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). 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.
Of course, you need to make sure the fact you're only hosting a reception is clear on your invitation. Here's everything you need to know about wedding reception-only invitations.
Plan Two Separate Guest Lists
You'll need to plan two separate guests lists: one for the wedding ceremony and reception, and one for only the reception. You can make the ceremony and reception guest list as small as you wish, whether it’s just your immediate family members 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 in city hall. As long as everyone who gets a ceremony invitation is also included in the reception, you’re golden!
Stick to Your Guns About Who Is Invited and Who Isn't
Once the RSVPs start trickling in, stick to your guns: Some guests may try to pressure you into inviting them to the ceremony also. But if you make one exception, you'll invariably have to make another one. So stay strong and don't go back on your original decision. Just be sure to convey how excited you are to party with them at the reception!
Have the Wedding Ceremony Earlier in the Day...
If you’re planning both the ceremony and the reception 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. Once all of your reception guests arrive, you can make your grand entrance and get straight to mingling.
Planning the overall reception 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 p.m. start time, you may want to have the space ready and the bar open closer to 6 p.m., 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.
…Or Schedule Them Days or a Week Apart
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!
Reception-Only Invitation Wording Samples
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 with ceremony details for the smaller group of guests who will also be invited to the ceremony. Either way, the phrasing of reception-only invitations is absolutely key.
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.
Here are some ways to handle wedding reception-only wording.
Emily and Michael
Emily Katherine Schwartz
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, New York
Irene and Jason
Celebrating the Wedding of
Irene Ellington and Jason Ward
The honor of your presence is requested
on Saturday, the thirty-first of March, 2018
at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ellington
6850 Veranda Avenue, Pasadena, California
Eliza and Christopher
Together with their parents
Eliza Ann and Christopher Baron
invite you to celebrate their union
at a wedding reception following the ceremony
Join us for hors d'oeuvres, drinks, dessert, and dancing
at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu
at 4 p.m. on April 15, 2018
Christine and Kevin
With great love and joy
Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Johnson
Mr. and Mrs. Everett Stanford
kindly invite you to a
reception celebrating the marriage of their children
Christine Lynn and Kevin Paul
on Saturday, August 11, 2018
Victoria and Tristan
Victoria and Tristan invite you to join them for
a celebration with the newlyweds
at noon on Saturday, June 2, 2018
The Peninsula Beverly Hills
RSVP by May 15, 2018 at www.Tristan-Victoria.wedding
Dahlia and Roger
Please join Dahlia and Roger for cocktails, dinner, and dancing
And help us celebrate the happy occasion!
On November 3, 2018
At Perch in Los Angeles