guests wearing face masks
The Reimagined Wedding

If you’re hosting a wedding during the COVID pandemic, one of the (we know, many!) things you’ll need to think about in advance is how you’re going to greet your guests. Pre-COVID, it was considered proper etiquette for the couple to greet each and every guest in person, whether via a receiving line or by going table to table to say hello during the reception. Now, when hugs, kisses, handshakes, and other forms of touching are on pause, you’ll have to find other ways to show your appreciation to your family members and friends. To communicate your preferred method of greeting to your guests, we recommend including some signage throughout your wedding so everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety precautions and social distancing.

Here are several techniques you can utilize to greet guests at your wedding during the COVID pandemic.

Hand Hearts

For those adhering to social distancing, putting your hand to your heart or forming your fingers in the shape of a heart are ways to show your love from a safe distance. Throughout your event, take time to make eye contact with each of your loved ones and make these gestures with a smile. True, it’s not the same as giving a hug, but it’s certainly a heartfelt alternative.

Elbow Bumps or Footshakes

If you’re comfortable getting a bit closer to your guests (and assuming everyone is wearing masks), elbow bumps or “footshakes” (tapping your feet to each of your guest’s feet) are a fun way to say hello without touching hands or full bodies. These greetings are becoming more widely used throughout society, so your guests may already be comfortable with them.

Bows

In many Asian countries, bowing is a common form of greeting. While it’s a bit more formal than the hugs and handshakes we’re used to in the U.S., bowing is certainly rising in popularity during the COVID pandemic. It’s also a lovely way to show respect, especially to your older guests.

Gesture Lines

Receiving lines were a fading tradition even before COVID hit. Couples can take a more creative approach by setting up cheeky “gesture lines,” where guests can come up with fun, no-contact ways to greet the couple one by one. Any of the aforementioned greeting techniques can be used (hand to heart, bows, elbow bumps, etc.), or guests can find their own unique, no-contact way to say hello to the couple and offer congratulations.

social distancing wristbands
Chesapeake Inn Ballroom

Wristbands

We’ve seen this idea implemented at several COVID weddings, and it could be an interesting route if you’re marrying in an area with a very low case count and low or no community spread. Guests are offered wristbands in colors signifying their comfort level with different greetings—green wristbands mean it’s okay to hug or high-five, yellow means okay with talking but not touching, and red means the guest is maintaining social distancing.

Personal Notes

We love the idea of writing each guest a personalized note, thanking them for celebrating with you—particularly if you’re having a micro wedding with just a few loved ones present. You can place the notes at each guest’s place setting or on reserved ceremony chairs. Not only is this a sweet and personal way to greet your guests, it also provides your loved ones with a keepsake from the day.

Song Dedications

While dancing may be taking on less of a role during a COVID wedding, music can still be used in powerful ways during your event. Throughout the reception, dedicate a song to each of your guests (yes, this only works if you’re hosting a smaller event). You can have your emcee give each guest a shout out before the song, or give each guest a note explaining why you chose a particular song for them.

Speeches

Many couples opt to give a thank-you speech during their reception. This speech may take on new meaning at a COVID-era wedding—it’s your opportunity to thank each guest for attending if you’re not able to greet everyone individually. Take the time to write a speech that’s from the heart, recognizing each of your guests’ efforts to celebrate with you during these uncertain times. If you’re only hosting a few loved ones, you can even use your speech to thank each guest individually.