Reception-only wedding invitations that won’t make your guests feel excluded

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How to word reception-only wedding invitations.
This is a hacked version of the Rustic Charm wedding invitation. The original is much nicer.

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?

-Natty

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!

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
reception
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.

This simple invitation template can be used as a reception-only invitation or as a full wedding invitation thanks to the included multiple versions.

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. ____________
and
Mr. and Mrs. __________________would like to invite you to the
reception celebrating the marriage of their children_____________
and
_______________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.

Comments on Reception-only wedding invitations that won’t make your guests feel excluded

  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

    (place)
    (time)
    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 🙂

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