Reception Ideas

Structure of reception and ceremony

I'm probably way overthinking all this, so bear with me.

I really do not want to get married with 150+ people staring at me, and my fiance and I had decided to do a civil court ceremony around 10-11AM with just our parents, siblings, and grandparents. Then we were gonna do a lunch with them, take photos, etc. Just have a nice intimate family thing for the morning/lunch. But we still want to spend time with the rest of our family and friends, so we were planning an early afternoon (~2:30ish) reception with a variety of appetizers, finger foods, and deserts instead of a full meal. Then we were gonna go to a fancy dinner just the two of us in the evening after the reception. 

So I guess my main question(s) would be this: if you were invited to the reception after a family-only private ceremony, would you expect a full meal, or would appetizers and stuff be sufficient? Would you still have fun with a set up like that, some beer and wine, and say yard games? We are also undecided on how to handle or even if we should set up registries and cash gifts and all that because of the odd arrangements- do you feel like you would still give a gift with all above details considered (keep in mind that everyone on our guest list is either close family or close friends)?

I feel like I'm forgetting a lot of stuff, but I guess we'll see!

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Answers

  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    I might go if it was local but not if it required travel. This kind of thing (immediate family only) ceremony followed by a reception is acceptable but a lot of people don't like it. If I went, I would take a gift so I guess a registry would be ok. However, since only immediate family will be at the actual wedding you shouldn't have a bridal shower that invites people that would only be at the reception.
    ernursejSTARMOON44
  • I wasn't planning a shower anyway, so no problem there! I've been debating just opening the ceremony as well and doing a lunch with everyone too. Because we do have people coming from out of town and everything so I want it to be worth their effort. I just hate the idea of that many people watching me.
  • Yeah, technically you're within etiquette, but if you've got guest travelling in, you may want to re-think your plans. I also don't like being the center of attention and wanted something SUPER basic, but when we decided to have our wedding where we live, it required almost everyone to travel. I felt bad not hosting them with a proper meal, inviting everyone to the ceremony, etc. 

    One of my friends did have a wedding like you're describing. Most of both of their families were local so it wasn't a huge deal, but myself and a few other OOT friends didn't travel there for it. Just something to think about if you've got a lot of OOT guests, or if any of your VIPs are OOT. 

    Also I'm not sure what you mean by "set up" cash gifts, but you shouldn't ever ask for cash. Any type of registry besides a physical gift one is tacky and poor etiquette. I would still give a gift, but would honestly side-eye a bigger registry, given the plans you described. If it was a close friend, I'd still send a gift or money (like I did for the friend I mentioned above). 
    InLoveInQueens
  • That's exactly how I feel too. I'm just nervous because I've been having a really hard time with containing anxiety attacks in recent years and I don't want to have an anxiety attack during the entire wedding ceremony. Because being the center of attention and especially being the center of attention when I will show emotion of any kind, is what makes my anxiety attacks come on really strong. 

    And I just meant like.. on the website here, on the registry page, do we put info about a registry or that we don't have one (which would generally imply that if they want to give a gift it would be cash, because there's no registry - at least that's how it works in my brain lol) or we're not expecting anything or what. 
  • Your plans are within etiquette, but I agree with others about the travel.

    If it were local, I would go. 

    If I had to travel, the relationship would have to be really important to me or, if we weren't that close, it'd have to be super nice party to be "worth it".
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  • Ahhh ok, yeah makes sense about the registry. If you don't have a registry, don't make a mention of it. You can have your mom/the family chatterbox tell people if they ask that you guys would prefer cash.

    As far as the ceremony, are you seeing a doctor or therapist or anyone? They may be able to offer you suggestions. Your officiant may also have ideas of things they've done for brides in the past. If you're super worried about it and your anxiety is really bad, you could still have a private ceremony and then a larger, meal-time reception. In that case, I would have a full lunch or dinner.
    • Regarding the food that I would expect, it would depend on how it is worded on the invitation and the time of day. If you say something along the lines of "join us for hors d'oeuvres and desserts at 2:30" no, I wouldn't expect a full meal. Also, since the time is between lunch and dinner I wouldn't expect a full meal, unless it goes into the evening (see below).
    • Yes, I would attend if it was reasonably close location-wise to me. No, I wouldn't give a second thought to a private ceremony and open reception - a lot of people do them for a variety of reasons.
    • Yard games, desserts, and beer/wine sounds like a fun, casual time to me. I would probably mention the yard games somehow just so women know not to wear heels which may be difficult on grass playing games.
    • Regarding registries, it depends on your preference and your circle of friends/family. I have been to an open-house style reception. They didn't register because they didn't want it to seem like they just want the guests for the gifts. Of course people still brought gifts and cards. In your situation, private ceremony and very short reception, I can see how some people may look side-eye at that or consider it tacky. 

