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

We love them, we just want an intimate dinner

by Liz Moorhead, Editor, Ask APW

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!


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.


Liz Moorhead

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

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  • emilyg25

    Have a “rehearsal dinner” the night before for your nearest and dearest. It’s a pretty standard part of US weddings, so no one will blink an eye.

    • TeaforTwo

      That is what we did! Bought out a restaurant for an intimate rehearsal dinner by our favourite local chef on Friday night, afternoon reception for 150 the next day immediately following the ceremony.

  • Lisa

    I think this is more of a regional thing, too. From my understanding, something like what the LW is describing is more common in the UK than in the US. However, if the LW was in one of those areas, I’m sure she’d already know that.

    If you’re really set on having the two receptions, you could have a dinner party first and toast your impending nuptials with the people closest to you and then have the ceremony, followed by a raging dance party until the wee hours. Or have a “rehearsal dinner” like @emilyg25:disqus recommended. It seems like those are becoming more of an extension of the wedding anyways so it’s not just limited to your bridal party and immediate families if you don’t want it to be.

    • Hannah

      Yes, I was going to say that the LW’s ideal scenario is pretty common in France!

      A small group gathers for the civil ceremony, after which everyone is invited to the church ceremony and vin d’honneur (group toast). Some folks attend the dinner, and some do not; but everyone comes to dessert and dancing at the end of the night (and into the wee hours, possibly followed by a hosted brunch).

      Of course, since it’s customary there, people understand that the dinner is a more exclusive event. I do think that, since that’s not the case here, some rearranging of the LW’s schedule may be the best way to go. There are some pretty creative ideas here!

    • EF

      it’s unclear to me if she wants everybody to come to the ceremony, then take off, then come back to the party. that wouldn’t happen in the uk/europe.

      but as hannah says, having a small ceremony (in the uk, this can be either civil or church) and then inviting a hundred more people to the reception is fairly common. of course, in the uk you also serve two meals for the reception so there’s madness with that plan, too.

      • Sosuli

        I’ve actually been to two UK weddings where I was invited to the ceremony and the reception but not the dinner in between – though both times this was coupled with a delicate explanation of lack of space and being one of few in-town guests. On one of these occasions there was a big group of us so we went for dinner and ended up getting lucy nicer food than what was served at the wedding! And it is totally standard – almost event expected – that people incite another 20-50 extra people to the “evening do”. We didn’t do that at ours because in my Scandinavian home country that would be considered incredibly rude. But UK peeps thought it was weird we weren’t having extra evening guests.

        My two points being 1) UK this is totally normal 2) I wouldn’t describe any wedding thing as “European” since there is sooo much variation.

        • EF

          yep, sorry for the euro shorthand Sosuli, I shoulda just said…france.

          I’ve literally never heard or seen that at uk weddings though! weird. one of those ‘your mileage may vary’ things, i guess.

          and yeah, we didn’t do the extra evening guests because it seemed way rude to me too. but we also had an afternoon wedding. for the pub crawl that night we did invite basically anyone we knew in the city to come along!

    • JenC

      I’m in the UK and we do typically have to have a larger reception. We typically have what call day guests and evening guests. So the wedding will start in the afternoon, a nice time is about 3pm. The ceremony will be a maximum of 40 minutes but we don’t really have the super short 5 minute ceremonies that you would have in the US, a short ceremony here is about 20 minutes.

      After the ceremony, people are usually given an arrival drink of Bucks Fizz (Mimosas) and then you have a sit down meal usually between 4-6pm. With dinner you will usually get half a bottle of wine. After dinner is the speeches and you’ll get a glass of sparkling wine/champagne for the toasts. After the speeches the venue staff turn the room around, add a few more chairs and move some of the tables and the DJ sets up.

      Your evening guests turn up between 7-8pm, when you will usually do your cake cutting and first dance. No other drinks are usually provided other than the drinks you got with dinner. All drinks are then purchased at the bar. The evening buffet will be anounced about 9pm with everyone eating a bit and there will be wedding cake for dessert. The day guests will have just finished a three course meal and the evening guests will usually have a snack before coming out. The party will then finish somewhere between 11pm and 2am depending on the licensing of the venue and the DJ.

      Day guests are invited to all aspects. They will usually wear something slightly fancier. Hats and fascinatotsrs are popular in the UK (although slightly less with the younger generation) and are only really worn by day guests. Day guests can also mark themselves out with a button hole which they purchase themselves from a florists (it does not have to match the wedding flowers) and not provided by the couple, again this trend isn’t as popular any more. Evening guests will still wear something nice but not as fancy as a day guest, typically no hat or button hole.

      If you are having a religious ceremony or are getting married at the town hall then your evening guests can attend the ceremony, although it is not expected. If you have a civil ceremony at a reception venue you won’t usually be allowed to watch the ceremony as an evening guest. Evening guests do go to watch the ceremony, usually in normal clothes and just come to the evening later but if this happens it tends to be local people. So for example, we invited my grandparents friends to the evening (because the evening buffet cost us £10 ($13) a head and it was nice for my grandparents to have a nice evening with them), the wife came to the church to the watch the wedding. She sat at the back with some other evening guests or people who had known me as a child but weren’t invited to the wedding. She then continued with her Saturday afternoon and came out to party for the evening. The husband of the couple didn’t watch the wedding. It is purely those who are interested and it’s not at all expected.

      Day guests are those closest to you and your partner. Your immediate family and friends. Evening guests are extended family, family friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Nobody gets offended at an evening invite. You generally send an invite, even if you know they won’t make it. So we sent an evening invite to my husband’s cousin who now lives in the US, we obviously knew she wouldn’t come and she wasn’t offended at being given “half an invite” (having grown up in the UK and having day and evening guests at her own wedding). It’s just something nice to do. I think the difference is with the US is that you aren’t obligated to give a gift if you’ve received an invite. It’s quite uncommon to send a gift without attending the wedding, a card is sometimes sent but it’s a nice touch if someone who wasn’t able to make it sends a card but not expected.

      Sorry for the essay, I thought I’d give a run down on typical UK weddings for anyone interested. I would advise the LW that if she’s US that many guests won’t really get this set up and will probably seen as rude but if they have a UK partner they can probaly swing it. Also, the UK system only really works because our weddings are typically longer than US weddings so your evening guests still have 3 hours with you (and those are the ones that leave early).

      • Lisa

        Thanks for sharing. This was fascinating!

  • Christina McPants

    I have been to multiple weddings where there was a significant gap between ceremony and reception, typically because that’s when they could book the ceremony venue (ie – church at 4, dinner at 6:30, with a 30 minute service and a 15 minute drive means at least an hour to kill pre-food). You could do something like that with a meal in the middle, BUT if so, I strongly suggest having the meal in a different location / room so early guests don’t realize that there was something they’re not invited to.

    I also once worked a wedding where there were two tiers of guests – those who were invited to the sit down dinner and those who were invited for drinks and dancing after dinner. It was in the same space. It got crowded towards the end, but everyone seemed to be having a good time and no one seemed to be resentful.

    Option B – dinner, ceremony, dessert reception.

  • Eenie

    Rehearsal dinner or day after brunch! Or… Elope, dinner, reception later.

  • Ashlah

    I know they’re more common some places, but I’ve never been to a wedding where the ceremony and reception were separated by much time (and, actually, I’ve only been to weddings where they’re in the same location). As a guest, and especially as an introvert, it would very much not be my favorite. I have to get ready and “turn on” twice? Ack! I agree with Liz’s advice. Keep the more inclusive parts together, rather than sticking the intimate one in the middle. Have an intimate breakfast/brunch beforehand. Have an intimate dinner right before the ceremony. Have an intimate celebration of some sort the very next day. I definitely get the appeal of both of these (small celebration with your nearest and dearest, party celebration with everyone), and the unfortunate part of planning a wedding is that we have to pick! Or at least, be very intentional and careful when we try to do both. Good luck in planning, letter writer!

    • JR

      I think I’ve been to two weddings with a substantial gap – both Catholic weddings where the latest they could do a ceremony was around 2pm (due to Saturday evening mass) but wanted to have a traditional dinner reception, so there ceremony ended at about 3 and then the reception started around 5. The difference with that scenario, though, was that both receptions included a full dinner – everyone was invited to the whole thing, there was just some downtime in between because they didn’t want to serve dinner at like 3:30pm. Even that wasn’t ideal, since it’s a hard amount of time to kill, especially in fancy clothes (and in one case, we basically ate lunch after the ceremony and then weren’t all that hungry at the dinner!), but no one felt left out, as I imagine I might in the OP’s scenario. Also, in the OP’s scenario, I still need to feed myself, but I probably can’t go home to eat (or, if I’m local, realistically won’t in my fancy clothes), so it feels a little like asking people to join you for this big event but not actually hosting them. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the impulse – this is clearly about wanting a particular emotionally intimate experience, not about wanting to exclude people or something – but I think the above suggestions are better ways to pull that off.

    • guestguestguest

      I went to a wedding recently where not all guests were invited to all events. We got bumped up the guest list twice, which essentially meant we went reception only, to reception and dinner, to reception dinner and ceremony. That meant that the wedding just started for us earlier in the day than we had originally planned, so we wouldn’t have been sitting around all dressed up in the middle anyway. Honestly though, I don’t know that it would have felt worth flying in for the wedding if I hadn’t been able to go to the ceremony.

