Ask Team Practical: We’re Not Party People


How do we entertain anyone?

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Were Not Party People | A Practical Wedding

Q: We’ve just started planning our wedding for next fall and I’m incredibly excited! We’ve barely started our brainstorming yet, haven’t even laid down the budget, but one MAJOR insecurity of mine keeps rearing its ugly head.

We just aren’t Super Cool Party People.

I have two friends I still speak with on a regular basis. One of them lives across the country and simply will not be able to afford a trip out for our wedding. My fiancé is super introverted. He has a few more close friends than I do, but not many, and they are not reliable. We are both close to our parents and our brothers, but are more on an acquaintance level with the rest of our families (including my sister). When we throw “parties” in our everyday life they don’t go terribly well. We love our lives and the people in them on a one-on-one basis, but our small community is not conducive to partying in general. My practical side is thinking that the wedding that best suits us is going to be an intimate ceremony, followed by a family meal and roasting marshmallows around a fire pit or some such. My paranoid insecure side remembers my graduation “party.” My partner, best friend, mother, grandmother, and I stood around way too much food awkwardly making small talk while my father and brother watched something stupid on TV. I still remember my graduation with shame. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t a celebration. The situation on his side is the similar, but we’ll have the added tension of extreme fake politeness between opposites on the political spectrum.

I want my wedding to be a celebration! These are the people I love, who will want to be there to support me, so elopement really isn’t an option without hurting them. What do you suggest to avoid the awkward silence and boredom? I’ve considered inviting more people. The WIC answer seems to be making it a bigger wedding with our Super Cool Party People acquaintances and extended family members, but that won’t really be US, and it will involve a bigger budget too. I could do a plan-out-every-minute-with-activities type wedding, but it sounds exhausting and just begging for everything to go wrong. Should I be trying to entertain my wedding guests? Or just leave it up to them as adults and risk crying on the way to the hotel because nobody enjoyed my wedding?

Super Cool Quiet Person

A: Dear SCQP,

You’re not wild party people. Own it.

And it sounds like your people are Super Cool Quiet People, too, so don’t worry about trying to entertain them. I’m guessing they’ll enjoy whatever kind of party you enjoy most. Some weddings are raucous wild parties, and some aren’t. And for each of those raucous wild parties, there’s probably one or two Super Cool Quiet People in the crowd sitting meekly at their table with a cup of punch wondering when is too soon to leave.

There are all sorts of definitions of “fun time” not just from person to person, but just from day to day. Sometimes, my idea of a fun time is going out for drinks and dancing to Boyz II Men with some old friends from high school. Sometimes it’s a night in with pizza and a Disney flick and my son. Just because your party won’t be X kind of fun doesn’t mean that it won’t be ANY kind of fun.

Not to sound like an after school special, but don’t try to be something you’re not. This is basically a life lesson, lady. Work with what you’ve got. It’s ridiculous for me to save Pinterest beauty tips and inspiration photos of tan ladies, I’m just going to end up frustrated. If instead, I pin pictures of really gorgeous super pale and freckled ladies—well, I’m giving myself a shot, at least. I’m not guaranteeing your party will for sure be excellent (just like I can’t guarantee that I’ll ever look like Emma Watson), but if you highlight and expand on what makes you unique rather than squash it, you’ll have a much higher rate of success.

So when do you guys click? When do you feel relaxed and comfortable and enjoy yourself? What’s a memory of the best party you’ve ever been to? Your idea with the small family dinner followed by marshmallows over a fire sounds excellent. I’m picturing a reception with less dance floor and more armchair, what do you think?

There’s a chance people will be bored, but ya know, that risk comes with planning every wedding (and party, and get-together). Instead of seeing what makes you unique as an obstacle, try to see it as an advantage and have a kickass, though maybe quiet, wedding (with marshmallows).

Team Practical, how can SCQP make a fun time for her friends who aren’t wild about parties?

Photo by Gabriel Harber (APW Sponsor)

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • josiekj

    Totally agree about not trying to do something that isn’t you. I don’t know what your budget is like but rather than spend money on a big party you don’t have, could you buy your across-country best friend a ticket to come to the smaller party you’d like to have?

    • C

      I flew my best friend from the internet from OR to MN and it was definitely the right decision. I second trying to add a plane ticket to your budget.

      • Alyssa M

        Unfortunately it would be 3 plane tickets. And three people pulled out of school. She has two beautiful little girls (who would have been my flower girls) and everything is just THAT much harder to pull off :(

  • MTM

    Our families were also not big party people and our wedding was on a Sunday afternoon (not really prime party time). We hired a caricature artist for a few hours during the reception and people LOVED it. It was low key, fun to watch, and made for a great take-away.

  • EF

    So my fiance and I are pretty introverted, too. Will probably have about 60 people at the wedding, which to us is very good sized, and while some of them are dance party people, having a dance party sounds like about the worst thing ever to us. But we do host board game nights with friends not infrequently, and games plus wine almost always equals an awesome time! So we’re putting out a games table, which some classics like Monopoly, Clue, Settlers of Catan, etc, and the table with us and close friends will be busy with Cards Against Humanity. I think it’ll be fine. It’ll be mid-afternoon, there will be food and booze, some dorky speeches, games, and later a pub crawl in town for the old college group. So a little bit of something for everyone, but still within our comfort zone.

    • BreckW

      Pub crawl after party sounds awesome!

    • Meredith

      High five from another pair of introverted game-players! We made our wedding a laid-back outdoor/beach wedding (but with backup plans for bad weather). Friday night whoever was in town early came over for a cookout and a walk to visit neighborhood horses, Saturday afternoon was a quasi-organized beach trip (we went swimming and then it poured on us as we sprinted down the beach huddled under umbrellas — memorable!), Saturday night we rented a local brunch restaurant and laid out food and board/card games, and then we had a Sunday lunchtime ceremony and reception followed by cake and ice cream and lawn games (croquet, bocce, etc). We loved it, I think our guests (about 75 of them) had a good time, and the only time we were the center of a crowd was during the ceremony — our friends, also mostly being super-awesome quiet people, pretty much entertained themselves and had fun hanging out in my beautiful hometown, and we had lots of opportunities for one-on-one time with our favorite people.

