Savvy reception-only wedding invitation wording examples for every scenario

Posted by
reception only wedding invitation wording alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
The wording on this reception-only wedding invitation makes it very clear that y'all are already married!

We are planning a small ceremony during the day with a limited number of guests. Later that evening, we will have a party/reception for everyone to come and celebrate whether they were at the ceremony or not.

What is a polite way to word the invitations to the reception-only people so that they know that the ceremony was kept small so that no feelings are hurt?


Ooh ooh, I can answer this one! When I got married, I had a relatively intimate afternoon ceremony and dinner, and then an open-invitation “Bring your friends!” crazy dance party reception that night. We invited these reception guests via an evite that read:

As many of you know, WE'RE FRICKING GETTING MARRIED! We're trying really hard to keep the ceremony/dinner part of our wedding intimate….but it simply wouldn't be a party WITHOUT YOU THERE so we sincerely hope you can join us for the post-ceremony dancing reception!Please join us for a night of dancing, camping and freak-nasty wackiness under the trees of Bainbridge Island! Naturally, since we first fell in love at a rave, we have to throw a small (very small) rave-like thing to celebrate the wedding. So come dance with us.

You can read more about how we did this in the Offbeat Bride book, but in terms of how to word wedding invitations for reception only… I actually would NOT recommend doing it the way we did. Personally, I don't think there's any need to even mention the ceremony on reception-only invitations.

Even if you're just trying to be nice, there's no need to talk about the part of the wedding they can't attend when inviting them to the part that they can. “We love you but you can't come to this part — but we still love you … no seriously!” It's just rubbing salt into a wound that people didn't even know they had. Rather, just focus your invitation wording on how excited you are to have them attend your reception, how awesome the event is going to be, etc etc. Most folks think ceremonies are boring anyway, so don't let them in on the fact that yours is going to be awesome. Just invite them to the reception and leave it at that!

vows now party later post microwedding reception alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
These vows now, party later marriage announcements could be perfect for you if you decide to have a big reception after your micro-wedding

One very basic example would be something like this:

Jane and Joe
invite you to join us at our
celebrating our recent marriage.
Please come
get down with us at
7pm on Saturday, the 10th of October 2019
Bigtown Ballroom
Your Town, WA

There are some who suggest including a small line at the bottom of the reception-only invitation that reads “A private wedding will precede the reception.” I guess that's sort of what we did, just in a more casual/more wordy way.

More wording examples for wedding invitations for reception only:

Liz and Alli
together with their parents
invite you to celebrate their love and commitment
at a reception following their ceremony
Join us for hors d'oeuvres, drinks, dessert and dancing.
We started our family, now we are tying the knot.
We are having the ceremony in a tiny private spot.
We hope you can still join us right after,
for a dance some drinks and plenty of laughter!
Mr. and Mrs. ____________
Mr. and Mrs. __________________would like to invite you to the
reception celebrating the marriage of their children_____________
_______________onSaturday, August 2, 2014 at 5:30pm

ONE LAST THING: Don't make this reception-only invitation mistake!

Some folks are extremely sensitive to the concept of “gift grabs,” ie “Oh, they only invited me to this part of the wedding BECAUSE THEY WANT A GIFT.”

Personally, we're not sure why so many people are so convinced that couples even want their gifts (since so many of our readers actually try to opt-out of gifts completely), but if you want to avoid any feathers being ruffled, make sure to note No gifts, please! on your reception-only wedding invitations.

I've been to numerous reception-only weddings, and never once did I feel like people were standing around gloating “What a LOVELY CEREMONY. Oh, you weren't there? Sucks to be you, girlfriend. Tee hee!”

PS: Check out more wedding invitation wording ideas.

Meet our fave wedding vendors

Comments on Savvy reception-only wedding invitation wording examples for every scenario

  1. thanks SO much for posting this!! we’re doing the semi-private ceremony/big reception combo and I was unsure of how to approach it on the invites.

    and I feel the same way– I really don’t think people are going to be offended when I invite them to come eat, drink & dance with us but don’t invite them to a 15 minute ceremony. thanks again 🙂

  2. YES! my friends aren’t going to be able to attend the ceremnoy & wedding my parents are throwing for us in Hawaii so this is perfect!

