I always swore I wouldn’t have evening guests. Why would I want to treat any of my friends any differently to each other? There are many people who are important to me and I’ve always been adamant that I want to include them in my big day.
Until I did the numbers.
It’s a disappointing process to have to single out your family and your very very closest friends as day guests, but sadly most people simply don’t quite have the budget to have everyone they’d like at the whole day. That leaves two options: do you leave people out altogether? Or do you invite them as evening guests?
If the thought of having to cut people from the guest list altogether is too upsetting, then you face a dilemma as to how to approach the evening guest question.
I’ve been to weddings where I’ve been invited just to the evening party. Equally, I’ve heard of weddings where guests have been invited to the ceremony and the evening reception but not the meal in between. There are two schools of thought on this and, in the interests of objectivity I’ll share them both with you (and to make it all a bit more straightforward I’ll relate this to my own wedding):
Pros of inviting guests to both the ceremony and the evening reception
The obvious benefit is that you get to have as many people at as much of the wedding as possible. For example, despite the fact that I can only really afford a meal for family and people directly involved in the wedding, that doesn’t mean that my other friends aren’t extremely important to me. I know a lot of them would be really sad not to hear us say our wedding vows and would prefer to have a bit of a break in between the ceremony and evening party than to miss out on the most important bit.
Besides, many of them will have traveled from other parts of the country to be at the day and will want to get as much from it as possible. A couple of hours’ break means that people can go, freshen up and come back looking more gorgeous than ever for the evening party.
Cons of inviting guests to both the ceremony and the evening reception
Some people will inevitably by offended. No matter how noble your intentions, it still stings on some level to have to leave the festivities and come back later when you know they’re going on without you. Also, many weddings are now taking place in one venue. For example, my ceremony, meal and evening reception are all in the same place. So rather than leaving a ceremony venue and some people going on elsewhere, there will be that awkward moment when people have to leave.
It’s also somewhat unfair to expect people to travel and pay for a hotel for your wedding when you’re not going to be feeding them a full meal. Plus they might not relish the thought of wandering around a new place while you’re having the meal.
In short, guests shouldn’t have to feel obliged to give up their whole day when they’re not involved in every part of it.
So how do you manage it?
If you do decide (as I probably will) that you love all your buddies too much not to have them involved as much as possible, then there are a few ways to show them how important they are to you and to let them make a decision about how much of the day to attend:
1. Be honest – explain that your budget is tight and that you can only really have family and those directly involved with the wedding at the whole day. If your friends really care about you they’ll find a way to understand.
2. Give them a choice. Word the invitation as you would for an evening guest and then add at the bottom the time of the ceremony and that all are welcome to attend should they choose to. That way guests can decide for themselves if they’d like to attend the ceremony and will do so with a full understanding that there will be a break during the day.
3. Have an afternoon ceremony. Rather than expecting guests to sit around all day, make the break as short as you can, no more than two or three hours. That means that people can go off and freshen up or have some food but that boredom won’t set in.
4. Create a list of local attractions and restaurants. Make sure that evening guests can find something to do in the break, and that it’s all affordable and convenient.
5. Introduce people you think will get along. If someone has come to the ceremony and evening reception but doesn’t know anyone, pair them up with people you think they’ll like. Then they might well make some new friends before the evening.
6. Make the evening special. Perhaps save the majority of the speeches, the cutting of the cake and the first dance until the evening party. That way nobody misses out on too many of the truly special moments.
7. Be consistent. Seriously only invite those who must be invited to the meal. Definitely don’t pick and choose between groups of friends and set clear and understandable reasons for why some are invited and some aren’t. For example, only invite family and the wedding party to the meal.
8. Have a photo booth set up for the evening. That way people won’t miss out on being in photos even if they missed the meal, as well as breaking the ice.
9. Make sure you’re not all sozzled by the time the evening guests come back. That will leave them feeling awkward and give them a lot of catching up to do. Try to keep a respectable lid on the drinking until everyone’s there to enjoy themselves.
10. Spend proper time with your evening guests. If they made the special effort to come to your ceremony AND your party without coming to the meal, they must really care about you, so show them how grateful you are.
The whole question of who to invite and how is a difficult one, and it’s all about personal choice, but hopefully this post has offered you some guidance – good luck!