Evening reception etiquette – everything you need to know

If your guest list just keeps getting longer and your budget only gets tighter, there’s a simple solution – shift some guests to your evening reception list. If you’re worried about offending people by only inviting them to your evening do, check out this guide to evening reception etiquette.

Be clear with your invitations

evening reception

Always print a separate invitation card for the evening reception and head your cards with ‘evening reception’ or ‘evening celebration’ rather than the standard, ‘wedding invitation’ in order to set your guests expectations accordingly. Always instruct your invitees of any dress code that may be applicable so they don’t stand out from your day guests.

Also, remember to state whether or not your single friends can bring a date.  Inform your evening guests of a definite starting time, and ensure you have finished your dinner and are ready to welcome them. Take care to keep the wording of your invitation informal, writing that you will be getting married on a certain date and that you’d love to see the recipient at your after-party to celebrate.

Deciding who to invite to what

While your family circumstances will dictate which relatives you invite, for those of you with a large family it may be best to just invite your immediate relatives to your dinner and more extended family (aunts, uncles and cousins) to your evening reception. Make sure you apply the same rules to your fiancé’s family. When the bride’s family are organising the wedding, it isn’t uncommon for more of her family to be invited than the groom’s.

When it comes to friends, you can usually categorise your guests as work colleagues, university buddies, etc. As a rule you are best off inviting every member of a particular group to either the whole wedding or just the evening gathering. To be inconsistent may see you causing offense, embarrassment or awkwardness amongst these groups.

Make your evening guests feel welcomed by…

evening reception etiquette

  1. Supplying plenty of bubbly when they arrive, and laying on a buffet dinner
  2. Deferring your receiving line until the evening so that they can be a part of it
  3. Making sure there are wedding favours and cake for them
  4. Using digital frames at the reception venue to display photos taken during the day
  5. Not changing out of your wedding outfits, or leaving the party too early
  6. Saving a wedding ritual such as the first dance or cake cutting for the evening

It is entirely up to you which guests you invite to the whole wedding day, and which are invited just to the evening reception. Your friends will overjoyed just to be included in your celebrations and will understand your budget restraints. Anyone that complains about not being invited to the whole day doesn’t really deserve to be there at all.

Save your First Dance until the evening

evening reception etiquette

This is a special part of your wedding day and most people love to watch the Bride and Groom share their first dance together. If you can wait until your evening guests have arrived and then announce the first dance, your evening guests will love that they haven’t missed this special moment and will be sure to feel part of your day.

Cutting of the cake

The cutting of the cake can happen at any part throughout the day, some do it before they sit down for dinner, some do it after speeches and some leave it until the evening. Leaving it until the evening guests have arrived it also a great way of including them in your wedding day, this is a great idea to do especially if you have only really had close family and friends to the day and you have a lot of evening guests coming who you couldn’t invite to the wedding. You could also cut the cake then have your first dance as that would link well together.

Have a food option for your evening guests

evening reception

It can be a difficult decision whether to provide food for your evening guests after all your day guests would have already eaten a big meal. However it is always nice to provide some sort of food option for the evening reception, many guests will assume there will be some food, so try not to disappoint them. Budget is obviously a key element when planning a wedding so depending on your budget you could do canapés or a hog roast or a BBQ to keep your new guests happy, keep it within your budget and then you could cater for a few of your day guests just encase they do want to tuck in.

Remember to get photos with your evening guests

Your evening guests would have probably missed out on the professional photos as they do tend to be done in the day unless you have stated for your photographer to stay a bit later to grab photos of the evening reception, which is always nice to do. So if your photographer is around then, grab those special photos with your evening guests, if you haven’t got your photographer around for the evening then we all love a good selfie!

Photo booth

evening reception

Another FAB idea to get all your guests involved in your wedding day and it is so much fun, is a photo booth. This is a huge trend at weddings and has been for a few years now, it’s a great opportunity for people to throw on some funky glasses and strike a pose. Everyone can get involved no matter how old you are and will be sure to keep guests entertained throughout the night and as the drinks continue to flow your photos will become even more memorable.

Special Song dedication

It can be hard sometimes to not be able to invite everyone you know to your special day, after all, you want everyone to be there to share it with you. For those special people that are just coming along to your evening celebrations to make them still feel part of your day, you could have a list of songs that mean something to you and that person or persons. You can then get the DJ to dedicate them and you can then all hit the dance floor and share that special memory together.

Children’s entertainer

evening reception

It can be hard especially if you (the wedding couple) do not have children and make your wedding day a child-free zone, I have been to many weddings that do this, and I did myself and it is acceptable to do but can be hard to explain to guests sometimes. But you can then say children are more than welcome to come along to the evening reception, this will then give those couples with children the option if they want them to come along or still enjoy a child-free evening. Having some sort of children’s entertainment especially if you have a lot of children coming is a FAB way of keeping them entertained for the evening, of course a photo booth will definitely keep the older children occupied but what about the younger ones, so having an entertainer or maybe evening childcare would be great for the little ones and also it gives the parents a bit of time to enjoy the evening celebrations without having to have one eye on their children all the times, the parents still need to enjoy their night too. Having children just to the evening is also a helpful way of cutting back those day numbers too and needs must when it comes to planning a wedding.

Throwing the Bouquet

evening reception

If you plan to take up this tradition and throw your bouquet this could be included in your evening celebrations. Get all your lovely ladies together and then get ready to throw that wonderful bouquet of yours, another great opportunity to include your evening guests. If you don’t fancy throwing your bouquet but would like to keep this tradition you could always do something a little bit different and throw either a couple of roses – then a few of the ladies could catch them or get yourself a smaller cheaper bouquet to use.

Remember that it is entirely up to you which guests you invite to the whole wedding day, and which are invited solely to the evening reception. Your friends will be happy just to be included in your celebrations and will understand you are working within a budget. Anyone that kicks up a fuss about not being invited to the whole day doesn’t really deserve to be invited at all.

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