    Besides, our reception will be more fun. ROCKBAND!!

  3. Yeah, I think that’s the real secret here: no matter how awesome and offbeat your ceremony may be, really the reception is always more fun. 😉

  4. We ordered invites and used the “ceremony card” poriton as the reception card, and only ordered 25 “reception cards” — those were used to invite family and a few close friends to our intimate ceremony. Here’s what our reception card — which everyone received — read:

    “Liz and Alli, together with their parents, invite you to celebrate their love and commitment at a reception following their ceremony. Join us for hors d’oeuvres, drinks, dessert and dancing.”

    We did have some people ask why they couldn’t come to the ceremony, and basically had to tell everyone that was reception-only the real reason. We reserved a state beach and they only allow 50 people. Most people were happy to just come to the reception, as it was a five-hour party as opposed to a ten minute ceremony, and lots said it was the most fun wedding they’ve ever been to. Yay.

    • That’s exactly what we did, the ceremony info card was an extra insert we sent to close friends and family, and our main invite asked people to ‘come celebrate with us: location of reception, etc etc’. we also had a ‘registered at whatever’ as an extra insert too so it didn’t seem out of place to have the ceremony card as an extra to those who received both.

  5. This also works for the people who have destination weddings, with a reception back home. It’s similar to what I did:

    ____ & _____
    Got married on (date) in (location)

    We would like to invite you to a reception in celebration of our recent marriage… (details)

      • Nope. Why does everyone assume that every party is some sort of gift grab? We’ve lived together for years, and didn’t need a single gift… other than our guests to be there with us.

  6. In my religion, the wedding ceremony is traditionally attended by very few people as we consider it a sacred ordinance–only those who meet certain qualifications are eligible to attend, which leaves the vast majority of friends and family unable to join the couple for the ceremony itself. It is not uncommon for most invitations to be “reception only”. Where I live there is a large percentage of members of my faith, so it is generally assumed that ALL invitations are only for the reception. However, I’ve had friends in other places word their invitations something like this:

    Jane Smith and John Doe are pleased to announce their marriage and happily invite you to a celebration held in honor of their union at

    on (date)

    Marriage solemnized in (location) on (date).

    They also use insert cards to invite people to the actual ceremony so there is USUALLY very little confusion.

  7. We had two seperate invitations and it was not really a big to do since we made them all on Office Word and then printed them at home. (they came out sweet). Anyway, the wedding time was at 1:00 and then one said 5:30 (the party).
    The only people that had problems were the people who A)did not read the invitation to begin with and asked what time the wedding was. B) Pouted about not going to the wedding and then asked for all of the things she had ever lent to her back because she had no intentions of talking to me again. (As you can see, this one was a bit out of my control) and I think is the exception to the rule. She is a very immature 8 year old, I mean, 28 year old.

  8. We had a ceremony with only 20 people in attendence, but wanted a huge party afterwards that anyone could come to and help us celebrate. I ended up coming up with a poem to let people know we were doing a private ceremony with a very public reception. People thought it was cute and no one was too bent out of shape that they missed a very short, very intimate wedding.
    Our wording was:
    “We started our family, now we are tying the knot. We are having the ceremony in a tiny private spot. We hope you can still join us right after, for a dance some drinks and plenty of laughter!”

    • After too much time wasted on working our Save the Date cards for a party after an elopement, I settled on a poem too and i loved it!

      "Kevin and Beth are going to elope, but you'll be there to welcome us home, we hope…so save the date to party and dine, December 12th, 2009"

      It said it all and everyone thought it was cute! We simply got it printed on a Walgreens photo card with a pic of a non-traditional bride and groom.

      • BethB you are a genius!!! I am stealing this.

