Ask the Wedding Maven: How to Have a Casual Wedding Reception

by Marta
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Dear Wedding Maven,

My husband and I met and married in a foreign country without any family present. We have decided to have a small "wedding" when we arrive home. I have a few questions about how to go about things.

We want the wedding to be VERY casual. We are still living overseas where communication is difficult and wedding customs are very different. I am also having a hard time coming to terms with sending 100 invitations from literally the opposite side of the world for something so casual. Would an email with a message and a link to our wedding website as the wedding invitation be too tacky? We aren't having a sit down dinner so RSVP's and numbers are not something I am worried about. I just want to make sure that everyone has the correct information.

The reception, as I mentioned, is not going to have a sit down dinner though we plan on having food at my mother's house in between the ceremony and the dance. Is specifying that there will be food at that event (which everyone is welcome to) and calling the reception a dance enough to let people know that a sit down dinner will not be provided, or should I be more specific?

I have had a number of people already approach my mother or me about gifts. We aren't registered anywhere and are planning on going back overseas shortly following the wedding so we don't want a lot of "stuff". I know there are people who are close to us who feel as though they want to get us some THING as a memento -- but those people generally understand the situation and will hopefully purchase gifts accordingly. What I am most worried about are the people who don't know us quite as well, or who don't know our plans to return here. How do I specify, without being rude, that people should preferably bring no gift or, if they feel as though they really want to, money toward a plane ticket home for our next visit would be the best thing? And how do I make any cash gifts optionally anonymous?

Also, both my husband and I have a number of family and friends coming from out of town. The ceremony is going to be about 15 minutes at a public park near my home. Is it ok to limit the ceremony to those people? The dance has an open invitation because we have been away for about two years and would like anyone we haven't seen that can make it to come. But I don't want so many people to necessarily be at the ceremony, which I think is more personal.

Lastly, what the heck do I call this? I don't want to call it a "wedding" necessarily, though it has all the trappings of one. We are already married. Since the reception is lacking a dinner and most formalities should it still be called a reception?

I know it's a lot but thanks for any help,
Casual "Bride"

Dear Casual,
What you’re trying to do is have a casual wedding reception or a party to celebrate your recent marriage, and you can call it by either name.

Given that you want to keep this casual, I think it’s perfectly ok to do the invitation by email, with a link to a wedding website. Although you could also ask your mother, a sister, or another trusted friend to look into ordering casual invitations from a national online site like Tiny Prints or Hello Lucky and mailing them from the states for you.

The wedding website is also the key to letting people know your gift preferences. OneWed’s wedding websites have a built in page for you to add your gift registries, including a registry for Traveler’s Joy, which sounds perfect for you. I suggest that you include a more traditional registry as well, and register for things like luggage or easily packed items, because as you say some people will want to buy you a gift.

In terms of the ceremony, yes, it’s perfectly fine to only invite a few people to the event. However, I would do that in a separate email, or with a note card so that you don’t have to put the information on the website. Remember, your wedding website will be viewable by everyone you invite to the reception.

The best way to make it clear that there won’t be a meal served at the reception is by holding it at a time when people won’t expect to be fed. For example, have it from 2-5 in the afternoon, or from 8-12 at night. You’ll still want to have munchies and drinks of some sort, or if you go with the evening, dessert, but no one will expect a full meal at a party starting at those times (you will still need to know how many people are coming though, so ask for RSVPs). However, if you are expecting people to travel some distance to attend the celebration, you will want to provide a meal for them. Your thoughts about having those people to your mother’s house for a meal sound fine.

Speaking of those people traveling from out of town… I want to warn you that it’s possible that they won’t. There are a lot of people you would expect to travel for your wedding that simply won’t make the same effort for a casual wedding reception/party.

Because you kept your actual wedding casual and private, and are taking a very casual approach to the reception, many people will believe that their presence is not really required. If there are people you really want to make sure attend, you may need to make a little extra effort to make sure they know how you feel.

Good luck and don't forget, the whole point of a party is to have fun!

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

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