Ask Team Practical: Skipping the Meal

I’m engaged! Hurrah! It’s all very exciting. We originally looked into the BIG wedding day—and by BIG, I mainly mean expensive! We sat down, talked about it, and decided we didn’t want or need this. It was way too much money. We didn’t want to take a loan out for it. We didn’t want to be saving for the next two plus years for it. We just want to be married. We just want to have fun.

Then, I read about cocktail receptions and came up with an idea. We decided we really want to do a Sunday afternoon, finger food type of affair. We found a cool bar in town which has a rooftop area we can rent. We plan on having finger food, cupcakes and drinks and a lot of all of it! We’re going to over-order slightly to make sure no one goes hungry. And no one eats dinner at 3pm on a Sunday, anyway, right? However, people are giving me a hard time. No sit-down meal? Shocking! No first dance?! Noooo!

We haven’t booked anything yet. I’m quite put off by people’s reactions. Whenever I mention my idea I get that look. That, “Ohhh…” like I am somehow cheaping out on them. I’ve even been told I can’t expect gifts if I don’t provide a meal! (It’s not about gifts!)

So now I’m stuck. Should I proceed with my cheaper, finger food wedding? Or throw the towel in?


Dear Anonymous,

A wedding invitation is not a dinner invitation. Let’s just stop that train right there. The idea that a “traditional” wedding equals a steak dinner and open bar is a fairly new concept—just ask your grandparents! I bet more often than not, they served cake and punch. There’s no thesaurus anywhere that lists “wedding” and “dinner” as synonyms. Also? There is no meal-for-gift exchange program going on. Think about it— dropping a hundred dollars on a plated chicken marsala for your Cousin Charlie isn’t exactly the easiest way to score some dish towels, is it? Not really.

You’re inviting your friends and family to celebrate your wedding. Not to have family dinner. Not to buy you things. If you choose to give them some baked ziti, awesome! If they choose to bring a blender wrapped in tissue paper, terrific! Neither of those things—the meal OR the gift—are requirements for a celebration of marriage. AT ALL.

Of course, guests can be jerks. Weddings don’t magically make everyone behave like generous and civilized individuals. There may be a few folks who will hear that there won’t be dinner, turn on a heel, and go return that awesome rubber spatula giftset out of spite. Harumph. But, as you said yourself, the gifts aren’t the point. So who cares?

You’re actually in very good company. Not only were so many weddings from previous generations comprised of just snacks or cake, but the daytime wedding is a bit of a trend among APW staff. MegAlyssa, Emily, and Kate all had daytime receptions, and at my own Sunday afternoon wedding, we served just dessert and champagne (yum). As Meg outlined after her own wedding, there are definite pluses to having a daytime wedding, and as I’ve written previously, there are positives to appetizer reception. The format is a little more free form, which can encourage guests to mingle and chat and can also allow for a flexible itinerary. Dances! Bouquet tosses! Those things can still happen—but only if you want them to—and according to your own prerogative.

That said, you want to be sure to continue to be guest-conscious. You already took care of Rule #1: Don’t Plan A Finger Food Reception During Mealtime. Perfect! Now, make sure that you include the pertinent information on the invitation. What can guests expect? “Join us after for cocktails and snacks,” (or “hors d’oeuvres,” if you’re fancypants) is simple and straight to the point, and it allows anyone who feels like complaining to do so in the comfort of their own home, far away from you. Also, receptions in this style often have less seating than your standard mealtime reception, so you don’t even have to worry about chairs. You’re welcome. Check with your venue to be sure that there will be enough seats to allow everyone to be comfortable, but especially for the elderly, who won’t exactly enjoy milling around on their feet for a few hours.

In the end, remember that spending what you can afford is NOT “cheaping out.” Making a decision based on frugality doesn’t mean that decision is less valid, nor does it make you a cheapskate. Weddings aren’t a contest of She Who Spends the Most, Loves Her Friends the Most. Making a budget-conscious decision, if nothing else, can allow you to invite even more of the people you love! How unselfish is that?


What do you think, Team Practical? Have you felt pressured to avoid making “cheap” wedding decisions? How do you cope with the pressures and expectations of guests?

Photo by Christina Richards Photography.

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 or use the submission form here.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh). However, don’t let thinking up a sign-off stress you out; we’ll love you regardless. You’re already writing in for advice, don’t you have enough to deal with, sweetie?

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  • Hell, we had a cocktail reception *at a mealtime* (Saturday, 6pm) and it was fine. If anyone complained, I didn’t hear about it. My guesses for factors that went into that were that we were careful to make the hors d’oeuvres (I, apparently, am fancypants) interesting — unusual flavor combos, locally sourced — and we were super excited about them, so I think people picked up on the “zomg, the food is going to be so great!” tone and didn’t even have a chance to go to the “ohhhh, what a cop-out” place. Yes, having a cocktail reception cost us less, but that wasn’t the only reason we did it.

    • That’s exactly what we did. We were married at 1:30 on a Sunday and had the reception from 3:30 until 7:30, prime meal time. We had lots and lots of passed appetizers, lots of yummy non-alcoholic beverages, and champagne. We were in this swanky restaurant that had a full bat in the other room, so alcohol was available if purple wanted it, but since it wasn’t part of the room we were in it avoided the awkwardness of us not picking up the tab. We had the same concerns you did, if we were doing passed hors d’oeuvres we wanted then to be good, substantial, and plentiful. Everyone had a great time, and if there were any nay-sayers I didn’t hear them. The biggest concern was, since it wasn’t a “seated”reception, making sure err had enough places for people to sit. Do what you like, and if your wedding reflects you people are going to have a good time no matter what.

      • Lots of food = a good time. And you can totally do this with afternoon nibbles.
        Start talking up how good the venues food is and people will start getting excited as well :)
        We opted out of the nibbles only reception at a venue we liked because DH wanted a sit down dinner. But it was one of his only requests, so I let him have it :) If anyone else had complained if we had chosen it? I would have been upset at the time, but we wouldnt have changed our minds.

  • I totally agree with Liz–people aren’t going to freak out over not having a sit-down dinner at 3pm on a Sunday. (Actually, freaking out about not having a sit-down dinner would still be inappropriate no matter what time.) My parents did a cocktails-and-hors d’oeuvres reception and apparently it was a blast.

    The only problem I’ve experienced with food at a wedding was at my friend’s wedding. The ceremony was early in the day and the reception was later. In between, a group of us went to a bar and (since we were starving) ordered a bunch of appetizers. We headed to the reception and weren’t hungry for the meal. In that case, it might have been smarter to do cocktails and finger food just to save money.

  • I will admit that my circle of friends is very little because when someone reacts like Anonymous’s guests I think “hmm, maybe I shouldn’t invite X at all”. I’m a bad person.;)
    We didn’t have a wedding reception, but we have had to deal with expectations regarding travelling to our home countries when our children were born . We are expats living many thousands of dollars away from my home country, Argentina, so, having had twins, we couldn’t afford to travel there until our children were 3 1/2 years. We were highly criticized by some, and while at first I tried to explain, at some point I just started replying “We’ll go whenever you pay for our 4 tickets. Does that make you happy?”
    This is not to say you should do as I did, it’s just my way to send you a hug and tell you that I know dealing with expectations can be hard, but in the end it’s not about what other people want your wedding day to be like, but about you. Those who love you will understand and be crazy happy for you, even if you just dance on the streets with a can of soda in your hands.

    • Jo

      HAHA. First paragraph made my day.

    • melissa

      I love this whole comment. Of our four parents, one makes an effort to visit us. If we have children, I’m looking forward to telling the rest of them to get their butt on a plane or get their checkbook out.

  • MDBethann

    I think your idea is really cool – way to think outside the box and do what works for you. You want your wedding to be something you and your future spouse are excited about and it sounds like you both are. We did opt to do a dinner, but in order to afford it (and so our families don’t have to travel), we’re having the wedding where our parents live, not in the Baltimore/DC area where we live. And having a wedding you can afford is key to making it something that makes you happy (how happy are you going to be if you’re in debt up to your eyeballs after your wedding???)

    And Liz is spot on about weddings traditionally being lighter affairs, food-wise. Meg talks about it in her book as well. My mom has mentioned multiple times throughout the planning of my wedding that she just had appetizers, cake, and punch in the hall at her church when she got married in the 1970s.

    In the end, your wedding is about celebrating the start of your married life with those you love. As the APW team and countless posters have written in other posts, people will come and be happy for you no matter what you serve or do – they are celebrating you and your new spouse. Those that can’t be happy about that, well, it does hurt and maybe they won’t come, but they are the ones who will be missing out.

    Good luck and have fun tasting and picking out lots of yummy appetizers!!!

    • “My mom has mentioned multiple times throughout the planning of my wedding that she just had appetizers, cake, and punch in the hall at her church when she got married in the 1970s.”

      And my mom had cake and punch in the church hall when she remarried in the 90s! Nary a drop of alcohol (wah! that’s what flasks are for) or a plated dinner in sight. Everyone had a great time.

  • Abby J.

    I think cocktail receptions are fine! My best friend had one at 3 pm and it was fine. The one caveat was that I think you should arrange to either have plates set aside for the wedding party, or do not set up the finger food serving area until after pictures with the wedding party are done. At my friends wedding, they set all the food out right after the ceremony and the vultures had completely picked the table dry by the time the photo-taking-melee was over. My poor friend hardly got to eat any of her own wedding food.

    • I’ve seen this whole “food disappears while photos are being taken” things at weddings – you’d think a more elegant solution would have been thought up by now. I never liked the idea of guests waiting while photos are taken – which is why I don’t have any formal photos of our wedding!

      • Abby J.

        I think the solution is to have one type of finger food passed on trays during the the pictures. Once the pictures are over, several more types of finger foods can be set up on a display or buffet. The problem I’ve most commonly seen is having all the food set out in the same area where the guests are waiting, and having the food available while the pictures are going on.

      • carrie

        Side conversation alert – I would also champion the “first look” for those couples who are open to it. Solves the problem of guests waiting, and for us, it helped take some of the pressure out of the day. We were really happy to be with each other for a couple of hours and have some time together before the madness begun.

        • Liz

          Yeah, we did the photos before the wedding. It’s not a perfect solution- my husband was a little disappointed that he didn’t have the “aisle moment” or whatever- but our guests didn’t need to wait for us and we didn’t miss out on food.

          • I’m definitely bummed that I don’t have a shot with my of my row of ladies, but that’s about it. I’m very happy to have a lot of pro-photos of actual moments, vs staged moments.

          • We did pictures beforehand and never felt like either of us missed out. In fact I think it was really fun to hang out with our wedding party before the wedding. Not everything was staged (which is why having a photojournalist is awesome) and we didn’t feel rushed or pressured to hurry up. It was like our own private party before the wedding.

          • Lana

            I haven’t given much thought to a cocktail reception before now, and this may be blasphemous, but if you don’t want to do a first look and you’re not doing an all night party, could you save the pictures for after the celebratory cocktails?
            I suppose you run the risk of having drunk eyes and BBQ sauce down the front of your white dress, but if you’re a graceful eater and a moderate drinker it could give you the aisle moment and not make your guests wait while you go hungry… Just a thought.

          • David swears he had the “aisle moment” despite the fact that we’d woken up together, spent a couple of hours taking pictures and gone out for dinner with our parents and wedding parties and then did the final getting ready touches together. For him – for US – it was still a very charged emotional moment that wasn’t ruined because he knew what I looked like. I mean, we lived together – he pretty much knew what I looked like already… :)

          • @ Morgan This is totally our reasoning. We knew what each other look like. Seeing each other before hand does not cheapen the moment.

