVP, bought a wedding gift, found an outfit to wear, and suddenly find yourself sick on the day of a wedding—it's something that would be a let down at any time, but it's downright dangerous in light of the coronavirus pandemic. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, the most important thing to note is that you should not attend a wedding, and that's true regardless of how small the guest list is and how close you are to the couple. There are alternative ways to be there—via video call, for example—that won't put anyone's health in danger. The next most important thing on your to-do list (before getting back to bed) is letting the couple know that you won't be able to attend. We asked etiquette experts how you should handle the situation.

If you're a family member or friend of the bride or groom directly, Anne Chertoff, COO at Beaumont Etiquette, suggests reaching out to inform them that you can't make it as early in the morning as you can to avoid contacting them when they're busy getting ready. "It is important to let the couple know if you cannot attend the wedding directly or indirectly," she says, "It is not kind to not show up or send any regrets on the day of, and it can cause damage to your relationship with the couple if you are a no-show." It's also nice to follow up with a handwritten card, which can express your well-wishes and how sad you were to have missed the day.

But not every expert agrees on reaching out to the couple. In fact, etiquette expert Elaine Swann doesn't recommend doing so on the actual wedding day unless you're exceptionally close to them, as in immediate family, a member of the bridal party, or a very close friend. She says, "If you are too sick to attend a wedding on the day of, do not disturb the bride or groom on that day. Instead contact one of the bridal party members, a family member, or perhaps even the wedding coordinator."

If you aren't sure who to touch base with or how, Swann recommends checking the couple's wedding website, which usually lists the wedding party and the wedding planner or coordinator. Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, recommends reaching out to a family member to let them know that, for medical reasons, you won't be attending the wedding. "Reach out to someone close to the couple and ask them to share the news," she says, "You can also email or text—they may not respond immediately, but it's better to reach out than to look like a no-show!"

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