    About the only potential issue I see is you may want to list an end time for the reception. If people stay past 5-5:30 pm they may anticipate dinner. This would also aid in you two getting to your dinner plans. Just be aware that some friends may not be ready to leave after only a couple hours with yard games, beer, hanging out and celebrating. It may seem oddly cut short, I don't know. Especially let the OOT guests know so they are aware this will be a relatively short event so they can decide if they want to make the trip.  

    Honestly, if it were me, I would probably move the dinner for two plans to the next day so you can spend more time with your guests and not feel rushed. With 150 guests and only a couple hours, you probably wouldn't even have enough time to enjoy all of them. Maybe shorten your guest list and/or maybe look into an inexpensive dinner option so people can stay longer. 

    You didn't mention if the reception would be at your home, but I'm assuming with the yard games it's in a backyard... so you may want to consider a tent in case of rain (especially if you are unable to fit 150 in your home), table/chair rental, etc. 
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    member
    Well, if you want cash only as gifts, just don't register at all. That's something I would side-eye because it really does cross the line to register for cash or gift cards.

    As far as inviting other family and friends to a "reception" after a immediate-family-only wedding, it's okay per etiquette, but I honestly don't see the point of wanting to invite them to an event whose purpose is to thank guests for attending the ceremony when you didn't want to invite them to attend the ceremony.
    PrettyGirlLost
  • Thanks all for the suggestions and all.

    ahoywedding - I have been taking medication and seeing a therapist for several years now, and currently I am not in country, so I'd have to come back and do some serious work in like 6 months haha. But when we get an officiant, I'll definitely ask them, that's a good idea. When we were still talking about doing the big ceremony, we also talked about doing adjustments to traditional things in order to make it less stressful, like doing a first look and us walking down the isle together instead of my dad walking me (who I don't really have a good relationship with). So if anyone has any suggestions like that too, that would also be appreciated. If I could get enough stuff like that and like get some super quality therapy in before the date, it could probably work.

    Marigold40 - the place we rented before we decided to do a civil ceremony is a very window-heavy building in a park, so we have the indoors for the reception! We are currently planning on doing the ceremony in the park because turns out the county courthouse is not open in this particular town on Saturdays. But of course if it rains, we can go inside.

    Jen4948 - I personally don't see a reception as a thank you for attending the ceremony, more of a celebration, after-party type event. But I see how some people could be upset at something like that. 

    -----
    And in a weird, spontaneous turn of events, my aunt has just offered to cater the reception through her company for just the cost of the food and renting serving-ware. So. We may be having a full meal after all lol. The cost of catering was like half the reason we were shooting for appetizers only.
  • Oh that place sounds lovely! And how nice of your aunt! 

    I have bad anxiety too when I'm the center of attention and I freeze up. Honestly, it's your day to enjoy so if you don't think you'll enjoy a big ceremony or it may trigger an attack, don't push it just for the guests' sake. Do the small ceremony and larger reception. Your family and friends should understand. Otherwise, if you feel alterations to the "traditional" ceremony to adjust for your anxiety would work, go with that if you feel comfortable. Walking down together would be good, or someone else you feel close to - mom, aunt, best friend, etc. Maybe even not walk down the aisle? There's no rule that says you have to. This article may give you some ideas. Or maybe reducing the number of guests may help reduce anxiety. 

    https://www.bustle.com/articles/107127-5-alternatives-to-walking-down-the-aisle-because-there-are-other-ways-to-get-to-the 
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado
    Moderator Tenth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    mod
    I've been to a few weddings like you described.  All out-of-town.     Why we decide to come was because the party was just that, a big party.   Full meal, dancing, open bar, etc.   We got to spend a lot of time with family and friends and celebrate with the couple.

     I doubt we would have flow up for just a few hour afternoon event for some cake.      Don't get me wrong, what you are proposing is fine, it's just not "worth" it for us to travel to the event.


    I also thing you should nix the dinner that night.    You are basically planing 3 things. Although admittedly one is just a small dinner, but it's an obligation just the same.  Getting married can be emotionally and physically draining for some people.       Plus 150 people is a lot to socialize with in a few hours.  

    Keep it simple.   If you choose to have the private ceremony then I would just have a lunch reception for everyone.  Not 2 separate events.  Definitely not 3.  One is stressful enough to plan :)

    FWIW - I'm not great at attention, but when i walked down the aisle I was totally and completely focused on my husband.   Everyone could have been naked and I'm not sure I would have noticed.  Apparently some people wore jeans.  Only noticed once I saw the pictures.  Actually I noticed more from the pictures than the actual event.  Ha.    

      Our ceremony was only 15 minutes.  I think it would have been worse if I had an hour long Catholic ceremony.  






    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
    ahoyweddingInLoveInQueenscharlotte989875MairePoppy
  • We did a first look, and it was a great idea! It was so nice to have those few minutes to ourselves to just be together (with the photographers, lol) before everything started happening. We actually did all of our pictures beforehand, which maybe helped as well. Our ceremony was also super short, and for most of it, we were looking at our officiant so we didn't even notice the people there. Another thing might be to ask your venue how they can arrange the chairs. It might not make a huge difference, but maybe they can do something so that when you & your FI are up front, you don't see a bunch of people out of the corner of your eyes. 

    Also ditto PPs that planning 3 events for one day might drive you bonkers!
  • Thanks all for the suggestions and all.

    ahoywedding - I have been taking medication and seeing a therapist for several years now, and currently I am not in country, so I'd have to come back and do some serious work in like 6 months haha. But when we get an officiant, I'll definitely ask them, that's a good idea. When we were still talking about doing the big ceremony, we also talked about doing adjustments to traditional things in order to make it less stressful, like doing a first look and us walking down the isle together instead of my dad walking me (who I don't really have a good relationship with). So if anyone has any suggestions like that too, that would also be appreciated. If I could get enough stuff like that and like get some super quality therapy in before the date, it could probably work.

    Marigold40 - the place we rented before we decided to do a civil ceremony is a very window-heavy building in a park, so we have the indoors for the reception! We are currently planning on doing the ceremony in the park because turns out the county courthouse is not open in this particular town on Saturdays. But of course if it rains, we can go inside.

    Jen4948 - I personally don't see a reception as a thank you for attending the ceremony, more of a celebration, after-party type event. But I see how some people could be upset at something like that. 

    -----
    And in a weird, spontaneous turn of events, my aunt has just offered to cater the reception through her company for just the cost of the food and renting serving-ware. So. We may be having a full meal after all lol. The cost of catering was like half the reason we were shooting for appetizers only.
    A reception is not a stand-alone event; it is, by definition, tied to an event of some kind. A wedding reception is where the couple "receive" their guests who attended their ceremony. Conferences in the business world often have welcome receptions to host the people who are attending the conference; in academia there is often a reception following a speaker to "receive" and host the guests who attended the talk. 

    If you invite even a single guest to your wedding (ceremony) then you must have some type of reception to thank them for coming. It's not appropriate to invite anyone not invited to the event itself to the reception. And the reception must be immediately tied to the timing of the event (i.e. you can't have a reception days/weeks later). 

    You could have a small ceremony and host the guests afterward at your reception, and then at some other time just have a party. You can have a party anytime you want! You can have a party to celebrate anything at any time! Have a party to celebrate your recent marriage! It is NOT a reception, however. 
    InLoveInQueensJen4948PrettyGirlLost
  • MandyMost - that was a very long way to say "I wouldn't really call it a reception, because a reception is for 'recieving' guests to the main event" and then not actually give any advice based on my actual questions :P ...but thanks for clarifying the difference between a reception and a different, separate celebration (not being sarcastic on that one, for real, I never knew that).

    Thank you all for responding so promptly and fully. Is there a way to turn off responses to a post? Because I don't think I need any more answers right now, you all have helped a ton, and I don't like keeping track of old posts lol. 
  • ernursejernursej
    Tenth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    member
    MandyMost - that was a very long way to say "I wouldn't really call it a reception, because a reception is for 'recieving' guests to the main event" and then not actually give any advice based on my actual questions :P ...but thanks for clarifying the difference between a reception and a different, separate celebration (not being sarcastic on that one, for real, I never knew that).

    Thank you all for responding so promptly and fully. Is there a way to turn off responses to a post? Because I don't think I need any more answers right now, you all have helped a ton, and I don't like keeping track of old posts lol. 

    Once you have posted topic, it remains open for at least 6 months for people to comment on. There is no way to prematurely close a topic. Best thing to do is not comment and the chatter will end.
  • @Knottie1439410545 - There is no way to turn off responses. The Knot is a public, open forum - please read the Terms of Service you agreed to when you created an account for further details. If you don't want to "keep track of old posts" simply ignore any notifications you get.
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