            And I have to be honest, I hated the aisle walk when it all actually went down. I basically ran up it cause I just wanted to get back to Mr. Beagle. I didn’t mind the eyes if the eyes were on both of us, but I did not like the eyes when I was not with Mr. Beagle.

      • Amy

        If you have the cocktail reception professionally catered your caterer should (I realize this doesn’t always happen) refresh the food periodically throughout the event. The same thing should also happen with your passed appetizers.
        If you’re self-catering, why not just set out about 60-70% of the food at the beginning and then assign someone to periodically check and see if more food needs to be brought out as the event goes on?

        • I helped plan one of the first weddings I was a bridesmaid for and this is exactly how we did it. We had about five people who were friends of the bride or groom assigned as table duty to go around and periodically refill the appetizers. Also, there were plates set aside for the bride and groom (and probably attendants too) so they DID manage to eat something.

      • Brittany

        Since our wedding is in the morning, and we’re serving a light lunch and no dinner, it’s still going to be light out when the reception is over, so our photographer suggested just doing photos with the wedding party after the reception. (It didn’t seem practical to try to squeeze them in during the morning when it’s early and everything isgetting set-up anyway) That way no one is left waiting for food, and after a nearly two-hour Catholic ceremony, I imagine no one will complain about that! :)

    • p.

      We apparently had very thoughtful people working at our wedding. They put together a plate of food for my husband and I when we went to take pics and when we came back, we didn’t have to worry about all the appetizers being eaten.

    • panina

      I used to cater in college, with my Dad who is a chef. And I thought I’d reiterate, and maybe add to what some other folks are saying.

      If you are having your appetizer reception catered, speak very openly with the staff- they will not only understand staggering apps, but often insist on it so that your guests are introduced to food slowly and are comfortably full by the time three hours or whatever are over. Also, if they don’t offer, ask to have a portion of each food set aside for you and your fiance for the next day- because sometimes I have found (I’ve catered maybe 60 or so weddings) that newlyweds don’t get the chance to savor the food, and come up to us in the kitchen asking for a “doggy bag” as it were, which we always love to do.

      If you are doing it yourselves, I think someone already mentioned, but have some trusted friends stagger the apps, so that every 15 or 20 minutes the food is refreshed.

      Either way, hopefully you and your fiance (and whoever is with you for photos) will not only get to eat at your reception, but get to maybe have a delightful midnight snack or taste of the wedding the next day.

      There are always caveats, of course- so do what feels right- but I think with some open communication with whoever will be doing the food, you should be happy as clams.

      Also, I think the idea of an apps and drinks rooftop wedding is just the dreamiest, it’s going to be great!!

  • Anne

    My fiance and I are planning a similar event for next year – vintage afternoon tea at our British wedding with lots of scones, sponge cakes, champagne and yummy finger food. I’m really excited about it and it fits who we are and our vision for the wedding perfectly. We have guests coming from overseas and I was initially worried about the ‘cheap’ factor but they’ve made it clear they are coming for us, not the food! (which will be awesome btw!) Good luck and definitely stick to your gut feelings. A rooftop cocktail party sounds fabulous!

    • Someone needs to invite me to a wedding exactly like yours, because that sounds spectacular.

  • Sunday afternoon weddings are the best! I think this, of course, because I had one : )

    You’re doing exactly what we did and it was awesome. People got drunk, danced like crazy, had a wonderful time and almost everyone stayed until the very end. Not having a meal saves you a boring hour of eating – instead people will mingle, dance, etc. One of my very favorite parts of the day was going out for a fabulous steak dinner alone with my new husband afterward. Then we met up with a few friends at a bar after that.

    As far as gifts, those people are jerks and also crazy. We got a gift from almost everyone who came and our registry was pretty much cleared out. I really don’t think most people base their gifts on what kind of wedding you have.

  • Jennifer

    I never have a problem with appetizers instead of a “real” meal, even at parties scheduled for mealtime, but I’d especially not mind if I got to eat the cake in the accompanying picture. I just had breakfast and that still looks sooo yummy. Yay cake!

  • You are definitely not alone! We had a 1 pm ceremony, and had salads, dips, breads, and pie at our reception. Not a single person complained (to me). As you said, who is eating dinner at 3 pm? I think you have a great idea.

  • Umpteenth Sarah

    I want to GO to your wedding! Patio, cocktails, finger food, dessert… what’s not to love? I secretly think that most people enjoy the appetizers and desserts at weddings the most anyway, and I always find the first dance a smidge awkward, so… do what makes you happy and suits your taste and wallet.


    Also, appetizers are 1) delicious, 2) often more creative than catered sit-down meals, and 3) DELICIOUS.

  • Kelley

    I think it sounds like a blast (and low stress for your guests, too). The people who love and support you will show up and throw in all their love for you on your wedding day. I say stick to your guns; you guys know what is best for you.

  • One of the most glamorous weddings I’ve ever been to was a teeny tiny dessert-and-champagne affair on a Sunday evening. I felt like it was something special and out of the ordinary – a great excuse to get all fancy and romantic on an otherwise ho-hum night. Eating and drinking light made me feel great that night *and* the next morning. And as Liz pointed out in her answer, the lack of a hard dinner schedule was a good thing – it reinforced why we were all there, and it made it easier for the guests to bond.

    DO IT.

    • Tina

      You make this sound so glamorous I want to do this on a Sunday for no other reason than just because. I agree wholeheartedly. Do it!! :)

  • Jessica

    My FAVORITE weddings – hands down – do not involve a full dinner. I know others may feel differently and I’m not knocking the idea of the full dinner wedding – just letting you know that some people actually looove and even prefer the cocktail/lunch/cake receptions. They’re fun.

  • We had a morning wedding with brunch, and no first dance. I mean, we had a first dance, but it was on our honeymoon, by ourselves (it was magical and I’ll never forget it). And guess what? People loved our wedding. WE loved our wedding. Do what you want– your community will be happy to celebrate with you however you choose. As long as you keep their comfort in mind, as well, as Liz so wisely pointed out. :)

  • faith

    Liz, well said. I really can’t stand the notion of judging people by how much we spent on our weddings.

    Anonymous, I reminded myself continually that someone was going to find something to complain about or pass judgement on our choices. That’s when it is no longer your problem:)

    Also, love the baked ziti reference, Liz;)

  • You wedding sounds ace. For lots of people wedding = expensive, including my parents who had a fairly frugal wedding. I think just because we avoid the WIC doesn’t mean family and friends aren’t suckered in to the whole thing (and not because they are suckers, because it has become all pervasive).

    If people judge you for preparing wonderful finger food they are silly. But as was said above a good way round it is to not be apologetic about it, be excited! You have found a cool local venue who do brilliant food, the buffet will give guests an amazing choice of yummy stuff to eat and if they want they wanted they could just eat cupcakes! This will be amazing.


  • melissa

    What is wrong with people who think that small bites are inappropriate any time of day? One word for them: TAPAS.

    • meg


    • Dawn


      My partner and I are foodies (he’s a former chef, I come from a long line of dessert shoppe dames), so one of the *first* things we thought about was food. Our date isn’t for 1.5 years, but food is honestly a big deal in our hosting of anything, let alone our damn wedding! It’s going to be a cocktail affair, so heavy big meals just sounded unappealing immediately… “Tapas” was almost uttered in unison! Thankfully, we have some chef friends we get to pull favors from, so we’re going for a sushi [toy] train style of tapas.

      Classy and delicious; they can be almost anything including a meal or a snack.

  • This is EXACTLY (ok, not exactly, we were in the woods) how we did things, and it seemed fine. Wedding at noon, cocktails and finger foods and activities around 2, with no dancing.

    However, a small group of us did go out to dinner after the wedding around 8pm, so keep that in the back of your mind if you’re not escaping right when things wrap up.

    The meal-for-gifts thing is so vulgar I can’t even. Whatever. Just ignore those people.

    Here’s my post about our menu and cocktails:

    • amigacara

      I like your use of the word vulgar. :)

    • meg

      “The meal-for-gifts thing is so vulgar I can’t even. Whatever. Just ignore those people.”

      Cough. Yes. Cough.

      • melissa

        Hey, a-hole wedding guests, if this is true, then I want to know where the rest of my freakin’ presents are. At the risk of sounding materialistic or greedy or whatever, I’m just gonna say it. If you’re going to play the quid-pro-quo game, then my five course dinner doesn’t equal $40 worth of wine glasses. The same way that a bunch of delicious appetizers and cake are not comparable to a $12 spatula. If wedding gifts are about recouping costs, then clearly someone’s math skills are lacking. The same people that think they can throw a tantrum over what they are fed or offered to drink don’t usually have their heinous logic tossed back in their face. How about you be nice, and I’ll be nice.

        I hate this whole idea. I hate thinking that my wedding gift is going to backfill someone’s black hole of debt. Part of the reason I hate giving money and prefer to give an actual gift – of a price point indicative of my affection for the couple and nothing else.

  • Lisa

    Your reception idea sounds fabulous! We’re planning on a Sunday day-time wedding, probably with some kind of brunch/appetizer reception. I say go for it!

  • Kess

    One kind of follow up question I have is what if your wedding will end up being a destination wedding inadvertently? (My parents live in Michigan, his live in Florida, our siblings are scattered across the country, and it’s likely we’ll be living in Connecticut soon) It’s not that we’d particularly want a ‘destination wedding’, it’s just that no matter where we choose, at least someone very important is going to have to hop on a plane.

    It seems the cake and punch reception was when everyone lived within an afternoon’s drive and therefore had access to at least lunch or dinner that day at their home, unlike someone flying in who must take off at least a day from work and get a hotel. Is this actually an issue?

    • Liz

      If your guests know this in advance, they’re fine. Grown ups manage to find places to eat when they travel all the time! If you make it clear in the invitation, they’ll already be anticipating finding their own meals and have the chance to do some Google and Zagat digging.

      They’re traveling for the MARRIAGE- whether or not there’s a meal won’t make it more or less “worth” the trip!

      • Jo

        Yes! And if you want more time with people… you can always arrange a few extra events for mingling with your out of town guests that are not catered/fancypants/like a second reception. Meet us at this local lounge for drinks the night before! Meet us for dinner somewhere casual! Meet us for a potluck picnic the day before! Whatever it is… and then they feel like it’s worth the travel and it’s not about, again, you owing them meals.

        • Jennie

          We’re doing a potluck the day before the wedding to have more informal time with our friends and family. This gets people to participate (contribute food) and takes pressure off the day of the wedding. I’m glad that on our wedding day, I won’t have to worry so much about making time for people I haven’t seen in years.

          As for those that come expecting something… Your wedding is about you and your partner! People will always have opinions and I’ve found that if I say what we’re doing with confidence I get less “What?! You’re not doing …?” than when I say we’re thinking about this, what do you think? We’re doing what feels right for our wedding, don’t come if you don’t like it!

      • Jo

        P.S. Go Liz! Seamless transition, btw.

        • Liz

          Thank you!

    • mandalizabeth

      As someone who is trying to plan a wedding in Connecticut, this is the smartest way to do it. Costs per head are very, very high. If your out of town guests are coming to your wedding for the meal, and not to celebrate you and your honey, it’s a pretty stupid reason to travel here. Say thank you, be happy to see them. That’s why they showed up. Not for chicken and pasta.

