inviting people to the ceremony but not the reception

Please help! I’m having a dilemma. Me and my fiance both live in separate areas and both of our religious congregations are probably going to throw us a wedding shower. Now each of our congregations at least 150 people. Together 300. Now not all of those people are going to show up for the parties, but that is still a lot of people. Because of our budget, we are having a small wedding on the beach and cannot afford to invite everyone. I didn’t want to hurt any feelings, especially since they were giving us gifts, so I thought I could at least invite everyone who attends to the ceremony since it is a public beach. The only other thing is that it will be out of town for anyone who attends. Another idea was to have it presented like a small getaway for those invited to the ceremony only, and include things to do or places to visit in their invite. I know that it is against etiquette to invite people to the wedding but not the reception, but that is just too many people, and the showers are going to be thrown whether we like it or not. How do I go about wording the invitations, especially so that feelings are not hurt, but at the same time there is no confusion as to whom is invited to the reception.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

Dear Inviting,

How refreshing that you know all of your etiquette and you truly want to share with all of these generous people.

Of course my first suggestion would have been to plead everyone not to give you a shower, but as you say, that is not an option.

I have been wracking my brain trying to think of how you can do this per etiquette standards and still maintain a budget. I like your idea of inviting all of them to the ceremony on the beach. This would be like an open church ceremony without the church.

Now, with the reception part. You are correct that it wouldn’t be polite not to invite them, but wow… that is a lot of guests. So, perhaps you could just have some punch and cookies or a couple of sheet cakes right there on the beach. Perhaps because this is a very informal affair a few of your friends could help with this.

Another option could be to have a reception at the churches when you return. This would be appropriate also.

As long as you have something, any small gesture for your wedding guests and you are having a very small reception for your family at a different location, you are fine. The problem, I’m sure you realize this, is that we don’t want our guests to feel as if they are not important enough to attend the reception.

I doubt that anyone will think any less of you if you are having a small affair with just those very close to you, especially after you share a small reception with that huge group.

You could send Save the Date cards to everyone with all of the information you mention and the invitations at a later date. This is optional. You can send the information with the invitations also.

Now for the wording. If you have an informal reception on the beach as I suggested, you would word your invitation as a wedding and reception invitation. Your guests who will be attending your private reception will be receiving this invitation plus a separate invitation to your reception. You could simply invite these people verbally too. If it is a small number and the reception is informal, this is fine.

If you plan on having a reception with more than just your closest friends and family (very few guests), none of that applies. It would be impolite for your guests to be split into the beach reception attendees and the real reception attendees. The best thing in this case would be not to invite anyone that you cannot afford to entertain afterwards.

This means that you would have to get tough with the sweet people trying to host a shower for you both. I’m sorry.

Best wishes,


Although this may not be help to the bride now, but for other people that may have the same problem, Rebecca is on the money!

My cousin got married a few years ago, in which his father (my uncle) is a Reverend at a church….therefore several people wanted to share in the celebration. They sent two sets of invitations, one to the congregation, and some relatives and friends stating the morning ceremony at the Church with a hors d’ oeuvres reception immediately to follow at their fellowship hall (in the same building). Here they did the announcement of wedding party, bride/groom, had the grooms brother cue music for first dance etc., had tables and chairs and basic linens supplied by Church. The other invitations were sent to wedding party, grandparents, parents, siblings and “aunts and uncles” only, which was intimate evening dinner at a restaurant (no dancing/music). This way both groups of people were able to enjoy parts of the standard wedding reception, and the close relatives were able to spend a nice quiet evening with the newleyweds.

Rebecca Black, Etiquette By Rebecca

Thank you for sharing.

This is typical of the open church wedding and is a nice gesture to share this special occasion with the congregation.

As is often the case the family has their own small celebration later. Very well done.

It is nice to hear of so many people ‘getting it right’.