Can We Have a Small Wedding Ceremony and a Large Reception?

Ceremony & Vows, Etiquette
romantic outdoor wedding ceremony at houston zoo

Photo: Jen Huang Photography

One of the toughest parts of wedding planning is deciding which guests to invite to your ceremony and reception—and who to leave off your list. In our daily etiquette post, our experts help brides-to-be answer questions about guests lists and more.

We'd like to have a small ceremony but a big reception. Is that OK?

Your wedding ceremony guest list can certainly be pared down to a few key players. However, before you make the decision to keep things intimate, ask yourselves this: "Will we look back and regret the fact that everyone we love didn't get to see us seal the deal?" If you don't think so, then go for the smaller ceremony. It's important to do what makes the two of you comfortable and happy.

However, it's inevitable that your decision will make some other people unhappy. Here's how to cushion the blow: Have your ceremony videotaped and set up a TV at the reception so guests can catch the highlights. Also, ask the DJ or band leader to announce all the "firsts" at your wedding reception (your first toast, meal, dance and bite of cake as hubby and wife). By making a big to-do about these first moments, people will really feel like they are a part of your wedding day (without needing to see the first kiss). Bonus tip: Your wedding invitations should make it clear that the recipient is invited to the reception only. (For example, "You are cordially invited to the reception celebrating the marriage of..."). Otherwise you'll have a room full of people scratching their heads and wondering what happened to the "I dos."

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