      That being said, Connecticut is a great excuse to visit New York and Boston. If your guests complain about not getting a meal, there are plenty of restaurants and entertainment to the North or South, and they are welcome to pursue that endeavor across state lines. You are busy that day.

    • One of the best weddings I’ve been to? Was an afternoon ceremony/evening reception. Far enough that it required a hotel stay and the happy couple choose not to provide dinner. Instead they directed guests to a number of local restaurants for dinner after the ceremony, so I got to hang out with the guests I actually knew to eat, and then everyone came back for a giant, massive party with cake and some finger foods.

      I had a blast and could not have cared less that I bought my own dinner.

    • Lizzie

      I think the travel question is the real reason that people worry so much about serving a full meal and feel that they “owe it” to their guests. I had myself so tied in knots at one point during wedding planning that I thought I would need to feed people at least three times – the wedding itself, the night before, and the morning after. It’s crazy, but understandable on one level. I’d been to weddings where that was done, and it seemed to make sense if someone needs to buy a plane ticket, rent a car, and get a hotel room “just” to come to your wedding. But of course, you would only bother doing those things if you actually want to go to the wedding, right?

      In the end, knocking 20-30 bucks off your guest’s cost of attendance by providing a meal doesn’t really change much other than your stress level and your budget. Also, if you are really concerned about people being able to afford to come, there might be other things you can do to help. We tried to make it possible for some of our cash-strapped younger friends to come by offering a place to camp. This is absolutely not required, but in our case it was easy to do and it made a difference for some of the people we invited.

      • msditz

        This was huge for me as well. I had three of my greatest friends coming to California all the way from London, “just” for the wedding. I had major travel guilt, thinking I had to move heaven and earth just to make the trip worth it to them. What I realized is that a) my wedding was fun and they all had a good time, and b) none of my guests were locked in a room for the hours before and after the wedding. They were all adults who did other fun cool things while I was calling the caterer. They saw their families and old friends and went sight seeing on their own time in addition to attending our wedding.

      • We had a 1pm wedding and a 6pm light food reception. For a split second I wondered if I needed to help people with a light lunch between the two and then I realized they are adults and would figure it out. And they did. While we did pictures. One funny moment was when my new mother-in-law thought we’d be going to lunch with them rather than getting our pictures taken. Their whole family was together, and any time they get together they go to a particular restaurant, so she just figured we’d go with them.

    • I am totally pro doing whatever works for you, and no, you don’t owe your friends and family dinner.

      But. I think the evolution in wedding expectations partly (only partly) tracks a major change in people’s life patterns. The cake&punch reception made a ton of sense for an era in which travel was expensive and the people at the wedding would be people who lived in the same town and could easily go home. The modern wedding weekend, whatever the budget, makes a ton of sense for an era and a demographic in which friends live all over the country/planet and weddings are a major source of community reconnection.

      Yeah, it gets out of hand with the trying to feed everyone for 3 days. No, you don’t have to do any of it. But it also makes sense for the pattern of a lot of our lives and the desire to do it comes from somewhere real.

      • Liz

        That does make a lot of sense. But it’s also a little fishy to me that these new pressures (cocktail hour! farewell brunch! hotel welcome bags!) suspiciously arose around the advent of the princessy, fairytale “My Day” consumerism-driven wedding. Hmmm.

        • melissa

          OMG. I got into a nasty argument with my friend’s then-girlfriend, now-fiance over how people HAVE to invite every out-of-town guest to the rehearsal dinner and to the farewell brunch. B—ch, are you crazy? I’m such a bad person. I definitely want to remind her of all these have-tos.

        • Oh sure. The WIC is seeing that transition and trying like hell to commodify it. But the transition comes from a real and serious change in how our lives work.

          Also, I think the spike in wedding consumerism is absolutely related to the collapse of the traditional role for marriage. My grandparents needed to get married so they could live together and have sex. My parents got married because it signaled that their relationship was serious and that they could have kids. I can have sex and kids and an apartment and a serious relationship with my partner with or without marriage. What exactly is the wedding for? Who knows! Into that gap steps an industry that would like it to be for realizing my aesthetic fantasies about being an extremely wealthy socialite princess movie star.

          The real answer is that it’s about really different things for different people. People want a religious blessing or a personal oath or a community witness and they plan different weddings depending on what role the wedding plays in the relationship. I want to signal that my relationship is for keeps; as long as I’m about it I want to use one of the very few chances I’ll have in my life to throw a party for people I love.

          And eff welcome bags. I mean they’re fine, there’s nothing terrible about them, but they’re exactly like favors: if they’d be fun for you to make, go to town. They’re not Important nor do they Say Something About Your Wedding.

  • Kayleigh

    My husband and I had no dancing and non-traditional (pizza) food at our reception, and when we told people about it before the wedding they acted personally offended. On the day of the wedding, though, everyone had a ball and a few people told us it was the best wedding they’d ever been to. Stick to your guns and plan the party that’s right for you and your budget. One thing we did was have a photo booth. It was cheaper and took up less space than a Dj/dance floor and it gave everyone a fun activity to do together. The most important thing is just to have the elements of a reception that excite you and your fiancé.

    • Christine

      I love those ideas and I think the point is that if you tell people ANY idea beforehand, they’re more likely to think up problems, etc. Just plan and tell everyone politely “we haven’t decided yet” and then when they get to the wedding they’ll be too happy for you to criticize (or having too much fun to find anything to criticize!) It’s like baby names, right? you tell someone “we’re thinking of X” and they’ll be “oh no, I knew a b— once whose name was X! you can’t name her THAT!”
      …and I totally agree with Marcela up there, the sensitive part of me thinks “oh you don’t want to come to a cocktail reception? well good cause you’re no longer invited!” :)

      • So true. People can worry a lot about plans that seem offbeat to them, but it seems on the actual day things tend to go over really well and people end up loving it. Like wedding happy goggles or something. I had thought my mom was going to flip out about my husband wearing red converse instead of traditional dress shoes, but on the day, she just thought it was cute and fun and it didn’t faze her at all. Who knew! :)

  • Maybe I’m just hopelessly naive, but I can’t even FATHOM saying to someone, “oh no your idea for your wedding is dumb because this is how it’s done,” and then throwing in, “if you do it that way, no one will give you presents.” What kind of monster does that?!

    I think a cocktail/finger food wedding sounds really fun!

    • Gigi59

      You’re not naive, just well-mannered. I’m constantly amazed at the silly behaviors that surround weddings and the stupid things that come out of people’s mouths. One guy I work with actually goes to weddings with an unsealed card and his checkbook. He estimates the value of the meal and then writes a check to cover his family’s “share of the cost”. He thinks this is perfectly normal, expected behavior and he was truly offended that everyone did not do this for his daughter’s wedding. I’m still stunned…

      And cocktail receptions are the best!!

      • That’s bizarre. Really?? He brings his checkbook??

        • Gigi59


      • Liz

        I’ve heard of similar! Completely vulgar, right? A friend made sure everyone knew what she was spending on each “plate” so that she would receive an equivalently priced gift.


        • Class of 1980

          “VULGAR” is the exact word that came to my mind too.

          I’m convinced that some people are raised in barns (and not the cool ones converted into houses kind). ;)

        • KA

          This is all standard (usually Italian-American) behavior here in NY. A friend’s mom, upon hearing we were having a brick oven pizza truck cater dinner for our wedding turned to my friend–in front of me!–and said, “If you did that, people would be taking money out of the envelopes.” Yes, YOU’RE the classy one.

          For the record, the pizza (plus bridal brigade made apps & salad) was divine, the guests were over the moon and months later still keep saying it was the best food they’ve ever had at a wedding. Food truck wedding FTW.

          • I have to second KA’s comment, as well. I have heard this from lots of family and friends in NY, and it’s so ingrained in some people my age that I have nearly had fights with people to defend others who consider alternatives to sit down dinners. So my question is, if so many people believe in the sit-down reception that strongly, when does it become a cultural expectation that planners have to consider on its own merits? Not that I agree at all (coming from Midwest picnic-in-park, potluck-style weddings).

          • KA

            @Erin: Exactly. I could gone on and on about that. We seemed to “get away with it” because guests were 99% friends and everyone knew we were paying for it ourselves. I think most of my friends feel like that would never fly with their families and they HAVE to do it the “traditional” church/temple + hall sit-down dinner way. But I have no experience with family politics so I just don’t know how that all works if one has one. (Family, that is.)

          • Liz

            This is to Erin (though I’m not exactly a cultural anthropology expert or anything haha)-

            I think when deciding to respect a “cultural expectation” at your wedding, you need to decide which cultures represent and reinforce your ideals about marriage. The person who commented and said she decided to have a meal out of respect for her in-law’s culture did so because she saw the value and relevance of its roots in the cultural ideal (a meal representing some sort of fellowship and beginning to the marriage).

            If we take “meal = gift” as a cultural expectation (for me, a South Philly Italian American cultural expectation), what ideals about marriage does it reinforce? To my understanding, it reinforces a concept of friendship having a monetary value. (Does someone else have another interpretation? I’d like to hear it if I’m way off!) I don’t respect that ideal, so I won’t take the time to respect that cultural expectation with my wedding.

            And THAT is me getting way to philosophical for my very first ATP. Whoops. ;)

          • Lizzarina

            Reading your comment made me SO happy. I’m getting married this July and the original plan was pizza and beer- simple and delicious. Our venue doesn’t have a kitchen so it was even more perfect: pizza is good hot, cold, room temperature, and the morning after! Buuuttttt… My mom felt that people would go hungry if there was “just pizza” (and salad) So now we are having pizza and beer, and a full on Italian feast complete with homemade caponatta, stromboli, calzones, and a few completely random in my opinion roast turkeys… It’s a good thing I don’t care too much about the food…

          • To Liz: Your philosophical-ness makes me happy. Never change :)

          • Rachelle

            @Liz –
            I think it comes from a place of trying to be polite, honestly. If someone is paying $200 for you to attend and eat at their wedding, the guest wants to make sure that you are recouping that money. Since traditionally the idea of wedding gifts is to get a couple started in life together, this idea assumes that it makes no sense to “cost” the couple $200 and then give a $50 gift. Going in this direction, it seems much nicer than the other way – giving a cheap gift because the couple didn’t spend much on the wedding.

            I completely disagree with this whole thing, by the way, but that is how I interpret the motivation behind “covering your plate”. You want your gift to be “net” of what they spent for you to attend.

          • KA

            Liz: I love it when I try to say things and then you come and actually say them. Yes, that exactly.

            Lizzarina: I worried if pizza would be “enough” too. We had some cocktail hour-y type apps (also no kitchen so it had to be stuff that was easy and kept), then salad and pizza with tons of different topping options. I’m pretty sure most people got 2+ slices and we still had leftovers. Biggest issue with pizza with us was what to feed all our set-up helpers for “rehearsal dinner” the night before. Solution? Chinese food!

          • Liz

            @Rachelle- Oh I totally agree about that end in as much as making sure to bring a “good enough” gift! But as far as feeling pressured to have a meal, I see that as having a totally different meaning.

          • Chris Bergstrom

            Being from the midwest, I thought this idea was very strange when I first heard about it. But here in NJ, it is common, along with beautifully extravagant (and expensive!) weddings. And – while I still am not 100% comfortable with the idea myself – it can be thought of in a different way, as a NJ native explained to me once:

            See, weddings often happen at a time in a couple’s life when they don’t have a lot of money to spare. The couple’s family and friends KNOW this, and as a gift (both to the couple and to themselves and their big extended families), they want to help the couple have the beautiful and fancy marriage-starting party of their dreams. Rather than what we think of as the “traditional” model of having the bride’s father shoulder much of the cost, the guests take it upon themselves to contribute to the wedding.

            It still seems tricky-to-navigate, because it’s not the tradition I saw growing up, and I think some guests DO take it as a chance to be stingy or snooty (or both?), and I think (know) some couples find it stressful to live up to the expectation of having a super-elaborate wedding which they couldn’t necessarily pay for outright, but it CAN come from a good place. A place where couples decide to give their community a kick-ass once-in-a-lifetime party, and their community gives back to them to help that happen.

        • Do you know what’s sad? That’s actually really normal in Spain. That, and including your bank account number in the invitation.
          I was once reading an online discussion forum on weddings in my area (Basque Country) and someone was saying that she couldn’t still get married because she couldn’t afford the wedding. Another one answered: oh but you should just get married! Guests will pay for themselves anyway.

          • That’s insane. I had a destination wedding and did not get any gifts OR cash from my small guest list. Most people used the money they would have on a gift to GET there. Expecting to recoup was not going to happen!

          • In Argentina those who cannot afford to pay for a big wedding but want to invite lots of people, send some invitations “with a card”(con tarjeta), which means that guests pay for their costs. This is a way for people who really want to share their joy to be able to be there, regardless of whether the couple has money or not.

          • HH


            Bank account numbers?

            Whoa. Jaw has dropped.

          • @HH
            Yup, sadly I’m not kidding. When my boyfriend and I started talking about getting married we knew we didn’t want that kind of wedding right away, so we started talking about how we could it, and still be able to afford it.
            We’re having a non-traditional DIY wedding in September, and although we got a few raised eyebrows, I think it’ll be okay!

          • RJ

            Another angle on money: I’ve heard someone analyse the tradition of giving money and presents to the bride and groom as like a community loan, to set them up, which the bride and groom will pay back/pay forward at all the weddings to come in their life.

            From that perspective big gifts ( I heard of a lounge suite from a family at a big Samoan wedding) makes more sense.

      • I really don’t understand this idea from a financial point of view. If gifts were supposed to cover wedding expenses, then it would make a lot more financial sense to not invite anyone and just buy all the stuff yourself. I mean, you don’t invite people to “make money.” If you did, you’d only break even under this rule. You invite them to celebrate with them. Maybe I’m just thinking too rationally.

        • Rachelle

          Parents pay for the wedding, thus treating the guests to a nice meal and evening out. The guests, in turn, give nice gifts to the couple. It’s kind of the same idea as a shower. The host holds the event in honor of the person, then the guests bring gifts.

          I realize this is not the way it works for most couples now, but I think that’s where this whole idea comes from.

        • Class of 1980

          If you go wayyyy back in our history, wedding gifts were unheard of. Couples got married at home with their families and a few close friends in attendance.

          All the items for the couple’s new household were made or purchased before the wedding. In fact, one historian said there was a remark written by a bride back then who said a friend gave her a gift for her wedding and it astonished her.

          Later, weddings moved into churches and having that larger space meant the whole thing became more of a choreographed production with more guests. Wedding gifts became common after that.

          So yeah. I’ve often thought it would be easier to just have a small wedding and equip the house yourself. ;)

          • Gigi59

            That’s what a hope chest was for. A young girl/woman would put aside things she had made or been given over the years to help furnish or decorate her “married” home.

    • Christine

      I feel similarly about the vulgarity of trying to match value of gift to price of dinner, both as the giver and receiver. reading wedding blogs i’ve heard stories of people not giving gifts (not even a card) and all I can think is how rude it is to not even give a small, cheap (homemade if necessary) gift as a way to express “we’re happy for you and want to celebrate your future together.” but to expect anything more than that is just tacky. (not to mention impractical, if you just want the stuff, just buy the stuff and say no gifts and spend less on the wedding. easy.) I think people who try to match cost of plate to cost of gift are honestly trying to graciously avoid under- or over-gifting (my mom told me once she tries to do that but beforehand and in a way that makes sure she’s being as generous as she feels is appropriate, but she would NEVER bring her checkbook that’s horrible). Anyway, people who throw weddings just for the gift deserve to be disappointed…people who throw weddings for the marriage know that the gifts are just part of the celebration, no matter how big or small! Call me cheesy, but it’s the thought that counts.

      • Class of 1980

        I never heard this concept about matching the cost of the present to the cost of the meal until the Internet. The first time I heard it, I think my mouth was open in horror for several minutes.

        Definitely not an idea that originated in the southeast, that’s for sure.

        • Allison

          As a fellow Southeasterner, I think I had a physical shock the first time I heard of this practice. I was always taught that you give within your means, and possibly according to how close you are to the couple. And if you are a gift recipient, you lavish the same thanks on the person who brings you the homemade recipe card holder as you do on the person who brings the KitchenAid mixer.

          • MDBethann

            That’s how I was raised in Pennsylvania too.

          • Class of 1980


            You explained the southern philosophy to perfection. That is exactly how I was brought up too, and I think it’s one thing southern culture does right. It’s a graceful way.

          • Gigi59

            That’s how I was raised, too, by a New England mother and a Midwestern father. The whole idea of giving cash for any gift was taboo in my family. I’m not a very popular wedding guest around these parts!

      • This is a sad trend I’ve been finding. And a dangerous topic to get me started on.

        Want to get married? Great, get married. Have a wedding, invite everyone you want. If you want cocktails, have cocktails. If you want a fancypants chef cooking your meal, do that.

        Leave the gifts/money/fundraising out of it. If someone wants to throw you a shower, sweet. People want to give you gifts? Great. But uhhhh … don’t factor that into your budget or planning.

        As a guest? Give a gift that you are comfortable giving, leave the meal out of it. And for the love of god don’t be some people I know who says will take cash out of his gift envelope if there’s not an open bar.

      • We didn’t get gifts, which was fine, but I WAS upset that we only got a handful of nice cards. I would have liked to have them as mementos!

  • Jeannine

    I second Kayleigh–when we were starting to plan a low-key picnic wedding, we got some pushback from parents mostly because they wanted to make sure we were doing this because it’s how we wanted it, not because we just wanted to save money (and that we were sad about having to budget). Once we sent out the invites and they could see how excited we were about it, they totally backed off and got excited about the plan we’d chosen. I think before you make any decisions, people like to weigh in with the pros and cons–in an effort to be helpful, if you want to be generous. But once you set your course, they should get on board.
    I should also note though, that we did feel guilty about not doing a full-on wic wedding and that, as well as the fact that we already had a very well-appointed home, was the driving reason behind our asking for no gifts. which, as it turned out, was silly because people did want to give us something to celebrate the occasion.

  • Jo

    Since it hasn’t been pointed out yet, I’ll add one more thing. If you SHOULD want to do a first dance (or just some post-nuptial shimmying) on the roof, I’m sure you can bring an ipod and some pro speakers and crank some tunes up there, with your venue’s permission.

    Also, if anyone gives you slack about the money you’re not spending (agreed: monsters), remind them that by saving money now you’ll have money to come visit them later. Except of course that if they were giving me slack about that, my desire to come visit them would plummet. But, you know, if it’s far away family or whatever.

    • Class of 1980

      People who complain about how much money you’re spending don’t deserve any answer at all.

  • carrie

    It’s amazing the opinions that spill out of peoples’ mouths when you tell them about your wedding, isn’t it? I tried to get out of opening gifts at my shower and my bridesmaids were horrified, so I did it anyway. It’s also amazing that people think weddings are a trade off for a gift.

    Anyway – your idea is fabulous. Anyone who thinks it’s terrible can stay at home and miss out on the fun!

  • starkville

    While I love the idea of a cocktail reception, I’d just make sure you are respecting your families and their cultures. For instance, in my husband’s family, that idea did not go over well at all. That’s not what they do. Their cultural background is built around meals, and when you get married, you have a meal as a family– it’s like consummating the marriage. Yeah they are all 2+ generation X-American, but that’s what they do and it’s really, really important to them. I love it in retrospect, even though i found it hard to deal with at first. Guess that means i’m family now.

    Anyway my point is to listen past those shallow bribes and see what they are really saying, because sometimes people aren’t good at articulating what they really mean when it is important.

  • clampers

    Girl! Just keep on keepin’ with the idea you’re excited about. Everyone loves to complain because it makes them feel better about themselves (human nature). When your wedding day rolls around, everyone will be gracious.

  • Stephasaurus

    I can really relate to your situation. I’m a long-time vegetarian and my fiance just recently went vegetarian;we decided a few months ago that our brunch reception is going to be vegetarian. (I mean really, who needs meat at brunch anyway with so many other amazing brunch foods out there??) We also decided that we weren’t going to tell anyone this, but a few people have already made the assumption (and darn them for assuming correctly) that our meal will be vegetarian. Some of their reactions have been more than a little rude, and it’s taken all my willpower to NOT ackowledge it in the least. So my advice to you? Stick to your guns! If people aren’t going to attend your wedding or give you a gift (who does that? I love giving people wedding gifts) just because of what you’re feeding them or not feeding them, that is seriously their problem. It honestly just makes THEM look bad. Plus I think cocktail receptions are super classy and finger food is delicious!

    • I always think this is completely bizarre. I’ve heard about people getting upset about this before. If you and your partner are vegetarian(/vegan/lactose intolerant/etc.) why in the world WOULDN’T you serve food that you can eat and enjoy at your own celebration???

      Plus, BRUNCH, hello! There are so many amazing breakfast/light lunch foods that don’t even include one little speck of meat.

      • Stephasaurus

        Yes, thank you! That’s exactly how I feel: why would I have something on the menu that I myself wouldn’t eat? And brunch really is the perfect meal to to be vegetarian and still loaded with delicious foods.

      • extragrunty

        That’s why I’m doing an afternoon desert wedding/reception! I’ve been veg for 10ish years and the vegetarian options are very close to nil in the area surrounding my hometown. I can’t wait to eat lots of cookies and cake and pie (oh my)! And it’s much easier to plan from 2000 miles away…

        • Stephasaurus

          That’s a great option too! Who doesn’t love dessert?

        • We did a “dessert soirée” reception (desserts and dancing) for a number of reasons, but being a mostly-vegetarian was definitely one of them. We had an evening wedding (8 pm) and the reception started around 9ish, and it was great fun. Dancing and desserts (and nuts, fruit, baguettes and brie to be diabetic-friendly). Yum. We loved it and never heard a complaint. (Except from my dad who kept suggesting we get those “little fancy wieners.” We thought about putting one hot dog and bun on the table with a sign in it with my dad’s name on it, but we just didn’t have time/energy to see that idea through. :)

          (And most of our planning was also long distance too! Good luck!)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I’ve had some push-back from caterers, too. There’s an extensive list of allergies in my family, but we manage to cook and eat tasty food every day. We don’t go out to eat much since the allergies were diagnosed, though, and it always requires extensive planning.

      Well, on my wedding day, when my family’s paying thousands of dollars for the food, we will NOT be picking through it and around it for what we like and what won’t make us sick. We will safely and happily eat everything. Our guests won’t notice if there’s no onions or bread rolls, if the PROFESSIONAL cooks can do their jobs.

    • p.

