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We Don’t Have to Invite ALL of Our Guests to the Reception, Right?

We love them, we just want an intimate dinner

table with slice of wedding cake

Q: I’m a serious planner (stage management is part of my professional life) and my current job gives me a lot of downtime to dream things up.

My pie-in-the-sky dream wedding looks something like this: church ceremony, small(ish) dinner with close family and friends, followed by drinks/dessert and giant dance party with everyone we know. Is there a way to make that happen that won’t make people feel left out? Can I invite people only to the ceremony and reception? Are we obligated to entertain guests straight through from ceremony on? I don’t think I’m that entertaining!

—Anna

A: Dear Anna,

You wouldn’t believe how many questions I get about having two receptions. Seriously. And I really love the idea of finding a way to connect with your closest friends and family, and also celebrating your face off with everyone you’ve ever met.

But the logistics of this can get… complicated. By which I mean: you can’t keep guests waiting around while you go have a fancy dinner without them. It’s not about you being so interesting that folks will want to spend the full day engrossed in you. It’s about the logistics of getting fancied up for an hour-long wedding reception, and then needing to kill a few hours waiting around for the next phase of the party (all while knowing fun is being had without you). That’s really inconvenient—to out-of-town guests especially, but also to anyone at all who wants to take off her bra and collapse without the dread of putting it back on in two hours. Then, by default, you’re really absorbing someone’s entire day.

Plus, as you fear, it could make people feel left out. Not everyone should be invited to every wedding event. But that gap in between “ceremony I’m invited to” and “party I’m invited to” really emphasizes the “I’m not invited to this part” of it. Which, yeah, can hurt.

So if you want to do this two-reception deal, don’t keep people waiting around. Have the most inclusive part right after the ceremony. Pick a good time of day for a drink and a snack, or cake and punch, or whatever you’re offering at this big party, and have the reception that everyone is invited to then. If you still want to have an intimate dinner, plan that around everything else—not the other way around.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO ASK APW A QUESTIONPLEASE DON’T BE SHY! IF YOU WOULD PREFER NOT TO 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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