      • EF

        that sounds awesome! how’d you handle the ceremony attention? I’ll be honest, the thought of walking down the aisle makes me feel faint…

        • M.

          I don’t know if it would help at all, but we are having our officiant (aka my dad) ask everyone to please stay seated through the processional. It makes it a little less of a LOOK AT THE BRIDE moment. A little…

          • Helen

            We’re having a destination wedding, and making all 30 of the guests meet us at our room (where we’ll have done our first look) and walk together to the ceremony place on the beach. It means they still get a gaspy look at us, but we don’t have to make it all the way down the aisle by ourselves – my lady just about wants to die of fright thinking of doing that!

        • Meredith

          A few things helped: we had our friends’ adorable two-year-old girls process in front of us (too little for flowers, so we had them be “balloon girls” instead, which worked great), and they were totally the center of attention. Two-year-olds are random and adorable, and hearing everybody laugh at their meandering before we came out really cut the tension. We also had a very participatory ceremony, with a group of friends singing and seven (actually eight) couples coming up to read blessings, plus three individual readers — so it was very much not all about us. And for the recessional, we had everyone blow bubbles while we walked back down the aisle, which was beautiful and magical and also had the side effect of taking everyone’s attention off of us while they fussed with the bubble containers. :-)

          • EF

            awesome, all great advice. thanks!

          • swarmofbees

            Balloon girls!! Such a great idea. I will have two two-and-a-half year old attendants, and I think balloons are such a good idea. If I tie a cat stuffed animal to the bottom of the balloons we might just be in business!

        • Laurel

          I had my husband walk down the aisle with me, instead of having a parent “give me away.” That made it a lot easier for me to have him holding my hand down the aisle.

          • EF

            sort of planning on that, glad to hear it worked for you! thanks!

      • jashshea

        I am a super crazy dance party person, but this sounds AMAZING.

      • mackenzie

        I love this! Our wedding was 30 people. We had a catered outdoor dinner followed by a woman who hand-rolled cigars for everyone and wish lanterns and sparklers on the dock. It was lovely. We didn’t have dancing because we didn’t feel like it fit, but we did have a lovely guitar duo serenade us for the entire evening. Do your best to be yourselves. Find something that you think would be fun to involve everyone in at your wedding (wish lanterns! cigars! board games! s’mores!) and throw yourselves your kind of party. If your guests are there because they love you and want to celebrate you, then the’ll love that your wedding is YOUR wedding, and not something artificial from the WIC.

    • Kestrel

      This is what we’ll be doing as well – I’m about the most introverted person around in addition to being socially anxious (I actually don’t have any close friends besides my family and fiance – I just don’t need or really want any) so we’re doing pizza party with board games. It’s also at a nature preserve, so if it’s nice out (September in Michigan is notorious for being unpredictable) people will be able to wander around there too. Sadly, we’re not allowed to do lawn games.

      My fiance’s friends are REALLY into board games so we’ll have some really nerdy ones (although hopefully short-ish) as well as ones that everyone can hop in and play (catch phrase, taboo, apples to apples, Uno – my family is a little too conservative for cards against humanity). I’m also thinking about trying to organize some sort of Euchre tournament, but I honestly don’t know how much of my family plays Euchre so we’ll have to see if it’s even possible.

      I think the important bit with this kind of party is to realize that my reception is probably going to be relatively short. There’ll be 50 people, so even serving food won’t take that long.

      Our ceremony will be at 4pm and then we’re planning on serving pizza at 4:45-5. Honestly, I don’t expect many people to stay beyond 7:30 or 8pm – particularly as it’s on a Sunday and I’m 100% ok with that.

      • Stefanie

        Amen to Michigan and crazy Septembers. My cousin and his fiancee picked Labor Day weekend last year, thinking it would be a little cooler outside by then. That weekend was in the mid-90′s and we were all out on the golf course in the blazing sun for their ceremony. I could barely focus on the ceremony because we were all pouring sweat. One of the scariest things about having an outdoor ceremony is how easily it can go one way or the other on you.

        • M.

          Michigan shoulder season will get you! Michigan weddings 2013:

          April–A week of rain and severe flooding before, sunny, 60 and WINDY day of. Memorial Day–Snow 2 days before, sunny and 50′s day of.

          Both got lucky, but we picked indoor for our spring Michigan wedding just in case.

          • Kestrel

            Yup! Thankfully we found a venue that works well for indoor+outdoor or just indoors pretty well. (Seriously, we’re just having the ceremony on the deck – if it’s nasty, you walk two feet inside. I was so thrilled when we found it!)

        • Kestrel

          Yeah, it was really important for us to at least attempt to have a wedding outside – but we also have backup plans if it’s just not going to work out.

      • Lisa

        OMG Euchre tournament. Anytime my mom’s family gets together we always have a double one! (She is one of nine kids whose families are also Euchre people!)

  • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

    I wouldn’t say we are super cool party people either (neither of us dance until we’re too drunk to be in public anymore) and I have worried about this. It helped me to stop thinking of what a super cool wedding is and just thinking of it as a fun gathering. There will be dance music but I’m not sure if people will dance. So we are having a piñata and also had a custom crossword puzzle made for our non-dancing guests (which I think is many of them). And we aren’t doing this but there are tons of fun law games people are doing at weddings now too. So I think it’s possible to have a nice gathering that feels like you that isn’t a wild and crazy wedding dance party.

    • Kr

      Lawn games? When I first saw “law” I was thinking something along the lines of the logic problems on the LSAT, which is kinda my idea of a party, but then I realized that that’s probably not what you meant.

      • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

        Ha! That’s what I get for typing on my phone!

    • M.

