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How to Decline a Wedding Invitation During COVID and 3 Other Etiquette Questions

Plus, what's the gift protocol around COVID elopements?

When I first asked for your modern-day etiquette questions on @shopcupcakesandcashmere a few months ago, it was impossible not to notice that close to half of the questions that came in were about weddings, particularly COVID protocol around them. Wedding etiquette questions have never been more sensitive. Weddings can bring about big emotions—I used to work in the wedding industry and have seen this first-hand—so toss in a pandemic and we’re all flying a bit blind! To that end, I was excited to see so many of you taking careful consideration of not only your health, but also your friends’, as well as the couple’s happiness. Before I get started, I wanted to say thank you for the positive feedback on my first etiquette piece, and with that, let’s dive into your wedding questions:

As a note, and my general disclaimer, these answers are my opinion and based on my professional experiences. My answers come from a place where I have identified etiquette as everyday human kindness and thoughtfulness.


So glad to hear that your friend is being so considerate of COVID and having a micro wedding now. I know it hasn't been easy for so many couples to have to rearrange, postpone, or cancel wedding plans entirely. The amount of disappointment and lost deposits is something I wouldn’t wish on any couple. Because so much has likely been tossed at your friend, I think receiving a small wedding gift now will surely bring some additional lightness to the couple's life. If you’re feeling generous, you could also send a larger gift off of their registry when the big celebration happens.


I won’t lie: This is a tricky situation and one that I have heard happening frequently as of late. Ultimately, you have to do what you feel the most comfortable with. Being a bridesmaid is an honor but during these COVID times, I can understand your hesitation, particularly at an indoor wedding. Given the situation, I would try to have a one-on-one conversation with your friend, either in person at a distance or over the phone. (This is not the time for a text message or an email.) Talk to your friend and genuinely express your happiness for her but your discomfort, and be clear that unfortunately you just won’t be able to attend. Send her a gift, flowers on her special day, or a short letter with an inside joke to help her know that even though you aren’t there in person, you’re more than present in spirit.


I think anyone would love to receive a gift at any time basically for any reason! Given that the bride had to cancel her original plans, sending her a gift would be such a thoughtful gesture. Depending on the nature of the relationship with her, something personalized would be amazing. Of course it’s great to send a gift that the couple can use together, however I might even suggest taking things one step further and giving the bride a gift that's totally personalized, too. A custom embroidered shirt that doesn’t only say “Bride” or “Mrs. X,” but perhaps includes a joke that the two of you share together would be so thoughtful. I often get my custom t-shirts from small, independent businesses (like this one) so you can feel good about supporting a small business and making a friend feel special all at the same time.

A note from Leslie: As someone who was a bride in this situation, I asked Lisa if I could borrow space in her post to weigh in as well! I completely agree with her advice and, as a bride who replaced her larger wedding with a tiny COVID-safe ceremony, you have to expect and be okay with the fact that you likely won't be receiving any gifts. I received one or two gifts from friends that were so appreciated—but, of course, not expected! Also remember that a handwritten note can be just as thoughtful in this situation.

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First, I just want to reiterate that you are perfectly entitled to have an adult-only wedding. With all of the planning, money, and decisions you’ve had to make, your wedding should be exactly what you envision—and that includes the guest list. With that being said, there are a few ways to approach the wording on the invitation. I would steer clear of anything that implies that children are a burden, or that parents need a "night off." While this may seem like a fun, lighthearted approach, it could unintentionally make parents feel like they can’t have a good time with their children. I’ve listed a couple of simple examples below that you can use or adapt to fit with the overall nature, theme, and vibe of your wedding.

“As much as we love children, this will be an adult-only wedding. We hope that with this advance notice you’ll be able to join us on our special day.”

“We would like our special day to be an adult-only occasion.”

Thanks so much for submitting these! Feel free to comment below with your additional questions and we’ll do another round up soon. Until then, keep it classy. x

P.S. You can read more about wedding guest etiquette (during non-COVID times) here.

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