Do you have to have a wedding reception?

My fiance and I are not party people. I personally don’t want to have a big party. We would rather just go out to dinner with a few close family and friends.
Do you have to have a reception? How do you tell your guests, "Thanks for coming to the wedding, sorry we’re not going to feed you, you can just leave now!"
I want to avoid that. I feel like my family will expect a big reception, but I’m not having a wedding planner and wouldn’t even know how to plan or know how to run a reception.
What do I do?

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16 Responses to Do you have to have a wedding reception?

  1. Nita R says:

    no, you dont’ have to. my husband and i just had finger foods and cake. no dancing, flower toss or garder throw. i was very happy with it. we got in and out, but at the same time it was very memorable.

  2. SChi25 says:

    A reception is not at all required, and technically, a dinner with family members after would technically be your reception. A reception is any kind of celebration after a wedding ceremony. Many couples choose the restaurant option because it’s less expensive and less of a hassle.

    However, I would only invite guests to your ceremony that you plan on inviting out after. You really should also foot the dinner bill as well. Guests coming to a wedding ceremony should get something after as a token of your appreciation for their attendance, their gift if they give you one, etc. Be it a favor, or a meal afterward, it’s up to you. Just think about it – the ceremony lasts maybe an hour tops (usually a half hour), so guests will come all the way there, sit for 30 minutes, and then leave? You really should do something. It doesn’t have to be a big fancy party. Even a pot-luck style BBQ at a family member’s house after is just fine.

    Anyone you don’t want to provide for after the ceremony, don’t invite them. It’ll make things much easier.

  3. Jen S. says:

    Well, I think you should only have a reception if you want to, but in any event I think you should feed the people you invite. Even if it’s just for cocktails & hor’dourves in your backyard, or dinner at a restaurant & wine or something. It gives you a chance to thank everyone for sharing such a special day with the two of you.

    As far as planning, try going to or they have helpful checklists on everything you need to get done for your wedding & reception…I could give you tips if you’d like I am starting my own wedding planning business, just let me know & I’ll give you my contact info.

  4. Bekki B says:

    Why not have a cake and punch reception? You need to have something for your guests. Many times, you can hav ea cake and punch reception the same place as the wedding, and it’s not as long as the traditional reception.

  5. Sage says:

    If you don’t want a big reception, then just have a small ceremony with only those close friends and family that you want to take to dinner. If it is important to you to have all those other people at your wedding, then you will have to offer them some type of reception. It doesn’t have to be anything too major, but you should at least offer a few snacks or have people bring in pot luck dishes, for after the ceremony. Everybody is going to be congregated by the same place for the ceremony so they are going to want to stay and chat for a while.

  6. Mrs.2Qz says:

    Take it from someone who went through the whole reception thing. First and foremost it is a day for you and your fiance to remember, NO ONE ELSE. They are there to SHARE in the occasion with you, but what they desire is not FIRST nor FOREMOST. Personally the idea of a small dinner reception with close friends and family will be something memorable to you and which won’t leave you in debt. Simply provide invitation cards to those whom you wish to attend, and if any else asks before the wedding if there’s a reception simply explain that it is a small reception with intimate friends and family, PERIOD. Congratulations, & don’t stress.

  7. Anne says:

    My reception was probably just an hour, tops. The guests had some finger foods while we were finishing up our pictures (cheese and cracker, fruit, veggies trays, nothing elaborate). We went to the reception, the maid of honor did a toast. We went and cut the cakes and then just mingled and thanked everyone for coming. No sit-down dinner, no dancing, nothing fancy…just a time to talk a little with all of our guests. We only had about 80 people at the wedding. I’ve never been to a wedding that had no reception, but I’ve been to several that essentially just had cake and punch.

    The best way to have that simple reception is to have like a 2pm wedding because then no one is expecting a full meal. Do the cake and punch with all your guests, and then arrange to meet your family and closest friends for dinner later in the evening.

    Best of luck to you!

  8. ? says:

    At the wedding I would have finger food and punch. On the invites I would put a "social" immediately following the ceremony instead of reception.

  9. Mrs. J. loves her husband! says:

    You don’t "have to" do anything. It’s your wedding & you can do as you wish. I do think it would be polite to your guests if you at least had refreshments for them of some kind. They’re taking time out of their week to come to your wedding and [hopefully] give you presents. It’s the least you could do.

