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How Do We Get People Excited About a Reception Only Wedding?

AAPW: When introverts wed

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Q:My fiancé and I are getting married in a private ceremony, and then having a huge party two days later. We decided to have our wedding this way from the very beginning, because while we wanted to give our best friends and parents the joy of watching us tie the knot, we couldn’t imagine getting married in front of 100 to 150 people. It just seems so strange to us to do such an intimate act in front of a large crowd. So, like I said, we are having a very tiny ceremony in our backyard on a Thursday, and then having a large “celebration” for about 120 people on the following Saturday.

As soon as we made this decision, we have been upfront with our guests about what exactly they are being invited to. We want it to be clear (especially to people that are traveling) that they will not be seeing us get married! This has caused a few hurt feelings, but we felt like we needed to do what is right for us.

My question has to do with how to navigate the party. We would like for people to still feel like they are getting some of the joys of being at a wedding, but also want to have a relaxed feel of a big party, because after all this is not a true reception as it is not directly following the wedding. I am looking for ideas on how to make people feel involved or feel like they are still a part of our union. We aren’t huge on having everyone stare at us (hence the need for a tiny ceremony), so first dances and being announced as we enter aren’t our favorite ideas. Any ideas for what else we could do?

Thanks so much for any and all ideas!
Anonymous

A: Dear ANONYMOUS,
This is a true reception! Okay, yeah, it’s happening a little later, and most of the folks there will be people who didn’t witness the ceremony. I get what you’re saying. But it’s the first big event where you’re greeting your social circles as a married couple and celebrating the wedding with them. Reception! Maybe using that word will help you to frame it differently for yourself, which might help you bring some focus for everyone else.

Regardless of the semantics, even the best big parties have some kind of focus, unless you’re at a college kegger. New Year’s Eve parties have the midnight countdown thing, birthday parties have the candle-blowing and wish-making, baby showers are focused on making everyone feel uncomfortable and talk about diapers.

For your wedding reception/non-reception, give the party a sense of purpose by doing something meaningful right at the beginning. These folks aren’t witnessing the actual ceremony, but you could have someone give speeches, or do a few nice readings. Figure out something central to your idea of marriage, that will give friends a peek into what you’re committing to and why. Loop them in on the importance.

You might shudder at this idea, but you could even read your vows aloud. I know, I know. The “everyone staring at us” is what you’re trying to avoid. But, once the actual personal ceremony is over, you may find you’re okay with sharing your vows with your loved ones. And often, the center-stage-ness of a wedding doesn’t feel as showy as you’d anticipate.

If there are very personal things about your wedding that you’d like to keep just for yourselves, sort those out and set them aside. Then think about what it is you want to invite your community to share. Meanwhile, I’ll ask these smart readers for more ideas.

What pieces of the wedding can add meaning to a reception? How do you make your guests feel they’re involved?

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

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