Adriana
Savvy July 2021

Private Ceremony Etiquette

Adriana, on April 3, 2021 at 6:04 PM Posted in Wedding Ceremony 1 20
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My FH and I are planning on having a private wedding ceremony with only 30 immediate family members and closest friends. We are then inviting the rest of the guests (about 80) to the cocktail hour and reception immediately afterwards. I'm getting ready to order invitations which will be sent to all guests that are reception only invitations. I was thinking I should include an enclosure card for the private ceremony members which states the time they should arrive. Is this the best way to go about this?? I don't want the other guests to feel excluded, but we are both pretty shy and want our vows to be witnessed by only our closest family. I have seen many examples of reception enclosure cards...but that doesn't seem to make sense in this situation. Any thoughts or examples of private ceremony enclosure cards?? Thanks!

20 Comments

Latest activity by Sheree, on May 31, 2021 at 9:55 AM
  • L
    Liz ·
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    Can you do two different invitations. - one for the people you’re asking to both the ceremony and reception, and one for those you’re inviting to the ‘celebration following the marriage’ or however you word it?

    If you have a separate enclosure card for the ceremony, I think you risk people mislaying it / not seeing it, and only arriving for the reception.

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  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
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    There really isn't a polite way to do this without upsetting your guests. Is there a particular reason why you want extra people at the reception where you pay per person instead of everyone invited to the ceremony? People do talk and they will feel slighted even if you don't think they will be offended or even find out.

    I totally understand being shy but inviting extra people to the reception where you will be the center of attention no matter what doesn't make alot of sense. I would invite everyone to both.

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  • Caytlyn
    Legend November 2019
    Caytlyn ·
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    I would just send two different invitations to ceremony and reception only guests.
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  • Ariya
    Beginner January 2022
    Ariya ·
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    I am kind-of doing the same thing. I am getting two different sets of invitations ready. One for the ceremony and another for the reception.
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  • V
    Champion July 2019
    Veronica ·
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    Unfortunately, I don't think there is a nice way to go about excluding people. But if you are dead set on this idea then I would just send two different invites.
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  • J
    Master 0000
    Judith ·
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    I would send two different invitations. There have always been smaller more private ceremonies, followed by larger receptions, it is not a new thing, it is fine by etiquette standards. But on WW, and in some religious groups where the ceremony has value and the reception none, it always makes a noise. As long as you are careful about not talking about who is in the smaller group, and who in the larger, frankly it is nobody's business. Plan what will make you most comfortable. Keep it off social media.
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  • Cyndy
    Rockstar May 2019
    Cyndy ·
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    Definitely the two invitations is the way to go. My son and daughter-in-law did this and it worked out fine. There was due to the very small ceremony area (they got married on a dock). While some guests were a bit upset in the beginning when we explained it then completely understood. Do what works for you!!
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  • Erin
    Expert May 2021
    Erin ·
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    She did say “ I don't want the other guests to feel excluded, but we are both pretty shy and want our vows to be witnessed by only our closest family.”
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  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
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    I saw that and stand by my opinion. As the bride and groom, you can't avoid being in the spotlight whether you have 5 guests or 50. Having more people at the reception doesn't change that. Many people view the ceremony as the most important part of the day and if they "aren't good enough" (in their minds..they know they're being excluded when the invites arrive and there is no ceremony info) for the ceremony, they will and do decline the invite because they see it as gift grabby to want them at the reception. Even if that is not the couple's intention, it is a common mindset among guests who receive reception only invites.

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  • Erin
    Expert May 2021
    Erin ·
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    Rats.. it posted before i was done. My sister got married 5 yrs ago and she and her husband were so shy with the ceremony part with vows and speaking that it was just the pastor, the bride, groom, and the brides parents and the grooms parents .. groom’s 2 sisters and the bride’s 13 other siblings had to wait out in the cars... after 15 min ceremony was done the test of families came in and helped set up for the reception which was about 80 people (extended families and A few friends) but there were no speeches, just lunch, /mingling/light dancing and then send off... the ceremony has more moments where it can be scary/awkward for shy introverted people where as with reception you are more surrounded by everyone/not excepted to really give a speech/be heard kinda thing.. AND THATS OK...
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  • Kimberly
    Super March 2021
    Kimberly ·
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    I disagree with this. It is perfectly acceptable to have a smaller ceremony with immediate family and closest friends and then have additional guests join the reception. Many people do this and it is 100% acceptable.
    What isn’t acceptable is to have a “small” 100 person ceremony and then invite additional guests to the reception. 100 guests is not small and is not immediate family and closest friends.