        I just need to figure out how to make 2015 rhyme with…something…

      • Just wanted to say that I love that little poem. I think it is totally awesome that you wed in the same day my daughter was born! Must mean good things.

    • TinaBina, I hope you don’t mind, but I used your saying for our reception only invites (just tweaked it a little) because it honestly was so perfect for my situation! Thank you for sharing it with everyone.
      I have a question for you though! Did you send them out to those guests when you sent out STD’s (if you did) or did you send them out with the ceremony invites?
      I’m just trying to see when I should send those! Thanks!

  9. TinaBina – can I steal that poem?!?!?!?!?! It’s FAN-TASTIC!

    Although I may make a small change to the exact wording, but still I would love to steal this. Teehee 🙂

  10. We are getting married in Vegas and having a huge party a week after we get back. When people ask who is invited to Vegas, I just tell them that we are not specifically inviting anyone since we can’t afford to pay for people to fly there, and don’t want to make anyone feel like they have to. But anyone who wants to come up is more than welcome to. Then we go into discussing the big party.

    Our parents will probably be the only ones who actually fly there.

    • This is the exact same situation that my fiancé and I are in. We are eloping to Vegas and then planning on doing the big reception thing afterwards. We have made it clear to everyone that Vegas is for who ever wants to come and can afford to but we have also made it clear that we are not paying for anyone and that we will have one massive party when we get back. I think this just makes for such a low stress wedding.

      • I expect at least £1000 off each guest…
        That’s a joke btw, I never expect anything from any guest. I’m happy to feed my reception guests, I don’t expect anything in return. Also my ceremony guests are having the same amount of food etc as the reception guests as we are getting married very late in the day, but only 60 people can fit where the ceremony is.

    • We are doing the same – only our reception will be 2 months after the wedding because we are also taking a vacation and will be totally tapped of funds when we get back (also, probably exhausted).

      But we were surprised – we have told everyone “family only” at the Vegas ceremony. And while some friends have been bummed – we have 16 family members coming! We thought it would just be our parents too! SO you might be surprised!

  11. I have the opposite problem… my fiance & I want to share the ‘intimate’ ceremony with everyone, but the reception with only a few.

    most of the reason is because we wanted the reception to be more intimate to share the time with the ones we love most. but also because we’re paying for it ourselves & trying to buy a house, and our location is small.

    do you think it’s unfair to people only invited to the ceremony? we’ve weighed all of our options, and i just can’t justify spending thousands on one day (not that it isn’t important), instead of a home for us to make our own lifetime of memories & family.

    how do we explain this and not sound ‘stingy’????

  12. I’m with Erin; My fiance coaches gymnastics and wants the girls he’s coached for years to be able to come to the ceremony. How do we let them and their families come to that, and then tell them we can’t afford to pay for their plates later? Our reception is going to be pretty much family and a few friends.

    Any help?

  13. I have a suggestion for Kylie & Erin: my mom for her wedding had a large cake & punch reception immediately following the ceremony, and then had separate invites only for those close family & friends to a more intimate family dinner later the same day. This allowed everyone who made the effort to join them for the ceremony feel appreciated, and they were able to mingle and have some fun at the cake reception. I think everyone understood that the more intimate dinner was only for family. Hope this helps!

    • I would love to do this, but I would also hate to ask so many people to fly all the way out (50% of the party is from the Midwest) and not feed them. Do you think people would get upset by this? Or would they be understanding? I guess it depends on the individual family…

  14. Question?? Would it rude to have a “coctail party” after the reception. I am planning an at home tent wedding the weekend of the 4th of July (2010) and would like to have an intimate ceremony and semi-formal reception…however, we would love to invite all of our friends to party with us afterwards for the rest of the night. Would it be wrong to send out seperate invites from the formal ceremony and reception for a “coctail party” and serve appetizers and (possibly)have an open bar and request that these guests do not bring gifts…since we just want to celebrate with them but cannot afford to do the dinner thing for so many people??