      My sister had the same issue at her wedding with people questioning vegetarian food and whether they’d like it or whether they’d have enough to eat. At my wedding, my husband and I purposefully did not disclose what the meal was going to be. If people asked, we said, “come and find out!” (I should point out that I would have made an exception for people with any specific allergies — but this wasn’t an issue with our guest list). I think it’s like being invited to a dinner party — you don’t call the host, ask what they are serving and then question it or criticize it. You show up, you eat what you want to eat and if it’s not enough for you, you can stop on your way home and pick up something else.

      • Stephasaurus

        P, I completely agree with this. We’ve decided to not make it a point of telling anyone what food will be at the reception. I like your reponse of “Come and find out!” if people ask. Our problem is just that many of our guests know us so well that they automatically assume our menu will be vegetarian, and they are correct! But my lips are still sealed.

        This entire topic RE: weddings & meals gets me very fired up because people really have no business asking and they have no business telling the bride or groom to their faces that they don’t like what type of food the couple has decided to serve. What happened to manners??

      • I love the “come and find out” bit. It’s not like the food should be a deciding factor in whether people come.

        The venue (restaurant) I’m having my reception at does at set daily menu – that changes every single day. So when my guests ask it’s really “Whatever the Chef cooks”. Of course, we know/love the restaurant very much and trust the chef, plus they’ll work with any allergies/vegetarian issues as long as we can let them know ahead of time (a request for that will be included in the invitation).

      • Q: What’s the meal going to be?
        A: Delicious!

  • We had a Sunday afternoon ceremony (at 2:30 p.m.) with a reception right afterward, and we served about a dozen different types of cookies and cupcakes and brownies and such along with punch and coffee and tea, and it was ROCKIN’. Seriously. We absolutely loved it, and so did our quests. We did have a nice rehearsal dinner the night before with our closest friends and family, so I almost felt like we got the best of both worlds.

    If the idea of this makes you happy (emotionally AND budget-wise, since both are good!) then I say go for it. People who give you a hard time about this are weird and completely rude.

    Also, yay Liz!

  • We did this and everyone loved it!! We did a toast and cut the cake right away, and then the rest of afternoon everyone was free to snack on whatever they wanted and drink the day away! During the planning one of my aunts asked me what song I was dancing to with my dad. I told her that we weren’t having any dancing. She said, “You *have* to have dancing at a wedding!” My mom, thankfully, came right back with, “She doesn’t *have* to do anything!” That was the best advice I got and can offer to you- you don’t have to do anything! No meal, no problem! I secretly thought it was fine if people left my afternoon reception a little bit hungry so they could go home and eat dinner!

    • Gigi59

      I love your mother…

  • 1. If I were invited to your wedding I would ABSOLUTELY bring you a gift. Please ignore the horrible people who suggested that you need to feed them dinner in order for them to feel compelled to help you build your life together.
    2. I wanted a reception just like this, but let my fiance and parents talk me out of it. Now we’re throwing an affair that could only be referred to as a circus and I’m really wishing I’d followed the advice here. No matter how far down the road of fancy wedding things you go (and we are all the way to the insane land of 200 guests, sit-down dinner, band, big white dress and multiple matchy-matchy bridesmaids dresses), there will always be things that you feel you are “denying” your guests. If you let them convince you to start sliding, you could wind up feeling bad that you’re not giving them a band AND a DJ, or that you’re not giving them a choice of meals for their fancy sit-down dinner, or that your chairs need to have covers and ribbons. I know, because I’m right there, and it’s flipping ridiculous. I know it’s hard, but stick to your guns. This is your wedding, not theirs. Make your decisions accordingly, I promise that they will get over it.

  • J Wags

    So far, I’ve gotten grief over several things; like the fact that I’m getting married on a Thursday (because “who gets married on a Thursday? don’t you want anyone to come??”), and that my wedding invitation was only one page and had minimal information (just a quick “we’re getting married! join us! to rsvp and for more information, please go to our website”) and how dare I send people to my website instead of just giving them all the information up front, and a slightly pink wedding dress (“it’s not a wedding dress if it’s not white”) with bridesmaids who don’t wear the EXACT SAME THING? (“can the shoes at least all be the same??”)

    People told me at the beginning of my engagement that there will always be haters, or that opinions are like a-holes and everyone has one. lol But I was definitely unprepared to hear it, especially coming from my family. But you have to trust in yourself and what you want sometimes. It works out!

    I’m two months away and everything is pretty much set. Haters can hate, but it’s time to pretend to be deaf and focus on making the day as fun as possible for you and your future husband! :) Good luck!

    • Liz

      I really hope we get some pictures of this pink dress in a wedding grad post, miss.

      • J Wags

        You probably will. So far, it looks like my seamstress will be able to pull off a pretty dreamy dress (light pink habotai silk with glitter diamond white tulle layered over it? yes please) which is surprisingly cheaper than having bought one off the rack or through a bridal salon…
        I don’t know that I have much to say that no one’s heard before, but I’d been thinking about submitting SOMETHING once all the wedding hoopla is over.

    • I relate so much to this- thanks for sharing! I also want a pale pink dress and we’re getting married late afternoon on a Sunday and we’re doing a cocktail type reception and my maid of honor can wear whatever she wants (and yes, only one in my bridal party, another point of judgement from people).

      Focusing on ourselves and our fiances is the most important thing- so true!

      • J Wags

        The worst part? A lot of the decisions we made were largely made to help accomodate others while still being a wedding that met our needs and wants: Thursday wedding so that people traveling the 6000 miles to get to our wedding (including us!) would be able to fly there and back and not be so jetlagged after it was all over; one page wedding invitation to not only save money and postage but so people wouldn’t have to take the trouble to mail RSVP cards; mismatched bridesmaid dresses because I couldn’t find it in me to dictate having 4 girls spread all over the world buy $200+ dresses just so they could match instead of making sure they spent what they wanted to spend on dresses they felt they looked good in…

        Most people spout their opinions without ever really knowing the reasons behind it. I think that we naturally want our decisions to be understood and respected off the bat, but a lot of times, it feels like people assume we make decisions that we pulled out our butts. lol We just have to remember that WE know why we’re doing what we’re doing and continually remind ourselves that we are not as insane as people think. It helps if you have at least one person who has your back. But hey! We all have each other! We are NOT crazy! lol

        • p.

          On the off-chance this helps you: what helped me deal with the many comments I got when I was planning my wedding was thinking about people’s comments as being secretly about THEM, not about me. If someone commented about the necessity of sit-down meal, I’d think, “Oh for this one person, a sit-down dinner is a really key part of a wedding. That’s interesting.” In some ways, I used the inevitable comments as if they were part of a research project on what people think about weddings. For me, at least, this perspective helped me feel less judged and to take the comments less personally.

    • I had a Thursday night wedding reception. Everyone, including the initial nay sayers, enjoyed themselves. Best wishes.

    • Gigi59

      I love the pale pink dress idea; it sounds gorgeous and can’t wait to see pictures here. But – and I freely admit this is a generational thing – I really don’t like being forced to go to a website to find out the details. I’m sure I’ll get used to it, but it still catches me by surprise.

      • J Wags

        Aw thanks!

        I’m well aware there are people who don’t like to do the website thing (like some of the older folks who are invited). That’s what my mom is for. lol i kind of expect that. (It’s a small wedding and she likes to call people anyway)

        What drives me nuts though is when people who are on facebook or whatever 24 hours a day start complaining about having to go to a website. REALLY??? So stinking crazy.

  • Sounds like we might need a little bit of shame blasting up in here. You should have the wedding you want, and you don’t have to apologize for it!*

  • Kashia

    Hey Liz, you ROCK!

    Also, I had a daytime wedding (the ceremony ended around 12:30pm) and then had the nerve to ask my guests to drive (or take the provided shuttle bus) over an hour away to the middle of the woods where my family has a cabin. And you know what, NO ONE who came complained. In fact they all had so much fun that most people stayed until 2am. 2am! So yeah, I’m all for day-time weddings and as Meg always says “Your wedding is not an imposition”.

  • We had a cocktail reception on a Friday night (so, a different “off time”), and received a few odd looks at first, but when we talked to people about it we focused on how we wanted a relaxed atmosphere where people could mingle and move around freely, rather than talking about the money saved. We also tended to throw in a joke about how we were people who tended to overstuff ourselves with appetizers at every dinner party, because we think they’re the best part of the meal!

    And once we figured out the menu and could talk about it, even the naysayers got excited. Ultimately no one went hungry (even my husband and I, who barely had time to touch any food) and we got the fun, rambling cocktail party we hoped for. Six months later, all of our guests talk about how fun it was, and we often get compliments on the cocktail reception format itself.

    So I say, go for it! The rooftop sounds amazing! Mention it on your invites, let the information spread by word of mouth, and plan a delicious menu of snacks for your guests. And have fun!

  • I’m newly engaged (3 weeks!) and we’re planning on only doing heavy appetizers and pie/ice cream. We want the focus to be on dancing and mingling and so often with a sit down meal you don’t get to see & talk to everyone. We’re also getting married on a Sunday AND we’re paying for it ourselves. We’d rather get good food then a lot of not so great food to feed them for a sit down meal, spend money on booze, and on the photographers.

    I’m so surprised how hard it is to not take people’s judgements personally. It’s already started and I’ve had to constantly check in with my fiance to reground myself in our vision. It is, after all, OUR day.

    • p.

      Congratulations on your engagement — and on finding APW already! I can say from experience that it will help keep you sane. I was also pretty surprised at how personally I took people’s comments so you’re not alone. I don’t think I realized how vulnerable I would feel during the planning process. But as I just commented above, one thing that helped me was to think of people’s comments as being more about them and their preferences than a judgement about me or my choices. Hope this helps!

  • Julia

    Just chiming in that the “no meal no gift” line has me twitching. Seriously? If this is your approach to the wedding/why you would get married or go to a wedding, you are in serious need of some perspective. And agree with everyone – letter writer, your wedding idea sounds so fun! Go for it & then post the pictures so we can all attend vicariously.

  • I had a three course dinner Thursday night wedding reception, and some people were up in arms about the Thursday night bit. Some people were concerned about the lack of cake cutting and first dancing and bouquet tossing.

    My point is that you should host the wedding you want. There will always be nay-sayers.

  • As someone who has spent the past two days in a tizzy with similar concerns, to the point of calling all new locations and vendors and completely changing plans, I am really glad to see this post today.

    We’re having a tiny, family-only ceremony, then asking our friends to come celebrate on a Saturday night with lots of snacking and (lots of) wine. Now I’m freaking out. Will people come just for a party? Will they want a full meal? Will they think it’s weird if we’re not planning a dance or any Traditional Wedding Activities?

    But, as my Practical Fiancé keeps pointing out, we’re not living a traditional life. Why would we have a Traditional Wedding? We quit our jobs last summer and have been travelling around the country ever since in an RV. We aren’t big dancers. We just want to gather our friends and family and toast our new married life. So, eff it. That’s what we’re going to do. It feels right for us, and it’s our kind of fun.

    If I received an invite to a Sunday afternoon cocktail party reception, I’d be thrilled. Weddings are about giving people the who love you and want to wish you well an opportunity to celebrate – a meal, a drink, a dance or a cake are all just icing on the, um, cake. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday than at a rooftop party – it sounds like a blast. Go for it!