      Oh gosh! Another crossword!!!! My step-mom writes them and offered to make us one for our wedding. Love to hear of someone else doing it – close to my heart. :)

    • Ella

      We did a crossword puzzle at my bridal shower (my bridesmaids put it together) and it was a great way to break the ice because not many people knew each other. It was also a great way to get to know little-known-facts about my and my (then, future) husband! :)

    • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

      A pinata????? And you once said something about waffles or breakfast food. Road trip to Rachel’s wedding – who’s in?

    • Raakele

      We had a caller come for an hour or so and lead everyone in a contra dance – turns out most people seem to really like dancing and lose their inhibitions when someone is telling them what to do and they get to promenade through lines of smiling people.

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      Yes. Wow. what a relief to know so many others are nervous about the whole “dance party” thing at your own wedding! pinata- what a cute idea! Just knowing I’m not alone takes much of the pressure off!

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  • Ellen

    A few years ago I went to a brunch-time wedding where the couple was definitely introverted, and there were maybe 40 guests present. Rather than dancing, they ended up doing a huge trivia contest, complete with a complex scoring system and obscure references. Everyone had a blast, and it was so true to who they were as a couple. (I will also never forget the allowed font for legal texts.) There was no dancing at their wedding and I honestly didn’t miss it one bit.

    • Laurel

      That wedding sounds amazing.

  • Ana

    Yes! A packed dance floor didn’t make a difference to us in wedding planning – we wanted one to be available in case others wanted to dance, but I (the more introverted half) spent maybe 30% of the reception on the dance floor and it was just right for me. The much harder thing was being OK with the fact that packed dance floor = awesome wedding to a lot of people and worrying that people might be judging us for not having a “awesome” wedding.

    The keys to combating that were 1) Starting with a heartfelt ceremony so people already thought the wedding was awesome 2) Giving a little “speech” right after dinner telling people what the fun things were to do at the wedding, including dancing, but also games, photo booth, sitting around chatting, etc. Then we left everyone alone and let the night unfold.

    • Eh

      I was at a wedding where the DJ played club music for at least 75% of the night because that’s what the bride and groom liked. That meant that the dance floor was empty most of the night. When the standard wedding dance songs were played people were on the dance floor but then the next song would be club music and it would empty. The bride was really upset after her wedding that more people didn’t dance. She did equate dancing (and alcohol consumption) with the guests “celebrating” their wedding.

      I totally agree that a heartfelt ceremony is important. We wanted to set the tone that the day was about us and our family/friends celebrating with us.

  • Libby

    We aren’t partners either, and we didn’t want to try to force a dance party, because its part of the “traditional” wedding formula of ceremony – dinner – dancing. So we didn’t. We had about 50-60 people for a cocktail hour and sit-down dinner.

    Make your wedding perfect for you. Forget the cocktail hour if mingling makes you cringe. Maybe its a small morning ceremony followed by a brunch. Don’t forget the cake and punch reception – the shorter reception time perfect for introverts and dashing off with your new spouse for alone time.

    Also, sometimes it helps to break up the time spent with others into chunks. If you have people coming in from out of town, all the socializing doesn’t have to be at the wedding. The night before, perhaps combined with or in lieu of a rehearsal dinner, you could hold a casual BBQ or meetup at a bar or restaurant so that you can see everyone in a relaxed setting.

    • memery

      Totally agree with this. We’re doing a noon ceremony with a lunch reception after (no frills, no traditional wedding trappings, no dances.) The reception itself should be relatively low-key and not too long. That evening my parents are going to host a casual open house at their home. I’m most excited about the ceremony, and about the open house! Casual clothes, no agenda, just chilling/drinking/relaxing with the people who care enough to stick around for the night.

  • Jessica Nelson

    It sounds like the OP is worried that something quiet won’t feel special. I think this is the PERFECT time to think about a destination wedding or a wedding weekend. If you all go away to the same place (even if that place is nearby/cheap/whatever) it will automatically feel more out of the ordinary. (Heck, even a day trip to an island or something like that would be cool, if you happen to live near water.) It soun like maybe your graduation party was not so much fun because your house isn’t usually a “celebratory party place,” and people didn’t know how to make that transition (thus the escaping to watch TV). I think moving the party to a neutral site, where nobody is the “host” and nobody is the “guest,” will let you all just focus on being together and being happy. :)

    I also agree w the poster below who said you might want to think about chipping in for your friend’s travel expenses. If its awkward, tell her you have extra airplane miles or something.

  • M.

    Aw, hugs to you SCQP. We are neutral-to-introverted, and defnitely the least “party” people in either of our families (and drink much less than many of them), but we love to be with our people, eat, and talk. So we chose the type of wedding that we think will be best for us and our crowd: a Saturday noon ceremony and mid-day, cocktail-style reception, with no dancing. Just a nice space, good playlist, knock-out food, beer & wine, and a bunch of people we love. Minimal deco, no seating arrangement or schedule except for some toasts. We have trivia and a crossword for people to do if they want as they mingle (and we hope it’ll help them mingle!), but we’re trusting them to chill with us, get to know each other, and bask in the day.

    tl;dr – What Liz said, “When do you feel relaxed and comfortable and enjoy yourself?”

    We also have a similar experience of not a ton of friends, but good friends, that we usually see individually or in small groups, and I’m looking at is as one chance to bring all of our favorite people together and have them be joined by at least ONE thing in common – us! They are all rad people (hence them being our friends!) and I am hopeful about it.

    • memery

      HA! This is exactly our wedding. So glad I’m not alone on this. I’ve definitely had some anxiety about the no dance party thing, but I think doing it midday and focusing on food and great tunes changes the framework. I’m trying to signal in lots of ways (down to my dress, the invitation) to the guests that this won’t be the typical wedding reception and to set expectations for something simpler. We’re shooting for simple, comfy, classy, and low-key — and true to us. Thanks to my enormous family, we’ll be about 65-75 people, but I’m totally with you on ONLY people we love — no strangers, no one on the guest list we don’t personally know/see/spend time with.

      We are doing a mingling hour before lunch — I hesitate to call it a cocktail hour because how much will people really drink at 12:30, and the point is to have a chance to talk/visit before sitting… But I’m curious about your trivia/crossword idea — how are you doing that?