  • Kate

    In the dance community it’s really common to invite your nearest and dearest to the ceremony and dinner, and then open the doors to anyone who wants to join in for dancing and light refreshments. It’s understood that you can only invite so many to the dinner, and everyone appreciates the invitation to a free dance, especially when the couple books a really good band.

    • LJ

      I like this. I think the “sandwiched between two events” is the biggest issue with the LW – this sounds ideal.

    • Ashlah

      I think this would work too, but it sounds like the letter writer wants to invite everyone to the ceremony and dance party, but only the nearest and dearest to dinner in-between. Perhaps LW should consider cutting down her ceremony guest list, then having a big party later on, instead of trying to fit in a separate intimate event.

    • Yeah, you’ve gotta cull your ceremony+dinner list to be the same people. Inviting others to an after party dance is not super etiquette savvy, but regional culture will affect the severity of that. …just so long as you invite everyone to the dinner who’s at the ceremony.

      Rehearsal dinner the night before is really your way to get an intimate dinner.

    • Lisa

      Out of curiosity, do the friend guests tend to be local? I have a hard time imagining asking someone to travel a decent distance for my wedding without inviting them to the ceremony and dinner, but I could possibly see opening the party to more casual, local friends who might enjoy good music and drinks.

      • Yeah…if these casual, third wave guests were from out of town, that’d be a bit nuts…

  • Kelly

    In addition to suggestions of rehearsal dinner or brunch/dinner following day, I see a gap working only if the location is in a downtown urban area near the venue with enough time for guests to not feel rushed making alternate dinner plans. If the venue was in a more remote location, it could be a pain for people to find dining locations.

  • LJ

    My personal solution to this is that our wedding day will be*, for <45 attendees including ourselves, ceremony and cake-and-punch reception….. then the next day, we're inviting all our friends to get drunk with us at a local pub, and the intent is to wear our wedding clothes again and be stoked and stuff.

    *Subject to change without notice because weddings, amirite, this one is still 5 months away….

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I was a part of a church where inviting everyone and their mom to the ceremony and a select bunch to the reception immediately following was a thing. It bothered me but I don’t know if I would call it rude per se.

    I do think the dinner and then inviting everyone else for dancing after can get dicey if held in the same location due to logistics. If the dinner doesn’t run exactly on time, then you may end up with your later invited guests showing up while dinner is still going on and having to wait around for y’all to finish up. Also people kind of have to find something to do for that huge gap and that could be a blessing or curse for your guests. The huge gap between ceremonies and receptions has always been a pain to me personally (I’m talking 3-4 hours) but some might not mind. You might consider making the ceremony smaller and intimate and expand the reception.

    • The reason why etiquette says you invite everyone to the reception who’s at the ceremony, is because the reception is supposed to be a thank you to your guests at the ceremony. I think it might be sort of like why people buy their bridal party gifts. Sure, they could go without…but then you’re no longer properly thanking them for standing up there with you. Same for ceremony guests and reception inclusion.

  • AmandaBee

    Have a post-reception after-party! We had an earlier ceremony, followed by a brunch reception. We then invited our nearest/dearest friends and family to join us for a casual after-party at a local bar, which meant we got to really spend time interacting with those folks. Actually, we technically invited everyone to the after-party, but as expected it was mostly nearest/dearest and some out-of-town guests who came. Ours was casual, but there’s no reason you couldn’t go fancier, provided you’re willing to pay for it.

    But no, I don’t think there’s any way to have a reception to which you explicitly don’t invite wedding guests even though it’s right after the ceremony. Logistically, I guess you could just do it and not tell people about the dinner – gaps are not unheard of for earlier weddings. But once guests realize they’ve been asked to wait around and feed themselves while other guests are treated to a nice dinner, at least some people are probably going to feel hurt that they’re being treated like second class citizens (because…they sort of are). But having it on a different day or after the reception when most of the guests want to go home anyway would probably go over better.

  • idkmybffjill

    Bonus to rehearsal dinner: you get to do a whole extra look! This doesn’t matter to everyone but I’ve LOVED getting to plan our rehearsal dinner as my “alternate wedding”. I get to wear my hair down and wear a cotton dress and eat Costa Rican food in an intimate setting! AND the next day my hair up and a more traditional gown and have a big fat party! Hooray!

    • Same here! I did my wedding makeup trial that morning so I felt a little more fancy that night (even with a more casual overall look). And most of the rehearsal dinners I’ve attended as a member of the bridal party in recent years have been SUPER fun…there’s just so much magic in the air, but without the pressure of the wedding day!

      • idkmybffjill

        Yes yes yes!

    • I feel this way too! For our wedding, we’re going pretty casual and affordable, with a barbecue buffet-style, but there’s a little part of my that wishes I could have a fancy reception with waiters, plated entrees, cocktails, etc. So I’m hoping to pull that off on a small scale with the rehearsal dinner.

      • idkmybffjill

        You can absolutely pull it off! It’s the best thing to have other opportunities for ideas. I didn’t have a super specific vision for a wedding prior to engagement and we pretty much just figured out what made sense for us given our guests/priorities/resources….I’m very happy with the wedding we’re having, but part of me would have adored a really small summer wedding on a roof top with a live band and latin music! Now I get to sort of experience that.

        Re: clothing I’ve done the same sort of “If my wedding was___” with all the other pre-wedding events. Our engagement party was the dress I’d wear to a beach elopement. Shower was what I’d wear to a courthouse wedding. It’s been great and kept me from feeling like I’m missing out on anything at our actual wedding!

    • savannnah

      I am doing this! I bought a not-quite-not-a-ballgown wedding dress to my shock and horror (which I love and feel up all the time) and am wearing my ‘cool girl’ blush lace crop top and tulle skirt wedding dress to my rehearsal dinner. win-win.

      • idkmybffjill


  • Carolyn S

    I’ve been invited to weddings like this, and I didn’t really mind, but they all had a few things in common. They were religious weddings, I lived locally, and I was super young. Basically these were the “we are 21/22 years olds and the whole church is invited to the ceremony.” I was invited to the ceremony, and then at the ceremony the bride or groom personally invited me to the dance. It was fine. I wasn’t offended because I was mature enough to know people can’t afford to feed all their friends, but might still want to party with them.

  • Meg

    Morning after Brunch with a smaller group could be a good idea too.

  • sofar

    I agree with most that doing this without people feeling “left out” is nearly impossible.

    Plus here’s a logistical thing you may have not considered: your guests will talk to each other. And lots of people don’t really “get” how invitations work. Imagine, right after the ceremony, the following scenario:

    Guest 1 turns to guest 2 and goes, “Man I’m starving. Can’t wait to eat. The bride’s a foodie and I can’t wait to see what she picked out for dinner!”

    Guest 2: Oh! I though it was just drinks and dancing at 8.

    Guest 1: No, there’s dinner too! It said so on the invite. Dinner at 5:30.

    Guest 2: Oh cool! I had no idea. That’s awesome. See you there!

    Guest 2 then rallies the troops (intending to be helpful) and tells all his friends, “Hey, guys! There’s dinner, too! At 5:30!”

    What are you going to do? Kick them out? The only way I could remotely see this plan working is if dinner was literally only parents and siblings, no friends/cousins.

    • idkmybffjill

      GREAT point.

    • Eenie

      I think the more likely scenario is guests invited to the dinner know it’s a limited guest list, but then have to field questions about getting dinner or coffee with non invited guests. Although I hate gap weddings, I always try to use the time to visit with far flung friends/family. If a predetermined group already had plans with the newlyweds and didn’t offer to invite me (as a potential out of town guest) I’d be a little miffed. I just don’t see how this information doesn’t get out and hurt people.

      • idkmybffjill

        I also find keeping secrets to be very stressful. If I were a guest of the invited dinner and someone uninvited made an inquiry which put me in a position both to lie about where I was going and then to lie about where I’d come from at the reception later I’d be so uncomfortable/stressed! I’d feel an undue need to “fix it” somehow and I’d feel very awkward. I don’t think one usually wants their intimate dinner guests in an awkward mood!

      • sofar

        Oh, good point. That would be super awkward for the dinner guests.

      • Eh

        I was at a wedding where a smaller group was invited to the supper (including myself) and I didn’t know. I have been to other weddings made it clear on the initiation that the supper was “intimate”/limited guest list but this one did not. My husband was in the wedding party so I was left to my own devices the whole day. I had met the couple a few times but I didn’t know anyone else at the wedding. I hung out with another groomsman’s girlfriend (also invited to the supper). I didn’t realize until I got to supper that not everyone was invited.

  • AP

    I traveled to a wedding a few years ago that did this. There was a 3-4 hour gap between ceremony and reception. The ceremony and reception venues were across town from each other and far from the hotel, so mainly what I remember from this wedding is negotiating transportation to/from the separate venues and going back to the hotel in between because we didn’t know the city and it wasn’t very pedestrian/cab-friendly. The official story was that was time for photographs, but it was actually time for a party bus for the bridal party/family/close friends to ride around the city. They took photos, so I guess “photography time” wasn’t a lie, but they also all showed up drunk and an hour late to the reception, where no food was served until the bridal party arrived. Not my favorite wedding to attend as an out-of-town guest.

