Receptions after the Fact

If you weren't able to invite many people to your destination wedding, or if many of those invited were unable to attend, you may be giving thought to a hometown reception in the weeks or months after you return home. What is the point of these after-the-fact affairs, and are they socially acceptable, or not?

The Hosts

First of all, you shouldn't host a reception for yourself. Even though it would be perfectly acceptable for you to pay for your own ceremony and reception on the day of your wedding, this is a different situation. You're asking people who possibly weren't invited to the wedding to come out and wish you well, and that's going to go over a whole lot better if it comes from your parents rather than from you.

E~ssential

If you are not comfortable with the idea of having a delayed reception, then decline your hosts' offer in the nicest way possible. This is an event honoring you and your new husband; you shouldn't be there under duress.

This is a celebration of your union, and though receptions given on the day of the ceremony are technically supposed to serve the same purpose — they're just different. The people who will come to your post-wedding reception most likely didn't get to witness your vows, for various reasons. This is a more subdued get-together without the bouquet toss and the wedding dress. It's a party, and traditional etiquette states that one never hosts a formal party in one's own honor. It's just in bad taste. (Yes, this book has dispensed with traditional etiquette on some issues, but this is a good rule to stick with, even in the twenty-first century.)

Surprise — We Got Married!

Here's the reason that post-wedding receptions are sometimes interpreted as being in bad taste altogether, regardless of who's hosting: If the people on the guest list for the reception were not on the guest list for the wedding, they're going to wonder why.

E~Alert

The bride who has a teeny, tiny destination wedding (including only herself, her groom, and their immediate families) is going to be viewed in a more favorable light than the bride who invited 100 people to her wedding and 400 people to her after-the-fact reception.

If you didn't invite the people on your reception guest list to the wedding — why not? If you wanted a very private ceremony, then why bother to invite them to a celebration of the marriage? If you couldn't afford a large reception at the time of your wedding, why have things suddenly changed? If you just didn't want to deal with planning a big wedding, then why the big reception?

These are the questions that are going to be bandied about the reception hall, so be prepared to handle them. It's a fairly safe bet that no one is going to come out and ask you why she wasn't invited to your ceremony, but you might want to have a blanket statement at the ready throughout the night: “You know, we just got married so quickly that there wasn't time to plan a big wedding. That's why we wanted to invite everyone to this reception, so that we could thank everyone for being so supportive.” With this statement, you've done three things:

  • You've taken the heat off yourself. Apparently, hardly anyone was invited to the wedding itself.

  • You've given a decent reason for the lack of invitations to the wedding. No time? What could you do? You were in love!

  • You're thanking people for being supportive, possibly before they've had the chance to be — which will make them want to be.

Of course, if you actually had a large wedding and didn't invite the people you've now invited to your reception, that's a different situation, and not one that portrays you in the most flattering light. (More on that in the following section.) Whatever the case, it's fine to show some appreciation for your guests, but don't attempt a blatant lie, especially in matters that concern family and friends. These people talk to each other, and you can count on getting busted.

The B List

Brides often have what they refer to as a B list for their receptions. As regrets come in from the A-listers (their first-choice guests), brides will send out invitations to B-list friends and relatives. It's a risky practice even when you're inviting people to a ceremony and reception in your hometown. Again, people talk — and people also can figure things out for themselves. If your friends from work don't receive their wedding invitations until three weeks before the wedding, for example, they'll know there's a good chance that they were not on your list of first-choice guests.

When you have a fair-sized destination wedding, then, and later invite a bunch of people who weren't included in the ceremony to an in-town, after-the-fact reception, you may be playing with fire. It's far more likely that these invitees are going to view this invitation as a request for a gift, and you're going to come off looking like a selfish bride. And again, you have to ask yourself the question: If you didn't invite them to the wedding (especially when you invited so many others), why invite them now?

Formal or Casual?

Your hosts will have a large say in what type of reception this turns out to be. There aren't set-in-stone rules about these delayed receptions, but many of them turn into brunches or early evening events. However, if your family loves its formal events and your parents are willing to shell out big bucks for a band, a sit-down dinner, and an open bar, your guests are probably not going to mind one bit.

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