Post # 1
We booked one site for ceremony/reception based on our plan to have a small family wedding followed by a larger reception. It is a large mansion broken into many small rooms, and the room we’ll use for the ceremony (b/c it has a piano in it, etc.) will seat a max of 40 people. Approximately 200 people total will be invited to the reception. I have a rather large group of close friends who will mostly be traveling from out of town, so we had decided to also invite my closest friends to the ceremony. We decided to send two distinct invitations (one inviting guests to ceremony and reception; another one inviting guests to a reception following a small wedding). I then learned that some not as close friends are sharing motels with close friends, so we decided to basically invite family and out of town guests to both. Today the groom told me that he remembered 8 more people (out of towners) to invite. The numbers keep growing. As I see it, these are options: (a) invite family and our closest friends to total about 50 to both; (b) invite everyone to both but state that there is limited seating (and through word of mouth make sure people understand that we are FINE with them only coming to the reception); (c) or invite only out of town and family to both but notify them that there is limited seating. I thought about inviting everyone and putting an insert in the invitation that refers guests to a wedding website where I can better explain the seating issue and convey the fact that while I’d love everyone to attend, due to the small venue and limited seating for the ceremony, I want them to understand that it is perfectly acceptable to attend only the reception. My mother had a fit at the thought of sticking an insert that is not engraved in with the invitation, but I reminded her that it isn’t 1950 and people put inserts in with invitations all the time.
Please don’t tell me how tacky it is to do a smaller wedding/larger reception – I have read every Emily Post, Martha Stewart, etc. article I can find and am aware of the mixed opinions on the subject. Also, we can’t change the venue. I wanted to just elope and have a large reception, but the groom thought it was important to say our vows in front of family and friends. So, it is what it is. My goal is a beautiful, elegant wedding and reception that doesn’t offend anyone!
I would appreciate any opinions as to which option you’d go with given this situation or any options that perhaps I haven’t yet thought about. If I can get this one problem resolved, I may actually be able to start sleeping again 🙂
Post # 3
I have a friend who is doing a family-only ceremony, followed by larger reception. No one from our group of friends thinks it’s strange — we knew she just prefers a more intimate setting for the ceremony. In fact, most of the guys are glad they don’t have to sit through the ceremony haha
Our invitations are to a “reception celebrating the marriage” and that’s it (with the reception start time).
Honestly, I feel like this is your only option. Inviting guests but then having nowhere for them to fit in the room is rude. As a host, your responsibility is to make your guests comfortable. Even inviting them but stating there’s limited room is not a good solution because then you’re putting the burden on your guests to decide whether or not they should chance coming to the ceremony and that’s also putting them in an uncomfortable / awkward situation.
Post # 4
@Purplee: That’s a really good point as far as it putting guests in an awkward/uncomfortable situation. The biggest issue I have is that a few of my best friends for 20+ years have already jokingly told me that even if they weren’t invited, they’d be there (I’m the last in my group to be married). And, I’ve already told about 8 close friends that they’d be invited. And, I’m closer to some of my friends than some of my relatives. Ugh! This is turning into a nightmare!!!
I may just end up inviting out of town guests and family to the ceremony and crossing my fingers that when RSVPs come back it is at 40 or less and that local guests don’t realize that the out of towners were invited.
Post # 5
Why not have the ceremony in the largest room at the mansion — the one you planned to use for your reception, then have your reception in several of the smaller rooms. You could still make use of the the larger room for the dancing portion and other activities of the reception later in the evening. I attended a reception in a mansion, and many of the guests were at tables in the smaller rooms. We just went downstairs for all of the activities following dinner. It’s not ideal, but at least you could accommodate everyone for the ceremony. If the piano is an issue, perhaps it can be moved to the larger room?
Post # 6
I know this is totally not ideal, at all. But have you considered telling people the size of the room, that seats will be allocated to family, elderly and then anyone who was formally invited to the ceremony, adding that if anyone really want’s to be there but there isn’t the space they would be welcome to stand at the back/sides of the room, but you’re more than happy for people to simply attend the reception? That will get the message across, not ailenate anyone but make it clear that there really won’t be much space?
If I saw that, I’d probably get the message that it would be best for me not to attend (if I weren’t a super close friend of yours) but I wouldn’t feel like I was unwelcome.
I know this might be considered “tacky” or whatever, but I doubt you’d get more than 3 people chosing to stand anyway…
Post # 7
My goal is a beautiful, elegant wedding and reception that doesn’t offend anyone!
Honestly – this isn’t going to happen if you have a tiered reception. I know you don’t want opinions like this, but I find inviting some people to a ceremony and not others, but having them all at a reception immediately following the ceremony as very, very rude. It basically tells some guests that they weren’t good enough to make the cut for the ceremony, but they can come to the part where gifts are typically given. Further, the reception is supposed to thank guests for attending your ceremony, so this defeats the purpose.
My suggestion would be to cut your guest list down to make sure everyone can fit in both parts of the night -ceremony and recepetion. Otherwise, you could do a private (family only) ceremony earlier in the day, and cut the entire ceremony from the night portion. A final choice is to move the ceremony into the ballroom where everyone will fit and lose out on the piano in the ceremony room.
Post # 8
Is there a space at the mansion that can accommodate everyone for the ceremony, even if it doesnt have a piano? Personally I wouldn’t mind skipping the ceremony but others might.
Also if you include printed inserts with your invites, make sure to face them away from the invite so the printer ink doesn’t rub off on the invites.
Post # 9
Is having a piano that much more important than allowing all your family and friends witness one of the happiest moments of your life?
If it is that’s fine. Have 2 separate invites and find the balance between having both family and friends their that will be seated comfortably in the room.
But i truly believe that you will regret not having everyone there to witness your “I DO’S”
Post # 10
@SavBride: Perhaps the solution is then to just ask those 8 close friends if they could stand in the back of the ceremony room until everyone else has taken a seat? If there’s open chairs they can take them, otherwise stand. If they’re your bff’s then they’ll understand. And that way family you know less well won’t be offended that there are no seats for them?
I also like @Brielle ‘s suggestion to reconfigure your use of rooms!
Post # 11
only invite family and close friends, not the out of towners. its not ideal. but i think its far worse to invite someone and hint that they shouldnt attend as there wouldnt be space
only invite people for whom there is space
Post # 12
I really appreciate everyone who took the time to read my (lengthy) post and to provide a thoughtful response (even the ones I didn’t want to hear!). I think I’ve finally figured out what I’m going to do…I’ve cut the invites for the wedding/reception to all family and close friends (including some of those in groups of friends who I can’t exclude if they are staying with a close friend, etc.). The invite list is down to 70 (and may be cut more) and the list for the wedding/reception part is over 130. There are a lot of distant family who I really don’t think will come, the groom lives out of state so he doesn’t expect many of his invited guests will come and several of my girlfriends are talking about leaving their husbands home with the kids and making it a girls’ weekend, so I expect the final numbers for the ceremony part to be closer to 40. Once we get the RSVPs, we will make the decision either to stay in the initial room or to move to the ballroom (if the number is higher than 40) so that there is sufficient seating.
Post # 13
I think yours is a case where an A and B list makes sense.
Invite the people who you really want/need to be there first relatively early. Everyone else goes onto a B list. Each time a “no” RSVPs comes in, send out an invitation to someone on the B list. This way, you will always have room for the guests you invite.