One Wedding, Two Celebrations

by admin on December 26, 2012

I recently became engaged to a wonderful man, and we have just begun planning for the (affordable) wedding of our dreams. As far as I am aware, no faux pas have been committed as of yet, but in an effort to avoid one in the near future, I’m looking for an answer to my dilemma.

I grew up in a state about 9 hours from where I live now. Most of my extended family still lives there, but as we are a close family, I would love nothing more than to celebrate my wedding with them. I also have a few close friends who fall into this category. Unfortunately, due to the distance, finances, time constraints, and other issues, I am very aware that most of these people who are important to me will be unable to attend the wedding (which will be held near where I and my fiance live).

My mother suggested that after we have the ceremony here, we could make a trip there and host a celebration for those who I wanted at the ceremony but were unable to attend because of the distance. When I mentioned this idea to my fiance, his mother was adamant that this would be selfish to the extreme, and how could I even consider such an idea?

I promise, I do NOT want this celebration for the gifts. I only want to share my special day with my whole family. So here are my questions:

1) Who’s right? Is it appropriate to host a celebration for people who are unable to attend the ceremony, or does that have “gimme pig” written all over it?

2) I will be sending them invitations even though I know they will probably be unable to attend. So should I mention the second celebration in the original invitation, or wait until they respond in the negative and let them know what we are planning then?

3) If someone is able to come to the ceremony, would it still be appropriate to invite them to the celebration (thus celebrating with them twice) or not tell them about the second celebration (and risk “If I’d known you were planning that, I could have waited a few extra weeks to celebrate”)?

Please help! I don’t relish the thought of being cast into E-Hell!!   1221-12

The issue of appearing selfish and greedy can be eliminated merely by having your Mom/parents host the reception in their hometown.   Your mother-in-law would be quite wrong were she to insist your mother had no right whatsoever to host a celebratory party in your honor.

You can further separate the expectation guests may have to bring a gift by calling this party something other than “wedding reception”.    Do not re-enact your wedding or hint that it is a do-again in any way. Host a “Meet The Newlyweds” or a “Welcome to our family, Fiance!” party.

On the issue of wedding invitations, you should never assume someone will not attend and subsequently make the decision for them by not sending an invitation.   Invite everyone you wish to be at the wedding and they will make their own decisions as to whether to travel or not.    Inserting information into the wedding invitation about another party closer to them is to actually issue TWO invitations for two entirely different events.  A wedding and reception is not going to be anything like the more informal affair your Mom could host, or at least they shouldn’t be similar.   Some guests, like me, take the witnessing of wedding vows very seriously and if I am invited to attend the wedding, I do so as a show of my support for that union.  Going to a fun party is not remotely equivalent in my opinion.

Invite every guest in your hometown to the informal party regardless of whether they attended the wedding or not.  A wedding and this party are two completely separate events.

If you have photos or even a video of your wedding, it’s OK to show these in a discrete corner for those who missed the wedding.  Your wedding dress on a sewing form or mannequin is a nice touch, too,for those guests who really enjoy seeing the bride’s gown.  When I got married, my brother was scheduled to be married six weeks afterwards.  We issued invitations to all the out of state relatives but quietly passed the word that if they could only attend one wedding, then go to my brother’s which was a larger wedding.  At a family get together several months later, we showed our wedding video to all the family that had not attended.  I don’t remember anyone giving us wedding gifts at this much more informal gathering.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

ali December 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm

One of my cousins had a very small wedding – immediate family and grandparents only where she lived and then several months later had a party in her hometown. It was hosted by her parents and held in the banquet facilities of a restaurant (it wasn’t a huge gathering) with a cocktail style feel – people were a little dressed up and the food was Hors d’oeuvre type things and there was a bar (pretty sure it was open) and there was dessert and cake but not a wedding cake. They didn’t cut the cake or have a dance or anything like that, it was just a way to meet the new husband and congratulate the newlyweds.

I actually got to have a real conversation with them , rather than the rushed affair that would have happened at a wedding reception.


Katy December 27, 2012 at 12:12 am

My family is from Oregon and my uncle married a woman from Massachusetts. Only my grandparents, parents, and aunt were able to fly back for the wedding. Later that summer my grandparents hosted a reception for my uncle and his wife. It was a really fun outdoor event that substituted for the annual family reunion. Their wedding photos were on display and there was a cake in their honor but really it was a day for the whole extended family to get together and have a good time. People did bring them presents but they would have brought presents if they had attended the actual ceremony. My aunt and uncle didn’t receive any more presents than they would have received if both families had been from the same town and there had been only one wedding and reception. I don’t think having two receptions is being a gimme pig and seems to be quite common when a couple is from two different regions. My husband’s best friend from high school is getting married in Georgia but will have a second reception here in Oregon.


