Etiquette for invitations to wedding ceremony and reception

At the end of October Iris and I are getting married. We are planning on doing a non traditional wedding and reception but we’re stuck on one point.

We are planning on getting married in the pool that we meet at in the early afternoon. Then later that evening we are planning on having a costume reception. My idea was to have a number of our friends on the swim team come to the ceremony and afterwards have a small team party. Our parents and a small set of people would be coming as well. I figured that the people on the team that we know, but not really well, would enjoy a bit of cake and things like that. At the reception though we were going to invite all of our friends and relatives, but not the people from the team.

So here’s our dilemma, I think it’s ok to have a quick party after the ceremony for the team. She however, thinks that if you invite someone to the ceremony you have to invite them to the reception as well. I think that in reality it would be the other way around, if you invite someone to the reception then they should come to the ceremony as well.

So what is the etiquette for such things, is it ok to invite someone to just one or the other? Not that it matters much since we are doing something non traditional but we haven’t been able to figure it out between us.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been invited to receptions only, where the wedding site was too small to hold all the guests. I have never been invited to a wedding that didn’t also include an invitation to the reception.

And while I’m not an etiquette arbiter, however you phrased the invitation, I would read such an invitation as:

Come to our wedding!
Bring a gift!
Leave before food is served!

On the other hand, I’ve been to several weddings where a more intimate gathering was held after the reception.

You don’t have to invite anyone to anything. An invitation to a wedding is not also an invitation to a reception. Inviting people to the reception is why God invented reception cards. Those who receive wedding invitations without reception cards are not invited to the reception. If someone invited to the wedding but not the reception chooses to view the invitation in the terms kunilou suggests, that’s not your responsibility.

That being said, I don’t understand the thinking of having a cake party for the team before the reception. I think it makes more sense to have the events on separate days.

What you want to avoid is this: the feeling that what you are doing is a “gift grab” - invite people to the “wedding” but not the festivities. That said - etiquette can be flexible in situations like this. Here’s how I’d do it:

You invite people to the ceremony. It clearly states that the ceremony will be followed by punch n’ cake from 2:30 to 4:30 (for example.)

You send separate invitations for a “party” for family and friends. I would not hold that party on the same day, but that’s just me.

Etiquette problem solved.

Otto - etiquette states that you shouldn’t invite someone to “the wedding” and not the reception. It comes across as a “gift grab opportunity” to most people. Good enough to come to the show and give me a gift, but please don’t stay while we wine and dine the rest of our real friends. Good enough to gimme a gift, not good enough for me to entertain you.

It’s just an etiquette no-no. :slight_smile:

I’ve never been invited to just the wedding. It’s always been wedding and reception/dinner/dance/whatever following. If you do this, I suggest what others have suggested and hold the events on separate days. As Elenfair said, it’s considered an etiquette no-no to not invite wedding guests to the afterwards reception/whatever as well, especially if it’s held on the same day.

Please, speaking as someone who’s been left out of one or another of the trio of wedding events, please invite the same people to the shower, wedding and reception. (Unless you’re having a destination wedding.) If these people are worth the expense of their attendance at one function, they’re worth the whole shebang.
I like the pool idea, what’re you guys wearing for it? Of course I realize it’ll be swimsuits, but what do they look like?

My friend who got married last August faced a similar dilemma: she was married on her horse farm and had a large list of clients, staff, students and friendly service people (like the vet and the horseshoer) that she wanted to share her wedding with.

A formal reception for that many people (something like 250), however, was completely out of the question financially.

She had two receptions: afternoon reception immediately following the wedding with the cake cutting, toasts, champagne and hors d’ouvres. Everyone invited to the wedding was invited to this reception. It was held right next to the wedding area, under a tent thingy. A cousin catered it for the cost of ingredients, and the snackies were scrumptious…
2. A dinner reception for the closest family and friends at a restaurant that evening.

No one felt left out or jilted – as much if not more effort was put into the afternoon reception as the dinner reception, it was not treated as an afterthought.

In discussion with the bride this weekend, I was informed she would be in a white dress. I’d assume Ed the Head will be in a suit of some type. Just not a swim-suit.

If you want to know the proper etiquette, here it is.

You may invite someone to the ceremony and the reception, or just the reception, or just the later part of the reception after the food, but you may not invite someone to just the ceremony, or to the ceremony plus the later part of the reception.