    • This is exactly what I am doing. I want to keep the ceremony and reception intimate being only our families and closest friends but I want to have a huge party when dinner is done. I was thinking of doing a coctail party type invite also. I posted this idea on the Knot and got a lot of not so positive feedback so I am glad I am not the only one thinking this way. As long as guests know that a gift is not expected, I don't see a problem with it!

    • My fiance and I are also doing that. The chapel we booked only holds 170 and the reception venue 200 (he is Mexican and I'm Irish so we have HUGE families, yes we are the stereotypes haha). We budgeted for 200 but that's still cutting out a lot of friends. So we got a venue that allows us to use it all day until 11:30 PM. We know that the majority of the family and family friends will head out early. This leaves room for all our friends to come out and party. So we are also trying to figure out the wording on those after Party, party invitations. btw i would be terrified to post anything on the Knot or those type of sites… wow those women are CRITICAL !! It's nice that you don't get judged here for being who you are =)

      • Did you guys come up with any invitation ideas for your guests that are coming after dinner is finished??? I'm considering this idea– we're having a tented reception at my future in-law's house and have PLENTY of space for every single one of our friends, but I can't afford to feed them all a dinner – I just want to party with them. I need invitation ideas that will let them know I want them to share in the experience – their presence being the best gift of all!

      • How did it work out for you? Did you do invitations separate? Looking for more examples!

        • I think my two invitations turned out super nice! I’m will to share them if you want. Look… I know the people who are “Ew no! You are breaking some kind of blah blah blah” … so let me be clear and this is not to you Melissa… if anyone has a problem, I will be sure to inform them that I thought enough of them to celebrate and provide me with NO GIFTS for coming to the reception only party. And that only close family were part of my ceremony because frankly. .. it’s my damn wedding! People who get so worked up over someone else’s choice for a ceremony or party to celebrate a marriage that isn’t even their marriage need something else in their pathetic lives. I wouldn’t care if my friends chose to invite me only to the party. I would love it AND I would still get them something anyway because they wanted me there in ANY CAPACITY! Also this is my second marriage and I have two kids that I am a single mom to raising them by myself. I take care of my aging parents too. My fiancé is a saint for always being by my side. We have a close knit group of family and friends and we are pleased with how we are doing it. Not only that, everyone we have discussed this with including the venue (which frankly loves the idea) and florists and photographers are all fine…. why? Because it is still money in there pocket! They are happy because I’m a happy bride and in the end money trumps etiquette every time.

  15. I just thought I would share our plans. we decided spur of the moment to have a small wedding in june with only 30 people, but my guy’s family is really close and huge!!! to avoid hurting feelings we are web casting the ceremony on line then each of our family branches are throwing us a separate reception later in the summer… as a bonus i don’t have to be embarrassed or explain certain members of my family that I would rather not own up to.

  16. We are getting married in Las Vegas. Have been together going on 9 yrs. When we get back we are throwing a big party reception 2 weeks after. I am just having trouble wording the invitation since its only for the reception. Also we are paying for everything ourselves and we would like cash or gift cards for gifts ony.. We have everything already. How do we word that on the invitation? Is there a way to word it? Thank you

  17. Hi. My fiancee and I are both teachers. She has a huge awesome family. Many of our teacher friends at both schools want to come to the wedding, but we just can’t afford to have them at the reception.

    There will be an informal invitation to the ceremony only and a wedding party after school is in session. Many of my teacher friends said they don’t care about the reception, but want to come to the wedding. I am struggling with the wording. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Hi John,
      My fiance and I both work at a school too and we are getting married next week – yes 7 days! We had this problem too, our problems stemmed from that our location of the wedding is small, holds about 150 people, and the reception location holds up to 400. So, we only invited our principals and their spouses and 3 other couples from our building due to the small number allowed in the wedding location (I am a spec. ed. teacher and have 3 women that work directly in my classroom with me each day, they were invited as well as the principals). This was an easy way to determine who was invited "small location, no one else invited due to only being private ceremony for family". THEN we invited the rest of the staff to the reception. I am not sure how much your meal is per head, but we were able to afford this.. I am guessing this is much more expensive where you live or at your venue…? Also it was a bit easier for us b/c we are at the same building. Our staff was very understanding that the location for the ceremony only held so many people and are thrilled to be attending the reception.
      There were 2 invitations that went out.. the wedding invitation that included a RSVP card and an enclosure card with the reception information on it.. and a reception invitation which included just the RSVP card. Both had maps, the wedding invite had a map (both in color) and printed front to back with the wedding and reception location and the reception invite had just the reception location map.

