Q: Is it poor form to invite guests to the wedding reception and not the wedding? We want a very small, intimate wedding with just close family, but do want to host a reception afterward that will include a larger number of people. We are concerned some people will be offended if they aren't invited to both the ceremony and the reception.
A: It is not so unusual to have a private ceremony and then host a larger number of people for a reception celebrating the marriage. For instance, there are those couples who get married out of town and then come back home to host a reception. And there are some venues that won't accommodate a large number of people for the ceremony.
In those cases, inviting people to attend the reception only is not a breach of etiquette. Also, many mature couples or those getting married for a second time pass on the big ceremony but host a party afterward. How you set it up is the choice of the couple and should be respected.
If the situation was reversed, and you invited a large number of people to the ceremony but you didn't include them for the reception, that would be a different matter. People could view that as a solicitation for gifts.
You may need to consider two invitations — one for the wedding and the reception, and one for just the reception. And do be prepared to put the word out to friends and extended family members as to what you are planning so there aren't any hard feelings.
The guest list is one of the biggest challenges when planning a wedding. There has to be a cutoff point as to who will get invited. Couples with large families have an extra challenge because family usually overrides friends and coworkers, etc. And there is the budget to consider.
My advice is to not be offended if you don't get invited to someone's wedding that you thought you may be invited to attend. You never know the circumstances surrounding a guest list or where their cutoff point is.
Karen Hickman is a local certified etiquette/protocol consultant and owner of Professional Courtesy. Email questions to email@example.com.