      • M.

        Yes – we’ve been very open with everyone that it’s not like a wedding they’ve maybe been to before and what it will look/feel like.

        We plan to have trivia pages/golf pencils, as well as a crossword puzzle by my step-mom, set out for guest to take with a little sign telling them about it. The trivia will be maybe 20 questions about us/things related to us for them to fill in throughout the afternoon. We hope people will talk to each other as family might not know the same things as college friends, etc. Toward the end of the reception we’ll read the answers off and give prizes to the top 3 winners!

  • Eh

    It was really important for us to celebrate our wedding with our family and closest friends but we aren’t party people either (and my husband is also an introvert and I don’t like being the centre of attention). We also wanted our wedding to feel like a huge family get together (like Christmas) – because that’s what it was – and not a night at a club. Our solution was we had a DJ and a dance floor for people that wanted to dance (the DJ played a nice mix of music for the crowd of older people and young kids), but we also had board games as the centrepieces on each table (this also meant that we didn’t need to pay for centrepieces since we already had the board games). The games were family friendly games and were mostly classics or quick to learn. Other than that, people entertained themselves – they mingled and chatted, and the music wasn’t so loud that you couldn’t have a conversation.

  • http://www.accordingtokate.net/ Kate

    Neither my husband nor I were partiers either (the idea of dancing literally makes me want to die). Our wedding was a bit different because it was planned very quickly around my terminally ill dad, but we did a mid-morning ceremony (11ish) with a lunch reception (1-4ish), no dancing, no DJ, just music on an iPod. Later that night we had some friends over for a BBQ just to hang out and relax. Our friends told us overwhelmingly that it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. :)

  • http://writemeg.com/ Meg

    Before my wedding last year, this was definitely the type of letter I would have written. We are not crazy party people, either — and I am far from a dancer. But I will say that on the big day, I was so ecstatic and not caring about what anyone else was thinking/doing/whatever that I was breaking it down with the best of ‘em on our tiny dance floor, truly having the time of my life.

    I’m not implying our experiences will be the same . . . but I do believe that, when the moment comes, you and your new new husband will be so in the moment that you won’t necessarily care about what kind of time your guests are having. I do not mean that in a callous way . . . just in “we’ve waited so long for this moment” way, you know, that you won’t be feeling awkward that not everyone is waving their arms like they just don’t care.

    I like the suggestions for games! I think this sign is really cute, and I can absolutely see card games and Monopoly and any kind of fun activity on a table in your reception area. That would be awesome.

    • Ella

      I also think having a good DJ, if dancing/music/an emcee is your thing, makes things so much easier. The DJ can be the focus and the mover-and-shaker, rather than you. That made it much easier for me and my husband to just relax, dance if we wanted to (we DID), and let the DJ control the flow of the night.

      • http://writemeg.com/ Meg

        Absolutely. Our DJ kept a good “read” on the room and dance floor, making sure to keep the upbeat music flowing, and controlled the flow of the night, too. Having trusted vendors keeping things going makes a big difference. All the more reason to interview DJs and choose a good one, eh?

    • http://www.thehousealwayswinsblog.com/ Rachel Wilkerson

      That sign is really cute! I might use that idea at our wedding!

    • Kathleen

      Oh, I’m totally wishing I had done something like that sign at our wedding. (Although, our friends and family are all such big dancers, it might have ended up being just my husband and I availing ourselves of the games . . .)

    • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

      Meg, I am hoping my experience will be like yours – “But I will say that on the big day, I was so ecstatic and not caring about what anyone else was thinking/doing/whatever that I was breaking it down with the best of ‘em on our tiny dance floor, truly having the time of my life.”

      I’m in the same boat and what you just wrote was my plan of how I’m going to cope!

  • Laurel

    I think as long as you’re clear with your guests about what is happening (maybe a timeline posted somewhere that says “Ceremony 5:30 p.m.” Dinner 6:30 p.m. S’mores and Fire Pit 8:00 p.m.”) — I mean, possibly more creative than that, but if you’re worried about people not knowing what to do, I think the best thing is always to just tell them unapologetically what you’ve planned.

    I’m incredibly introverted, but pretty outgoing and social, so it was a tricky mix for me at my wedding. My husband and I really wanted music to play a big role in our reception, so we hired a dj, but we only made it out on the dance floor for the first and last dance. It was perfect for us, and it entertained our guests while we got a chance to mingle with everyone. But you have to just do whatever is perfect for YOU.

  • Berkshire

    My friend’s wedding guests, she said, were not partiers. They considered not even having a DJ. They put a different board game at each table. The bride and groom went around after dinner and made sure each table knew how to play their game (these were more obscure games than your average Monopoly and Chutes and Ladders, so most needed a lesson). I know my table had a great time with the game they had put out for us, and I could hear the other tables getting into their games. The couple also did decide to have a DJ, and it turned out that although each small group of friends/family were not “partiers”, put them all in a room with a woman in a wedding dress, and damn! They could dance!

  • K_

    Your wedding idea sounds amazing! Dinner + marshmallows!

    I am a SCQP and my husband is a SCPP. Our wedding was a short “party.” I was thrilled that our venue (a public library) limited the reception to < 2.5 hours. We had all the highlights of a traditional reception in less than half the time. We couldn't have a formal sit-down dinner because the venue didn't allow it, which also thrilled me – instead we had heavy appetizers and cupcakes.

  • http://theannabelleblog.com/ Anna Belle

    Wasn’t there a wedding posted on here where they watched Princess Bride on a projector after dinner? It would be another way to extend the celebration and have ‘quiet time.’ I love also the smores or board games idea because it helps people focus on and talk about something concrete.