      The way the reception invitation was worded different was this: Mr. and Mrs. ____________ and Mr. and Mrs. __________________ would like to invite you to the reception celebrating the marriage of their children _____________ and _______________ on Saturday, August 2, 2009 at 5:30pm
      . Park Place Hotel, Sandusky, OH

      Then you just put in the RSVP, b/c the info from the enclosure card for your wedding invites is now on your other invitations.. does that make sense? hope so!!! Good luck!!!
      I hope this helps!! I was stressing out trying to figure out how to word the reception only invite people!!!

  18. Hi, this may help someone out. My fiance’ and I are planning a nice evening wedding. The problem is…there are so many wonderful people, who have been very instrumental in our lives. We are on a strict budget, as we will be purchasing a home about a year after we are married. Because of this…we just can’t afford to have the big reception liked we had originally planned. To solve this problem, we’ve decided to do a desert and light appetizer reception for our wedding guests (immediately following the wedding…in the church’s hall). This will last about 30 min (we will tactfully word this on the invites). Afterward, we will have a smaller intimate dinner (at the hotel where our out of town guests are staying) with just the wedding party and out of town family members. This solved our problem….hope it helps someone else.

  19. I need some help. My fiance and I are not sure what to do. We have a guest list of about 260 people and my mom and my fiances parents are both on a tight budget. They offered to pay for some of the wedding but with the guest list we have I don't see us having the wedding we want. So I thought about having a small wedding in NYC for only really close family and friends with a nice dinner to follow. But I'm not sure about what to do for the reception later for all our friends and distant relatives. Do we do it like a normal wedding reception or can we just have a bbq or large party without all the fancy expectaitons that usually cost a lot? And how do I keep from offending people who were not invited to the ceremony. My fiance has many close friends and family friends that may not be happy if they are not at the ceremony.

  20. I've been lucky with this. In Utah, it is common to have 'reception only' invitations due to the many LDS couples that get married in the temple which is restricted to members that qualify.

    It did bring up the issue of extended family thinking we're getting married in the temple and they get disappointed to find we're having a small, canyon wedding. We don't mind though. 🙂

  21. I have a similar invitation dilemma – My fiance and I are getting married this fall. The location of the ceremony/reception is in this broad valley that with a couple of lodges that are traditionally used for guests that have hiked or horseback ridden in for an overnight stay in hostel-like accommodations. Our guests (~90) will hike into (short, <1 mile hike) the valley for the ceremony/reception. Unfortunately, the lodge only has sleeping quarters for 48 people. We plan to ask only our closest friends/family to stay in the lodges and everyone else will hike out after the reception before dark. We have a few hotels in the area that we plan to recommend for these guests, but we simply are not able to invite them to stay in the valley. How do we let the folks that we would like to stay in the cabins with us know that they are invited to do so? We also need to add details, like fresh bedding is provided, breakfast is provided, etc.? Everyone is invited to ceremony and reception, it's just that only a selected few will get to stay in the overnight cabins.

  22. I'm having trouble phrasing what is going to be a combination of a wedding announcement and a separate reception. I'm trying to be creative and not use stock phrases, but it's all coming out sounding like stock. So far, I've got:

    Together with our parents

    ME and HIM

    Are ecstatic to announce that we were married in a private ceremony

    Monday, the third of August, two thousand and nine

    At the San Francisco City Hall

    Please join us for a celebration

    On Saturday, the third of October two thousand and nine

    At four o’clock in the afternoon

    The *** Museum

    Address, Massachusetts

    For more information, please visit [our wedsite]

    Please suggest any non-rhyming alternatives!