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  • Michelle
    Rockstar October 2022
    Michelle ·
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    Oh wow! I'm super shy too but I would be horrified as the bride having people wait in their cars for the duration of the ceremony and pictures.

    While I agree with you that speeches and dancing are not required and mingling instead is perfectly normal and acceptable, the majority of WW classifies that as unacceptable hosting, with the couple viewed as ungrateful if speeches/toasts are skipped and that guests won't know what to do without dancing. I have only attended one wedding of 100+ that had toasts and they were painful (not counting the ones on Youtube and videography sites, and we will be skipping them for that reason. I can take or leave dancing but it is fun with liquid courage. One thing that a shy person would never be to handle is announcements at the beginning of the reception. They are unnecessary and redundant because the couple is announced at the end of the ceremony, but again unacceptable on WW to skip them because you are viewed as bad hosts.

    There are ways to work around shyness by only inviting (to both events) those you are most comfortable around. But a smaller ceremony vs larger reception comes across as hurtful to those who don't make the ceremony list.

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  • Ava
    VIP May 2022
    Ava ·
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    Not to be rude, but I’ve noticed you constantly say that “everybody on WW” or “the majority of people on WW” say *insert ridiculously over dramatized statement* when literally nobody is saying it. Never once have I seen even ONE person say it is “poor hosting” to not have speeches or not be announced, let alone “the majority of people” here. On the contrary, I’ve seen numerous threads where LOTS of people say they are skipping these things.. and not once has anyone said anything negative to them, including being a “poor host”. I would say “the majority of people on WW” are kind, helpful, understanding and compassionate. And you continually making these sorts of statements really gives a (falsely) negative impression of the site.
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  • Adriana
    Savvy July 2021
    Adriana ·
    • Flag
    Okay thank you, sounds like two invitations would be appropriate. We are planning on strictly immediate family and the wedding party for the private ceremony, so seems like this is a safe way to go. All these rules and “proper etiquette” guidelines are so stressful...and every single situation/wedding is different! I can’t imagine any of our other guests would truly be offended by only being invited to the reception - free dinner, drinks and dancing! And quite frankly if they are offended are they really a true friend anyways?? Maybe it’s not traditional, but we are also not doing the speeches, dances, cutting the cake, etc. I think most of our guests know we just don’t roll like that and like to keep it casual 😎
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  • Erin
    Expert May 2021
    Erin ·
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    She only had the immediate siblings wait in cars, non of us minded all siblings waiting in cars were 28 years old down to 6 year old for 15 min. NOT A PROBLEM.... grandparents and rest of guests showed up on time for reception i am the oldest of 14 kids, and my sister/the bride (number 3 out of 14) was too shy to even say her vows in front of her own siblings aged 28-6 years old. and the groom as too shy to even say HIS vows in front of his own 2 sisters aged 26 and 28...

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  • D
    Donnaly ·
    • Flag

    Your private ceremony should really only be your parents, your siblings and their so's.

    The other two parts, the dinner and 'after party' (if I remember correctly) should be open to the same group. Or it does become a tiered reception, which is rude.

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  • Kari
    Master May 2020
    Kari ·
    • Flag

    I think two separate invitations is appropriate here.

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  • Jenny
    Savvy April 2022
    Jenny ·
    • Flag
    I would probably just do 2 different invites as well ❤️
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  • Sheree
    Savvy April 2022
    Sheree ·
    • Flag
    I’m doing two separate invitations one for the people coming to the ceremony and the other for just the reception invite, it was pretty easy to do once I was finished with the reception invite I just duplicated it so I didn’t have to do it all over again and just changed the wording! Got it all done at staples
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  • Sheree
    Savvy April 2022
    Sheree ·
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    My partner and I are doing the same thing I don’t need 60+ people watching us say our vows it’s a very intimate moment and we just want our closest family and bridal party there aka our best friends . Reception is just eating food, dancing and celebrating together nothing major happens lol plus I’m not letting anyone wait in the cars because I’m inviting them to show up at the time the reception starts not the ceremony lol
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