small wedding ceremony

Small Ceremony, Larger Reception

Small Wedding Ceremony With a Big Reception?

Hi! My fiance and I have always wanted a small, intimate wedding. Partly because I have some serious stage fright and the idea of standing up in front of 200 people terrifies me, and also because we both want it to feel personal and share it with the people that know us as a couple the best. However, we both have large extended families that our parents want included and my fiance has a LOT of friends (he’s been in 13 weddings!) that he also doesn’t want to exclude.

So we were hoping to have a small ceremony with our immediate family, grandparents, and our closest friends and then have a larger reception after. Overall the ceremony would include about 50 people (that includes significant others) and we’re inviting 250 people to the reception. Is this acceptable? I really don’t want to offend anyone, but I don’t want us to lose our dream in the process.

Wedding Queen

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I completely understand your trepidation of having a large wedding. Being a bride can be overwhelming. But once you are already having 50 people at your “small” wedding, you are going to have a difficult time explaining to the rest of the guests why they are important enough to invite to the reception (and presumably give you a gift), but not important enough to witness that actual wedding. This may be the perfect time for you to overcome your fears.

If necessary, speak with a therapist or join toastmasters for practice in advance.

I wish you all the best.

The Wedding Expert


Having a smaller wedding ceremony that includes only the people you love and feel comfortable with is perfectly appropriate, and in your case understandable.

Crane’s, in their “Wedding Blue Book” states, “Wedding ceremonies and receptions do not necessarily have the same number of guests… Many couples have… small, intimate ceremonies with larger receptions afterwards. Since more people are invited to the reception than to the ceremony, the invitations are for the reception. Guests invited to the ceremony are sent ceremony cards with their reception invitation.”

Reception invitation:

Jennifer Lynn Randall
Geoffrey John Smith
request the pleasure of your company
at their marriage reception
Saturday, the twenty-third of May

Ceremony card:

The honour of your presence is requested*
at the marriage ceremony
Saturday, the twenty third of May
at five o’clock
Church of Saint John

*Used only in a house of worship. Otherwise, “request the pleasure of your company” is appropriate.

Ohio Wedding Planner

While it is acceptable to limit the number of guests you invite to your ceremony, you will end up offending quite a few people. Who do you decide isn’t welcome to the ceremony? Will you have a firm line on who is/isn’t invited (maybe ONLY relatives?) if you do not have a firm line, people are going to want to know why they weren’t included in your ceremony. While there may be some guests who aren’t all that concerned with being a part of the ceremony (they really only want to celebrate) many will wonder why they were important enough to you to include.

With all that being said, you can still have your small ceremony just try to figure out your explanation to the people who you will not be including.

Bride Next Door

It is totally acceptable, however, before you make this decision ask youself whether you will look back and regret the fact that everyone you know won’t get to see your marriage ceremony. Assuming you are ok with it, the next thing to do is think through how you cut down the ceremony list to a few key people. That’s where things get tricky. It is inevitable that some people will be unhappy.

Think through how you communicate to people and ensure them that they can still be part of it. Have your ceremony recorded and set up a TV at the reception so guests can catch the highlights. Also, ask the DJ or band leader to announce all the “firsts” at your wedding reception (your first toast, meal, dance and bite of cake as hubby and wife). By making a big to-do about these first moments, people will really feel like they are a part of your wedding day without seeing the actual marriage part.