  23. I have a similar issue. We have limited seating for both the ceremony location and the reception location for the dinner. We are sending out invites to certain close family and friends to the ceremony and entire reception including dinner. We are also sending out invititations for those who we would like to come and celebrate with us for the dance portion of the reception. Everything is on one day, but in two different locations. Does anyone have any ideas on how to word the "dance only" reception invites? I know that this isn't the proper etiquette, but we don't have any other options. Thanks for any suggestions!

  24. My daughter is getting married in October. She and her fiancee want to have a small private ceremony in the morning with a cake and punch reception in early afternoon for everyone. How do you word the invitation for the invitees for the reception only? They are leaning toward not mentioning the wedding at all. Don't the reception invitees need to know when the wedding took place? We go to church with alot of these people. When she arrives in her dress, they will obviously know they just came from the wedding.

  25. Me and my fiance are getting married soon. We are LDS but are not getting married in the temple. We both have large families and only want our family and VERY close friends to the actual ceremony and the reception is going to follow the ceremony where everyone will be invited to the reception. We live in a very LDS populated place and I’m not sure how to word our announcments so I dont have to explain to everyone that we arent getting married in the temple and that they are only invited to the reception. We are also the the wedding ourselves, with little help from both out parents. Any suggestions??

  26. I need help on wording my invitations! Because i have a huge family, & lots of friends, my guest list is around 375. Since we cant aford to invite everyone to the Dinner, we will be having a ceremony & dinner reception at my parents home for approximately 200 people. From 2-5. Then we will host a Party/ Reception from 6pm-12am for all 375 people, at a very nice venue where we will Have a DJ and serve Hor D'ouvres and punch (and cake) and have a bar available. (not open bar). How do i word the invitations?

  27. Hi everyone, I know I might be a bit late. Here is what we are doing: Flying out to vegas on August 13,2010. getting married in vegas on 8/14/2010, returning on the 16th. only close friends are going to vegas with us to get married. On August 21, 2010 we will be having a large party for family and friends to come and celebrite with us being that they all couldn't make it to vegas with us. I don't like the traditional wedding with the white dress etc and neither does my fiance. So we are doing something a little different.

  28. I love your outlook. This is a great site. I found you by googling 'wedding reception invitations only'. My fiance and I are getting married in a private (he and I) ceremony in Cancun in March 2010 and then we're throwing a reception in July 2010. Unconventional to be sure. And I thought it would be appropriate to register ourselves somewhere since undoubtedly people will bring gifts, so they may as well be something you want. Your thoughts?

  29. I was wondering how you handle listing events on the wedding website if not everyone is invited to the ceremony?

  30. We are having a small private ceremony but want everyone to come to the reception. How should i do the invites? Should i have save the dates for receception only?

  31. We are having a small family only wedding and reception on the 4th of July in our Field at our house. We do want to celebrate with our friends and family and do not want to hurt anybody’s feelings. Would it be appropriate to have a Wedding Shower and invite friends and family and share that day with them. We would use that time to talk and share and let them know how much we love and care for them and to be able to share a special moment in our lives with them some how. Please help with a comment….. we really do not want to hurt anyone.

  32. We are having the ceremony and reception at a friend’s house. We only invited the people that we know will be in our lives 10 years from now to the first half. We are sending dance, cocktails, and poker game invites for after the dinner. Now, I know there are a lot of people that follow “wedding etiquette.” Whatever! Anyone that knows us, knows we are unconventional, we don’t bend to the “norm” and our motto has been “Its our marriage, we do what we want!” We were even told by my fiancé’s boss that we have to invite the other owner of the company. We can’t stand the other owner or his wife, we decided NOT to invite him, regardless of “business etiquette.” I refuse to have an intimate moment with my enemy standing there watching us. Although we may piss off a lot of people, we don’t care. We want happy memories of our union, not what everyone else wants.