    Personally, rehearsal dinners are my favorite solution to this problem. You can keep the guest list small and there’s a lot less pressure, plus most people don’t expect to be invited so no hurt feelings.

    • Ugh, yeah. Super rude. All gaps in weddings should technically be hosted (for the reasons stated in your comment and Liz’s response) but if you’re gonna buck that courtesy, why not go the extra mile and show up late so no one can eat?!

      • tr

        Living in an area that’s roughly 80% Catholic, the Catholic gap is very much a thing I’m used to. I don’t love it, but it doesn’t bother me too much (because again, I’m used to it. However, the key thing is, you better still show up on time to the reception! If a bride was an hour late to the reception after having a four hour gap, I’m pretty sure I’d be ready to kill someone!

        • Yeah, I know it’s common with Catholic weddings, but super proper etiquette would say your guests’ comfort trumps all your desires to have an evening reception. If you want an early, Catholic ceremony and the evening dance party, you’re supposed to host with snacks/drinks in between. I know, I know, people’s budgets don’t usually allow for all of this, but etiquette isn’t concerned with your budgets or what you want. It’s about making guests comfortable above all else. A wedding is a wedding, even without a dance party.

          The gap is a hard one to argue for how that might possibly be better for guests.

          • tr

            Arguably, for the guests who enjoy a booze filled dance party, the gap is better, because it means they get the full dance party experience, rather than a situation where the wedding ends at 8 PM.
            I agree that etiquette is ultimately about making guests comfortable, but because of that, the rules aren’t always as hard and fast as the books make them out to be. A lot of making guests comfortable comes down to doing what they’re used to–if they’re all used to three hour gaps followed by rocking dance parties that go until 2 AM, you can get away with it. If that’s not the norm where you live, then don’t do it. (Also, you have to take logistics into account–where I live, I *could* get away with the gap from the standpoint of guest expectations, but because my venues are both in rural areas with zilch to do on a Saturday, I’m skipping it. If I lived in a town with lots of nice shops and fun things to do within walking distance, I’d probably have it, since guests would actually have things to do, instead of just having to go back to their hotels or browse Walmart for three hours.)

          • Katharine Parker

            Yes. As a guest, I would rather have the gap than have the wedding end at 9. (I also appreciate you, as the host, considering what there is for me to do in that gap, and planning accordingly.)

            I also just looked at some etiquette sources (read: googled “wedding gap etiquette”) and found someone in Martha Stewart saying that a gap is acceptable in traditional etiquette. So, you know…

          • Miss Manners is likely going to be your most traditional wedding etiquette source. (i.e., https://www.amazon.com/Manners-Guide-Surprisingly-Dignified-Wedding/dp/0393069141/ )

            Emily Post is also another generally accepted wedding etiquette source, although that group is understood to be “modernizing” quicker than Miss Manners.

            Martha Stewart has no more history of being an approved wedding etiquette source than APW, which happens to have its own take on wedding etiquette (i.e., http://apracticalwedding.com/2016/05/modern-wedding-etiquette-rules/ )

          • Katharine Parker

            This was someone Martha was citing as an etiquette expert, not Martha herself. I reference it only to suggest that “traditional etiquette” is not a monolithic authority, so people make a claim of the correct etiquette to support whatever they find most acceptable. This isn’t a case of whether fish knives were gauche or not in Edwardian society, but something that can be interpreted as appropriate or not by different people, all of whom have concern for their guests at hand.

          • sofar

            So … technically etiquette with a Capital E doesn’t say you *have* to host anything during the gap. It may be a nice gesture, but you aren’t rude if you don’t. The only thing etiquette dictates is that, if you ask guests to be somewhere at a meal time, you need to serve food at that event.

            Also, there are a lot of different traditions regarding weddings. My husband’s family, for example is Catholic and, traditionally, the reception MUST be at night and MUST include a dinner and MUST have dancing (including very specific cultural dances from their part of the world). So you get the Catholic gap, due to early afternoon Mass and nighttime reception. Doing an afternoon cake-and-punch affair, for them, is unheard of and not serving a big dinner would be a disgrace. Some of them will host a “tea” in between, some won’t (because they traditionally have big weddings and it’s hard to fit 300 people at someone’s house). What they often do, however, is ask local friends/family to carpool with out-of-towners to take them to a restaurant/have them over to their house for a while during the gap.

            Since my family hosted the wedding, we did a non-religious ceremony immediately followed by cocktail hour and dinner. Had my husband’s family hosted, there would have been a gap. Both are legit, etiquette-wise because guests are expected to adapt to the customs of the host, generally. If adapting is a hardship, they have the loophole of not attending.

          • I think this maybe depends a pinch on whether you’re an Emily Post or Miss Manners etiquette person?

            Cultural expectations are another matter, then there’s personal/familial expectations, etc. and people will have different weights of importance for all.

          • sofar

            As far as I’ve read, neither Emily Post nor Miss Manners say the gap itself is rude. Neither of Miss Manners’ wedding etiquette books say the gap is rude.

            It’s only rude if you 1) Ask people to show up at, say, 7pm and don’t feed them dinner or at noon and don’t feed them lunch, or 2) Extend the gap longer than promised on the invitation (such as delaying the start of dinner past the time on the invite, so you have more time for pictures), or 3) make the gap especially inconvenient (for example, you’re in a remote area, where guests can’t easily find a place to pass the time during the gap). The idea is that, if you are requiring guests to be in a specific place, you have to host them. If you give them a 2-hour gap and there are plenty of places for them to go in the interim, you don’t, although it’s nice to ask your local guests to help out-of-town guests get around. The idea of a “full day hosted all-inclusive experience” for guests is a relatively new one.

            The only thing Miss Manners says about differing cultural customs is that, if some of your guests may be unaware of certain customs (head covering during a religious ceremony, for example), you need to make them aware in advance.

          • Lisa

            Eh, this Miss Manners response seems to indicate that she thinks the gaps are rude.

            Peggy Post seems to have fielded a very similar question to our LW in an article at the NYT. She doesn’t seem to have much negative to say about a gap in general and that it can be permissible if logistics are a factor.

          • sofar

            Interesting! She’s definitely changed her tune for the latest edition of her wedding-etiquette book (although that was actually co-written by her daughter, who is perhaps a bit less stringent).

            I agree with MM 99.99999% of the time, but there have been many Miss Manners columns I’ve read over the years where I think she misread the letter and was too harsh — and even conflicts her own prior advice. People whose religion dictates they marry in the church doesn’t leave them with any “good” options except for a gap. It’s not like the bride necessarily selfishly chose her “dream” venue over guests’ comfort. Maybe her church only does early-afternoon ceremonies? MM has also given a lot of side-eye to couples who “stage” ceremonies in more convenient locations because their family church is too “inconvenient.”

          • Lisa

            That does sound contradictory. How are you supposed to have the wedding at your church of significance and then properly host your guests? I suppose for our wedding, which ended at 4:00 PM, we could have had a 2 hour cake and punch reception, but if we’d wanted to spend more time with our guests, we would have crossed over into the dinner hours and would have had to feed everyone then. I feel like we just can’t win!

          • Lisa

            The more I think about it, the more I also feel like a two hour reception would have been even less hospitable to our guests since nearly all of them came from out of town. We discussed the cake and punch idea to get rid of the gap but ultimately decided that the inconvenience of it was outweighed by the fact that we were hosting a nice dinner and dancing to thank our guests instead.

          • sofar

            Yep! In the end you pretty much have to throw your hands up and go “We tried! At least we didn’t include a two-hour woodland hike on unpaved roads with a white-tie dress code to get to the reception!”

          • Brittany

            I think, at least in the case of the “Catholic gap” Miss Manners and the like are not great sources for etiquette. Catholic culture is different from the mainstream American (Protestant) culture, and as etiquette is cultural, I don’t think it’s fair to have a representative of one culture as a comment on whether or not an action in another culture is rude. Until my college friends began getting married, I had never been to a wedding that wasn’t Catholic, and I had never been to a wedding without a gap. I’d also never heard a single person complain it was rude, and my family loves to complain.

          • R

            I’m Catholic and I have a number of Catholic friends and have been to many Catholic weddings, and I have never heard of or seen snacks or drinks in between the ceremony and the reception. Maybe it’s regional though? Some of the Catholic weddings I’ve attended also had a much longer gap – the ceremony was around noon, and the reception around 6. I’ve never actually found the gap to be too problematic. Also, I know some guests will wear different clothing to the ceremony than to the reception, so you’re not necessarily as dressed up for the ceremony as you are for the reception. More like regular church clothing and then dressier in the evening.

        • NotMarried!

          Can you explain this catholic gap to me any more? I’ve been to one catholic wedding with my now fiance and experienced it. But he seemed to not notice there was anything to notice. I’d love some cultural insight!

          • Katharine Parker

            Saturday Catholic weddings have to be scheduled early enough so that they don’t interfere with Saturday evening Mass, so they rarely begin later than 3:30 and are usually earlier. Since receptions usually don’t begin until 5 or 6 (or whenever), if the ceremony is 2-3, there is a gap between ceremony and reception. Hence, the Catholic gap.

          • Lisa

            The Catholic church offers mass on Saturday evenings (since Sabbath begins at sundown Saturday) so all wedding celebrations have to happen before that occurs (usually 5:00 – 6:00 PM). This means that weddings are typically held at 3:00 PM at the latest to allow for time to prepare for the evening mass. Catholic weddings are 30-60 minutes depending on if you have a full or half mass. The latest one will end is probably 4:00-4:30 so, if you want to have an evening dinner/dancing party, you end up with a 2+ hour gap between the ceremony and reception.

