Big Crowds Make Me Anxious. Can We Have a Private Ceremony and See Our Guests Later?

Give yourself some peace of mind without hurting any feelings

Updated 10/21/17

Photo by Laurine Paumard

One of the things that makes a wedding so special is the opportunity to have everyone you love in one place. Of course, it also means all eyes are on you—which can be exhilarating for some and absolutely overwhelming for others. If crowds are really not your jam, you might be looking for a creative way to celebrate this occasion without getting uncomfortable. So can you keep parts of your wedding more intimate to avoid those anxiety-inducing moments as much as possible? Our experts weigh in.

If you really don’t love crowds and prefer not to be in the spotlight, the thought of standing up in front of everyone you know for your wedding ceremony could be causing your stomach to churn. But you love all these people, so having a wedding without them doesn’t seem right. The good news is, there’s a happy medium.

Traditional etiquette states that anyone invited to your wedding ceremony has to be invited to your reception—but it doesn’t apply the other way around. That means you can 100 percent keep that ceremony small while still getting to have a party with all of your friends (and without any major faux pas). So whether it’s a small ceremony immediately followed by a big reception, or events on completely separate days, you can definitely cut down that ceremony guest list to whatever makes you comfortable without feeling like you’ve left anyone out of the celebration.

When it comes to planning the guest list, you can make it as small as you wish, whether it’s just your immediate families or a group of 30 of your very closest family members and friends. You could have the ceremony in a church, at your reception venue, or with only the necessary witnesses at city hall. As long as everyone who gets a ceremony invitation is also included in the reception, you’re golden!

If you’re planning everything for the same day, try to have your ceremony on the earlier side. This will give you and your intimate group of guests plenty of time to celebrate (we recommend a post-ceremony champagne toast before you head to the reception!) as well as provide an opportunity for you to take all the pictures you might need before you continue with your evening. Then, once all of your reception guests arrive, you can make your grand entrance and get straight to mingling.

Having the ceremony and reception on different days requires a little more planning but also gives you some flexibility. You could have the events a day or a week apart, or spread them out if your schedules work better that way. Heck, you can even have the ceremony and reception in different states or countries if you want! And it’s a perfect excuse to put your wedding dress back on!

No matter what you have planned, the phrasing on the invitations is absolutely key. It’s a good idea to have two separate invitations printed, no matter what your timing looks like.

For guests invited to your ceremony and reception, your invitation should read something like this:

Christopher and Leanne Schwartz

Request the honor of your presence

At the marriage of their daughter

Emily Katherine

to

Michael Andrew Gordon

Saturday the sixth of October

Two thousand eighteen

At four o’clock in the afternoon

Brooklyn Winery

Brooklyn, New York

Reception to follow

Note: If your reception will be on a different day, remove that “reception to follow” line and instead include an insert in the invitation with the location, date, and time of the reception.

For guests who will be invited to the reception only, here’s sample wording you can use:

Emily Katherine Schwartz

and

Michael Andrew Gordon

will be married in a small ceremony

on Saturday the sixth of October

Please join us in celebration

at their wedding reception

Saturday the twentieth of October

Two thousand eighteen

At half past six o’clock in the evening

Brooklyn Winery

Brooklyn, New York

Note: If your reception will be immediately following the ceremony, invite guests to join “at their wedding reception following the ceremony.”

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