Wedding Etiquette Forum

Intimate Wedding and Larger Reception

Okay, before I begin, I understand some people say it's tacky to invite people to the reception and not the wedding, however, I am not close to my extended family and so my fiance and I have decided to have an intimate wedding with immediate family only (My mom, step dad, brother, fiance's mom, dad, sister, and our 2 kids).  My fiance is more set on having an actual reception than I am and has more friends and extended family.  Therefore we want to have a separate reception or celebration of our marriage, but on the same day as the intimate ceremony.  I want to have a regular reception where I arrive in my dress and such.  I don't think any of our friends or family who aren't at the intimate ceremony will be offended, because we know them and we can explain the situation beforehand.  My question is how should we do the invitations?  Should we do a save the date for the intimate ceremony and one for the reception?

Re: Intimate Wedding and Larger Reception

  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    edited September 10
    You need to be careful to avoid having the appearance of offering tiered hospitality. Having separate receptions can, however inadvertently, give that appearance and your explanation may not go over well. Just because you don't think they'll be offended doesn't mean that will be the case, and I think "explaining" to people why you're not inviting them does come off a little bit like "nah, nah, you weren't good enough to make the cut." That's not a gracious message to send to anyone.

    I think you'd be better off just inviting the people you really want to invite to one ceremony and one reception and not having an "intimate" ceremony with a separate reception.
    short+sassy
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana member
    2500 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Technically, as long as only you, both of your parents, and the kids are the only people in attendance at the ceremony, this isn't a breach of etiquette. However, as Jen4948 said  people could see this as being tiered which isn't acceptable. This was done in cases where numbers were limited at the ceremony venue (think court house). Also the most important part of the wedding is witnessing the marriage of the two people. Many people wouldn't attend a reception without witnessing the ceremony.  Why do you not want people at the actual ceremony? If it is to save money, it won't because the most expensive part of a wedding is the reception (normally). Maybe you could decide on a smaller list of guests that you would both agree on inviting to the ceremony and reception. 
    short+sassyJen4948MesmrEwecharlotte989875
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Tenth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Okay, before I begin, I understand some people say it's tacky to invite people to the reception and not the wedding, however, I am not close to my extended family and so my fiance and I have decided to have an intimate wedding with immediate family only (My mom, step dad, brother, fiance's mom, dad, sister, and our 2 kids).  My fiance is more set on having an actual reception than I am and has more friends and extended family.  Therefore we want to have a separate reception or celebration of our marriage, but on the same day as the intimate ceremony.  I want to have a regular reception where I arrive in my dress and such.  I don't think any of our friends or family who aren't at the intimate ceremony will be offended, because we know them and we can explain the situation beforehand.  My question is how should we do the invitations?  Should we do a save the date for the intimate ceremony and one for the reception?
    According to etiquette, it is fine to have a truly private ceremony and a larger reception. It is not acceptable to do it the other way around (private reception), nor is it ok to have a tiered event (50% of guests invited to ceremony, everyone invited to reception or portions of reception). 

    Based on what you've outlined, you'd be fine within strict etiquette. You'd send an invitation to everyone to the reception or celebration party. Then you'd send a separate ceremony invitation (as an enclosure card) to only the handful invited to the ceremony. Or you could just tell the ceremony invitees where to be. If you sent STDs ahead of time, they would only reference the celebration party. 

    Outside of etiquette, you should consider the practical aspect. While I don't think you should plan your wedding around how you think other people might feel, it is important to remember that the ceremony is the main event and that people truly do want to see you get married. They may be disappointed or feel excluded to not be invited to that part. There's also the practicality that many people don't consider the celebration as important if they're not invited to the ceremony. Many people will take vacation days, travel, spend money, etc in order to attend a wedding, but they may not be willing to make those same concessions for a celebration. I'm not saying do it one way or the other, but think about whether you'd be disappointed if people aren't as excited about the celebration or don't make it as big of a priority to attend. Just food for thought. 
    Jen4948short+sassy
  • I know this is technically etiquette approved, but I've truly never understood why it's ok to invite people to celebrate an event they're not actually invited to.  I would just have a tiny private wedding (ceremony and reception) or a larger one with everyone invited to both. 
    short+sassycharlotte989875Jen4948
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