This is because it is the invitation to the CEREMONY which carries an obligation for a gift. Technically, if you’re just invited to the reception, it is perfectly alright not to bring a gift. This is because it is the ceremony which is supposed to be the focus of the day (since no matter how non-traditional you are, it’s still a Wedding) not the party. Theoretically you shouldn’t have anyone at the ceremony who you would not want at the reception i.e. someone you’re not willing to pay to feed.

If you’re doing this according to “the rules” you need two sets of invitations. One for the full day (ceremony and reception) and one for the reception only.

You asked for the etiquette, that’s it, Iris is right.
Whether or not you choose to follow it is up to you. However, if someone does know the proper etiquette and you choose not to follow it, prepare for people to feel insulted.

Hello Again-a reception doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down dinner.
Your bride had a reception to which all of the ceremony guests were invited. There was a cake, toasts were made…it was a proper wedding reception, she just choose to make it cocktails and canapes rather than dinner and drinks.

She then had a family dinner, which was NOT a reception (no cake, no speeches, no toasts). She was perfectly correct in doing that, because the first was the proper reception and because the dinner was more intimate.

The OP want’s a “small team party”, not a reception, and to have a much bigger full reception, which is a different kettle of fish.

I’ve known weddings that included any or all of:
-The ceremony
-A brief reception with drinks
-A sit-down lunch/wedding breakfast, or call it what you will
-An evening reception/disco/party

And I’ve received invitations to just the evening party, or the ceremony and the evening party (but not the lunch), or the ceremony and the lunch, but not the evening party, or all three etc…

As long as it’s abundantly clear on the invitations (without being patronising or insulting, which is the trick), I’d say do as you wish. Formalised etiquette would be great if everybody knew how it works; they don’t, which means it can really suck.

Well, since the OP wrote ‘in the pool’, I assumed they’d be in the pool. Where the water is.
Clearly, I’m missing an important element of this situation.

Actually, we are planning on wearing swim suits to the ceremony and in in the pool. Mine will be a black speedo, unless I can find a jammer type, and probably a bow tie. Iris will have a white suit on. She was looking for a white dress for the reception party. We are not planning on having anyone else in a suit, unless they want to of course.

The reason I asked is because the people on the team I never see anywhere else. I see them a couple of hours a week at practice and that’s it. I think in the last four years I’ve seen a grand total of three people outside of practice. So I know these people, but not that well. It’s not a “gift grab” and I sure as hell would not expect, nor want anything from them. I only thought that they would like to be involved in the part where they do know us, the pool. We will still have to talk this over.

IMHO it’s only poor etiquette if one expects people to bring gifts. Since there is no requirement to bring a gift to a wedding or a reception, there’s nothing wrong with inviting someone to the ceremony and not the reception.

Gifts are not a requirement. They are an obligation.
One can feel obliged to do something even though it is not required.

Hm. I think I see your point irishgirl. Although the dinner reception was a reception – there were additional toasts and additional cake and a reading of part of the vows which actually got skipped at the ceremony! (they had both traditional and personal vows… the officiant skipped the personal vows…oops). And it was about 40 people, not just a family dinner. But that’s splitting hairs – everyone was invited to the first reception, and that’s your point I think.

I think what I’m not getting in the OP is: is everyone invited to the wedding itself? Which group is larger under the current plan, reception guests or wedding guests?

I have been to receptions where I wasn’t invited to the wedding, but in that case, the B&G eloped to Vegas, then came home and threw everyone a party. I must say if the wedding itself was local and not impromptu, it would seem odd not getting invited to the ceremony.

No the ceremony itself will only have around 20 people at it. The reception will have around 100.

Why not invite the team members to the reception? Seems to me if swimming and the pool mean enough to you to have the ceremony there, it’s a significant enough part of your life to merit having the people associated with included in the whole shebang. It’s a great opportunity for people who know you in different ways to meet each other.


“…people associated with it included…”

Ok in that case I think you should have the reception (the larger one, with everyone) on a different day. This tends to soothe feelings of “not being included” (to some people the ceremony is by far the most important part) because it makes it into two different events.

Juggling who goes where and when will not only have the potential for hurt feelings, it will be a pain to deal with logistically. JMHO.