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Ways to include wedding guests who can't make it

It’s a fact of life:  Families are more spread out than they used to be. A generation or two ago, most people would stay within driving distance of where they grew up, and where their parents grew up, and where there grandparents grew up. But now, it’s the exception, not the rule. People move huge distances for work, for school, or just to see and experience new places. And, while that might make life in general more exciting, it can certainly make planning a wedding a difficult task. Beyond just the price for the dress, the cake, and the venue, you now have to try to make it easy (time- and money-wise) for your guests to be there for your special day. Unfortunately, there will probably be people that you wish could be there that won’t be able to make it. This is especially troubling if the person won’t be able to attend because of age and health. However, there are ways to keep them in mind during your wedding. All it takes is a bit of creative thinking and a positive attitude to include guests who can’t make the wedding!


Ask for Cards, Not Gifts

This is a great idea, even if you won’t have many people absent when you get married. It can even take the place of more traditional wedding presents, if you already have all of the toaster ovens, fancy plates, and blenders that you need.


The premise is fairly simple:  Instead of asking for gifts, ask for your guests to send cards, instead. The best time to mention this is probably when you send out your invitations, so it’s wise to include an instruction sheet and self-addressed (and stamped) envelope. The instructions should tell your family or friends to send you a card with their warm wishes or touching anecdotes (or even not-so-touching ones!) written inside, and have them sign it. Then, as you have them returned, you and your significant other will have the fun of sitting down and reading all of them. And it’s a fraction of the cost!


A word of warning, however:  Don’t ask for cash, or even mention “no boxed gifts”. That is generally seen as tacky and in poor taste. But, in the end, most people will probably include some money in the card. But the point of this should be to think of absent friends and family, not to fund your honeymoon!


Skype is Your Friend

For those who do want their families to be able to see everything, whether that be a shower or the actual wedding ceremony, you can always use Skype or a similar live streaming program, such as Periscope. In a pinch, even Facebook Live could work! But there are a few things that you should do to plan ahead and make live-streaming your wedding a smooth (or at least, as smooth as possible) experience.


The first thing that you should do is to make sure that your tech gear will be set up properly. Unless you or someone that you know is big tech gear, you might want to outsource this particular job. You’ll need to place the webcam (or webcams) in places where your online guests can get a good look at the ceremony, but without impeding the in-person guests or photographer/videographer.


The second thing you need to do is set up a “tech support” person for those who might be technically challenged. This is especially true if most of the people watching from home are elderly. Your best bet is to choose a person who works in the computer industry, or who understands computers very well and can troubleshoot what’s wrong quickly and quietly. This person should also not mind missing the actual “I do’s”, because there’s a decent chance that that could happen. It’s a good idea to ask your guests to text or IM this person, too, instead of calling.


Lastly, and something that most people don’t think about:  If you are in a situation where you are speaking to a crowd (bigger in showers/receptions than actual wedding ceremonies), you should look into the camera and address it from time to time. It will make those at home feel more included, and less like they’re simply watching.


Photos:  A Personal Touch

This idea is a bit similar to the first one, but is also a way to ensure that your guests get in on the fun, as well. Like with the card idea, when you send out your invitations, ask for pictures of family. Ask for them to write their well-wishes on the back, and include instruction sheets and self-addressed envelope, and mail it in. Afterwards, take some time to go through them with your future spouse, then scan each picture and put it into a digital photo album for your friends and family to see. Then, as a little gift to you, have all of the photos redone on high-quality photo paper (if they weren’t like that already), and put them in a wedding album. It will serve as a far more interesting source of conversation and warm memories than a standard wedding guest book.

About the author:

"Brittany Miller is a writer living in Alabama. She is currently planning her wedding with her fiancé, Chris Carter".

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