Event Planning In A Time Of Social Distancing: How To Choose Your Guest List
You may be accustomed to dealing with restrictions on party sizes for various reasons – be it budget, venue or something else entirely – but when law prohibits you from gathering with your dearest and nearest, how do you decide who makes the cut? We turned to the experts for some advice
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Hong Kong in January 2020, life as we know it was altered. Aside from the obvious worries about health and cleanliness, we all had to adopt to a “new normal”. Working from home become the norm, face masks were a regular accessory, and social distancing changed the way we could socialise.
And while unlike the rest of the world, Hong Kong never went into full lockdown mode, even before government rules were put in place, individuals began to limit their contact with the outside world. We were already well acquainted with the four walls of our apartments, when on March 29, social distancing rules banned public gatherings of more than four people.
While having a devasting impact on businesses across the city such as bars, gyms and cinemas, for those who were still going (somewhat) about their usual business, the question remained: how do you pick your friends when the numbers permitted for gatherings are so limited?
Even now, as of May 8, the precautions have been relaxed only slightly to allow gatherings of up to 8 people, while wedding parties are now permitted up to 50 guests. In light of staying positive in the uncertain times we are living in, the ease on restrictions is good news and the pandemic in the city certainly seems to be under control. But for those planning what should be joyous occasions, having to pick and choose your guest list may be putting a strain on relationships, to not mention, make event planning even more of a headache.
An obvious option may be to just postpone said event entirely. But if you are dedicated to celebrating your celebration, to avoid slipping into the early noughties Myspace mindset – with all the politics and pitfalls of choosing your “top 8” – we thought it best to ask the experts for a little advice.
When it comes to deciding who makes the cut, Rani Moriani, founder of Hong Kong based Revel Events advises sticking to family first. “We suggest [those planning] to scan their guest list and keep it for the immediate families, close relatives and friends first.” It’s worth keeping an open mind and trying to stay flexible though, with her adding “should the rules loosen up a little play it by the ear and then decide who needs to be there.”
Joan Auyang from Hong Kong based White Bridal echoes the message of keeping things small and intimate when it comes to wedding celebrations, saying “I have advised that for ease of mind they should postpone their big wedding banquet, but at least consider proceeding forward with the signing of marriage papers in a small and intimate wedding ceremony which can be done with those who are closest to them and who are in Hong Kong.”
A personal touch is best
If a larger gathering had already been planned before restrictions were put in place, Joan reminds us to reach out personally to let those know if they are not invited to the smaller celebration. “If invitations had already been sent out before the decision was made to downscale, from an etiquette perspective, it would still be good to personally reach out to guests not invited to the small ceremony to explain things, even though everybody understands the situation.”
The same goes with making any additions to guest lists if and when restrictions are eased further, with Rani explaining "We had a guestlist of 20 initially for a wedding we were doing, then a few days back the rule was relaxed to 50, the guests understand who have been added now and they are attending at a short notice given the circumstances."
Some guests may uninvite themselves
It's also important to keep in mind that cutting down your guest list may not just be entirely up to you, with some guests having their own reason to not attend gatherings at this time.
“When it comes to trying to cut down the original guest list, couples can first bear in mind these people are likely to cut themselves from the list in any event:
- those whose health is not so good with a compromised immune system would probably decline to attend
- those who will need to travel from overseas and be subjected to compulsory quarantine in Hong Kong and their home country would likely decline to attend
- those who want to play safe to protect not only themselves but also their families from the risk of getting infected at a gathering” explains Joan.
Don't forget your vendors
Though the Hong Kong government has now allowed wedding parties to include up to 50 people, this figure also includes any vendors that may be onsite. Joan reminds us that “to hold a small wedding ceremony, couples need to bear in mind how many people from their team of vendors are present (e.g. civil celebrant, photographers, videographers, musicians, wedding planner, etc.), and assuming there are 8 and leaving aside the couple themselves, there can only be 40 other people present under the present social distancing measures.”
Although the situation is far from ideal, ultimately try to keep in mind that we are much better off in Hong Kong than in many countries around the world. Rani reminds us that “we are lucky that Hong Kong is relatively safe and is allowing 50 people for a wedding ceremony for now.” The fact that we are able to celebrate together at all is a huge bonus, so be sure to celebrate these little wins, while still following the advice laid down by the government.
If you do choose to postpone – whether it's the entire day or just any larger-scale events – Joan also states that "the hotels [that I work with] have also been very accommodating in terms of allowing couples to postpone all or part of their wedding celebration to a later date." So if you do have to alter dates and arrangements, it's always good to know that planners, venues and other vendors are doing all they can to help make the process as easy as possible.