          • tr

            Most Catholic churches host a Saturday evening mass, so they have to have any weddings finished and cleaned up before that time. Because of that, if you’re going to get married in the church, you have to do it fairly early in the day. That means that if you want your reception to go later than mid-evening (and you don’t want to have to host a nine hour reception or something), then you’ll have a significant gap between the two.

          • NotMarried!

            Thank you, Everyone!! My non-catholic church just started Saturday night services … so now weddings are on Fridays! :)

        • lamarsh

          This is definitely stressing me out about my own wedding. We are having a Catholic liturgy (not full mass) at 2pm which is the latest the church will allow. We are starting our cocktail hour at 4pm (any earlier just seems a little crazy for a dinner reception), but that will still leave a little over an hour for what is in essence a two minute walk from church to reception venue. The hotel is also a two minute walk away and we are getting married in downtown Madison so there are plenty of bars/places to shop, but I worry about the inconvenience for my older relatives. On the bright side, this post just taught me the phrase “Catholic gap” so at least i now know there’s a name for this problem.

          • Lisa

            Maybe you can put someone in charge of organizing a casual meet-up for your families at an awesome local bar? (Perfect job for an aunt or friend who’s been asking how to help.) This way people know where they can congregate if they don’t want to go back to the hotel.

          • Katharine Parker

            I often enjoy the gap! It’s more time to hang out with friends and family who are at the wedding, if it’s appropriate it gives people a chance for a fun outfit change, if I’m in a new city I get to see somewhere other than the wedding venue. Put some suggestions for places to go and things to do on your wedding website (in Madison, like the Chazen, or the Memorial Union, or MMoCA – I love Madison!). And your older relatives (especially if they’re also Catholic) will understand.

            It gets awkward if the wedding is in a rural place where there is nowhere to go, but in a city, your guests will figure it out.

          • lamarsh

            Great ideas – also our reception is at the Overture Center, so MMoCA is a perfect place to spend an hour that I had not thought of yet – thanks!

          • Dorothy Parker

            I had a Catholic mass at noon followed by a 4:30 cocktail hour and full reception. We also got married and had our reception close to each other in a downtown area. My husband and I paid to reserve bowling lanes for 2 hours at a nearby bowling alley and our parents had a “hospitality suite” at the hotel (also downtown) with sandwiches and soft drinks for the older folks to relax. It was totally fine, from what I have heard, and everyone loved bowling. Plus we got more quality time with our guests while we were bowling (and really fun pictures). Don’t worry! People expect Catholic gaps at Catholic weddings. Give people a heads up and ideas of what to do in between and it will be fine.

          • Jess

            Honestly I think you will be just fine!
            One, I’m betting your older guests will be familiar with the gap and be pretty darn accustomed to it, especially if your families are Catholic as well.
            Two, You’re having a cocktail hour! That restarts the party.
            Three, you’ve only got about an hour from start to finish, and people will spend time after the ceremony chatting, hugging, meeting up, etc. That plus organizing getting to the reception (even if it’s only a few minutes away) takes some time.
            Four, there is so much to do in Madison you’ll be fine! It sounds like you may be close to the capitol – that kills an hour right there! (High five for Madison Weddings, BTW! We are a month out!)

          • lamarsh

            A Madison wedding in the fall will be so beautiful! Good luck with your last month!

          • Jess

            Thanks! :D It’s coming fast!

          • idkmybffjill

            I think 1.5 hours is SUPER common and a pretty darn easy amount of time to kill :)

          • tr

            I wouldn’t worry about it! An hour isn’t that long at all, and downtown Madison is really fun, so it’s not like everyone’s going to have to twiddle their thumbs the whole time (unless that’s what they want to do). Your older relatives can always hang out back at the hotel until time, and they may even enjoy the time to rest. (Plus, odds are, if you’re Catholic, so are quite a few of your guests, in which case, they’re used to this problem and won’t think anything of it.)

          • Katelyn

            Host at the hotel! My parents had a suite and invited any guests there for light snacks and drinks during the 2 hour gap. You could probably also get a conference room for pretty low cost.

          • april

            Depending on the hotel, the lobby may also be an option. We went to a friend’s (Catholic) wedding a couple of weeks ago where the groom’s family threw an impromptu pizza party in the hotel lobby between the ceremony and the reception. They just ordered a couple of boxes of pizza and put them out with some bottles of soda – totally low key and fun!

          • LJ

            There is no such thing as a convenient wedding. Yours sounds fine.

          • heyqueen

            “There is no such thing as a convenient wedding.” Ma’am. You spoke a WORD.

          • LJ
          • Liz

            Lots of folks are bringing up “etiquette” which honestly is going to be constantly changing as time goes on. The real core of any etiquette is: be thoughtful of other people. You are. You’re fine.

          • It’ll be fine! Even without a Mass, a Catholic wedding runs about 45 mins. If you really wanted to fill the time, you could do a receiving line outside the church. But I think a one-hour gap between the ceremony and the reception, if they’re all within walking distance sounds nice — I can go grab the card I forgot in the hotel room, or freshen my make-up or whatever.

          • Ooh, I just went to a Catholic wedding in Madison and there were so many lovely coffee shops and stuff that we went to. It was a very enjoyable break to get a cup of coffee and chat a little before heading to the reception.

          • JR

            My friend had a similar timing situation (I think her gap was a little longer) and she was able to kill a good 30 minutes with a receiving line. Obviously, no one person took that long through the line, but people mingled and chatted while the receiving line was still going on. Then we had a perfect amount of time to get a drink back at the hotel bar before heading to the reception venue.

        • Maruatto

          The gap is when you nap! At least in my Catholic family it sure is. Yeah you have to put your dress back on but that’s a small price to pay for breaking up an otherwise long day into pre- and post- nap chunks. Granted where we live in the South, everyone tends to either be from the immediate area, or staying in a hotel, so either way that nap gap is convenient. I can imagine in the Northeast it would be less convenient, with “local” people still driving 30 or more minutes to get there and therefore maybe not having time for a full nap.

      • Booknerd

        I have never ever been to a wedding without a gap. And I’ve never felt put out, I feel it’s a nice break to gear back up for the party. The longest gap I’ve seen was a 1pm catholic ceremony, and a 5 pm cocktail hour, which left us lots of time to find some lunch, relax, grab a coffee and get ready to party.
        Our wedding had a 3:00 ceremony, 3:30 cocktail “hour” and then the reception doors opened at 5pm, dinner was served at 6. If anybody complained they didn’t do it loudly. I think region plays a huge factor, west coast of Canada seems to be more laid back and aware that not everyone can afford to “host” all day events either.

        • If you have a hosted cocktail “hour” during the gap, it’s no longer considered a gap ;)

          • Booknerd

            True! I guess I assume the gap was from the end of the ceremony, because our cocktail hour was just a bunch of food on trays and not as formal as others I’ve attended, and then there was about an hour and a half before the bridal party arrived! For me personally the worst gap is where you are held hostage at a location, I’ve been to a 1pm ceremony at a mountain resort, so it’s not exactly convenient to head to town to kill time, and have to stick around for a couple hours before any sort of food was around. If I had known that I would have packed a snack ;) so I think will all types of gaps, communication is key.

          • Kyle

            Yeah, to me a “gap” is where there is literally nothing scheduled for a couple of hours.

            I think the worst gap is when you’re attending a wedding that’s a couple hours drive from home (or your hotel)… if you have a home or a hotel room to go back to, the gap is nbd, but if you’re in an unfamiliar city with two or three hours and nowhere in particular to go, it’s more annoying.

            We went to Ikea the last time we were at a wedding with a “Catholic gap”.

        • Liz

          Same as @BringYourOwnVegetables:disqus, I wouldn’t consider yours a “gap”!

      • Eh

        What I find more annoying than an unhosted gap at a wedding (when the ceremony and reception are at separate venues) is being held hostage at an isolated location (ceremony and reception at same venue) with some food and a cash bar during a cocktail hour that is over two hours long. I went to a wedding that was a 20 minute or more drive from anything. The ceremony and the reception were at the same location and there was a cocktail hour between the two while the couple and wedding party had pictures. The ceremony and cocktail hour were both outside and it was insanely (for where we live) hot that day. I’m an introvert so I would prefer some downtime but there was no place to go within driving distance (that would allow me some downtime but not make me late for the reception). I have only been to two weddings were the ceremony and reception were at the same location (in my circle, even non-church weddings usually happen in a park, on someone’s property, at a funky locale). The other one was an evening ceremony and it felt like we were herded like cattle to the cocktail reception and forced to eat food quickly since supper was going to be served in 45 minutes.

        Again, that style is not what I’m used to so maybe that’s why I don’t like it. And maybe I am perfectly ok with (short) gas because that’s what’s the norm in my circle.

      • guest

        I may be too late in commenting, but, you can have a Catholic wedding without a gap! College campus! I had a catholic wedding mass at 4:00 pm. They even had a 6:00 pm slot. And an 11:00 am slot. And we got several comments on how inclusive it was to non-Catholics.