  • I don’t mean to be all ‘ohmygod I hate being hungry at weddings’ or anything. Except I am. To me you can serve whatever you like and screw any judgement (as all the coments above). HOWEVER, I do think you have to communicate this to people in advance very clearly, so they will not be expecting to be fed. I went to a wedding last year where the couple had said it would be passed food, but made it sound like it was dinner, just passed around while standing up (also, this was more into the evening). Also, it was in London, so there was some ever-so-slightly (said ironically) heavy drinking. And the reception lasted for like 5 hours (which was really fun, there was karaoke with live band, a singalong around a piano, dancing etc, just practically nothing to eat).

    Things got quite messy by the end of the night and I’m not sure if I’ve ever been so hungry! But that was partly about a) the couple’s slightly misguided managing of expectations beforehand b) the shmancy venue being a bit stingy with the food that there was and c) the timing of the event. Eventually we snuck out of the reception and got pizza nearby, which was completely fine… just sort of wish I had known what the deal was or they had timed it differently so that we wouldn’t have felt so rude!

    I don’t think you need to feed people at ALL, but you do need to make a situation friendly towards them feeding themselves.

    • Newtie

      I agree. I have trouble envisioning how one can plan a reception without a meal AND having dancing/long reception. Has anyone had success with this? To me, if someone sits through a ceremony and then goes to a five hour reception with dancing, everyone will be starving (I know I would be). Is there a way to do a cocktail reception and still dance? Or do you all think a meal – even a casual one like pizza or hamburgers – is necessary if you’re hoping people will stay for a while and dance?

      • We did it. I just mentioned it a ways above, but to sum up, the ceremony was at 8 pm (so well after dinner) and then the reception (with dancing and live band) around 9. It continued non-stop to the wee hours of the morning. We left after 3 am, and we left 3 or 4 people there talking. :) Ours was a dessert reception, with a few other things that actually had protein. But for us, starting late was what we had to do, to make our game plan work while still having the night time party vibe we wanted.

      • Liz

        Our reception was shorter than a typical mealtime reception, but people danced. Mid-afternoon champagne and a dessert buffet sugar-high plus a kickass live band = DANCING.

    • RJ

      I agree – you don’t need to feed guests with a sit-down dinner, but you do need to be considerate and a good host. This includes not leaving things hanging while an extended photo session happens.

      We had a mantra for my sister’s wedding that the goal of the wedding was that no guest would need to be “bored, tired or hungry” after a family member had been all three at a wedding where between the ceremony and the food there were 2 hours at while the couple had photos taken with almost nowhere to sit (tired), nothing to eat or drink (hungry) and nothing to do but talk.

      So key decisions were: plenty of chairs available if need be, canapes and champagne served straight after the ceremony, and while the bride and groom took 90 minutes away from the venue to get some artistic photos, there was an optional activity to watch or participate in.

  • clairelizabeth

    We did much the same thing, and asked most of our guests to travel across the country for the wedding to boot! I was worried about not feeding people a “real” meal, and compensated by ordering way too many canapes and a gigantic quantity of wine. Nobody (that I know of) went hungry or was cranky.

    But… we did clearly and firmly tell people (via invitations and wedding website and verbal reminders) that there wouldn’t be a dinner. And we did throw a big “rehearsal dinner bbq” the night before the wedding for out-of-towners – which was everyone on our guest list save 6 people. So, I guess we did do a dinner, just not at the wedding and made people byob.

    Also, we didn’t have a cake. Which initially freaked some people out, but by the time cake cutting would have happened they were stuffed with crab cakes and tipsy on Cabernet.

    Go with your guts lady, your plans sound brilliant!

  • Rachelle

    I’m back to add my favorite name for these type of weddings – happy hour receptions. Everyone loves happy hour! You drink, you snack, you chat. It’s everything anyone could want in an outing.

  • I adore cocktail receptions! Quite honestly, even at typical cocktail hour/dinner/dance receptions, I enjoy the food at cocktail hour the most. Create a wedding day that makes you & your partner happy!

  • Allison

    This idea that the wedding is somehow a transaction between guests and the couple is utterly repellent to me. I’ve only come across it in recent years, but it rubs me the wrong way.

    So in my rural hometown, the afternoon finger food + cake and punch reception is the norm. It’s typically held in the church hall or someone’s backyard. I didn’t go to a wedding that included anything more than cake and snacks until I was nearly 22. People would think you were crazy to put on a full sit-down dinner for a wedding. My cousin’s wedding two summers ago took place at 2:30 in the afternoon and featured punch, cake, bottled water, and little biscuit sandwiches. Everyone had a fine time, and commented on how nice it was. Everyone gave a gift, because they wanted to wish them well.

    When my high school best friends got married very young, in their tiny churches, I brought them the nicest gift I could afford as a college student, and we all happily ate cake and drank punch in tiny little crowded church halls, because we were happy for them. That was my concept of “wedding” until I started going to fancier affairs post-college, thrown by families of college classmates who had a lot more money than my high school friends’ families.

    We’re going to be doing something similar for our wedding. We’ll hold it on a Sunday afternoon, after lunch but well before dinner. We’re having cake, punch, champagne and a few finger foods. It will have a garden party kind of vibe. Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone would be offended. Some of my family members have had big dinner-and-dancing weddings, but certainly not all of them. And we’re specifically having it between mealtimes, when people should be fine with just cake and a snack. Our invitations will indicate “Dessert reception to follow”, which should let people know it’s not a full meal. It’s what we can afford, it’s what we want to do, and if it looks more like my grandparents’ weddings than what is considered the norm today in some circles, that’s okay.

    If anyone should dare to express that my wedding isn’t fine or fancy enough for their tastes. Well… eff ’em.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I think we’ve already seen how sub-cultures (Italian American, Northeasteners, Southeasteners, etc.) have different norms or expectations regarding weddings. But with our cosmopolitan lives, most weddings involve a mix of sub-cultures among guests. For someone trying to meet everyone’s expectations, this makes things very hard. One or two families’ traditions and expectations are hard enough. But a dozen? Forgettaboutit.

    • Class of 1980

      Allison, just like you, I’ve been to the A to Z of weddings. Everything from a cake and punch wedding in a church hall, to a sit down dinner with a full orchestra. Isn’t variety supposed to be the spice of life? We should celebrate it.

      To this day, I have a couple of images stamped on my brain of the most elegant brides in memory. One was when I was a child and I remember the bride in the most beautiful empire wedding dress at the height of the sixties. It was all straight lines and modern with the most beautiful train. She was regal and smiling.

      The other memory is of the very first person in my circle to get married. She had a ton of tulle spilling from her dress and she was standing next to this towering cake. She was so beautiful in that moment, it hurt. To this day, I remember there was something in the air at her wedding – a feeling of so much love.

      Those two weddings remain vivid in my mind when others have been all but forgotten. And both of these were cake and punch weddings in a church hall.

  • RachelC

    I’m going to go back and read through the comments, so I apologize if I’m repeating what someone else has said but it makes me very sad when people that you deign to give details about your wedding to immediately become nay-sayers and feel it’s their duty to tell you you’re doing it ‘wrong.’ When I was planning my wedding, it came up in conversation with my supervisor at work that we were having a dry wedding and her reaction was one of incredulity, confusion and even anger. She said “Why would you PUNISH everyone else who’s going to your wedding just because YOUR FIANCE doesn’t drink?!” Mind you she was not invited, we weren’t even that close, and my wedding was a morning/luncheon wedding. To that I say really, it’s not their business because the decisions you make are YOURS just as the wedding is YOURS. Yes, it’s for your guests too but as soon as they start poo-pooing your ideas just because they aren’t what is expected of people who are getting married by the popular culture you can just poo-poo them right back. Who made them judge and jury of all things wedding-related?! No one. Ok, I’m done ranting now. Back to reading comments…

    • Class of 1980

      Alcohol-free is PUNISHING your guests?????

      Now there’s a giant leap in mental gymnastics! ;)

  • Cass

    Will someone invite me to a Cake & Punch reception so I can give them mad props?

    I always feel super awkward sitting at a table with people I don’t know eating some weird vegetarian dish (because catered vegetarian wedding food is rarely done well). And it’s worse when they CLOSE THE BAR during meal time! Who doesn’t like to drink a glass of wine or two with dinner?

  • You’ve got to go with your instincts. This is ONE day in the lives of your guests, important, but will not have the lasting highs, lows, stresses and joys that you will carry with you until and after the day. Commit to your man, and to celebrating your union the way that brings you both life. Those closest to you, who KNOW you, should find a way to accept this. (Not saying it’s all going to be peaches and cream, juggling expectations is THE hardest part of planning ANYTHING!) Joy, laughter and love is contagious. Once you make your decisions, get excited about it and share the excitement! Your wedding party will be your cheerleaders and with all those things combined, the nay-sayers will change their tune in no time (and might even have a memorably wonderful time at that!) Good luck!

  • Karina

    I totally agree! We are ditching the whole sit down dinner thing for just extended appetizers. I mean who really years and years down the road remembers how fantastic dinner at a wedding is? No, they remember the good times, the dancing, the drinks, the smiles, the good vibes. Many times they remember things that were not expensive. Great first post, you rock Liz! <3

  • Annika

    Do it! We had a cupcakes, snacks and punch reception with a candy bar on a Saturday afternoon. No first dance, we had a tent in a field with lawn games and played a “first badminton match.” Old people sat in the tent and chatted, young people played croquet, bocce ball, badminton, horseshoes and eventually the people who wanted to dance just danced in the grass to the music! It was really fun, and your celebration will be too!

  • Georgina

    I’d already come to terms with our decision to have a ‘champagne reception’ (ie. prosecco, cheese and charcuterie platters, bread and olives) at an intimate wine bar so this post reaffirmed our choice. I’m really excited about our reception and I’m glad there are other sane, rational people who have the confidence to plan the wedding they want (or, in some cases, the wedding they can afford).

    The most valuable advice I received after getting engaged was from a recently married friend:

    1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    2. Book in the big things like venue, celebrant and organise the paperwork. Then take a deep breath and be proud because they are the main things you need to ensure you get married – the rest is just cosmetic (but totally fun too)!
    3. Enjoy being engaged and try to take some time out from wedding planning
    4. Stick to your guns… if people begin to question why you have invited someone or not someone else, why you have booked a particular place or choose a particular colour then shrug it off – after all, it’s just one day and you can do what you want
    5. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I know I have already said this but it is a point definitely worth remembering when you start to get flustered or frustrated by something – this applies to everyday life too, not just wedding planning.

    • I am IN LOVE with your reception. That is going to be AWESOME. I mean seriously, what is more classy (or more delicious) than cheese and prosecco? Answer: NOTHING.

    • I don’t even like meat and I think your reception sounds fun and classy!

  • Wedding followed by snacks and drinks is the BEST idea ever and I encourage you to go with it, don’t worry about everyone else. Like you said, you just want to be married to your other half and that’s really all that matters. To those relatives/friends that are shocked there won’t be a dinner…phooey on them and shame on them for being anything less than “sounds great, can’t wait”.

    If my husband and I had been true to ourselves and not had a zillion outside influences to deal with we probably would have done exactly what you are planning. Best of luck to you and your fiance and don’t be deterred by the “I need a dinner to give you a spatula crowd”.

  • Go on with your bad self and throw an awesome, mid-afternoon wedding and reception! Eff the haters, and invite me instead! I think this wedding sounds absolutely marvelous.

  • Liz, your advice is spot on, of course. and the comments so far cover pretty much anything I would have said! anyway I’m too busy creating a Paint picture for you to come up with a smart comment..

