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How To Handle Inviting Guests To Wedding Ceremony and Not Reception?

Hi, my name is Stacey Strickler, and I am the owner of Affairs To Remember Event Planning. I am currently working with a bride who has budgeted for 175 people, however her guest list has ballooned to 300+. She wants to invite everyone to the Ceremony, and only 175 to the Reception. I have cautioned her against this idea, however she insists on going through with it. Has anyone else encounted this type of situation, and if so, how did you handle it?

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I don't think there is a polite way to handle this. How involved are you as the planner? I ask this question because handled poorly, your reputation is on the line. Word always gets around about these things and someone's feelings will be heart. Hopefully, they won't blame the hurt feelings on the bad advice of a planner. If she insists on doing this and you can't bow out properly, I would suggest a cake and punch reception immediately following the ceremony. The bride can then have the other reception may be two or three hours later. Not the greatest idea but it at least allows the guest from ceremony to greet and mingle with the bride and groom. Of course, as you mentioned, the best option is to not invite some and not others.
I have not encountered this before as a wedding planner. However, I would caution her against this idea also, because those people who go to the ceremony are going to expect to be invited to the reception also. This could cause hurt feelings and the bride should not start out her day like this. This could come back to haunt her. Maybe she can host some of these people - later on after the wedding, as a "home warming" party once her and her her new husband are settled. But, if she does not intend to invite these people to the reception, then she should not invite them to the ceremony. I agree with you.
I agree with you. It is bad form to invite people to the ceremony and not the reception. It tells them very clearly that they are NOT your A-list. I've never experienced it working with any brides, but a friend's sister did it to me once, because she had to fill a quota to use the church she wanted to use. At first I thought she was inviting me to the whole thing. When I found out what she meant, I was insulted, and made up some excuse as to why I couldn't make it. To this day I don't have the greatest relationship with her. Even on Facebook!! It made her look cheap and petty.
I don't envy your position. Maybe you can tell her my story and persuade her not to go that way. Good luck.
Hello Stacey,

I don't envy the position that you are in.

Most planners will agree that this is poor etiquette and simply frowned upon here in the United States and while I have never coordinated such an event, I have heard that in the U.K., it is not so unusual to have 2 events - Close friends and family to the ceremony and the wedding breakfast (silver service or buffet) which immediately follows ceremony, and then the 2nd event (reception) starts approximately 3-4 hours (depending on the speeches/toasts) after the wedding breakfast, where all other guests are invited and you would provide a buffet for those guests after an hour of arrival.

The bride would keep her gown on and greet the 2nd set of guests, probably do their 1st dance, and then leave and change into another more relaxed gown for dancing, however, this trend is changing where the bride opts to keep on her gown.

During the 2nd reception, there is usually an open bar for perhaps the 1st hour and cash bar thereafter - all dependent on budget, of course.

The other alternative is for you to convince the bride and groom to have a destination wedding on an island where she could invite everyone, but most likely all won't want to attend. L0L.
In Germany we have a "Meet the Bride and Groom" for about 1 hour after the wedding, then everybody goes their own way, in the evening we then have a Reception for special Guests. This requires 2 Invitations, I would write on the first one that we appreciate your attendance in celebrating our nuptial in a private party, on the other I would invite to attend our nuptial. This should be pretty clear if it states on the invitation that there will be a short get together to meet and greet, but no formal reception. I believe if American going by American Customs that the Bride should follow American Standards but if she is European, we handle things a little different (Imagine Princess Diana's Wedding all the people from the Church would have been invited to the Reception, it would have been a Royal Disaster because of Protocol etc) and she should be able to follow her traditions. Nobody is required to invite everybody, so feelings get hurt all the time, the Bride will never be able to please all the people who want to be invited to her wedding.
one of the girls i use to work with, she was on a tight budget and couldn't invite all the coworkers to the reception....we understood this....not that we expected to be invited....she gave us invitations that we could go to the church, obviously, then we were invited to the dance only afterwards...i know that sounds bad but you know what....i hate boring speeches and tinkling of the glass but we had a blast at the dance....there was only 2 staff members that didn't go because they felt if I am good enough to go to the church i am good enough for the whole wedding.....they missed a great time....mind you your bride inviting 300 to the church then only having 175 hmmmm....they may not understand like we did....but it is her day, at the end of it she is paying it and as Steve Martin said in Father of the Bride, pack the church to the rafters, only x amount will be here in the house.....
I have not encountered this myself, but I would caution the couple against it. However if you are put on the spot, have the bride not put the reception cards with the invitations.
This is a very difficult situation. Will the reception venue hold 300 people. Because if it will hold all 300 guests, you should try to advise your bride to rethink her reception plans so she can allow all the invited guests to the entire event. This type of situation can only lead to hurt feelings and upset people.
I advised the bride that a guest who is invited to the ceremony, but not the wedding will most likely not come at all. Also, is she prepared to handle the hurt feelings when the uninvited guests find out about the reception? (and they most likely will)

Good luck and let me know how it turns out.
Wow, this is tough! Have you sat down with the bride, her groom, and any local parents? This is a HUGE issue not to be taken lightly by the mood and immediate desperation of one woman (the bride) who likely has no idea she is going to create world war 3 among family and friends.

One is to take a dramatic approach as a professional and say the only way you'll continue being her event coordinator is if the following conditions are met (which would include conversations between YOu AND EVERY PARENT, and the groom and any other key stakeholders), then req. the invitations are very blunt (tactful of course...but offer NO confusion whatso ever as to the guests who will not be going anywhere after the ceremony), and a very clear plan as to what happens when buddies A and B sit next to each other in the pews and buddy A is going to the reception and buddy B either has no idea she isn't going (and shows up because she's following buddy A in the car) or simply finds out and is in shock the entire ceremony that at least half the people in the pews are invited.


You have a professional reputation to keep and if you PLAN this type of event you could potentially lose a ton of clients. This is where you have some power as a professional to dig your heels iand potentially lose her but not lose a lot of other business. That may make her eyes open up a bit.
In my eight plus years of making invitations, I have come across this a few times. She has the option of doing an A and B list. Those who decline from the A list can now be supplemented by the guest on the B list. The rule of thumb is that about 25% of the guests will decline. However, I think it's bad form to invite guests only to the ceremony and not to the reception. There will be a lot of hurt feelings and possibly relationships destroyed forever. My advice is the A/B list option and shorten the guest list.
Hi Stacey,

Wow!! I must say this sounds like a difficult position you are in! Now that you have heard from a few of the experts, What do you plan to do? Tell me , is your bride going to hire security to watch the door and manage the guest list? Perhaps you can tell her, that as a consultant, its only your job to execute the vision, and not to hurt peoples feelings and you will have no part of that! She must find someone to do her dirty work for her! Perhaps only half of the Three hundreed will show,and then you will not have to worry.. Please Keep us up to date on the outcome. Wishing you well!
Best Regards
Stylish Affair's
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