Ask Team Practical: Skipping the Meal by Liz Moorhead 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? -Anonymous 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. Meg, Alyssa, 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? Liz Moorhead Staff Writer Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her sons.