    • Priorities. Duh.

    • Liz


  • My favorite wedding experience as a guest was a friend’s late Saturday morning wedding. A bunch of friends gathered together the night before for drinks and games, then headed to the wedding together in the morning, and then had a whole afternoon of fun at the beach followed by a big group dinner and more drinks. It turned their wedding into an awesome weekend celebration, and we loved having the evening free instead of just killing time all day waiting for a nighttime event.

    Don’t worry about your guests! We are grown ass people, and can entertain and feed ourselves for whichever hours of whichever days are not dedicated to your wedding. And we can do it in style. And it can make your wedding MORE fun, not less.

  • Katie

    I believe Anonymous still thinks her brilliant idea of champagne-and-cake reception is right for her. It seems to me the catch here actually is the “people [who] are giving me a hard time.” I suspect that this isn’t all the guests, but a select and salient few. Like the parents, or her fiance’s parents, or her sisters, or something.

    I found, in planning, that every negative reaction weighed on me way more than positive ones, and you just have to will yourself to realize that on the day of, the overall reaction will be more positive than you think. Not every decision you make will be met with no resistance, and sometimes you have to talk through all the complicated issues involved in those snap-judgments. Especially in a land made absolutely crazy by the wedding industry!

    Also, if you need some rhetorical support in encountering these guests, then feel free to draw on everything Liz and the commenters are saying:
    – cake and punch receptions are not uncommon
    – those offerings should be expected for Sunday afternoon at 3pm
    – cake and punch was traditional in the States until somewhere late last century, probably different times in different places, and remains the norm in other parts of the Western hemisphere
    – “We’d like to be surrounded by everyone we love, and this is the way we can do that,” or “The choice for us is either dessert reception or elopement, and we’re choosing to involve our loved ones.”
    – emphasize the low importance of gifts.

    GOOD LUCK!!! And let us know how it goes.

    p.s. hi Liz! welcome.

  • Stephanie

    Some days I feel guilty for going with a “traditional” evening wedding with a sit-down dinner and most of the trappings. Shouldn’t I be the beacon of light for all our friends who will get married later to prove that a wedding can be awesome without being a circus? For the record, we are planning a wedding that we want, that fits who we are, that honors our families and our cultures, that we can afford (not necessarily in that order but you get the picture). I guess I’m worried about not making enough of a statement or doing my part to move mainstream culture away from the WIC.

    • “For the record, we are planning a wedding that we want, that fits who we are, that honors our families and our cultures, that we can afford (not necessarily in that order but you get the picture).”

      If that’s the case, then I don’t think you have much to worry about. Being anti-WIC isn’t about having the cheapest possible wedding in the most untraditional of venues. (I’ve coordinated weddings in barns before – those can turn into circuses too!) It’s about recognizing that the marriage is more important than the wedding, period. If you’re doing that, that attitude will shine through for your guests, no matter where or when you wed. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If your wedding makes any kind of statement, you probably want it to be one about you and your partner and the love you share rather than one big “F*ck the WIC” display.

    • There is absolutely nothing to feel guilty for. We need to blast away this shame — pew pew pew.

      Being true to yourselves does not mean eschewing tradition. It means doing what feels right for you and your guests. And if that’s a sit down dinner with traditional wedding trappings, I say more power to you!

      Also, we need to get out of our heads that WIC = tradition. It does not.

    • Liz

      Make a statement by doing what you want and not caring about what “message” it sends. ;)

  • faith

    We did a Friday 10am brunch wedding. Most people drove an hour to be there. Outdoors. On the hottest day of the year (it may have set some serious records). While some doubted our choices and we definitely got some weird looks and comments from our vendors, it turned out to be fabulous. Everyone was well hydrated, fanned, fed, and had major sweat stains on their clothes. Our guests loved every second of our wedding. It is about you guys, your love, and the love of your community. They truly want to see you both blissed out of your mind happy:)

  • Angela

    We had a Sunday afternoon wedding in the park followed by a picnic. We didn’t have dancing, but we did have croquet and bocce ball. We also didn’t have chairs, but we did have blankets! We served picnic style food for a lunch around 2pm. When people first heard the plan, several people asked questions like “what? no chairs? where will they sit for the ceremony?” to which I responded “they will stand in a circle around us.” We had a couple of chairs available for my heavily pregnant cousin and my husband’s grandmother, but both of them ended up wanting to sit on blankets. Sure, it wasn’t the typical wedding most people expected, but it worked, and everyone had a great time. And if someone didn’t, they were at least polite enough not to tell me about it and ruin my good time during the wedding.

    My advice, don’t listen to those people. Lots of people will tell you what you have to do. But guess what, you don’t HAVE to do anything. If you tell you guests what to expect, they will be prepared and they will have fun. And if they don’t want to come because you aren’t feeding them more, or whatever, then f-em.

  • Carrie

    If it helps, I adore the idea of a cocktails and hors d’oeuvres wedding reception at a rooftop bar on a Sunday afternoon. It sounds so awesomely chill, and chic, and fun. Definitely an event I’d enjoy going to!

    So I vote for “Do iiiiiit.” I would bet that once they get there, people will see how cool it is and enjoy themselves. They’re just freaking out right now because they have a strict mental model of “wedding reception” and they can’t figure out how anything different could fit in, probably because they’ve never seen anything different before.

    • I totally agree. They can’t imagine it, so it scares them. But once they are there, they’ll see how great it is. And how interesting because it ISN’T like most other weddings they’ve been to.

  • JenniferM

    For my darling Mexican mother, DIY means you’re poor. As she puts it “we made things by hand because we had no money to pay someone to make it” and dog forbid people think we don’t have money. I have been fighting her tooth and nail on almost every decision I’ve made. When I found a dress for $350 all my friends said “SCORE!” Mom said, “no wonder you like it” It kind of sucks, but after 5 months of engagement she seems to be resigning herself to the fact that I won’t be bullied or guilted into spending money I don’t want to spend. But it has certainly been a difficult and tearful fight. I know that I will feel good on the other end of the wedding that I didn’t go into debt just to placate some overly-opinionated fussy pantses.

  • Lana

    Anonymous, I know this is only slightly related, but I hope it gives you some peace of mind.

    My fiance and I have decided to have a small wedding: immediate family, grandparents, and wedding party only. I’m an elopement girl, but he wanted to whole she-bang. It seemed to matter more to him, so we tried planning his version of a wedding at first. But that larger wedding (and by larger I mean our guest list was sitting at 83 people) sent me into waves of panic attacks and I lost my d*mn mind about it. I could not be the center of that many people’s attention.

    Then, miracle #1 happened. My fiance’s best friend talked some money sense into him. Weddings are expensive, that money would be better spent as a down payment on a house, etc. And he listened to that logic and we’ve compromised on a smaller shin-dig. Now it’s our version of a wedding and everyone’s happy.
    But then what do I tell my other friends? Those I spend my holidays away from home with? My best girls from high school who always make me smile? After three weeks of heart burn (’cause that’s how long it took me to work up the nerve) I finally told them, it’s not because I don’t love them, but they won’t be invited.

    And then miracle #2 happened. They totally understood. They know me. They get it. BUT! I had to promise to have one fantastic bachelorette party so they could all come out and celebrate with me in some way or another.
    Because that’s the important thing. You’re guests are there to celebrate this awesome life change. To lift you up and support and hug and cheer you and your new family…not for the food. The people who truly love you two would understand and gladly attend if you had no appetizers at all.

    Also! My parents wouldn’t have even had cake at their wedding if my aunt hadn’t decided it was a necessity, taken it upon herself, and picked one up from the grocery store on the way to their ceremony at my grandparents house. I’ve never heard a bad word about their wedding, and it certainly doesn’t make their marriage any less important or valid. So there.

    ps. Sorry, I’m a rambler.

  • daisymae

    we’re doing the wedding planning during our long (2 year) engagement. in talking casually about our plans, someone summed it all up by saying…

    “so, basically you’ve taken every wedding tradition and pissed all over it?”

    in short, yes. most of them, anyway. and we didn’t even do it on purpose in some cool hipsterish kind of way – it’s all just falling into place that way.

    for example, we’re getting married on a sunday morning in august with a BBQ to follow. but technically, the reception is on saturday – we’re getting married at a summer camp and have been given run of the place (sailing, hiking, archery, field games, and hijinx will ensue!) for the weekend. so saturday is fun day, followed by a cook-out dinner and bonfire (omg i love s’mores) and ‘drive in’ movie for the kids, and then a wedding in the morning. oh, and we’re walking down the ‘aisle’ together.

    we did this mostly because we 1) love the idea and 2) have an almost 2:1 kid:adult ratio and 3) wanted guests to be able to attend the wedding without having to take time off from work (i know we’re all adults, but it’s technically a destination wedding, with the closest people being a 4 hour drive away).

    and if you don’t want to sleep in a cabin? there’s a hotel and more B&Bs than i can count about 5 minutes away.

    anyway, the point is – it’s your wedding and your day. just make sure that you’re doing things the way that you and your partner want them to be done, in a way that’s special to you.

    also, find a wedding bff (online, IRL, your fiancee, whatevs) who will listen to you and share your ideas and enthusiasm and concerns, and also provide gentle feedback and loads of support and don’t worry about what other people think. just tell them you haven’t made up your mind yet. people seem to think that weddings are for THEM, and they try to live vicariously through others. keep your chin up and don’t let them get to you!

    • “we’re getting married at a summer camp and have been given run of the place (sailing, hiking, archery, field games, and hijinx will ensue!)”

      As a former camp counselor (2 different camps 8 years of my life), I think this weddings sounds f*cking amazing.

      It doesn’t sound like you pissed on any traditions! It just sounds like you’re wedding is going to be SO MUCH FUN!

    • Wow, I’d love to go to this wedding too. And I LOOOOVE s’mores. I really wanted them for our imaginary wedding in a barn, but they just didn’t work in out for our actual indoor wedding reception in a theatre venue-type space. Oh well.

  • This is exactly what we’re doing we’re having a very small wedding of 18 people and at first my Sister who just got married gave us a hard time about our champagne and cake reception while she was planning huge 200 person seated buffet hoopla.

    Since then she’s been so on board with our plans! haha I think she might have wished she opted for the simpler party.

    Everyone else has been great about it, and people who aren’t I’m hoping to convince them like I did my sister.

  • Dawn


    I really hope you stick with your intuition on going for snack/tapas/finger foods instead of a meal.

    The best/most enjoyable wedding I have ever been to didn’t even serve food at all beyond desserts! It was zombie-themed (believe it or not the whole wedding party was professionally air-brushed and it was actually super classy) in a rented-out bar/venue with a rich history for the couple. The lack of food didn’t seem to deter or upset anyone, we were all there for the festivities and of course celebrating their 8-year relationship being transformed into a marriage.

    I echo what pretty much everyone else is saying: do what feels right for you two and the right people will show up and not be offended. :-)

  • PA

    Wow. Just wow. I think I would truly have a difficult time not saying, as pleasantly as I could manage, “Well, if you don’t want to celebrate our marriage with us because you feel like you aren’t getting a good enough party for your trouble, you are certainly welcome not to come.” (Bear in mind that I often smile and nod because I can’t come up with polite versions of what’s running through my head.)

    I think Liz and the APW community’s advice is spot on, and I am SO sorry that you’ve had people saying that to you!

