We Want a Small Ceremony, But a Large Reception — How Should We Word Our Invitations?

Etiquette, Invites & Stationery

Who knew creating a guest list would come with so many rules? From deciding if you'll have a B-List to when to those send save the dates, there are a lot of things to keep in mind — and that's all in addition to how the guest list you create will impact the feeling of your wedding day. If you've always dreamed of an intimate walk down the aisle, or fell in love with the tiny church down the street for your wedding venue, the thought of having hundreds of people at your ceremony may seem like a tough pill to swallow. So can you create a short-list for the ceremony, then invite a larger crowd to your reception later that day? Here's what our experts have to say.

While you should never invite guests to just your wedding ceremony, with the reception you have a little more flexibility. Especially if you're planning to say "I do" in a much smaller space than your reception venue, it can sometimes be the only way to include everyone in your wedding day. It does, however, require that you communicate very clearly with your guests and plan your timeline accordingly.

First things first, you can either print two invitations (one inviting a smaller group to both your ceremony and reception, and one inviting the rest of your guests to the reception only) or, to keep costs a little lower, have your main invitation printed with the reception information, then include an insert card for the smaller group of guests who will also be invited to the ceremony.

On the invitation, instead of inviting guests to witness your marriage, the wording should say that guests are invited to a reception in celebration of your marriage — this implies that you will already be married by the time they arrive. The insert card can more specifically invite guests to your wedding ceremony. It should list the time and location, and conclude with "Reception to Follow." On your wedding website, you can either list the ceremony information and specify that the ceremony will be family-only, or you can opt to keep the ceremony information private and add a little more information about how you are inviting guests to join you for a celebration after you've exchanged vows.

Planning your timeline correctly is also important. Make sure you allow ample time for you and your ceremony guests to arrive at the reception, ideally at the same time as the rest of the guests so the party can get started. If your reception invitation calls for a 6:30 start time, you may want to have the space ready and the bar open closer to 6:00, just in case guests begin to arrive a little bit early. Then the two of you can either jump right into cocktail hour, or have your band or DJ introduce you formally before dinner so you can spend some time greeting the rest of your guests.

See More: Is There a General Wedding Ceremony Outline That We Should Follow?

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