Ask the Wedding Maven: Another Look at Potluck Receptions

by Marta
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Dear Wedding Maven,
I have a question that I am very wishy washy about. I am having a small wedding on the beach. My father and my fiancé’s mother will be the only people attending. We were going to have dinner afterwards and send out announcements with pictures. My fiancé and I are paying for everything, finances are tight and I couldn't ask someone to help with my financial needs.

I know some family will be disappointed that there wasn't a celebration or that they were not invited. I am really not trying to upset anyone, I just don't have the funds to have the wedding of my dreams, and think it's ridiculous that I would need to wait to marry the person I love in order to please everyone else.

When I told my father of the plans he said to let him know when and he would most definitely be there. My father lives with my aunt and when she heard she called me and said I had to do a reception. I told her I couldn't afford it. She said to just do a potluck and that my family wouldn't mind, that they want to be able to celebrate. So regardless if its a potluck or not it is still more money I have to come up with. I came to terms with that but a potluck seems kind of tacky. I am still thinking we will have our beach wedding with only our parents and send out announcements stating there will be a reception later.

But what do you think about the whole potluck reception set for a later date? I can't make up my mind. I wasn't planning on doing anything, but I don't want to upset our family and friends. It's really hard for me to get out of the thought 'You want us to have it you throw it because we don't have the money'. I mean I can probably afford like a place to have it and a dj, but the food for that many people no way! I just need another opinion.

Thank you,
Ms. Wishy Washy

Dear Wishy Washy
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding, and on your sensible attitude about having a reception you can afford.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of potlucks but mainly because I think the term is overused.

Traditionally, a potluck is a community event, something where everyone participating has the same stake in the event. Book club meetings, church meetings, casual get-togethers, and family dinners.

To me, this is very different than hosting an event where you are asking people to come and help you celebrate a specific event or occasion in your life. If you get to make all the decisions and people are coming to honor you (and bring you gifts), they shouldn’t also be asked to bring their own food.

That being said, I think the idea could work here. If your aunt is right and your family really does want to celebrate your wedding as a family, then there’s no reason they can’t throw a party for you. Since they're throwing the party, and it only includes family and a few friends, it becomes a family event. I would say to your aunt “Joe and I aren’t planning on having a reception, but if you and the other aunts wanted to throw a party for us after the wedding, we would love it and consider it a wonderful gift.”

The key here though is that this is not your wedding reception. This is a party your family is having for you, and as such, the hosts get to make the decisions on food, decorations, invitations, etc. Obviously they’ll ask for your input, but since they’re throwing the party, they’re in charge.

It may be that this isn’t what your aunt has in mind at all, that what she really wants is for you to have a party and she’ll bring some pasta salad. If that’s the case, then you need to decide whether or not you want to have a party. Don‘t have a reception because you don’t want to upset others, do it because it’s something you’d like to do. If you do want a reception, you should stick with your original thought of only having the party YOU can afford to throw. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wedding cake and punch in someone’s backyard as a wedding reception.

Do you need wedding advice? Do you have a question about wedding etiquette, traditions or relationships? Write the Wedding Maven at weddingmaven@onewed.com.

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