Lizza December 27, 2012 at 12:23 am

My boyfriend’s brother got married, and it was a very small ceremony – a trip to the courthouse with about five people in the winter, in WI. In the summer, they rented out a campground and had a party. Neither of the couple is very outgoing or likes to be the center of attention, so while we all knew it was a party celebrating their marriage, they didn’t frame it that way themselves, if that makes sense.


marion December 27, 2012 at 12:55 am

I’m from City/State A, my husband is from Small Town/State B, and we currently live in City/State C (all different combos some distance away from one another). Before we got married in City/State C, each set of our parents threw a party for us in their respective hometowns. There was no expectation of gifts (in fact, in one case the hosts put “No Gifts” on the invitation, which I know is a violation of etiquette, but typically not one that people mind). Some of the people invited to each of these get-togethers were not themselves invited to the wedding — but, since these were not gift-giving events, no one seemed to mind that. We had a fabulous time at each party and each got to meet some people who were dear to our spouse-to-be, but who were not likely to make the trek to City/State C for the wedding. I’m a big fan of these types of parties, with all of the caveats that the Admin mentioned. The engaged couple gets to interact with people they might otherwise not see, and people who would find it difficult to travel to a wedding still get to feel welcome and included.


Carol December 27, 2012 at 6:04 am

I like the idea of having your mother host an informal gathering for the people in your home town to meet your new husband. As the Admin said, don’t call it a ‘reception’, and you should stay clear of ‘EHell’.

My sister got married in Las Vegas, and while she assumed at first most of our extended family (in the Philadelphia region) wouldn’t be able to attend, it was quickly relayed to my mother that actually several of our family members would LOVE the excuse to travel to Vegas, so she issued the invites to everyone she wanted to celebrate with, and quite a few of our family came.

My point being; plan your wedding, and invite the people you would like to attend. If they can come, they will come, because they care for you and want to share your day. You might be surprised.


Lo December 27, 2012 at 7:36 am

My family has done this too, my cousin was married out of state so there was a seperate celebration which I was glad for because I could not afford to attend their actual wedding.

His mother hosted the celebration and it was a very informal gathering at their large home. People did bring gifts but they were not expected. The gifts were from those who had not attended the wedding but were family and wanted to give the couple something. I for one was grateful to be able to give them their gift at this party to save having to send in the mail. The party was a huge success.

I see no reason this shouldn’t be done for those who know that many won’t be able to attend the wedding but want to celebrate the couple.


Decimus December 27, 2012 at 10:19 am

This is useful to me. My fiancee and I are from different states and are planning a small wedding in Intermediate City located about halfway between – roughly 7-10 hours drive for each of our families. We want to keep things small but our “compromise” was that each of our parents could host a reception-type party in their hometown for the rest of the family and we’d attend. That way we can keep the actual wedding and reception in the 20-30 guest range instead of the 100-150 guest range!


GroceryGirl December 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

My uncle and aunt are a pilot and flight attendant, respectively. When they married they had a tiny, tiny ceremony with only family and then had three parties in different hub states where their friends and coworkers lived. It was very relaxed and informal (she didn’t even wear a wedding dress) and worked out well for them.


Shoegal December 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

A friend of mine had a nephew who married in Hong Kong and he was born and raised in Indianapolis, IN- so needless to say practically no one from the United States were able to attend the ceremony including his mother who was dealing with serious health issues at the time. His mom decided to host a dinner reception in their honor in his hometown a coupld of months following their wedding. Relatives of his wife actually flew in from Hong Kong to attend. There is nothing wrong with having a seperate gathering to celebrate – but I agree – it is better to have someone else host this for you than have it yourself – and you should definitely invite everyone to both affairs.


Library Diva December 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

I am glad to read about this. My fiance’s mother is planning to host something similar for us over the summer. He has an extremely large family — his mother is one of SIXTEEN children, most of whom are married, with children, and even grandchildren now. That’s just his mother’s side. We could not come up with any type of wedding we could pull off that could accommodate all of those people, and many of them can’t afford to make the trip anyway. I liked admin’s idea about displaying the wedding dress. I’m so over-the-moon happy with the one that I bought that I would be wearing it everywhere if I could, and I definitely want to show it off again!


Michele December 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I did exactly that when I got married many years ago. I had relocated to a city about 4 hours from my hometown six years earlier and had established a new church home, very good friends, and was engaged to my fiance who was also from the city. We were paying for our own wedding and it was much easier to plan it where we lived, worked and had established our lives.
However, I still had many relatives that were elderly as well as friends of my parents who couldn’t make the 4 hour trip for our wedding. My mom hosted an informal open house at her house about three weeks after the wedding. We slipped a postcard invitation in the wedding invitation indicating that there was a second option and also invited my in-laws so that they could meet some of the family that could not make the wedding. A great time was had by all.


Dawn December 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm

A Welcome to the Family party sounds like a great idea, especially if family and friends who couldn’t attend the wedding havent met the groom. I’ve been to a few family weddings where the wedding was the first time I’d met the bride/groom.