    • Alyssa M

      I really love the Princess Bride idea! Who doesn’t love that movie? Unless my partner objects, I totally think I want to do that! I’m actually basing my hair off of Princess Buttercup’s hair…

  • KW

    What is your idea of what a reception should be? If it is a banquet hall with dance floor and cool DJ type event, then I can see how your personality and interpersonal relationships aren’t necessarily a match with that. Could you change up how you do it? I am one of 7 siblings, and in the end, only 2 of us had that style. For the rest of us, it went like this: my older sister had a morning wedding with a brunch reception at a historic Victorian guest house, my older brother had a beach party with BBQ catered (with a cake party later in the day at the bride’s parents), my younger sister had a backyard party at the house where we grew up (now owned by another sister), my other brother had a courthouse wedding and then just sandwiches and cake in their apartment, and we had an outdoor wedding in a state park with just a few other people, so we provided a picnic lunch and then changed clothes and went hiking.

    Many years ago, even before most of us married, I first decided I didn’t want a traditional reception after seeing a corporate picnic at the zoo and thought that would be a great place to have wedding reception. I hated the idea of a traditional reception for myself that was run by the photographer or DJ and you had to do X at this time and Y at that time, etc. I knew that the only way to break from that mold and from what people expected was to change the venue. Some places that hold private events (including wedding receptions) in our city are the local conservatory, the art museum, a local brew pub, the zoo, the cultural arts center, etc. By having in a venue where your guests can do something a little more active than just sit around, you would reduce the risk of the awkward silence. I also love the game tables idea I see below, that would have worked really well for us if we’d had a more traditional wedding overall.

    • Eh

      I totally agree – every wedding is/should be different and a reflection of the couple. We had a more casual affair with family and close friends. My brother and SIL eloped in Scotland (in a quaint historic chapel) and had a come-and-go reception after they returned. My sister and her fiancé are having a huge party next summer. These all reflect our personalities – my brother is more private and loves history, I am family-oriented and low-key, and my sister is the outgoing partier.

    • KW

      I just read that you are having a campfire and marshmallows. Holy moly, what an awesome idea! Love it, and I’m sure your guests will too. :)

  • Sarah Brown

    If it’s outdoors, lawn games! I’m shooting a wedding this summer of a couple that doesn’t dance and is shy so they’re having lawn games so people can still have fun and not feel pressured to make small talk. Badminton, horseshoes, ladder ball, they’re all good!

    • Lisa

      Or board games, if it’s indoors. Something where the rules of engagement are clear:).

  • Vanessa

    We are not party people either. We like hanging around food stations and quietly chatting in corners at weddings, so our wedding was all about that. Ceremony with 40 people followed by the ‘old wedding way of doing things’ finger foods, punch, wine and sweets (no cake for us – bc cake cutting would put the spot light on us + take away time from just eating already bite sized things). We had a quiet dinner later with just a small group – like a dinner party where someone else cooked and cleaned up.

    It was lovely, we got to talk to everyone and if conversation was dying we had the power (being the newlyweds) to say “oh, just have to pop over here for pictures, or talk to so-and-so”.

    Own the quiet wedding if that’s what you like! Also love the bonfire/s’mores idea.

    • M.

      Another nod to no cake/cake cutting! Brownies for us!

    • Beth R

      Regarding cake cutting: I also did not want to be the center of attention when cutting the cake, so we ended up having small cakes on each table and then after dinner, we did a little thank you speech to everyone and said, “And now eat cake!” Everyone was so involved with cutting/eating their own cakes that we were able to go back to our table and eat ours without fanfare. We got talked into cutting it/feeding it to each other by our friends at our table, but they were the only ones who saw, haha.

  • Zoo

    My suggestion is to choose your vendors to bring out the relaxed, fun side of you and your guests. Find a photographer who can make you laugh, or a DJ who can really read a crowd and get them moving without blowing their eardrums out. If you have an outgoing, breezy friend, ask them to emcee.

    And have a structure. Make a schedule, put someone in charge of it, and that way you always know what you SHOULD be doing. “Four o’clock? Ah, time to awkwardly be congratulated by distant relatives. Five: cake.”

  • emilyg25

    Want to hear something funny? I’m a little bit jealous of you, because an intimate dinner at a nice restaurant sounds like the perfect reception to me, but that didn’t fit us or our families. So I guess the grass is always greener! There’s great advice here to basically be yourself and own it. And remember, a “standard” reception might be 5 hours, but you absolutely do not need to fill that much time. If you end up doing a simple meal, 3 hours might be plenty.

  • Sara A.

    Our friends run the gamut between super introverted and super extroverted. We did do the classic wedding thing, but one thing to think about is that there’s quite a few events between getting engaged and getting married. These people are going to be thrown together quite a bit, so they’ll get an acquaintance going. Another thing to think about is how you are planning to seat your guests and how you’re planning to do the food. We tried to seat people who know each near each other with a few people we thought would enjoy each other. We also decided to serve our food family style, which requires people to interact with each other. This added up to a joyful occasion.

  • Katriel

    Be creative! My husband and I are not dancing people. We don’t dance. We would never dance in public. So, we had an outdoor games reception with bocce ball, badminton, horse-shoes and croquet. People had something to do after they ate, we didn’t have to dance. What do you *like* to do with friends? Board games? Sit down dinner? Hiking? Incorporate that into your reception!

  • Kathleen

    You said, “I want my wedding to be a celebration!”

    So, how do you celebrate? What feels celebratory to you? How have you celebrated other milestones? Do that!

    There are lots of great ideas in the comments for ways to have a non-dancing party, but those might not be “you,” either. You’ve celebrated plenty of things before – not just your graduation. How do you celebrate holidays? How do you celebrate birthdays? Draw on the celebrations you’ve enjoyed in the past!

  • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com/ Addie

    We started wedding planning with the question “What our perfect day?” Manperson is totally asocial introvert and I’m a shy extrovert (loves groups of people, hate strangers). So for us the perfect day is snowboarding with a few friends, a nap, a large casual dinner, hanging out and a late night party if we were still up for it. And that’s the wedding we’re planning on having. Most of our friends and family are the low-key social type. We’re having the wedding in January because they best evenings for me involve fireplaces, s’mores, and snowball fights. Winters are great times for the introverted because it’s a quieter time of year. The thought of organizing lawn games or a raging dance party makes me exhausted.

