Help, Ceremony, Dinner/Reception split.

posted 3 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
1902 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

Honestly, don’t do this.  Just create a guest list of people who are invited to all three events.  People don’t want to see your wedding so bad that they would come to the ceremony, go home for five hours and then come back out to dance with you.  It’s okay to have a smaller wedding and 150 is quite large, but no one wants to feel like they are good enough to witness your wedding and buy you a gift, but are not good enough to have a meal served to them.

Post # 4
3787 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2011

@louisianablue:  +1.

I really don’t recommend this. It’s ok to invite people to a reception if you’re having a private ceremony, but you can’t really do it the other way around. I know you mean well, but I think there will be a lot of hurt feelings as people immediately put it togther that they’re on your “b” list. 

Post # 5
455 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

@aaylward:  “Can we invite some of our social friends to the ceremony at 3 and the dance at 9-9:30? We figure by then the older family members will start to go home and we will be able to have some more friends join for the celebration, is that rude?”

This is called a tiered reception, and it is very rude.

Post # 6
1644 posts
Bumble bee

Hello, @aaylward:  Before you get too much farther into your plans, it would be a good idea to talk to your mother about the kinds of weddings that have been done in your family, both traditionally and more recently; and then have the same kind of conversation with your fiance’s mother; and then also have it with your close friends. Here’s why:

Standard traditional etiquette does not allow you to invite anyone to “part” of an event. You can invite people to two different events, even to two different events that happen to be on the same day, and have different guest-lists for the two events, but there needs to be a good deal of tact and good judgement applied to avoid hard feelings.

Aspects of your plan that are consistent with good etiquette, are: having an open ceremony (in fact, nearly all church ceremonies and a great many legal civil ceremonies are required to be technically open to the public;) having a tea-and-cake (or cocktails and apps) reception at the ceremony venue following the ceremony shere you will welcome everyone who attends the ceremony, and holding your separate dinner-dance at a very different time and location so that it is clearly a separate event. You and louisianablue — and more importantly, anyone who is one of your ceremony-and-cocktails guests — should know that traditionally, when you open your ceremony to attendees whom you do not also invite to your wedding meal, you are signalling to them that you would not accept gifts from them, and they therefore ought not to give one.

Where your plan begins to differ from any format that either modern or traditional etiquette endorses, is where your wedding meal seems to include nearly as many guests as the ceremony does, so that only a few are being excluded. Most people will understand if you are having a kind of extended-family meal, that they are not going to be included if they are not family. Unless they feel very entitled, their feelings will not be hurt by you sitting down to dinnner with your parents and aunties and a couple old family friends, even if you do have dancing afterward. But if it seems that every other person they talk to will be toasting you at dinner except them, they may well have hard feelings.

I know that in some social circles it is common for guests to be invited to come by after dinner for the dancing. I would be very uncomfortable doing that. When you do hold separate events on the same day, they should be at widely separated times so that you do not have to rush away from one event to attend the next; and at different locations so that no ambiance from the first event carries over to the second. Having a secondary guest-list arriving for the dancing at the same venue with happily sated dinner-guests lingering over their last hoarded slice of cheesecake, would make it very obvious to the after-guests exactly what they were missing out on.

But if all your guests — groom’s family’s side, bride’s family’s side, and the couple’s peer-group — are all happier getting partial hospitality, than they would be if they were left out altogether; if what you have described is so common that it is all any of the groups attending your wedding have ever seen? Well it is more important to please them, than to please “traditional etiquette” or a bunch of strangers on the internet. So do seek out guidance from the people around you, and certainly if they do warn you off of this idea, take their warnings seriously.


Post # 8
3650 posts
Sugar bee

@aaylward:  Tiered receptions seem to be popular in the UK, but I wouldn’t do it in the US, if that’s where you’re located. Also, try to close the time gap, or everyone will be standing around in your parent’s backyard for hours. Gaps and cash bars are some of the most common complaints, on W/B.

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