One of the topics that frequently come up when planning a wedding is whether or not it is rude to invite guests to the ceremony only and not the reception. One of the main reasons for this is that the bride and groom are trying to keep the cost of the reception down. Whilst the need to wanting to save money is understandable, inviting guests to ‘only’ the ceremony is considered rude and should be avoided if possible.
The guest will undoubtedly end up feeling like a second-rate guest who is not important enough to be included in the celebrations. Ill-feelings are also bound to eventuate if the guest feels obliged to buy a gift and may end up feeling that this was the only reason that they were invited.
Consider having a smaller guest list, having an off-peak wedding, or a midday wedding as opposed to an evening one to keep costs down without excluding anyone from the reception.
It’s important to note that if the ceremony itself is going to be held in a location that only holds a limited amount of people, such as the bridal party and immediate family, then it is okay to invite guests just to the reception and not the ceremony.
If you are keen to limit the number of guests to your reception by having some people attend the ceremony only, one approach, to minimize potential hurt feelings, is to hold an ‘official reception’ and an additional ’post-reception function’ for close family and friends.
The way it works is that after the ceremony a reception is held with perhaps appetizers, cake and champagne. This could last for 2-3 hours and can take place at the church’s hall, a nice park, or a nearby venue. After this ‘official reception’ ends, the bride and groom can hold a dinner for immediate family members and the bridal party at another reception venue. This approach really only works if you have a lunchtime ceremony and follow through immediately with the official reception. The family dinner can then be later in the evening after an hour or so. Do be aware however that you still may end up hurting feelings this way, but if you keep referring to it as a family dinner then it should be minimized.