        • Lisa

          I suppose this could vary depending on whether the church offers a Saturday evening mass, but I think your case was more the exception than the norm. We got married at my husband’s grad school’s Catholic church, and the only times they allowed for weddings were Saturdays at 1:00 and 3:00.

    • We’re planning to have a couple hours gap between an afternoon wedding and an evening reception, at two different locations, mostly because we want some alone time as a married couple after the ceremony and a little time to decompress. I’m hoping that a few hours is enough time for people to head back to the hotels for a nap, explore the city a little or get a snack if they want. I kinda subscribe to the common APW saying of “People are adults” they can figure out the transportation and can figure out what to do with themselves for a couple hours. I personally don’t think that’s rude, but I’m curious whether and why others would find a gap (where there are no planned activities for anyone) rude.

      • Ashlah

        Personally, I wouldn’t find it rude, just a hassle. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, necessarily. But for me as a guest, it’s not ideal.

        • Okay I hear you. Is that just because you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself during that time? Or want to get everything over with at once? Or don’t want to change clothes/worry about getting nice clothes messed up?

          • Ashlah

            A little bit of everything, I suppose? But mostly the first one! Maybe you could offer guests (especially out of town guests) suggestions for nearby restaurants or activities that take about the allotted gap time?

          • Lisa

            This is what we did. We suggested locations that we both loved or were special to our relationship (ex.: the bar where we took engagement photos and usually hung out after my husband’s concerts). Most of husband’s family ended up at a secret tiki bar, but I hope other people found our suggestions useful.

          • idkmybffjill

            Please tell me where this secret tiki bar is – sounds amazing!

          • Lisa

            It’s called Three Dots and a Dash in downtown Chicago. I suppose it’s not technically a secret, but the entrance to the basement where it’s located is hidden so well down an alley that it might as well be!

          • idkmybffjill

            Oooh! Thank you!

          • Lisa

            You’re welcome! I don’t think you guys have to worry about it too much (sounded like you’re going straight from ceremony to reception), but it could be a fun after party or bachelorette. ;)

          • idkmybffjill


          • emmers

            I love that place! I went there for a bachelorette awhile ago. So fun!

          • Stephanie B.

            LOVE this bar!

          • AP

            I love the idea for a list of nearby bars/restaurants, or tapping a family member/friend to arrange getting people together at a bar or something.

          • idkmybffjill

            Just my two cents – it can sometimes take a little wind out of the party sails OR give them a little too much wind. For example – we recently attended a local wedding with a 5 hour gap, so we went home and took a nap after the ceremony, and weren’t quite as gungho as we normally feel after going straight from ceremony to celebration. At another out of town wedding with a 2 hour gap, there wasn’t enough time between ceremony and reception to go back to the hotel really, so almost everyone went to nearby bars – it was a fun party but people were VERY drunk.

            ETA: Both weddings were totally wonderful regardless. Do what makes sense for you!

          • G.

            I find it a hassle because, depending on the location of the ceremony/reception/where I’m staying, it can be inconvenient to head back there (home, hotel, friend’s house, whatever). Then, depending on if I’m familiar with the city or know other guests, it can be isolating and lose the energy.

            For example, I went a wedding of a friend I had worked with one summer — I only knew her and her mom — and was staying with other friends who lived about an hour away via public transit. This meant I could spend all my time in transit or hunker down in fancy clothes in the little downtown area near the wedding. If I had been with a group of friends, it might have been fun and energizing. Instead it was demoralizing — and I’m an introvert who likes alone time, but I wasn’t very comfortable and had nowhere to just hang out, given the particular neighborhood options. I survived, sure, but it wasn’t very pleasant for me.

          • Inmara

            I’m from a country where weddings are a whole day and night affair, and we’re always considering what our guests will do between ceremony and reception when bridal party (which traditionally consists of bride&groom and two other people) are taking photos and having time for themselves. The decent thing to do is open reception venue for guests and provide drinks and snacks as well as some kind of entertainment options (e.g. photo albums to browse, guest book to write in etc.) Big part of attending a wedding is to catch up with relatives and friends, and this gap allows exactly that (whereas sitting at dinner tables afterwards splits guests in predefined groups).
            I understand that in American weddings both venue and food are expensive and you have to calculate how much time you can afford, so providing guests with some suggestions where to head during the gap would make it easier to entertain themselves and catch up with other guests.

          • Amy March

            All of those things, yes.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            For me personally it’s more of having to find something to do while still dressed up and ready to go to reception hours later. Now obviously if this info is communicated on the invitation that helps to manage expectations. If I know dinner won’t start until a certain time etc. But the weddings I’ve been to where there is the gap thsf the couple uses to take photos have always started dinner late bc the couple was late. And only one of them had a cocktail hour. That sucks for your guests.

        • Yeah, I don’t think there’s really a way to argue for a gap being *for* the guests, instead of *for* the couple (budget, introversion, etc.). Sure, people are adults and can handle it, but it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily like it.

          It does eat up your day, often extra time/money in transportation. You’ve also gotta spend the extra energy to plan something appropriate while you’re wearing fancy clothes with makeup. Taking a nap isn’t really the greatest option for that. There’s really no great option for what to do with yourself during a long gap…

        • AP

          I was about to type a similar response. I don’t think it’s rude, necessarily. I also think “guests are adults” but I do think there are ways to mitigate the hassle for guests. I’ve been to weddings that had a shuttle arrangement, or where the hotel and venues were all close together. I always appreciate things like that. I also appreciate a cocktail hour for guests while the couple takes photos or time for themselves.

          At the end of the day I want the couple to do what’s right for them, and I’ll happily go along with whatever as a guest. But I’m not personally a fan of the long gap.

      • Lisa

        This is what I had to go with, too. Our ceremony ended at 4 with family pictures finishing up around 4:30. This left our guests with 1.5 hours to make the 30 minute trek between ceremony site and reception. I was worried people would think it was rude (which, coming from a Catholic background, I didn’t even know it was rude until I ended up on The Kn*t’s forums).

        We gave people a list of bars, cafes, and restaurants in both areas as ideas for things to do while the wedding party took pictures. My SIL ended up rallying my husband’s side of the family and friends to go to a tiki bar down the street from the reception venue. I still find it hilarious that my husband’s grandmother and great aunt showed up drunk to the reception. It seems like everyone had a good time!

        • Ashlah

          Sounds like it worked out well! Another option with a shorter gap like that (for anyone reading along!) would be to start a cocktail hour with finger foods at the reception site before the bride and groom get there. In my experience, guests don’t mind waiting for the couple to take photos if there’s booze and food! On the other hand, they get very cranky if they’re forced to wait for the wedding party to arrive before they’re allowed to eat.

          • Lisa

            Cocktail hour officially started at 6, but my parents got to the restaurant early and authorized them to open the bar at 5:30 since we had some early arrivals. People seemed to be enjoying themselves! Plus, it was fun to walk in the front doors of the restaurant to cheers from our guests.

          • AP

            “Cheering for the couple as they enter” is one of my favorite parts of a reception as a guest!

          • Jess

            As long as there’s food and drink, I will wait!

          • Katharine Parker

            If your wedding venue has a strict 5 or 6 hour event window, it doesn’t work to start cocktail hour earlier unless you want to end earlier, too. But I agree – don’t make people wait for food until you show up late.

      • AP

        Also, regarding my original comment, it wasn’t so much the gap that was the problem at the wedding I referenced. It was knowing the bridal party and selected guests were out riding around getting tanked and partying while the rest of us had to wait around. That was one of the first weddings I had ever attended as an adult, and I didn’t know a gap was even a thing. Now that I’ve had more experience with weddings, I understand the wide range of possibilities. Finding something to fill the time wouldn’t be as much of a problem. I think this is really a ‘know your crowd’ thing.

      • emilyg25

        Since you asked! I do think it’s rude or at least inconsiderate to do it if you don’t have a good reason like having to accommodate the Catholic thing. For me, I’d have to get a babysitter for a super long time. And I’m not really going to do sightseeing or anything when I’m dressed up, nor do I want to get undressed when I’m just going to have to do it all again. Bigger than that, yeah, I think it kind of does take some of the wind out of the sails of your reception because it’s a break in the awesome celebratory feeling.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          For me the time also matters. Like is the gap 5 hours? I’m not going to reception. Is it 2? That’s doable. But ultimately people will decide what they want to do and do that.

          • Amy March

            Right. And around here, people often skip the ceremony at Catholic weddings when there is an inconvenient gap situation, and it’s pretty accepted.

      • april

        I think the key to making the gap work is good/early communication. Make sure your wedding website is clear about the fact that there will be a couple of hours between the ceremony and reception, then suggest some things guests can do to fill the time.

        I really hate this idea that a gap is “rude.” Inconvenient? Possibly … I guess … our guests didn’t seem to have any problem with it, but maybe we just have easy going friends and family ;) But there is nothing inherently rude about inviting the people you love to two events a couple of hours apart. Your wedding is not an imposition, etc. etc.. And if the timeline doesn’t work for people, they can politely decline the invitation – or come to just the ceremony or just the reception.

        • LJ

          Rude vs inconvenient!!!!! Absolutely, you nailed it. Throwing a party for your friends isn’t rude! I would laugh in their face if someone came to my wedding and said that my free food and drink was somehow rude. Like whaaaaat.