  • After the APW event in Brooklyn, I was inspired by the idea of having a food truck cater a reception at a bar. My thoughts were, “How cute! That gives everyone a chance to get whatever they want, and food trucks often have freaking amazing food. Plus, I loved how fun and relaxed the APW event was. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s cool! It’s fun! It’s kind of quirky! There’s room for cake or cupcakes inside, and it’s a bar, so there’s plenty-o-drinks for those who want them! Wouldn’t that be an awesome option?”

    I immediately set out to find out more information about food truck catering and was hammered repeatedly with horrible WIC propaganda. Yahoo answers had horrible advice to a woman who wanted to know how one would go about catering a wedding reception from one or multiple food trucks. Multiple people told her she was cheap and tacky. Someone else told her it would be better to load up a pickup truck with the wedding party and take them to the Arby’s drive-through. Someone “lol”ed at the thought of a bride with barbecue sauce all over her dress. Another woman told her she’d been a wedding planner for years and could offer solid advice. She said, “Honey, I’ve been to more than one reception where guests went to the bathroom and took money out of their envelopes because they thought the food was too cheap. Your responsibility as a host is to offer your guests a suitable meal. This is a horrible idea, and I strongly advice you to rethink such a tacky thing. Remember your manners!”

    As I’m sure most of you know, the internet can be really scary and filled to the brim with rudeness. It’s totally unfortunate that those same kinds of opinions can seep into real life, and that people feel comfortable expressing them.

    Inviting people to your wedding is an act of love, and so is however you decide to feed them. You are asking people to be present with you as you make a big transition in your life, and those that come are agreeing to love and support you and your beloved. There is no contract there requiring you to provide a sit-down meal, just as there is no contract that they have to bring you gifts, and there should be no correlation between the monetary values of those two things. Gifts are a way for people to offer something tangible you both can use to build your lives together. They aren’t a measuring stick of wealth, a competition, or a way to pay back the money you spend on food. The people offering opinions about how you’re doing it “wrong” will either change their tune when they realize how awesome your wedding is, or you won’t be able to hear them through your happiness.

    Good luck! You have tradition and a whole online community on your side!

    • MDBethann

      Those Internet commenters were rude! Wouldn’t want those kind of people at my wedding anyway.

      Reminds me of the last-ever episode of “My Fair Wedding” that I will ever watch. The bride had lost her mom a few years earlier and the groom was a firefighter who loved to grill. So they decided to do a picnic BBQ. David Tutera told her she was throwing a wedding reception, not hosting a picnic. I was so ticked off I turned it off immediately (despite the fact that FH & I have had fun watching it and figuring out all of the things that Mr. Tutera would say were “wrong” with our planned wedding). How DARE he tell any bride what she does and doesn’t want for her wedding or that what she wants is wrong?? It’s one thing to help someone out from a party planning perspective if they can’t afford it, have had a rough time, or really want a themed wedding but can’t figure out how to pull it off. But to tell someone that what they want is not a wedding is just WRONG. Ugh.

  • I moved from Texas to Chicago for college, and I ended up getting married in Chicago, too. But let me tell you, until I moved here, I had NEVER heard of real people having a sit-down meal at a wedding. I thought that was just a thing that happened in movies.

    I had to fight a little bit to find a caterer who would get excited about snacks and cake despite Midwestern-big-city expectations, but it was totally worth it. It was the best food I’ve ever had and SO much cheaper and handier than plated meals. Don’t let vendors pressure you into something you don’t want!

  • Maybe the key is finding just the way you want to frame it on the invitation and just being really confident and enthusiastic when you talk about it? (And ignoring any negative naysayers! I can’t believe the things some people will say, from what I’ll seen in these comments!)

    “Rooftop tapas party to follow”
    “Rooftop cocktail party to follow”
    “Rooftop cocktails and desserts to follow”

    I think anything along those lines would sound like a really fun party I wouldn’t want to miss! I mean a party on a rooftop?? How fun! Good luck- and let us know how it goes with a wedding grad post!

  • Breezy

    The best thing about your wedding design is that no poor sod has to make strained conversation with stinky, bigoted Uncle John for two hours during a sit-down meal.
    To me that makes a wedding HEAPS more fun, not less.
    Also, finger foods are often made to a higher standard than overcooked plates of “wedding chicken” and “wedding beef”.
    We did a cocktail reception at dinner time, and it was AWESOME fun. Much more fun than the alternative, I thought. Your wedding will rock more due to your smart choice, not less. And the whingers will no doubt be the first to tell you how much fun they had.
    Just make sure if possible that there is casually grouped seating for about half the guests and you can’t go wrong.

    • april

      Although, I’m sure that sit-down dinners do not have to be boring with strained conversation… right?

  • Ms. Whatsit

    I’m a little late to the game here, but wanted to say that your wedding sounds like it will be awesome! We’re also doing a 3 pm cocktail party reception.

    I would stay away from talking about price as the reason you decided to go with a cocktail reception and focus more on the other reasons. Really, after doing research, I found that it wasn’t really the cheapest option anyway. We could have saved several dollars a head by going with a chicken, pasta, and salad buffet. But it just wasn’t our style. I didn’t want the cheese-and-crackers cocktail hour followed by a buffet dinner featuring chicken in a sauce and mostaccioli (ever present at weddings here in St. Louis, regardless of whether it actually goes with the rest of the meal, and weirdly pronounce “muskacholy” by locals). I wanted our friends and family to be able to mingle and have a real party. Plus, I wanted to accommodate a variety of dietary needs and preferences.

    I got a little bit of pushback, mostly from my mom, and more about the timing than about the food choice. She is insisting on inviting people to an afterparty at her house. I’ve pointed out that our reception will last just as long as a “regular” evening reception, but it just doesn’t seem to make a difference. And, hey, whatever makes her happy. I can’t believe some of the things that people have said to you, though! That’s way out of line. I’d be really tempted to tell them that if they don’t want to celebrate with you or give you a gift they can just RSVP no. More yumminess for everyone else!

  • I think a appetizer/cocktail reception on a Sunday sounds AWESOME. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • Lturtle

    My godmother was married at midnight, on a Tuesday, in her living room. It was packed. She served only chocolate and champagne. Her marimba band had an improv jam session. It was seriously one of the most joyful celebrations I have ever been to.
    However you celebrate your wedding, the ones who love you will be happy for you, and if you are happy then it was the right choice.

  • Hazel

    Just to add, I could tell reading your question that you’re really excited about the Sunday afternoon finger food on the rooftop, but a bit sad about throwing that away for the sit down meal. So on that basis alone, I say go for it!

  • Deanna

    My parents initially started questioning why we went for the sit-down meal rather than punch-and-cake as they did, and tbh I might have considered it… except I kind of feel we owe our guests. Fiance is British, and his entire side will be flying in from England, Malta (tiny island country off the coast of Sicily), or in the case of one uncle, Thailand. For making that kind of trek, we kind of feel the least we can do for them is a meal and a longer party. I just count my blessings that my parents saw the reasoning behind this and were not only willing to go along with the somewhat more elaborate wedding, but also to take projected costs into consideration when deciding how much they could contribute.

    So our budgeting involves finding the most value-friendly venue we could (and we got an amazing one), having my mom’s cousin bake the cake (she does it as her gift when she’s invited to the wedding), finding a dress I liked for as low as I could get it, getting a DJ off Craigslist, and doing some photographer browsing on Craigslist, though we booked one through a personal reference, and getting a florist through personal references (we actually found two that would be only a couple hundred for all ceremony florals). C has also decided that only he, his best man, and our fathers will have buttonieres.

    Of course, we just found out last week that our wedding will have to be delayed by one month at a bare minimum, possibly more, so we’ve given it a bit longer and now have five extra months to save. Luckily most of the vendors’ cancellation policies were 30 days, so we’re not losing too much on deposits. Just waiting for our venue’s coordinator to get back from her vacation to find out exactly how much we lose if more than the deposit on that. Definitely another reason to find smaller, non-WIC-insane vendors!! Part of me is wanting to submit a post on this whole fiasco, but we’ll have to actually get through it first…

  • april

    I have been to some absolutely GORGEOUS champagne / cake receptions and hors d’oeuvres / champagne/ wine / dessert weddings… and late night (after 8pm) dessert / wine / dancing receptions. Each one was absolutely amazing and I never ever ever thought, “Where’s the beef?!!?”

    HOWEVER: in m humble opinion, it all boiled down to the fact that the couple / family / people throwing the soiree *KNEW* their limitations, and worked within them. That is to politely say, they did NOT have a wedding that fell at 5pm / 6pm / 7pm. You know – when our bellies tell us “le dinner bell is nigh”.

    It’s really all in how you communicate to your guests, and the timing. I am 99.9% certain I would’ve felt differently had those weddings been over the dinner hour. Because let’s face it: booze and cupcakes are great – but they do not a dinner make. N’est-ce pas?

  • Well, your wedding sounds right up my ally. The two best weddings I have been two were both finger food/cocktail weddings, soooo much fun! And the worst meal I ever had at a wedding was a sit down meal, so there you go!

    I want to echo a lot of posters here with 2 points:

    1. Be clear with your guests about what’s happening. This is just common courtesy. Recognise that not everyone is an APW/alternative wedding blog junkie like you and will most likely expect a full meal like they get at every other wedding they go to. If you’re serving finger food/just cake/no alcohol etc etc, say so on the invitation.

    2. The opposite is true in the lead up to the wedding. If you don’t want to hear peoples’ opinions on your wedding plans, don’t bring them up. People will have opinions/give unsolicited advice on everything under the sun if you give them a chance ESPECIALLY if you seem unsure of your choices.

    For example, if you say to an acquaintance ‘Oh we’re thinking of just having finger food at our reception, but we’re not sure, what do you think?’ you are explicitly asking them for their opinion, you can’t be surprised when they answer you honestly and you don’t like their response. If you think they’re gonna give you that kind of opinion and you’re sure of your choice, just say something non-committal like ‘Hmmm, we’re not sure yet.’

    To be honest, it make no difference WHAT you plan, SOMEONE will have a problem with it. So unless it is someone whose opinion you value, ignore them.

  • If I had a friend having a Sunday wedding with a midafternoon reception, I’d be delighted to receive an invitation, I’d buy a nice gift, and then I’d offer to make her bouquet for her. At the reception, I’d probably still get tipsy, still dance, and still be glad to catch a bouquet if you happened to throw one. I think your idea sounds wonderful, and if it’s what makes you and your fiance happiest, go for it!!!

    Also, good for you for knowing your financial limits and dealing with them maturely. We could use more of that in the world!

  • Marisa-Andrea

    There will always be the critics who think weddings must have x, y and z. Ignore them. I cannot tell you how many weddings I’ve been to where a wedding critic felt like there should be cake or complained there wasn’t a bouquet toss or ranted about whatever wedding expectation they had. It was very rude and in poor taste and I looked at them like they were a small child. Have a reception that is thoughtful and considerate of your guests and enjoy yourselves. :-)

  • Great ideas! I’ve also been to a wedding where there was a gap between the ceremony and the reception so people could go to restaurants or whatever on their own. It was nice because it gave the bride and groom time to take pics and eat themselves, and guests could get with old friends in smaller groups if they wanted.

  • Jessica

    What does everyone think about a later ceremony… around 7pm or so
    (sunset) and then just apps,desserts and drinks afterward? I realize this would mean guests would have to grab an early dinner, but it would make a huge difference with my budget. One more catch- we would be having a Friday evening wedding ( saving $2,000 compared to a Saturday at our venue!)