  10. Sarah Louise says:

    well im hvain a big party after mine but my parents didnt when they got married erm…6 years ago it was wonderful, about 20 close friends and family then at about 5pm we went to catch our plane to dominican rep. while they carried on drinking, they knew it wasent an evening do-just explain to them

  11. xoxo says:

    You don’t have to have a reception, but it is generally expected… wedding and receptions typically go hand in hand. If you don’t have one – some guests will probably be confused.

    You don’t have to have a "big party," just have some cake and punch will do. Put on some background music and mingle with the guests. It doesn’t have to last long at all.

  12. miss_nikki says:

    The only way to have the kind of celebration afterwards that you’re wanting is to have a small ceremony. It is incredibly impolite to invite people to a wedding ceremony and then not provide some form of celebration afterwards. It’s like you’re saying, "come look at my pretty dress and bring me a present, but we’re not going to be celebrating with you afterwards."

    I can understand not wanting a huge reception, but if you do want to invite your entire clan of friends and family to the ceremony the least you can do is provide a cake and punch reception afterwards.

  13. science chick says:

    YES! It does not need to be a big fancy party, but you really need to provide them with something. If you are getting married in a church, see if they have a room where you could have a "cake and punch" reception. Just get a big sheet cake and serve it with coffee, punch/soda, and water for an hour. Make sure to put "Cake Reception" on the invitation and plan to have it between meal times.

    ADD: While it is your wedding, these are still guests and they will be expecting food. It is very rude to not provide anything, and you need to offer some food and a chance to thank each of them for coming. It is fine to not serve mucha s long as you make it clear on the invitation that there won’t be a meal and you don’t plan it at a meal time.

  14. jes1404 says:

    It is rude to invite people to a ceremony and then not invite them to the reception. Then you just look like you are just after the gifts.

    I do have a few ideas on how you can have a wedding with no reception:
    1. Only invite the family members that you want to go out to eat with later. If you are too shy to hang out with those people for an hour/hour and a half after the wedding, do you really want to stand in front of them, say vows, and kiss a man in front of them?
    2. Write on the invites NO GIFTS PLEASE. Then people don’t feel like you invited them and they’re good enough in your eyes to bring you a $100 gift but not good enough for you to spend time with and feed.

    If neither of those ideas appeal to you, you don’t have to have a huge reception with all of the bells and whistles. Is it really that you are not a partier or is it that you don’t have the money to spend on a reception? If it is the later, enlist a few family members and close friends to help make some food for you (fruit salad, chicken salad sandwiches on croissants, a cheese tray with crackers, and cupcakes or a cake (it doesn’t have to be extravagant). Set up a few tables with tablecloths in the reception hall of the church or outside of the church or place where you are getting married (you may have to pay an extra fee for this). Set up some tables and some chairs (for the older people especially), and you’ve got your reception. You don’t have to be extravagant…after all, your guests are probably really just going to want a bite to eat. And make sure to get married at a time where people will only want a little bit to eat and not a meal (like get married at 2 and feed people at 3 so they’ll have already have had lunch and won’t be ready for dinner yet). You don’t have to do the bouquet toss, garter toss, send off, dancing, etc. (although you may want to do some kind of send off and maybe a cake cutting just so people will know when it is over). If you want you can just be polite and speak to your guests, let them know you’re glad they came, etc. That way you can have the guests, please the guests, make an effort to be nice and visit for a bit with your guests, and not offend anyone. You don’t even have to stay long…like 45 minutes even if you want. If you rush off, people will just smile knowingly, thinking you can’t wait to get to that hotel room!! You can still invite close family and friends out to dinner right afterwards, but keep it on the downlow so as not to offend.

  15. Avis B says:

    The easiest and the most economical thing you can do is get married in the morning and then follow the ceremony with a breakfast or brunch with a few family members and friends.

    It is rude and inappropriate to invite guests to witness your ceremony and then not invite them to your reception (which is the breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner or party afterwards). When guests are not invited to your "reception" they feel awkward . . inadequate . . slighted . . and hurt.

    A very simple solution to your plans is to have your "dinner/reception" at a country inn or at a small hotel or at a restaurant with a private dining area or banquet room. You may even be able to have your ceremony there if they have a garden or courtyard or gazebo. All of these facilities have banquet or catering managers who will guide you through the "reception" process.

    If you can only afford to entertain (provide food and beverages) thirty people at your "reception" than you should only invite thirty people to your wedding ceremony.

    Answered by: A Certified wedding specialist / A Professional bridal consultant / A Wedding ceremony officiant

  16. Lydia says:

    No of course you don’t have to have a big reception, but you must invite the same people to the ceremony and reception. So if you want just your close family and friends there, that’s totally fine – just don’t invite others to the ceremony only. That would be rude.

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