          I also relate to “I just made the biggest promise I’ll ever make to someone I love so I’m gonna go take a couple hours to check in with that person instead of both of us being overwhelmed and not remembering OUR biggest day.” It’s not the biggest day of the guests’ lives, it’s the biggest day of OUR lives. They can figure out how to pass 3 hours, especially with good early communication like you said. My wanting to spend time with my fiancé/husband is not rude, although sure it could be inconvenient for you. Like all weddings. There is nothing convenient about a flipping wedding.


      • Amy March

        I would find that rude (like, I wouldn’t have volunteered that opinion out of the blue, but since you’re asking). I’m all dressed up with no where to go, and you made me get all dressed up hours and hours earlier than I needed to. You’re using up more of my day. If I traveled to this wedding, maybe I wanted to do some other stuff, see the city, visit other friends, but now that’s harder, because I’m all wedding-up, and I don’t actually have that much time before another scheduled event. I do not need a nap, and I don’t want to kill time snacking and drinking before an event that will, inevitable, include much snacking and drinking.

        I go to weddings with gaps, and I’m neutral on them when a couple’s schedule is dictated by church availability, but just to give you alone time? That’s what the honeymoon is for, or host a cocktail hour and spend that time just the two of you.

      • heyqueen

        I think most guests will end up picking between attending the reception or the ceremony when it comes to a substantial gap. If I’m someone who traveled to attend, maybe I don’t want to go around and explore the city? After seeing you at the ceremony, now I have to preserve my hair, makeup, and outfit for a big gap between the ceremony and reception?And if I were someone who lived in the city where the event was being held, tbh I wouldn’t attend the reception. I’d just go home. It’s nothing against the bride and groom but my time is valuable as well.

      • emilyofnewmoon

        The thing that would make me blanche at this is just what @disqus_P5WMVmxarZ:disqus and @amymarch:disqus said–if I’m gussied up for a wedding, it’s not tourist time. No one can truly explore a new, unfamiliar place even in 4/5 hours, and I don’t want to see sites in my wedding finest, and I can’t take a nap because then I have to get re-dressed/makeuped. While you’re decompressing, everyone else might be stressed out. Now if by “a couple” you genuinely mean 2 hours, as long as the hotel isn’t too far from the evening reception, that doesn’t seem too bad to me. But realistically, 2 hours is not enough time to do anything fun or reenergizing.

        • Kyle

          We went to Ikea during a two-or-three-hour gap between the ceremony and reception. We were only in town for the day so we didn’t have a hotel to go back to, so we figured we’d get some errands done (all in our finery). It was a long-ass day!

          • emilyofnewmoon

            If I were near an IKEA on a gap from a wedding I’d definitely do that. Hang out in the cafe!

      • Eh

        I guess it really depends on how long the gap is, e.g., short gap is ok but a long gap would be inconvenient. We had a two hour gap between our ceremony and reception (we had our pictures during that time). They were at different locations so this gave people some down time. The majority of our guests were family and all of my family had travelled. Most of my husband’s family hung out at a relatives house, and most of my family hung out in the hotel. Where I am from, this is a pretty common scenario when the ceremony and reception are at different locations.

        Based on the fact that you are asking, this suggests to me that it’s not common where you live/in your circle. People might find it rude, in that case, especially if you tell them it’s because you want alone time as a married couple.

      • CommaChick

        Like Amy March, I would not otherwise volunteer this information, but you asked, so I am sharing. I think this is rude [or at least inconvenient]. I have attended weddings with similar timelines in the past and would not do so again except for an extremely close loved one. If we were extremely close, I would suck it up and pretend like it was no big deal, but I would feel like you thought of your needs but not mine.

        In the best case scenario, I’d have time to go back to my hotel room and read a little, which wouldn’t involve changing, messing up hair and makeup or blisters from walking in dress shoes. In the worst case scenario, I wouldn’t have time to go back to my hotel room, so I would have to pay to go to a restaurant or museum or someplace to kill time and probably pay for parking or transportation to that location [double the stress if I’m trying to find parking in an unfamiliar downtown]. If I’m on a tight budget and I’ve already paid to travel for a wedding, I might feel resentful if I felt forced to pay for a place to hang out and kill time because the newlyweds felt the need to decompress for a few hours.

        However, your invitation is not a summons, and that’s why I would decline unless you were immediate family or a best friend. In that case, I’d be there to support you, but I’d probably leave early because forced exploration of an unfamiliar city is stressful to me, and I’d be tired from it.

    • Jess

      I mean, the gap is an established thing in many areas, but not serving any food until the wedding party shows up?! Unheard of. In my opinion, this is the whole point of the cocktail hour!

      Even if you have a few hours between the ceremony and the cocktail hour, as soon as people show up there should be food!

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        This was every wedding I’ve been to which is why I’ve come to loathe those gaps.

        • Jess

          This baffles me. I would not be for gaps if I knew I would be stuck waiting around at a cocktail hour with no cocktails or snacks. I get not serving plated dinner until the party is there – but not even a pretzel bowl?!

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Folks who couldn’t or didn’t want to pay for a cocktail hour but had their guests wait for them to arrive so dinner could be served. And they were LATE. Yup.

          • Lisa

            That would drive me nuts. We had food starting at 6:00, and we didn’t show up until 6:15. I remember taking pictures and being like, “Hurry up! There is food being served, and WE AREN’T THERE.”

          • Eh

            We did not have a cocktail hour. We were supposed to have supper at 6pm. My husband and I arrived around the same time (5:40pm) as the guests started to show up so we got to greet them. At 6pm I was trying to get our MC to get the party (supper) started but her husband and son and a couple other people who were hanging out with them still hadn’t arrived. She was concerned about them and wouldn’t start without them. I was getting hangrier and hangrier.

          • Lisa

            Oooo, that would make me so angry. Whose wedding is it anyway??

          • Eh

            I was pretty chill that day, rolling with the punches regarding my BIL/SIL and all the little things that went wrong, including my MIL being 15 minutes late for our ceremony (so we started that late too). But starting supper late was probably the one that annoyed me the most because I wanted to eat.

  • I went to a wedding last summer where they did this and it went very smoothly. Ceremony was in the morning followed by an everyone-invited snacks, champange and cake reception, with some dancing afterward. Then in the evening, the bride and groom had an intimate dinner with family and close friends. I didn’t even know about it until much later when I saw the photos on Facebook and didn’t feel bad at all about not being included in that, knowing that they were trying to do the wedding on a tight budget and that they were fairly introverted people anyway. It worked out really well.

    • laddibugg

      That’s a little different though….If you have something AFTER the main event, it’s not as off putting to people as having something BETWEEN the two events.

  • april

    I generally agree with Liz’s advice, with one caveat. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a gap – even a longish gap – between the ceremony and the reception. (FYI, gaps are actually a pretty common feature at Catholic weddings, because the ceremony has to be scheduled around Saturday evening mass). We had almost 5 hours between our church ceremony and our cocktail/dinner reception. I was really worried about it, but it ended up being fine. I wrote a “real wedding” post about if a couple of years ago, if anyone is interested: http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/12/new-england-catholic-church-wedding/ So I take issue with the whole “you’ll be eating up your guests’ entire day”/”your guests will resent having to get ready twice” idea. They’re adults … they’ll make it work.

    That being said, I do think it’s impolite to expect *some* guests to entertain themselves for a couple of hours while *some* guests get to have dinner with you – particularly when you’re not even planning to feed the half that waits around.

    • Thanks for sharing this. Your wedding was beautiful! And the comments section was helpful too, in thinking about the gap

    • Lisa

      Thanks for re-sharing your wedding. I think, judging from my Facebook memories the other day about when APW was suggested to me, your post would have been one of the first I saw/commented on! :)

    • sofar

      Yeah, people get really judge-y, I’ve noticed about “long gaps” between ceremony and reception. My extended family is Catholic, so this is par for the course. I held a non-religious wedding at my reception location (so no gap), but I understand other people might want to get married in their church, and that means an afternoon wedding (and evening reception if you want to do a dinner reception), usually.

    • Jenny

      I was just about to say that Catholic weddings almost always have a gap. My friends and I go bowling in our fancy gear. It’s a great time!

    • Rebekah

      That’s perfect, because I was just about to comment that the only wedding I’ve been to with a long gap was a Catholic wedding. It was also a New Year’s Eve wedding, so it made sense for the reception to be late in the evening in order for us to ring in the new year. I had no idea if it had anything to do with Catholicism, but now I do!

      • Yeah plus at catholic weddings the reception and ceremony are usually in 2 locations so there’s a lot of logistics for relocating and time to worry about. My one catholic friend didn’t allow for any break b/t ceremony and reception and the wedding was 30-45 minutes late and so was everyone to the reception and they ended up having to pay extra at the reception site.

    • the cupboard under the stairs

      Came here to say the same thing. A few years ago I attended a wedding with a four-hour gap between events. I was super hungover from the night before, so it provided a great opportunity for me to go home and take a long nap! A big gap wouldn’t be quite as convenient for out-of-town guests, I suppose, although as you said, they’re adults. They’ve read the invitation and they know to expect the gap, therefore it’s on them to plan for it.