  • C

    Count me and my husband in as another pair of “not party people.” We do really enjoy socializing with our friends and entertaining guests, but we’re not into the “woohoo” type of wedding with lots of drinking, dancing, etc. It’s fun to go to other people’s on occasion but it wouldn’t have been reflective of us at all.
    So we just didn’t do that kind of wedding. We had a smallish crowd, a short simple ceremony, and then lunch and bingo. Bingo was a great diversion–it offered something to do, it kept people chatting but didn’t force them to be super-social, it was easy for me and my husband to mingle, and it was easy to participate for all ages and abilities. Our wedding was more casual, shorter (about 4.5 hours beginning to end) and cheaper than an evening dinner and dance. And you know what? People LOVED it. We’re still hearing about it nearly 4 years later. One, I think they liked that it felt genuine to who we are as a couple. Two, I think there are a lot of people out there who would gladly skip the dancing and partying, too (even some of the guests who did do party-type weddings when they got married enjoyed our different kind of event). Some people were downright relieved to not be partying.
    There are SO many different ways to celebrate your marriage. If you want a short, quiet event DO IT. If you don’t want to tie your self-worth into the size of the crowd, the number of shots at the bar, or how late the dance party goes, then don’t. Weddings should be reflective of you, first and foremost. So celebrate your way, and trust that it will be lovely.

    • Audrey

      I love this idea! You don’t need to have non-stop events, but a simple thing or two for people to do is nice (although marshmallows could totally be it!)

      One of the biggest hits at our wedding was 3 sets of Jenga I grabbed at the last minute to throw on some extra tables on an outside balcony. People turned out to love it, but it also was inexpensive enough that had no one wanted to use them I would have been okay.

  • Jess

    Honestly? Bonfire and s’mores in a park or something is awesome sounding. I would totally attend that wedding/graduation party/Friday night and love it. I bet your people would too.

    And try to see if there’s a way for your friends to be there – keep an eye out for deals or see if your family can help with the ticket. Sometimes flights aren’t as bad as they seem like they will be. I have a limited number of close friends, and boy are they everywhere. I would have a really hard time without them there.

  • enfp

    There is tons of great advice here about planning something true to yourself, and how that’s the best way to ensure a good time is had by all. I’m an extrovert who love killer dance parties, but I also love an intimate dinner party and roasting marshmallows, and I echo those who say they would attend that wedding and LOVE it. I also agree that putting some thought into your ceremony, so that it is heartfelt and meaningful to you, will put everyone in the right frame of mind to celebrate your marriage, regardless of the form in which it is celebrated. If you’re worried about awkwardness even if you plan something awesome and true to you, Liz’s advice is dead on- when you are a host there is always a risk that it won’t go super well, but it’s a risk worth taking. Sounds like it’s a priority for you to include your loved ones in your celebration, and that’s wonderful. Give your loved ones the opportunity to celebrate you and your marriage, and then trust that it will happen. I know I’ve read a ton of posts on this site about how people felt so surrounded by love on the wedding day, and worried that I might not feel that way at my wedding. I think Maddie wrote a great post about how sometimes it’s easy to dismiss the things the WIC tells you you have to have, but it’s harder to resist the pressure to have an emotionally perfect wedding. I’ve found those helpful in re-framing or letting go of some of my anxiety about how the day is going to feel. I’m at work and in a rush otherwise I’d find some links to post here!

    • Alyssa M

      You may have just put my fears exactly right. I’m so afraid that I’ll be disappointed by the emotions of the day. Except instead of like Maddie lowering her expectations for the other aspects of the wedding… I’m trying to use those other aspects to avoid the let down… which may very well be impossible… :(

      • enfp

        Ok, so you’ve obviously read the post I was thinking of. I love that post, this part in particular:

        “By the time the day rolled around, I felt conflicted. Where was my unabashed happy high? I felt like I hadn’t asked for much, and still the universe had failed to deliver. I thought I had made a relatively unselfish request in hoping that everyone would be happy and getting along and having a good time, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just have that on this one day.

        But the reality is, what I’d asked for was unfair. I hadn’t lowered the bar at all. In fact, I’d asked for so much more than a pretty wedding with carefully constructed details. What I’d asked for was a perfect life”.

        Can you totally protect yourself from being let down by the emotions of the day? Probably not. If you end up having complicated or even disappointed feelings about your wedding day, well, I think a lot of people do and you’ll be in good company! Plus, I think having some complicated/difficult feelings on your wedding day can totally coexist with also feeling incredible, transformative joy. But all that said, you’re off to a great start by planning a super awesome wedding that is perfect for you, and will be fun for your loved ones. Trust that it will work out. Leave open the possibility that it will feel like a super joyful celebration. Allow yourself to feel whatever it is that you feel on your wedding day. Maybe you’ll feel all sorts of things – and I bet incredible joy will be one of them.

        • Alyssa M

          It actually popped up under recommendations for that Wedding Snapshot post the other day, so it was fresh in my mind. I actually didn’t realize how applicable it was to my feelings until you explained it a different way though. Thank you for being a very insightful and well spoken person. You’ve really helped me on a deeper level than all the (super incredibly helpful) activity advice.

          • enfp

            Aw thanks for the lovely compliment! Glad to hear my thoughts were helpful:)

  • Alyssa M

    Letter writer here. Liz, and everybody, thanks for the advice and encouragement! We have most definitely decided to go with dinner and a bonfire for our reception. Since I wrote in, we actually found the perfect group campsite just 20 minutes out of town. I love this idea of setting some kind of backup games or a movie (campsite has a projection screen!) up just in case… this way if/when things start to drag I can say “Hey! Let’s do this now.” without having to over plan things.

    While I really would love to fly one of my friends 2000+ miles to come to the wedding, the cost is compounded by her two young daughters and her being in nursing school. Even if we could afford three plane tickets, when you add in the cost of pulling the girls out of school, missed clinicals, and 16+ hours of travel with children it’s just not feasible.