2browneyes4 December 27, 2012 at 2:01 pm

My cousin’s husband had the same dilemma when they got married. Instead of hosting a post-wedding celebration, his parents hosted a very large “engagement party” that gave his friends and family that would not be able to make the long and expensive trip to the wedding the opportunity to meet the bride in a celebratory setting. They received many gifts although it definitely was not their intent.


Ellen December 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm

I enjoy reading vintage etiquette books and one thing I remember from a 50’s manual – possibly Emily Post? was that any semiformal or formal party was referred to as a “reception”. So, for example, you might have a reception for a visiting dignitary, or for a graduating class, etc. A wedding reception was only one specific type of reception.
Alas, these days you are better off staying away from the word altogether.

I think admins’ suggestion of displaying gown is a lovely touch.


Library Diva December 31, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I had read that this is how the concept of a “honeymoon” got started: you were supposed to be spending the time visiting your out-of-town family and getting to know one another better (“adjusting sexually” is how the book I read phrased it, I believe).


Angel December 27, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a second celebration just make sure it’s 1. informal and 2. you don’t call it a wedding reception. I like Michele’s idea of enclosing a card with the regular wedding invite giving the second option, so out of towners can make the decision on their own of what to do. If they want to choose just one option or attend both, they can. Especially if some of the guests are coming from more than 2 hours drive away. I think most of the guests will appreciate it. The ones that don’t–oh well. Can’t please everyone no matter how hard you might try!


White Lotus December 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

It is perfectly fine to have celebratory parties at various locations following an elopement (or very distant ceremony). There is even a name for this kind of party, and I think it actually is “reception” — which is a kind of party, not limited to weddings — as in “cocktail reception” or “cocktail buffet” or “dance,” or “brunch,” or whatever kind if party it is. I think the invitations — we didn’t send them, our respective parents did — were worded “in honor of White Lotus and Professor Plum” and did not mention we had recently married, though of course everyone knew, but that was a long time ago. Why not? In fact, it is very traditional to do this! We married overseas and had receptions in both my husband’s and my home towns. Gifts are not expected at these kind of parties. Ours were great fun.


GleanerGirl December 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm

Another option, to which even your mother-in-law cannot object, is to go visit your parents for a week, and spend that time visiting individually with all the people who could not make it to your wedding reception. Yes, it will take a lot longer than just having one party, and it’s a hassle, but it is also gracious, and the people will know you care about THEM, and not their gifts.

Plus, think of all you’d save by not throwing another big bash.


Monkeys mommy December 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

I am from the Southeastern US, and DH is from the west coast. We had our wedding out there, and had a seperate reception like party in my hometown when we returned. We avoided confusion by actually listing both events on the initial invite , wording it in such a way that everyone knew there was an alternate event they were welcome to attend instead, so no one got invited twice to seperate events. It worked well for us.


Nutraxfornerves December 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I have no problem with a formal reception, provided it is not called a “wedding reception” and it doesn’t look like one.

It’s a “reception in honor of John and Jane Newlywed” (or however they prefer to be addressed.)

The couple is not decked out in wedding clothes. There is no tiered cake with a bride & groom topper. The decorations don’t include cupids and doves. Guests don’t get favors printed with “John and Jane. Happiness Forever.” And so on.

Since they ARE newlyweds, displaying the dress or pictures would be fine.

I’d suggest not sending formal invitations, no matter how traditionally correct that was in Mrs. Post’s day. People would probably confuse them with wedding reception invitations. Miss Manners, however, suggests

In honour of
John and Jane Newlywed,
Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smith
Request your presence
at 8:00

I think that would confuse most people who are used to formal invitations only for weddings.


whatever December 31, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I’m confused about needing a different host for the extra reception. Traditionally, don’t the bride’s parents officially host the wedding? For tradition’s sake, we listed my parents as the hosts on the invitation, even though my husband paid for the vast majority of the wedding and handled most of the planning. If so, under your advice here, the same person would indeed be hosting the wedding and the extra reception.


MonkeysMommy January 1, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Not always. My husbands parents paid for and hosted our wedding and my parents hosted the additional reception.


whatever January 2, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Emily Post’s original etiquette book specified that the bride’s parents must host. She even gives an example of how a poor bride’s sisters and mother was able to host a wedding nice enough for the groom’s rich family by decorating their humble cottage with natural flowers and foliage they picked themselves.


Tracy January 2, 2013 at 9:54 am

I agree with everything the Admin said except for the part about not mentioning the hometown reception. If you’re not going to put that info in the wedding invite, at least make sure people receive the invite to the hometown reception in the same time frame as the wedding invitation. Otherwise, hometown people who really want to celebrate with you, and don’t realize the wedding is not their only option, might regret making expensive plans. I agree with the Admin that if I want to see you wed, I’ll go to the wedding, but not letting them know about the alternate opportunity is surely just as bad as not inviting them to the wedding since you think they won’t come, isn’t it? Letting them make their own decision goes both ways.


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