What happens if you want to have a small ceremony and big reception? Is it OK to invite some guests to the ceremony but not all of them? What are the rules for having a small ceremony but big reception afterward? We’re tackling this question thanks to the
Ah, your ceremony space is too small to accommodate the large guest list you want for your reception. What’s a bride to do? Can you have a small ceremony but a big reception? Today we’re tackling this wedding advice question submitted to us by bride-to-be, Leah. She writes,
“Hi Emmaline Bride! We wanted to get married at this small old-fashioned church but the size of it is so small, it can barely accommodate 1/3 of my guest list. Can I have a small ceremony a and big reception, where we invite some guests to the ceremony but everyone else to the reception? Thanks for your advice.”
Small Ceremony and Big Reception?
Hi Leah! Great question, and what a dilemma! You found your dream ceremony space, but you can’t include everyone on your guest list… that’s understandable.
Traditionally speaking, and with proper etiquette in mind, it is best to invite all guests to both the ceremony and the reception. Most guests will attend both, and the ceremony is such an important part of the day. It is, of course, the reason for the event and your marriage vows are the focal point.
However, all wedding decisions ultimately are decided by you. If you simply cannot imagine getting married anywhere other than this dream spot, you may consider the option of having a very small ceremony and inviting guests to a reception-only wedding.
You may be faced with conflict and hurt feelings, so tread lightly here. However, I do believe couples should choose to plan their wedding the best way they see fit. And if a very small ceremony is more your style, you can go for it, but know that some people may feel slighted by it (and it’s not recommended etiquette-wise).
If you decide to have a small ceremony but a big reception, be sure to invite people that fall into the same category, rather than picking and choosing (or you’ll really have some hurt feelings, and that just isn’t fair).
For instance, you may want to invite just your parents, siblings, and grandparents. Keep it small and simple. This is more permissible than, say, inviting your favorite cousin, but not your aunt, a friend from work, but not your sister’s boyfriend.
See how it starts to get sticky? :)
If you’re willing to compromise on your ceremony space and want to include as many guests as possible, here are two other solutions that may be helpful.
1. Cut down your guest list to accommodate the small size ceremony venue.
You may wish to plan for a smaller wedding and cut the guest list to fit your needs for a smaller ceremony space. This is completely up to you! If it is your dream ceremony space, perhaps a smaller wedding is what will suit your needs best. Here are tips on how to cut the guest list without guilt.
2. Find a different ceremony venue.
You may need to shop around for a larger ceremony space that accommodates your guest list.
I know that’s probably not what you were hoping to hear, but it is the advice I would want someone to tell me if I were wondering the same thing. It simply isn’t worth the conflict that will inevitably arise when some guests aren’t invited to the ceremony but are invited to the reception.
If you are planning a reception-only wedding for more of your guests, be sure to send appropriate invitations stating as such. Here are some reception invitations to consider that will make the process easier and more straightforward.
Reception-Only During Covid
Now, please note: if you are planning a big reception and a very small ceremony due to Covid, that’s a completely different situation.
We’ve seen many couples plan a small ceremony and have a big wedding reception later. That’s an entirely different situation and was highly recommended for couples to do during that time.
Thanks so much for writing, Leah! I hope it helps!