(Closed) Invitation etiquette- Not everyone invited to ceremony is invited to reception

posted 8 years ago in Etiquette
Post # 3
1940 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

Hmm.  I think that etiquette dictates that everyone you invite to the ceremony you invite to the wedding, especially since they are at the same location.  Would you be able to trim the number of people you invite to the ceremony so that everyone who is invited can go to the reception as well.  I personally wouldn’t put anything on a wedding website about “exceeding budget due to number of guests invited.”  If you do, you will likely run into issues such as people trying to pay for another guest to come, and that’s just awkward.  

Maybe some other people have more specific advice though.  Good luck!

Post # 4
25 posts
  • Wedding: June 2010

As far as ettiquette goes, whoever is invited to the ceremony, should also be invited to the reception. 

In My Humble Opinion, I would think that :

We are sorry to inform you that because we have already exceeded our budget due to the amount of guests attending the reception, we politely ask that UNLESS, you are married, engaged, or the invitation specifies otherwise, you cannot bring a guest with you to the reception.” 

would be a little tacky.

Why don’t you try addressing your RSVP cards like this…


Miss Jane Doe

__ able to attent

__ unable to attend

__ out of  1  guest able to attend



Miss Jane Doe and Guest


__ able to attend

__ unable to attend

__ out of 2 guests able to attend


Hope that helps!

Post # 5
1068 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: March 2011

I read about this scenario in “Miss Manner’s Guide to a More Dignified Wedding”. She states that it is bad manners to invite people to the ceremony but not to the reception. If you are not going to invite them to the reception, then don’t invite them at all.

I think the rationale was that it’s conflicting for guests to be invited to see the ceremony, but not get to enjoy the celebration (and may also imply that you are just inviting them for a gift, even though they don’t get any of the reception fun).

Post # 6
732 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2010 - The Tower Club

Please, please don’t write that on your website. No matter your intentions, I think it will just send the wrong message, and make your wedding seem as though it’s about rules and money, when it’s really about celebrating your marriage. Also, as far as your budget is concerned, you should never feel like you owe anyone an explanation for that.

As far as the ceremony/reception problem, I don’t see how you can get around that without other people knowing. They are in the same place and also, some of them are friends with some of the bridal party and not others… they will find out and be miffed.

What really jumped out at me was your comment about how some of your guests are worth spending money on at the reception and some are not. As long as you feel this way, I think you will have problems. Either they are worth it to you or they are not. We cannot use the price per head at a reception as a value judgement on the people in our lives.

Your wedding is a year away. It’s hard, I know, but I think you will have to just cut your guest list and give ALL your guests the full experience of your wedding day, as opposed to having some of your guests experience it more than others. 

Post # 7
25 posts
  • Wedding: June 2010

What about choosing a different venue?

Post # 8
464 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: October 2010

I agree with other posters that it is a bad idea to invite guests to only the reception. If I were a guest, I’d actually feel some combination of confused and insulted by the end of the wedding. Confused because I would likely initially assume that you simply forgot to add a reception card to my invite (and mistakes happen). However, once I found out that other people were invited to a reception and I was not, I’d feel a bit insulted that I didn’t make the cut. It would certainly strain the friendship if a friend did this to me.

I can understand the desire to share with everyone, but it might be better to simply share photos with the people you cannot invite after the date. And for guests, including only the names of the people who are invited on the invites may help to spell out exactly who is invited.

Post # 9
148 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: January 2012

Please please please reconsider how many people you are inviting to the wedding.  You shouldn’t feel obligated to invite everyone that you get along with/are related to to your wedding (that is what having a second reception is for).  While the wedding may be about you and your Fiance getting married, your guests should feel like you truly want them to be there.  The only case that I can see it being appropriate to only invite a guest to the ceremony only is if you have super elderly people that would rather go home than attend your reception.  However, I’m assuming that there may be only a few guests that meet that criteria.  I think that it is reasonable to invite your friends that are not in committed relationships without a plus one ONLY if there is a reasonable amount of friends in that situation who already get along.  Besides, the ceremony is about the two of you while the reception is a way to thank your guests for spending that special time with you.  I say leave out the friends who are closer to the BM’s or your closest friends than they are to you, and to do some serious guest list trimming. 

