How do we let our guests know this isn’t a typical reception?

August 30, 2016

Dear PB Pro,

My fiancé and I don’t want a full-on wedding reception. Not only could we not afford it, it’s just not our style. We would, however, like to have some sort of more casual party following the ceremony. How do we let guests know that this won’t be your typical reception with a sit-down dinner, DJ, etc.?

–- Keeping it casual

Dear Keeping it Casual,

The best way to alert your guests as to the formality (or lack-thereof) of your wedding is at the first impression: The save-the-dates and invitations. The look and language you use on your invites clues your guests into just how fancy or carefree they can expect your wedding to be. Start with the overall visual: Steer clear of that gilded, engraved look popular among traditional affairs. Instead, opt for more inventive color combinations that evoke a fun, rather than fancy, feel.

I love post cards for casual save-the-dates; a post card tells guests that the bride and groom aren’t taking tradition too seriously. Then there’s the language used in your invites: Don’t be stuffy! Classic invitations include phrases like “request the honor of your presence,” but a casual wedding warrants more talky phrasing, speaking in the couple’s own voice. So if you’d like to say you’re “getting hitched,” go for it!

Your guests will also make assumptions on the formality of your wedding based on the location you choose. Pick a venue that’s more casual or offbeat, like a local park, brewery, downtown restaurant, or even your own backyard. To indicate that a sit-down dinner will not be served, include a line in your invitations like “Cocktail reception to follow the ceremony” or “Cake and punch to follow the ceremony.”

You can also expand on this information on your wedding website — a must in today’s digital world. Guests will be turning to your site for answers and links to your gift registry, no matter how informal the affair. It’s also a great opportunity to impress upon people that the dress code is casual and maybe even offer ideas for local spots to grab a bite, since a full meal won’t be served at your reception.

Just remember that however informal your wedding may be, the key is to remain gracious. There’s no rule saying you have to serve a three-course meal to your guests, but find your own way to show how much you appreciate your friends and family being present on your special day. This might be a modest party favor, a speech you give, or however else you uniquely show appreciation.

— The PB Pro

Have a question for our PB PRO? Email and watch future newsletters for your answer. View our website for more questions and answers.

Categorized in: