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Reception Ideas

High Tea Reception (XP)

Hi, all! 

FI and I are both pretty introverted, and cost-conscious, so we have steered away from a "traditional" wedding reception with a full meal. We have decided on apps, beer/wine and cake (all the best parts in our opinions ;) ) for the reception of 50-70 people. We would like to then host an "after party" of an intimate, fancy dinner (off-site) for immediate family and attendants, who would be invited on a separate invite in the suite. Essentially, we want to host everyone, but really show love to our immediate family and dearest friends.

I need a little help refining this idea. Feel free to chime in with ideas/advice!

(I will be noting the reception type on the invites, because I would want to know what to expect as a guest. Also, there will be enough seating for everyone, just not sure what "media" yet. We wouldn't "broadcast" the dinner, but if someone mentions it, we would say that it is an intimate thank you to those who made the day possible.)

1) Timing. My thoughts are:

1pm: first look/family photos??? (see #4 below)
2pm: short & sweet ceremony
2:30-3pm: entrance, intertwined first dance, father/bride & mother/groom dance.
3pm-4:30pm: apps, open bar for entirety of event,
4:30pm: cake cutting
4:30-5:30pm: cake eating, toasts, little bit of dancing
5:30-6pm: send-off/end time on invites
7pm: after party dinner??? (see #5 below)

2) Setup. Since we both like more relaxed atmospheres, we are thinking of doing a more lounge-style than a bunch of tables. No seating plan, so people can roam, come/go as they please to different groups. Maybe tables for 75% of guests, and a bunch of casual seating areas, like couches/adirondack chairs with coffee tables. I haven't refined this at all, so feel free to shoot out ideas.

3) Amount of food. In our area, "dinner time" is at 6pm. In my opinion, even if people normally eat dinner before 6, that still leaves a lot of time to go get dinner, especially since there would be a defined ending time on the invites. Would we still have to offer enough apps for a "full meal"? If so, we would have to trash this idea entirely, as it would not save us any money and not allow for the dinner which is what we're both most excited about. I'm most worried about this.

4) Photos. With such a short "wedding", there would be no time for photos during cocktail hour as usual. Would we take photos after the reception, but before the family dinner? Has anyone done photos after the reception? We're both pretty opposed to a "first look", but if there are no other options, that may have to happen.

5) Time between reception and dinner. I'm considering having this time between the reception and dinner to allow for a little rest (his gramma is 90+), time to change if need be, and travel to the restaurant (don't have a venue or restaurant booked yet, but they likely wouldn't be at the same venue, but not far away). Is an hour too much? I have seen that that's typical for a church ceremony, then venue reception. 

Sorry I'm all over the place with this idea, I'm just really trying to make it work. Thank you in advance for the help! 
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Re: High Tea Reception (XP)

  • MobKaz said:

    Although some of this idea puts me off as a somewhat backwards tiered reception, I think it does work in terms of etiquette.  If you are less enthusiastic about your reception, and only have excitement for the dinner, then why not just have a small, intimate wedding from start to finish?  If I thought as a reception guest that your mind was focused on the "exciting" after dinner portion of the program, I would definitely be hurt.

    (snip)
    Well, there's a little backstory. I come from a pretty rough background, so my entire life, I always thought I would elope, instead of having to just plain not invite any of my family.

    Circumstances have changed of late, and thankfully I no longer speak to any of my family at all (I'm very happy about this - I finally toughened up enough to tell them all to go to hell, basically).

    So, now that I actually have the opportunity to share our wedding with loved ones, I want to take it. FI and I want to be able to have a nice get-together with all of our friends, but the budget doesn't really allow that. So, this is a way of compromising.

    As well, I wouldn't tell IRL people I'm more excited about the dinner. That would be very rude, you're right. 
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  • Casadena said:

    If you're being cost conscious and you're both more excited about the intimate dinner, honestly, I would just do that.  Take pictures, have a ceremony, and then head straight to a dinner with your closest friends and family.  I don't know why you would invite a whole bunch of people if you don't really want to.

    In addition, I think you're butting close enough to a mealtime that you would have to serve heavy enough and enough apps to constitute a meal. 

    Also, if you're not doing a seating arrangement, generally you will need MORE seating than there are attendees.  At a minimum, you need a seat for every single person to be able to sit at the same time.

    Do not have a gap.  People won't need to change or rest. 

    Overall, I would just ditch the "reception" and host the smaller group you are excited about at a restaurant reception. 

    I had considered just having a restaurant reception, but we really want to incorporate the special dances - that's very important to FI. 

    But it would be rude to invite 50+ people to the ceremony, then 15 to a dinner. We don't want to have a tiny ceremony. We love all our friends and his family, and we want to have them there when we tie the knot. It's not that we "don't really want to" spend time with everyone, we just don't have the funds to have a $70+ dinner for every person we want to invite to the ceremony. (In our area, $50-70 is considered "budget", unless it's a bbq. And we definitely don't want that.)

    I really want this to work...
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  • I guess all of this is fine. I'd just be really concerned about hurt feelings for people that found out about the dinner and are not included. 

    We did a first look, and I'm so happy we did. Personally I'd do all the photos before, and not after. 

    I think you should have the dinner portion start right after the afternoon reception. 
    If we were inviting friends, I would be concerned about the emotions, but it would literally only be his parents, his grandparents, MOH +1, BM +1 and us. 

    I'm so glad to hear someone doesn't regret a first look. That's all I've seen in some boards. Very happy for you! 

    I'm just concerned about his grandmother. I don't want to push her, or they wouldn't be able to go.
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  • CasadenaCasadena member
    500 Comments Fourth Anniversary 250 Love Its Name Dropper

    Idk, I guess etiquette-wise there's nothing wrong with this plan, it just seems very strange to me. 

    We did not do a first look and I really really wish we would have.  Once the day started it was so busy and fun that we didn't really take any quiet/alone time and that would have been nice. 

  • Casadena said:

    Idk, I guess etiquette-wise there's nothing wrong with this plan, it just seems very strange to me. 

    We did not do a first look and I really really wish we would have.  Once the day started it was so busy and fun that we didn't really take any quiet/alone time and that would have been nice. 

    I am so glad you also said that about the first look. Thank you so much. <3 I was dead-set against it, but the more I see timelines (with all different plans), the more interested I am in one.
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  • MobKaz said:
    Neither my son or daughter did a first look.  Daughter wanted to, but her FI did not. 

    I have yet to hear of one couple that did a first look and regretted it.  More often, the consensus was that the first look was a relief, a joy to have that moment be private, and helped to better enjoy the rest of the day. 

    As i read that your "after dinner" guest list is so very intimate, I am less "opposed" to it.  However, I do wonder if you still have the opportunity, to reconsider the budget and "vision", and try to find a way to have an all inclusive day.  There is no reason you cannot have special dances at a restaurant. 
    Thanks for the insight - I think if we do a first look, I won't have the veil or bouquet so the "whole package" can be the surprise?? Hm. 

    I'm glad I brought this up. I will go over all nuances with FI and we'll make a final decision at a later date. Be on the lookout for 2.0! Lol!
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    MobKaz
  • I did not do a first look and am glad I didn't.  BUT, I've actually never read where someone regretted it.  Usually, even if they were worried about doing a first look, they were glad they did.

    For you all and the timing, I think a first look makes the most sense.  Typically, when there isn't a first look, the pics are taken while guests are enjoying cocktail hour.  But, in this case, the reception is already cocktail and apps.

    I think cocktail/apps/cake are fine for the time of day you are having your ceremony and reception.  It is only barely starting to get into dinner time by the end.  I would not expect to be fed a full meal, if I were one of your guests. 

    As a guest, I'd also be more understanding about the intimate dinner if it truly comes across as a separate, more casual event.  Not that the restaurant has to be casual.  But more a sense of "parents/grandparents/WP" going out to dinner with the wedding couple after the big day.  Not "this is the second part of the reception that most people aren't invited to".  As such, unlike the other PPs, I think there should be a gap between the reception and the dinner.  Not to mention, you all probably won't feel like eating at 7PM anyway, after having apps and cake just a couple hours earlier.

    Here's another thought that would definitely make the events very separate.  What about, instead of an intimate dinner the same night, you all take the same folks out for a nice brunch the next morning?

    I know right now it sounds like dinner that evening would be great and should be on the same day as your wedding.  But, I'll tell ya, it's a tiring and emotionally draining day!  A good tiring!  But tiring, nonetheless.  Both for yourself and your FI, as well as the people you are inviting out for dinner.  You all will probably be dragging by that time, even if it is still on the early side of the evening.  I know you are already concerned about that for your grandma.

    FWIW, although I did have a dinner reception for my wedding guests, we also had brunch the next morning for just immediate family and the WP.  It almost did feel like just a "break", to sleep for the night and change into more casual clothes lol, from the reception.  Everyone was still happy and excited from the night before and it was a way to have a longer celebration with my closest. 

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    thisismynickname2MobKazernursejcharlotte989875
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 

    levioosajustsieSTARMOON44
  • CasadenaCasadena member
    500 Comments Fourth Anniversary 250 Love Its Name Dropper
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 

    I agree.  Or even the brunch the day after would be too.  Again, nothing wrong etiquette-wise with doing a small intimate dinner later, just seems a little off to me right after the reception.
    nightnerd
  • (snip)

    As a guest, I'd also be more understanding about the intimate dinner if it truly comes across as a separate, more casual event.  Not that the restaurant has to be casual.  But more a sense of "parents/grandparents/WP" going out to dinner with the wedding couple after the big day.  Not "this is the second part of the reception that most people aren't invited to".  As such, unlike the other PPs, I think there should be a gap between the reception and the dinner.  Not to mention, you all probably won't feel like eating at 7PM anyway, after having apps and cake just a couple hours earlier.

    Here's another thought that would definitely make the events very separate.  What about, instead of an intimate dinner the same night, you all take the same folks out for a nice brunch the next morning?

    (snip)

    To the bolded: This is 100% the way I was looking at it. In our lives, a big event comes with a dinner - birthday, promotion, engagement. We really want to have a nice, fancy dinner, but we definitely do not have the funds to share it with everyone. 

    To the italicized: I was originally considering a brunch, but to save on venue costs we're most likely having a Sunday wedding.  :/ 
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  • What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
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  • MRDCleMRDCle member
    250 Love Its 100 Comments Second Anniversary Name Dropper
    edited July 24
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
    You can certainly have a super-formal RD. We did our rehearsal at the venue and then moved to a nearby restaurant. If you're having a small wedding party (just MoH and BM) and a simple ceremony you don't even NEED an actual rehearsal, and could just do a nice celebratory dinner the night before. 

    ETF somehow half my post went missing.
    [Deleted User]ILoveBeachMusic
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
    You definitely can have a formal RD. 

    I've been to a lot of RDs that were held at different locations than the venue the next day. 

    [Deleted User]
  • CasadenaCasadena member
    500 Comments Fourth Anniversary 250 Love Its Name Dropper
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
    You definitely can have a formal RD. 

    I've been to a lot of RDs that were held at different locations than the venue the next day. 


    I've only been to 1 RD that was at the venue, all others have been at a separate restaurant and they range from very fancy dinner with multiple courses to jeans and pizza and pitchers of beer. 

    Point is, you can DEFINITELY have a super fancy rehearsal dinner if you want and at whatever venue/restaurant you would like.   I like keeping the RD small and intimate (otherwise it feels like another wedding reception) and it could be a perfect solution for you. 

    After your reception you could even just play it by ear and let plans develop naturally.  That way, if you and your new H end up feeling like you'd rather enjoy some alone time, you can - if you want to meet up with family later, that's fine too and it eliminates some of the awkwardness (in my opinion) of a tiered-type reception.

    short+sassy
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs member
    10000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I also think that would be better for your FI's grandma. My grandma was 92 at our wedding, and it ended up being a long day for her. She was tired by the end of the reception. 

    banana468ernursejSTARMOON44
  • I also think that would be better for your FI's grandma. My grandma was 92 at our wedding, and it ended up being a long day for her. She was tired by the end of the reception. 
    That's a great point.   DH's grandparents left in the middle of our reception and didn't make it to the cake cutting.   In all I think they were out by 7 PM and our ceremony started at 2. 
    STARMOON44
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
    It can be anything you want.  My daughter wanted a very casual rehearsal dinner.  Her MIL offered to host it, but then also wanted to do it her way.  Her way meant VERY formal.....place cards, favors, centerpieces.....she truly did make it a mini-reception. 

    Technically, with a small wedding party, you don't even need to have an official rehearsal dinner.  Many couples opt out of it because of the lack of necessity and additional costs involved.  There is no reason to even have any other wedding attachment to it.  You can absolutely have a formal, family dinner on Saturday evening with your wedding and reception the following day.

    Out of curiosity, why does having a Sunday wedding rule out the possibility of hosting a brunch reception?  The two seem to go hand in hand from my POV.
  • A RD can absolutely be super formal and are rarely held at the same venue!

    My RD will be in a private room of an upscale restaurant. We’re having a cocktail hour with passed apps and cocktails a plated 3-course dinner with an open bar. I’m really looking forward to it! It’ll be nice to spread out the wedding events too rather than jam packing one day. 

    Traditionally a RD is to thank people for attending/participating in the rehearsal, but IME it’s just another event in the wedding weekend that’s more intimate. I’ve also seen it as a good place for “extra” toasts so your nearest and dearest can give well wishes and spend more time with the bride and groom. 

    I honestly feel like it would work perfectly for your situation and sit better with your guests. 
    short+sassy
  • edited July 24
    I agree having the intimate dinner works much better as the RD rather than post-reception. For one thing, unless you're paying your venue or a coordinator or someone to clean up after you, you and new spouse (as you shouldn't pressgang friends/family into it) has to clean up and pack up the items that belong to you before leaving the venue. It's unlikely you would be able to just zip right out of the reception and on to dinner.

    Edit: One change to the app reception too. The timing is fine for apps and cake, but there must be a seat at a table for every single person invited. Period. I don't want to juggle my wine glass, plate, and purse while wearing heels or eat off my lap at a couch when I'm all dressed up.
    image
    InLoveInQueensernursej
  • ernursejernursej member
    Knottie Warrior 1000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Agree with PPs. I also did a first look (actually all our pictures except for a few family shots) were done before. I was very happy with that choice. I got more time at our cocktail hour.
  • There's a very easy way to do this. I know because we did it years ago. We had a small wedding, followed by a simple tea party type reception (finger sandwiches, cake, tea, wine punch, string quartet.). After that was over, people went home. A few very close friends and family members went to a separate event a few hours later, a dinner hosted by my brother. It was not part of the wedding. It was a separate event.
     
    I know that social media complicates everything, but you can manage this discreetly if you treat the wedding ceremony and tea party as one event, and the dinner party as another, with invitations issued separately, in separate envelopes. It's ideal if someone else hosts the second event, but you will still be within the bounds of good etiquette if you do so, as long as you make it clear that these are separate events. 

    It is perfectly okay to host two different social gatherings in the same day, with different guests.

  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    I agree with PPs that a formal RD then your apps reception would be the way to go. I too, feel as if the dinner after the reception is more of a tiered event if there isn't a substantial gap between the two events. If I were a guest, I would be a bit hurt to not be invited to a dinner held so close to the time of a cocktail reception. You can definitely have a formal RD at any venue you choose. DD's MIL planned a very formal RD and would've gone even further with it if DD and SIL hadn't asked her to tone it down a bit.
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Eighth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    What about a nice intimate rehearsal dinner and then the apps reception the next day? Everyone expects rehearsal dinners to be small intimate events so you don’t risk offending. Then you can enjoy a fancy dinner after the reception just you and your new husband!
    this is truly a great idea. Have an intimate dinner as your RD, and then the reception the next day. 
    Can you have a super-formal RD? Would it be weird to have the RD at a different place than the venue? 
    I've never been to an RD before, so I have no clue how these work, but I like this idea. When we took a trip to DC, we saw a couple doing this - had an earlier reception, then went to dinner as just the two of them. It would just be weird to me to leave the family behind.
    It can be anything you want.  My daughter wanted a very casual rehearsal dinner.  Her MIL offered to host it, but then also wanted to do it her way.  Her way meant VERY formal.....place cards, favors, centerpieces.....she truly did make it a mini-reception. 

    Technically, with a small wedding party, you don't even need to have an official rehearsal dinner.  Many couples opt out of it because of the lack of necessity and additional costs involved.  There is no reason to even have any other wedding attachment to it.  You can absolutely have a formal, family dinner on Saturday evening with your wedding and reception the following day.

    Out of curiosity, why does having a Sunday wedding rule out the possibility of hosting a brunch reception?  The two seem to go hand in hand from my POV.
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