    • MisterEHolmes

      I commiserate with your graduation experience. Mine was similarly depressing: no friends invited, just distant family members and held at a restaurant with a very “hunter” vibes that seemed neither “me” nor “party-like.” But your wedding is different! You get to plan it yourself! That alone should help you avoid things that don’t “feel” right.

      Best wishes for your awesome campfire wedding!

      • Alyssa M

        Hugs for you. Depressing grad parties suck, huh? It’s such a big deal (a lot of people think bigger than a wedding) it should really be a celebration!

        My biggest insecurity was that my graduation party was the only event I’ve tried to plan myself and it was a huge flop… but maybe I’m learning the lesson that Liz talked about and I won’t try to plan something that denies the basic facts of who I am.

        • MisterEHolmes

          Yeah–Be true to your heart! The added bonus is, I’ve found, the more you try to plan events, the better you get at planning events. I had never thrown any party before–like not even movie-night level!–but I started throwing birthday parties for myself a few years ago (when I realized no one else would) and they’ve been gradually getting a little better every time as I understand what will get a better reaction. (Turns out you don’t need 3 servings of cake per person!)

          Truly, a campfire wedding sounds earnest and lovely. And everyone loves marshmallows! (did you know you can make your own? Those could be favors!)

          • Alyssa M

            OMG homemade marshmallows. 0.0 Do they stand up to roasting???

          • MisterEHolmes

            I think they should, in theory? I didn’t roast mine, just dropped ‘em in cocoa. But they are just the same as “regular”–but you can add flavors! (Mine were peppermint!)

            Don’t do it on a humid day, they get all sticky! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-marshmallows-recipe.html

          • Alyssa M

            Does anybody know if they make vegetarian gelatin?

          • KC

            So, there’s one person who has done vegan marshmallows, but I’ve never attempted their recipe (also: I would go for making “regular” marshmallows first and then trying the vegan kind, since there’s a bit of a learning curve even for “regular” marshmallows?). But here you go! http://veganmarshmallows.blogspot.com/2009/04/vegan-marshmallow-recipe.html

          • Alyssa M

            Thankyou! I’ll have to try them both out in hot cocoa/summer camping trips. My Best Woman and several others are vegetarians, and they’ll be totally grateful if I do something just for them.

          • KC

            I’ve tried making vegetarian marshmallows before by just substituting in “vegetarian gelatin” with my regular tried-and-true recipe and it has totally flopped (two tries) before I found that recipe and haven’t gotten to gathering the ingredients and re-attempting it; hence the “try regular-gelatin marshmallows first”.

            But in my experience, vegetarians are thrilled that you are even *trying* to make marshmallows for them (despite the results being a sticky slime rather than marshmallows) since they haven’t gotten to have marshmallows for Forever. So there’s that. If the linked recipe doesn’t work for you, you can also purchase vegetarian marshmallows so that they can participate in s’mores.

            (also a note: for your long-distance friends, marshmallows and/or regular s’mores kits mail really well! (and you can toast marshmallows over a kitchen stove and it feels really silly) Anyway, I bet that would make them feel Very Very Loved. :-) )

          • M.

            Wouldn’t be homemade but Sweet & Sara marshmallows are vegan, made in NYC, and Dandies are as well, made in Chicago. We have made s’mores with Dandies and they’re great! S&S I’ve only eaten greedily right out of the package. :) Neither brand is cheap, but super delicious and gelatin-free.

          • Alyssa M

            Definitely needs to be my backup plan. Nobody should go without marshmallows.

          • KC

            Depends on the recipe, but often they’re made in a Large Size, which (since they’re not jet-puffed) makes them too heavy to roast on a stick without a *lot* of juggling/finesse. Making them into regular-marshmallow size and skewering so the skewer is parallel with the longest dimension works decently, though, for the recipes I’ve tried. (and you can do flavors!) But a test run would clearly be in order… :-)

            That said, marshmallow roasting is awesome enough with store-bought marshmallows that I don’t think anything needs to be “added”. :-)

            But marshmallows are awfully fun to make, if you have access to a stand mixer, anyway. (the goo starts out only in the bottom of the bowl, but then they fluff and fluff and fluff and fluff until it’s *giant*! and then you have to scrape it out into your prepared pans really really quickly and everything gets awesomely, deliciously sticky.)

        • KC

          You’re older and you know yourself more than then. It will be different.

          I mean, don’t put the “everyone must be having Tons of Excited Fun All the Time” weight on yourself, especially if your people are quiet invisible-fun people, but even just knowing “oh, my people are more quiet fun people” makes quiet less awkward-feeling, which makes you less awkward-feeling, which changes the whole tone/perception of the party.

          Having games/movie/person-scavenger-hunt/something that you can pull out of a hat if you *do* start to feel like things are “too slow” seems like a really good plan – peace of mind even if you don’t use it!

          (What I saw of our wedding reception [there were a lot of people, hence bridally a lot of talking to one person after another and not as much getting an "overall look" at things, so my perceptions are limited] indicated that people were clustering in their social groups and talking and eating. Not raise-the-roof loud, but people appeared to be enjoying themselves. Which was good enough. :-) )

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.ca/ Jenny/Adventures Along the Way

          I think a campfire wedding party sounds AMAZING. I would have LOVED to roast smores at my wedding! And would love to be at a guest at a wedding like that. I would be unreasonably excited about it well in advance. :) Have fun with your wedding!

    • KC

      (movie vote for The Princess Bride! (we had it at a party with a mix of people who knew it back to front and who’d never seen it, and it was fun) Or, honestly, anything else that some portion of your assemblage of guests goes for; old B&W films? Disney? BBC Pride and Prejudice?)

      • Alyssa M

        Seriously, who doesn’t like Princess Bride! I think as long as my partner doesn’t object, I’ll have that in my figurative back pocket, in case the day needs saving.

  • Lily

    My fiancé and I are pretty introverted and yet are in the midst of planning a 100-person wedding (mostly my bright idea…), which is suddenly (now that invites have gone out and we’re locked in) feeling pretty overwhelming to my quiet self. So, way to know yourself and not be afraid to craft a celebration that works for who you are, not who the WIC thinks you should be.