  • MB

    I actually attended a wedding almost exactly like this just this past weekend… and I wouldn’t recommend it. I had a lovely time, but there was a six (6!) hour gap between the ceremony and the more exclusive reception cocktail portion, where the fancier food was served and speeches were done, and then the more open (but still invited) reception started an hour after that. There was some of that awkwardness that @disqus_NSPCIO6X7g:disqus mentioned (because of course friends don’t always fall in nice, individual categories) where some folks were like “reception starts at 7, right?” “oh, my invite says 6!” :

    Some of the folks invited to the later reception also arrived earlier and made their way back to find their friends who had been invited to the earlier one. It was… not the most graceful. Personally, I think I would’ve been quite hurt to have those lines so clearly delineated around what’s supposed to be a joyful, celebratory occasion.

    I would definitely say do the beautiful, intimate dinner as a rehearsal dinner the night before – so much less pressure, a delightful sense of anticipation, and you can mix it up and go an entirely different direction than your larger, rockin’ dance party with all your not-so-nearest-but-still-dearest. Best of luck!!

  • Amy March

    I’d RSVP no, be insulted, and it would affect my friendship with you. I just think it’s incredibly rude. Why do I care enough about you to want to devote such a big part of my day to celebrating you when you don’t care to include me in all of the celebrating? Nope.

    • tr

      I mean, personally, it would all be about context. If you’re just an acquaintance, and we live in the same town, and I know you’re super broke, and the only people you’re inviting to the dinner are immediate family and the wedding party, then I’d be cool with it. I wouldn’t give up any “better” weekend plans to make it, and my wedding gift would probably be pretty modest, but I wouldn’t be offended in the least.
      On the other hand, if you expected me to travel three hours to come, or if you invited some friends but not others, I’d be pretty ticked. Also, there are some things you can get away with doing when you’re 21 and broke, but that won’t fly if you’re 35 and both working decent jobs, and this is one of those things.

      • Amy March

        For the first situation, just don’t invite me! I’d rather we both be on the same page- my presence at your wedding is not a priority to you, cool, you’re not asking me to make your wedding my priority either, awesome. Broke or not broke doesn’t really make a difference to me- you invite the people you can afford to invite to celebrate. This is not the Titanic, we do not have First Class and Steerage options for attendance.

        • idkmybffjill

          Yes. Especially because there are always people who are on the cusp. The couple may think of them more as aquaintances (which… do lots of people invite aquaintances to their weddings?), but the guests may feel closer than that and feel very hurt to be excluded. Weddings do enough to define relationships (who is included in wedding party, who is invited at all), without adding an additional internal layer to which some people won’t make the cut.

        • It sounds like this is a good model for small town folks, where you’ve known everyone around you for your whole lives, and even if you’re only an acquaintance you probably known lots of the other guests, so it would feel weird to be left out of the event altogether?

    • My husband is French. The ONLY way you can be married is by going to city hall, and the room
      can only hold 20 or so people, so this part is exclusive.It’s extremely common in France to have a huge cocktail party after the wedding (which lasts a few hours) followed by an exclusive dinner (with probably much less than half of the cocktail attendees). The cocktail-only guests are usually people that you grew up with, your parents friends, etc who live in the region who might like to pop in for a cocktail on a Saturday on congratulate you. If you have a guest who has travelled to attend, they would probably be invited to the dinner. This is how 90% of weddings are done, although American style is becoming more popular (you still have to get married at city hall but you can your own ceremony elsewhere).

      My husband has received some invitations from former classmates or people he’s not that close with to come to the cocktail portion only (on the off chance that he’s in the region on that day). Nobody bats an eye, it’s not a big deal.

      • Amy March

        And if I were in France, I’d adjust. But in the US? Nope.

        • idkmybffjill

          The biggest thing to me that people keep missing is that the letter writer wants guests to come to TWO events. Both the ceremony, then the dance party. She wants them to come to the event, leave, then come back. Which is really different than just asking people to drop by for the cocktail portion only! No matter where you are! (This is me emphatically agreeing with you, btw).

          • Eh

            The LW is actually asking everyone to leave and go to another location since she is having a church wedding. In this scenario the guests that are going to supper could be going to three events (though it does seem like supper and dance are at the same location). I was at a wedding where the ceremony was at a church, the intimate dinner was at a restaurant and then there was a reception at a hall.

          • idkmybffjill

            Oh I see, okay yes – more feasible. Still think a rehearsal dinner would definitely work better!

          • Eh

            Oh I totally think that everyone invited to the ceremony should be invited to the supper. But if the events were at one location that would be super rude.

          • idkmybffjill

            Right totally – which is what I was picturing. “Please leave now. Come back later.”

  • Inmara

    Another way how to pull off this “intimate dinner” feel would be with careful place setting and timeline for reception. By arranging tables with closest friends and family around you and having enough time for simply dinner (without dance, toasts etc.) you would be able to chat with them without being sucked into crowd of other guests, with whom you can mingle later, when the dancing and more relaxed part of reception goes on.

    • Stephanie B.

      That’s a good idea in theory, but in execution, it always seems that the bride and groom, no matter how the dinner tables are arranged, hardly get a chance to eat a full plate of food because SO MANY guests come up to talk to them (yes, during dinner).

      • emilyg25

        That was actually not our experience! We only had 95 people though.

      • Yeah, we didn’t have that all, but we also only had 85 guests. People were eating at the same time we were, so everyone got to enjoy the yummy food in peace!

      • Hmm, we had 120 ish people and admittedly I don’t remember if people came up and talked to me during dinner, but I don’t think so. I definitely had time to finish all my food (I wasn’t able to because I didn’t realize that a structured dress will prevent your stomach from expanding so you can’t eat all of your delicious dinner if you have also been eating all of the delicious appetizers that keep getting offered to you first because you are the bride and obvious to spot). My friends and family all know that I need to actually eat my meals or else I turn into a horrible nasty person though, so they are pretty good in general about not bothering me while eating.

  • heyqueen

    I’m probably in the minority of not being offended if someone didn’t invite me to the “intimate” portion of their reception. Hell, I’ve been invited to receptions and not to the actual ceremony itself. I think people take get too upset at not being invited to weddings, but that’s a discussion for another day. Logistically, if the ceremony ended at 3pm would you have your intimate dealio from 3:15-4pm, and then have your big party from 4pm until late in the evening? The timing is what I wouldn’t be able to figure out.

    • Mrrpaderp

      Something like this could work. It’s pretty typical for the couple to go take pictures for an hour or so after the ceremony while the guests mill about at cocktail hour. If LW did the pictures some other time, then she could use that post-ceremony hour to have her intimate dinner. You just have to make sure to have at least heavy apps for people. 1) It’s rude to have an event that spans a mealtime, which 4 p.m. to late night def does, and not include a meal, and 2) from a liability perspective, you don’t want people drinking all night and not eating.

      • heyqueen

        Good point! I wasn’t planning on doing a cocktail hour, but if we plan to do pictures after our ceremony I’ll definitely need to have some snacks in rotation while we get our photography on. Plus, I’m Nigerian and my people love them some heavy appetizers followed by an equally heavy meal -___-.

        By the way, what’s the protocol on the distance between your ceremony space and reception venue. We’re looking at some places that are a good 30-45 minutes away from the church, and I feel like it’s rude to make people drive that far?

        • Mrrpaderp

          I don’t think that’s an unreasonable drive. I went to a wedding where the venue was at least 30 minutes from the church. The only thing to be aware of is that there’s a pretty big range of time that people could show up at the venue. If the invitation only allows for like an hour between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of cocktail hour, and it’s a 30-45 minute drive, people will leave the church and go directly to the venue. You don’t have to host them if they show up 30 mins early, but you might consider having someone on-site to direct them somewhere they can wait.

          • heyqueen

            Part of me is leaning towards having the pictures before the ceremony so everyone can just go straight from the ceremony to the venue and we can nix the cocktail hour (save more money) and just go right into dinner directly.

        • MTM

          I think the more important part is having the final destination be close to where people are staying. I didn’t mind driving an hour between my friend’s ceremony and reception when the reception was at the ski resort we were spending the night at.

          • heyqueen

            I didn’t even think of that. Good point.

    • Carolyn S

      “I think people get too upset at not being invited to weddings.” In my very early 20’s, I had a personal pep talk with myself that went like this “weddings are expensive. guest lists are hard. never get mad about not being invited.” And you know what – it worked. In general, there have been more weddings where I have been surprised at receiving an invite because I have set my expectations low.

      • heyqueen

        Good point. On the flip side, there are couples who take it personally when people can’t attend their wedding. Something I saw awhile ago stuck with me. It was something to the extent of “No one else is going to feel like your wedding is as important as you’re making it.” Which is so true.

  • Jess

    I agree with the advice given – scrunch it up, or plan an alternate small event like the rehearsal dinner as the intimate time. Now for a story:

    As a college kid, I attended the wedding of a young couple who were very strapped for cash. They invited everyone to the ceremony, mostly family and some close friends to the dinner, and invited a broader group to the afterparty (much like what you suggested, LW, but with perhaps more people at the dinner).

    My friend kindly let us all know what was going on, said they were sorry for making us feel left out, but they couldn’t figure out any other way to party with all of us and meet family expectations. We found a restaurant nearby, got a reservation for 20, and hung out until the dinner was scheduled to be over.