  33. We are getting married with a VERY private ceremony – the guest list consists of six people (parents and children). Our ceremony is going to take place at a public park and my mom has agreed to host a small reception immediately following for family members only. We are on a very tight budget and would like to have a celebration with our friends (which are many) on a later date. Any suggestions? We would like to include all of our friends as they are all very excited about the upcoming event, however, our budget does not allow for this. Any “out of the box” suggestions? Please Help!!! 🙂

  34. Maybe I’m naive, but I didn’t realise this was seen as a “problem” until I started planning my own wedding and reading wedding/etiquette sites (admittedly all American, maybe it differs there?). Evening only invites are common where I live in the UK and I’ve certainly never been “upset” that someone only wants me at the party end of the day, nor did I think they were only inviting me for a gift (seriously?).

    • This is absolutely a regional issue. Different countries, different wedding issues. 🙂

      While we try to expressly acknowledge this in many posts, ultimately we’re an American blog. Consider all etiquette advice accordingly.

      • Actually OBB are the only international site I’ve found which celebrate regional/cultural differences and acknowledge that ettiquette isn’t always universal.

  35. I am in a similar issue, but I feel like it is all in my head. We live in New Orleans, are buying a house here, and want to have a wedding here. However, we both grew up in Michigan, and have family and friends who live there.
    We are having the ceremony in New Orleans, and a reception in New Orleans, and a reception in Michigan after the honeymoon for people that cannot make the trip (a much more laid back style event). In terms of wording, what are your suggestions?
    Do I include both events on the same card? Include a separate “card” in our paperless invites? Send a separate invite? Right now I’m leaning towards an insert card that says “For those unable to attend the wedding in New Orleans, Please join us for a wedding celebration on blah di blah blah.” But it feels bland, and the teacher inside me thinks it feels exclusive, like you couldn’t be there for the best part, here is your participation medal! How do I word it so people realize that we just want to see and hug them, no matter where they are?

  36. We are doing a family only ceremony on a Friday night followed by a big, CASUAL, bash Saturday night for friends. What are some good websites for casual invites? I’d like to do formal invites for the small Friday night event but then I think it just gets too expensive. Can someone explain the individual enclosed cards in the invites so I can know which ones to order and make the RSVP to both and RSVP reception only? That part is confusing me. Thanks!

    • Hi Kerry,

      We are planning something very similar. Would you mind sharing what you ended up doing?


      • Hi Sara,

        I sent out save the dates that said “reception invitation to follow” and they went to everyone invited to the Saturday party. This included people invited to the ceremony Friday. Lucky for us, everyone coming Friday is either family or close friends and we’ve simply just mentioned it to them or I wrote on the back on the save the dates to them “please note the ceremony is Friday. You’re invited. Dinner to follow blah blah blah.”

        The reception invites (vistaprint btw) were interesting. I did a standard invitation and changed the wording to “join us for our reception” with the time date etc. then I ordered RSVP cards for to go with that. Vista print was great in letting me add reception cards. You know those little card inserts people use to let guests know where the reception is? Since our invite is the reception card I just turned the reception card into the ceremony card and edited to details on it to reflect that. I’ll be putting ceremony card inserts into those who are joining us on both days. Let me know if that makes sense!

  37. We recently received a Save the Date for a wedding reception, and I really liked the way it was worded. Quite simply, it says “Save the Date for the Wedding Reception of…” I think this is great in that it sets the expectation early (before the formal invitation) and it’s no muss, no fuss. I especially like that it’s not apologetic, which I think keeps it from focusing on the fact that we’re “not invited” to the ceremony. Maybe it helps that we already knew this couple was planning to have a courthouse ceremony, but I believe that even if we didn’t know that, we’d infer it and still be happy.

  38. Hi!
    I love all of this advice! We’re planning on getting married with just parents and siblings and then having a bigger reception. I see that you mentioned the gifts thing above, but is it rude to register and accept gifts in my case?


  39. I love all this information. Our reason for a private ceremony is very different. We think it is a private time / event. We are private people, it seems strange to have family members we hardly know or a plus 1 of an acquaintance staring at us while we commit our selves. We are also not romantic / religions / creative and our ceremony will be short & practical. To us the “ceremony” is the legal stuff. Therefor we are getting married at a courthouse with our parents as witnesses (mostly because they would pitch a fit if they weren’t there).

    I see a lot of reception only invite ideas for evening only, after the ceremony. And also months after the ceremony, sending the invite after you are legal. HOWEVER we are having our reception 2 weeks after our ceremony. I still can’t figure out the best option. I can’t mail the invites after the ceremony, some guests are on the other side of the country. I’m leaning towards the wording of the evening after and just not stating when the ceremony was. THOUGHTS?

  40. Growing up in Utah, and with many people having temple marriages wherein only certain people are allowed in, I never realized that this was an issue! It’s pretty common here, even amongst the non-religious crowd, to have a small ceremony and then invite other friends or acquaintances to the reception afterward. My conundrum is how to address that we don’t want children at the reception!

  41. Quick hint from my experience. I think that people would react better to “we’re having a small wedding followed by a larger reception” than they reacted to “We got married yesterday and we’re having a reception in 8 months.” My wedding had less than 10 people there, I was pleasantly surprised that my mom and step dad made it and even brought my two favorite dogs. While my husband’s mother knew, no one else knew. His family was not happy.

  42. We had to do two separate invitations due to our ceremony site being much smaller than the reception site. Our parents took advantage of my niceness and wanting to please everyone BBB (before bride balls). The ceremony/reception invite is mostly traditional and the reception only is the same design but instead of highlighting “marriage” it notes that we will be getting married at a small private ceremony earlier in the day and highlights join us for “dinner and dancing”.

  43. My sister got married in a private ceremony 2 years ago and now has a baby. She lives in a different country. Now I am getting married next month in a private ceremony. Our parents have decided to throw a reception to welcome all the new members of the family (2 son in laws and one grand daughter). Can you help me word an invitation for such a party

  44. I’m thinking of having an intimate dinner at maybe 5:30 and then inviting people to the ceremony and a cocktail/desert reception at around 7:30. Is that rude? The ceremony and reception are in the same venue so all will be able to participate. I don’t want to seem “cheap” though… just having cake and snacks. But we are paying for alcohol, so that has to make up for something.

  45. Question for the group: we are having a small ceremony in Spring with an intimate luncheon for those guests only. We are intending to have a large Bonfire party that same day, but am struggling with how to word the fact that we will not be feeding everyone (Light snacks and cake). As of right now I’m calling it a “post-reception party”, but am wondering if there’s a better way. Any suggestions are welcome, thank you!

  46. Making expectations clear is critical. We’ve been hurt a bit by a reception-only wedding — the invitations did not make it clear how things were going to go down, and my partner was really hurt that his close friend had us fly clear across the country to find they’d gotten married an hour before we arrived at the venue. We wouldn’t have been hurt if we’d *known*; of course she’s entitled to the kind of wedding she wanted! But it was a real let-down to find we’d flown 7 hours for cocktails and cake when we were expecting to be part of the ceremony.

    All that said, we’re planing something rather similar ourselves, but learning from that experience. Here’s what we’re planning: the ceremony at city hall with just our parents present (late morning on a Friday — city hall closes at noon). No invitations sent for that.

    That night (or possibly the following day), a party in a friend’s back yard with parents, siblings, and close local friends: no more than 50 people present. Invitations will read “Join us to celebrate our shiny new marriage!” or something like that, with “Reception only” in big letters somewhere, and all invitees will also get an informal email from me explaining the situation.

    Everyone else — extended family, work friends, international / far-off friends, everyone we love whom we just couldn’t squeeze into our plans — will get an announcement. Here’s the wording we’ve settled on:

    We are thrilled to share the happy news: we got hitched! On [DATE], we were married in a tiny City Hall ceremony attended only by our parents. We look forward to seeing you and sharing our joy soon!
    Much love,

Comments are closed.