  • http://cafeaubride.blogspot.com/ Catherine

    This is so me. I am so nervous about the reception and the dancing and all that…I mean, I’m hoping that the excitement and love of the day will make all of those thoughts be so far on the back burner but yes, I am not a Super Cool Party Person either.

  • 39bride

    There are so many great ideas in this thread that I wish I’d thought of for our wedding!

    A low-key afternoon reception (especially summer) is a great solution to OP’s concerns. We ended up that way due to budget and other circumstances, rather than introversion, but it worked really well. We had recorded background music comprised of our favorite songs, a “faux-to” booth in a separate area and some pen/pencil activities at each table. We also focused on serving fantastic food with a lot of variety, which became a real item of discussion (“ooh, did you taste the ______?!!” We had three different pasta/bean salads; roasted veggie, ham, and turkey catered sandwiches; a gourmet cheese platter w/ a variety of dried fruits, nuts, veggies, herbs and crackers/bread next to a chalkboard list of suggested combos; and an ice cream bar. We also went all-out on cake quality and it’s still talked about today when the topic of the wedding comes up).

    Because it was a midday wedding, expectations for reception entertainment were low and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, especially the opportunity to sit and get to know each other in a relaxing setting. Because it was so low key/casual, many people also pitched in to help clean up and later said they really enjoyed working together and getting to know each other better that way.

    Just wipe the WIC slate clean and think about what an enjoyable get-together (wedding aside) would be for your friends/family/yourselves and you’ll be fine.

    • 39bride

      I think suggestions about focusing on a super-meaningful ceremony (whatever that is for you) are good, too. We put way more emphasis on the ceremony than the reception and got a lot of positive feedback for having a very spiritual and meaningful ceremony, so I think people were reminded the wedding of two people was the point, and afterwards was just a celebration of the important thing that had already happened.

  • light0a0candle

    My fiance and I are also quieter, music listening, board game people. We’re going to have a smaller wedding (around 70 ’cause of all those relatives we got guilted into inviting) and we’re going to have a live band and a board game corner going so that people can enjoy themselves without feeling the need to dance. I HATE DANCING AT WEDDINGS. LOL. I’ve taken some flack from family, but you just gotta own it! Do what you think will be fun and that represents you!

    • laddibugg

      I am fine with board games, but there will be no spades games OR Monopoly at my party. Families have been torn apart over those two games.

      • Alyssa M

        The older ladies in my family have been known to draw blood with group solitaire.

        • laddibugg

          I adamantly refuse to be partners with my, well, partner. LOL!

    • Alyssa M

      Our wedding is looking like 30-40, but only after I agreed to take the heat from my grandmother about not inviting the aunts uncles and cousins. Would’ve been a very uncomfortable 60-70. My mother was really stressed about it until I told her she needn’t take credit for it. Luckily I have the excuse of living in a “destination wedding” location so nobody I barely know really wants to spend thousands of dollars to come.

  • Jo

    You can’t plan for the level of joy that will infuse whatever you do at your wedding, but it will be there. Mark my words. And if you’re enjoying yourselves, your guests will get on board with that too. So don’t think too much about how it looks in your mind, but more about what will help you enjoy yourself. You know, what Liz said.

  • Rachel Sampson

    My husband and I are totally not party people either, so we just did what we thought we would enjoy. We asked ourselves about when we have the most fun. And the answer was at casual get togethers, usually including barbecue. So that’s what we did. No dancing, no staged bouquet or garter tosses, no hype. We just had a simple ceremony with barbecue dinner following. And from there we just chatted with friends and family. Just like any other day, except not. Because everyone (especially us) was filled with joy! And during our reception we felt that we ran out of time rather than things to fill up said time.

    All that said, I love the idea SCQP has for her wedding! And if it fits them, it sounds like what they should do.

  • Sara

    Super cool party people bid you super cool adeiu!
    (sorry, I have no additional suggestions. This is all I could think about. I loved Gilmore Girls)

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    One of the best receptions I’ve been to was at a park.

    We turned up, and there was a stack of picnic rugs, and another stack of picnic baskets – along with a sign saying “one basket will feed four people”. And then we all grabbed a picnic rug and a basket, and found a piece of grass to have our lunch. And everyone just wandered from rug to rug and chatted to people, and all the kids ran around like maniacs, because PARK. And the bride and groom got to hang out with all their friends, and all it took was the rugs, the baskets, and some speakers playing music.

    Seriously. Best reception ever.

    My point? Do what suits you, and everyone else will end up enjoying themselves. Have the kind of gathering you’d like to attend.

  • Erin Walser

    I got married 2 weeks ago. My family ARE party people, but my husband and I are not, and for other emotional reasons, the thought of having a big ceremony AND a big reception in the same day was overwhelming. We ultimately rented out a party room at a swanky bar, had cocktails and finger food for 20 people following a ceremony in said party room. It was perfect, and now all the pressure is off to plan the larger party for all “the people” – mostly my large family and family friends. And to be perfectly honest, I would have been fine if we only had that small party. Do what suits you!

  • E

    I didn’t have the chance to read through all of the comments, but saw a lot of great advice. I also want to emphasize that trying for a party wedding when it’s not you or your crowd’s M.O. can just make things way less fun. We ended up hiring a DJ last-minute for our small, introverted wedding because everyone we chatted with about our wedding plans made the biggest freaking deal of, “OMG, you’re not having a DJ?!?!? What will people doooooooo???” Only a couple of people ended up dancing to a few songs, and it ended up being way more awkward to have someone trying to pump people up and get them out on the dance floor when they really just wanted to sit and chat quietly and eat tasty brunch food. It ended up feeling like a huge waste of money.

  • Sara Chatfield

    Some friends of mine rented out half a bowling alley for their reception. I wonder if some sort of activity other than sitting around (don’t know whether you like bowling, but maybe something similar it not?) would help you not stress about the ‘boring’ part.