    Things that helped:
    1) We understood the reasoning behind it (Young couple, Money, Family Expectations)
    2) They spoke to everybody on the “Party List” to clarify what was going on – there was no “Oh, I thought this started at 6 and there was dinner?” confusion, and plenty of time to process hurt feelings and make alternate plans for food. You can’t do a schedule like this and hope nobody finds out there was a dinner they didn’t get invited to, just like you can’t elope and hope nobody finds out.
    3) The wait was short enough that we didn’t have 5-6 hours to kill, only 2-3.
    4) They waited to do all the Wedding Things (speeches, dances, cake cutting) until everybody was present. This got us back in the mood of “Wedding!”
    5) There was a good area for us to sit in at the back of the reception when we got there at the designated time and they hadn’t quite finished dinner yet.

    Was it kind of a pain? Yes. Were we willing to accept this was her way of involving us? Yes, and I’m glad we did.

    • Carolyn S

      Yeah, I think if you as a guest think of it as “well I want to celebrate with them and this is the only way they can involve us, so why not.” I would probably be less likely to travel for it (but I’m unlikely to travel for many weddings to begin with…), but if I was in town, I wouldn’t hate it. You get to be at all the fun parts.

  • spinning2heads

    I’m confused, isn’t intimate meal what the rehearsal dinner the night before (or earlier) is for? No one (ok, almost no one) is offended at not being invited to a rehearsal dinner, they know that’s your intimate time with just your people to gather together and enjoy each other before the wedding.
    I guess that’s my advice: Ceremony followed by reception is for everyone, intimate dinner is for the night beforehand.

  • Keri

    Since it sounds to me very much like a normal wedding with a rehearsal dinner stuck in the middle of it – I wonder what about this idea really appeals to you, and if there’s another way to scratch that itch. My guess would be that, with a plan like this, you might be really looking for a social/energy break in the middle of the festivities. An intimate dinner is probably more relaxing, you’re more likely to sit down and get a chance to breath and enjoy – and if that’s what you really want, you could plan your day to get that feeling without the downsides. Gather your nearest and dearest and escape privately during cocktail hour for twenty minutes, but don’t make it an invitation only thing. Find a private space and relax. Or, plan a gap between festivities, but a smaller one, to allow for travel, etc. between locations, and take advantage of the gap for yourselves.

  • Late to the party

    We were once invited to a wedding but just the dessert and dancing portion of it, so we didn’t have a gap between ceremony and the party. I think that would be the way to do it. We were a little disappointed that we didn’t make it into the inner circle but had a lot of fun and understood why they made the choice they did.

  • Lemonm

    I’m in the UK and its normal here to have the ceremony and dinner with your closer friends and family and then a bigger party after dinner with everyone else you want to celebrate with. This is what we’re doing at our wedding in 2 weeks!!!!! It means we can have a more initmate ceremony and dinner and also a big dance party afterwards.

  • Carrie

    This scenario with a wedding in the morning, a very nice lunch reception for close friends and family, then big party with a casual dinner later on, is fairly common here in the UK. Typically, people not invited to the lunch reception go to a nearby pub to eat. Sometimes, especially if the wedding is in a church, people that you know but aren’t very close to and so not invited to any of it will just come to the wedding and then go home afterwards. As an American, I still find it strange and difficult to get used to. (Especially at my husband’s and my blessing ceremony/second wedding for those who couldn’t make it to the US wedding where there were lots of people in the reception line that my husband and I didn’t even know.) I wouldn’t do any of this in the States because your guests wouldn’t really know how to react.

  • Eh

    It is pretty common where I live for people to not be invited to the meal part of the reception. I don’t agree with it (I actually find it rude), and I have been both on the list of people invited to the meal and the list of people not invited to the meal. The guests are adults and make up their own mind if they want to go to both the ceremony and the reception party, and they know ahead of time that they have X hours to kill between and that they have to get food. I have only ever seen this done with local guests.

  • TheOtherLiz

    I’m curious about where you’re living? Because I went to a wedding in South Dakota that did exactly this. Half of the couple was from the West Coast, where it’s the same people there throughout the day, from the wedding to the reception, which includes toasts, dinner, and dancing. BUT the other half of the couple was from South Dakota, where you basically invite the whole town to a “Dance” at a local bar after your wedding. They got married in small town South Dakota and blended the traditions: wedding guests were invited to the ceremony, immediately followed by toasts and dinner. Then we all traveled to the “dance” at a downtown reception hall and the whole town was invited. There were drink tickets for those who’d been at the wedding, and for all others it was a cash bar. At the reception they had their first dance, cut the cake, and we all had a great time with each other, the locals, and the random party crashers. It was great. But probably worked so well because it was the local accepted culture.

  • H

    I actually found this was super common in North Dakota when I was living there. People would do a morning or early afternoon ceremony, then a reception with just close friends/family, then later that night a “dance” that everyone was invited to. In a lot of the small towns the dance was open to literally everyone in the town, and they were even advertised on the radio. I thought it was an awesome way to do it!

    In terms of gaps in general, I’ve been to two weddings with gaps, one Catholic and one Methodist, and no one batted an eye – it was totally fine. I don’t think gaps are inherently rude.

  • Anon

    Isn’t “smallish dinner with close family and friends” the whole point of a rehearsal dinner? Do the dinner the night before! No one feels unduly left out.

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Ahhh, gap weddings. A friend did the hours-long gap thing, but for photos. The ceremony was in one part town, then she allotted 3 hours for the wedding party to be driven around in a limo so the couple only could take photos in a second part of town, and then drive up to the reception location 45 min away again, to take more photos before the cocktail hour began for everybody. She included printed info in the invites about things to do in the area, with directions to the mall and the closest casino. (This was before wedding websites were really a thing.) Having great photos was her priority for the day, and she was thrilled with the results. I was in the wedding party, but as a regular guest I would have been a bit miffed, I think. A lot of the out-of-towners went back to their hotels. No idea what anybody else did.

  • Totch

    I nearly just posted a big thing describing a wedding I went to where there was a private dinner between the ceremony and reception, where no one minded being excluded.

    Then while while typing I realized that there totally must have been people who were bothered by it, I just didn’t notice because I was in the in-crowd. But it was wonderful and beautiful and exactly what the couple wanted. So just pick your priorities and make the right choice for you. You can decide it’s more important to honor those closest to you with an extra event, you just can’t police people’s feelings about it.

  • Sarah Stoneham

    You can have a “dinner with close family and friends” and a big reception. But the “dinner with close family and friends” is called the rehersal dinner!

  • Actually this is pretty common thing where I come from (Kraków, Poland), especially in bigger, university towns where people still stay after college, so there are a lot of friends who don’t have to travel especially to the ceremony. I think it’s nice to be able to drop in just for the church ceremony/sometimes with cake and champane in the church garden/cellar/sometimes followed by drinks in the evening — to be part of your friends’ special moment without the hustle of the BIG POLISH WEDDING (which goes on and on and on). Of course it’s different whith out-of-town guests, they should be fed:)

    • Annalise

      The same in the Netherlands, normal wedding procedure is:
      – Ceremony, many people invited
      – Potentially a ‘cocktail hour’ (called ‘reception’), many people invited
      – Everybody goes their own way, with a small group having dinner with the couple and other people just forming groups as they want, having dinner nearby
      – Then a party, many people invited

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  • harlequin13

    I completely understand the impulse to separate things out, and I think the cultural expectations are key here. For example, I understand that many European weddings are more intimate —> more public in terms of their guest list, as there’s often a religious + civil ceremony, and then a reception. Different people may come to each one, and a core group of immediate family is present for everything! I helped plan and coordinate a wedding this summer that was modeled in many ways after a Mormon ceremony, and their template is to have the ceremony be very small and private, followed by an immediate family only lunch, finally a cake + punch reception that is heaving with people. The key for these types of receptions is that everyone expects them! I’m all on about having clear conversations with everyone about your expectations, but keep in mind the scale of your desired events too. It’s really hard to put on a show that involves people leaving and then returning, versus having people come for different points throughout. Good luck!

  • I know a girl that did this but she worked for the church she got married at so it was the affordable way to invite her church friends to her wedding. But I don’t think there was a huge gap..I want to say it was only like an hour or so and the non-dinner guests just went and got dinner nearby.

    Another church worker friend invited church friends to just the ceremony which I attended and was fine with that since I didn’t know any of her family and it would have been awkward to attend the reception by myself.

    My actual wedding is at 11am and my fiance wanted to have a night reception starting at like 6 or 7 and I’m like no we can’t do that it’s TOO big of a gap. If we did that 75% of the guests would only show up for the reception. So we compromised with a 3pm reception so we have time to take photos in between.

  • Jessica Dee

    We had a small rehearsal dinner the night before with just our closest people. Then, the day of we tried to be as inclusive as possible. If you do what you are talking about your people will feel left out and I’m betting that isn’t your intention.

  • momin khan

    Day guests are those closest to you and your partner. Your immediate family and friends. Evening guests are extended family, family friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Nobody gets offended at an evening invite. You generally send an invite, even if you know they won’t make it. So we sent an evening invite to my husband’s cousin who now lives in the US, we obviously knew she wouldn’t come and she wasn’t offended at being given “half an invite” (having grown up in the UK and having day and evening guests at her own wedding). It’s just something nice to do. I think the difference is with the US is that you aren’t obligated to give a gift if you’ve received an invite. It’s quite uncommon to send a gift without attending the wedding, a card is sometimes sent but it’s a nice touch if someone who wasn’t able to make it sends a card but not expected.
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