Post # 10
1426 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: December 1969

It is really rude to invite guests to the ceremony any not the reception.  It makes people feel like they’re second class guests (because that’s essentially what they are in this situation) and potentially second class friends. And since you’re having a fairly elaborate reception, I can guarantee that people will not be forgiving when they find out that you invited them to the ceremony (thus causing them to potentially travel, buy a dress, and buy you a gift) and you didn’t invite them to the reception to thank them for attending.  That will come across as really greedy.  Especially since all the non-invited ceremony guests will be able to see the reception area, but not enter. I don’t say this to be mean, but to warn you before you do anything that may cause the end of some of your friendships.

You basically have two options- don’t invite these people at all (which is fine, they will be far less offended by not receiving an invitation at all, than they will be if you invite them only to the ceremony and make then a “second class guest”).  Or you can cut back somewhere and invite them to the whole thing.  Do you really need five courses?  Could you do a beer and wine only bar, instead of a full open bar?  Or limit the bar to 3 hours instead of 5?  Or cut back your decorations, etc.  There are a million ways to save money that aren’t offensive to your guests.

As to people wanting to bring dates- the etiquette rule is that only people in “social units”- people who are married, engaged, or living together (romantically, not as roommates) must be invited together.  You don’t have to give everyone a plus one or invite your friend’s flavor of the month.  But you also don’t have to write anything on the website about it.  When you go to address you invites or save the dates, just write “Ms. Jane Smith” and leave her short-term boyfriend (or whoever) off.  If she asks, just say “unfortunately due to space restrictions, we can’t give people guests.  We’re very sorry.”  And leave it at that.  Don’t tell people to bring their guests to the ceremony and try to get them to leave before the reception- that’s just asking for trouble.  You also don’t need to include any kind of note on the website, because the assumption should be that unless a guest is specifically invited by name, they are not invited.


Again, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but what your suggesting will offend a lot of people, and better you hear it from us now than figuring it out after the fact when your friends all get mad at you…

Post # 13
293 posts
Helper bee

One thing that jumps out at me is the problem you mentioned where if you invite one relative, you must also invite their inlaws, children, their children, etc.  This is not true. In my family, in some cases we are limited the guests invited to a certain generation of family and not their children because of similar issues. I think people understand that this kind of thing comes up in figuring out who can be invited, because there are always space constraints if not financial!

The solution is absolutely not to invite some people to the ceremony and not to the wedding. This is a recipe for offense and disaster. Cutting the guest list is hard but it sounds like the only solution, given what else you’ve stated. Perhaps you could send a “wedding announcement” to those other guests on/after the wedding date? I’ve come across that as a potentially appropriate thing to do.


Post # 14
244 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2010

Like PP, I would just urge you to put yourself in the position of your guests.  How would you feel if you got an invitation, bought a present showed up at the ceremony and then were told that you were actually a tier-2 friend that didn’t get dinner? 

I also have a reception venue that is very small.  I can’t tell you the pain we went through to cut down our guest list.  But honestly? I’m now super excited about those who are coming.  They are truly my closest friends and family and I can’t wait to share my day with those people.  There are people that 3 months ago I agonized over whether to put them on the guest list and now I don’t even see some of those people frequently–they really didn’t ever need to be on my list. 

Good luck with everything =)

Post # 15
1830 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: November 2014

I think that since you say you are so close with a lot of your family members, perhaps you could speak with them one on one and explain your situation? That way, it comes across as more gentle and as a “personal request” than a blanket policy. I think they will be more forgiving and understanding that way.

If you are worried about people just walking into the reception uninvited, then perhaps you could include “tickets to the reception” in the invites of those who are invited to it, and not in the others and have them taken at the door. They could also have seating info on them or something practical like that.


Good luck with your problem, I know what you mean about big families…

Post # 16
1315 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: May 2011

Holy cow, how the hell are you gonna solve this one!! How about if you go the european way on the gifts, don’t do a registry, and get your mom/aunts/ family you’re close to, to tell anyone who asks, that

”cash gifts are fine, don’t put yourself to the bother of buying gifts?”

That’s pretty much what happens here, and very few guests bring gifts any more. You just get a heap of cards with approx 100 euro in them (usually per couple).


Is it possible to leave out kids that you’re not blood related to?! Aunt whatever her name is’s stepkids, for example? Particularly if they’re over 16, say.

Best of luck with it!

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