Dear ESB: Can I skip my own reception?

Categories   Wedding Advice

Good Thursday morning to you, Cakelets! We have East Side Bride here today answering the question… do you HAVE to stick to the expected format for your wedding?


Is it weird to not want a reception?
I want a big and fun rehearsal dinner,
a beautiful ceremony, and then to just run out the door and into the car!
Maybe a party after the honeymoon, i don’t know.


1. The reception is not just for you. It’s for all the people who set aside vacation days, booked expensive plane tickets + hotel rooms, drove and flew and ferried and put on their finest finery in order to see you get married. THEY WANT TO CELEBRATE WITH YOU.

b. You might change your mind after that beautiful ceremony. It’s pretty fun to hang out with everyone and go, “Hey, we did this thing!”

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Judy on Nov 3, 2011

you could at least have some leaving drinks and snacks immediately after the ceremony before you get whisked away? you don't necessarily have to do it in the traditional order, have afternoon cakes and tea, then the ceremony and then go. But don't expect people to come from afar for a 30 min ceremony and wave you goodbye! do you really just want to elope, if so - do that. Then have a celebratory dinner when you get back, that's whay my uncle did.

anna and the ring on Nov 3, 2011

Yes. Unless you are full of issues with relatives the reception feels like a big ball of love and laughter. The hours after the ceremony when shared with your nearest and dearest will be some of the most precious. I promise. The stress has gone and you can just enjoy yourself.

HiLLjO on Nov 3, 2011

Don't think of it as something you "have to do." Think of your guests. All they have thought of on the way to the wedding has been you. THE Best thing about our wedding besides doing what we went there to do, was seeing all our favorite people in one place. More than the flowers I didn't get to see until the day of, more than the photos we had to wait 5 weeks to see, waiting to see a room full of people where your tattooed best man is rubbing elbows with Korean Vet Grandpa is just the bee's knees. Trust.

Michelle on Nov 3, 2011

My cousin had a huge rehearsal dinner that was more a reception. Everyone danced, gave speeches, gifts, etc. and we all had lobster. The ceremony was at 10 in the morning and then there was a brunch afterwards. It was fun except for one complaint - everyone was all dolled up - why didn't they just wear the dresses/suits for the rehearsal which was more fun? I can totally understand your point but I think with traditional family members and friends, an old school after-the-ceremony reception is the way to go.

HalfPint on Nov 3, 2011

Plus, photos. Fun photos.

Kayla on Nov 3, 2011

I agree with ESB, a reception is designed to let you celebrate with all the people you invited to the wedding and actually speak to them to thank them for coming. They want to celebrate with you! I have a feeling that maybe you want to celebrate with them too, just not in a traditional reception kind of way. So don't do it. Decide how you would like to greet everyone and talk to everyone and tell them thank you. Maybe it's just cake and punch in the Church's Reception Hall or in a tent next to the ceremony space and that's it, or maybe you have a nice long yichud and do a reception at a restaurant a little later in the afternoon/evening. It doesn't have to be an all night thing, you can have whatever kind of reception you want. If you really just don't want to have any reception at all, I would rethink your guest list. If everyone you want to party with is invited to the rehearsal dinner, then maybe what you really want is a smaller family/close friends kind of thing?

Jessica on Nov 3, 2011

or you could have it in the reverse order. have a party and then at the end have the ceremony and then run off into the night newly married.

Betsy on Nov 3, 2011

I second the idea of a yichud. (Although, not being Jewish, we just called this our "time after the ceremony before we have to see everyone again.") It doesn't have to be long, but just a few minutes alone with your new spouse will be so so so precious to you, I promise. You'll get the privacy it sounds like you're craving, and then... you can go celebrate! You're going to be on this amazing high, and the reception, in whatever shape it takes, will likely feel like the beautiful warm afterglow of this amazing thing you just did. Wedding planning might be stressful, thinking about reception logistics might be stressful... but truly, there's a HUGE chance that you'll have a blast and forget all that stress the day of.

Milan on Nov 4, 2011

I really wanted a sunset ceremony for our wedding, do we came up with an inverted schedule where guests arrived at 4, had cocktails and appetizers on the deck and my husband and i got to mingle with everyone. Then served an outdoor dinner at 5-6. After the plates were cleared we transitioned into the ceremony when the light was perfect at dusk, and people sat at their dinner seats. Very casual, but fun and really built up the anticipation. If you wanted to take off right after that, guests will be satisfied with food and drink and love AND you got to spend time with them, but we stayed and danced the night away. If you do it, let us know how it works out!

Helene on Nov 4, 2011

When my mum and dad got married (40 years ago in the UK) they left at about 6:30pm. My dad is French and thinks that that is completely normal! Although when I get married I wouldn't be able to drag my fiancé off the dancefloor.... Although it's great to have all your favourite people with you the day is about you and your husband/wife. You are the only two people that matter and if you want to share it completely with them then I don't see why you can't. I think it's pretty romantic actually.

maria on Nov 4, 2011

here. here, ESB! good advice. i recently traveled over 3,000 miles for a friend's wedding and because they left at 10 p.m. (the wedding started at 4:30 p.m.) i only got to spend a few minutes with her, allowing for all the other guests she had to greet and spend time with. if it weren't for all the other awesome friend's i got to see i'd have been very disappointed. don't leave your reception! out of respect for your guests who traveled, please stay and dance and laugh with us. i spent a bucket-load on getting out there and for the hotel and stuff and i would have been mad if they left any earlier. you have the rest of your life to be alone together. tonight: hang with your guests!

PNW bride on Nov 6, 2011

It would be unusual (bordering on rude) to invite a large number of people from all over to attend only a half hour ceremony. Guests expect to be hosted and isn't it rude -- no matter where you are from -- to not invite them in for some drinks and food? I think it would be fine to have a kick-butt rehearsal dinner with a larger number of people, followed by a small ceremony with a handful of your nearest and dearest who had attended the rehearsal dinner the night before.

Rachael on Nov 6, 2011

I think there are other options. If you have a really small ceremony with only close family and friends, or the people who were at the rehearsal dinner the night before, you could treat it more like an elopement. I've definitely heard of people having receptions after the honeymoon when they get eloped or have tiny ceremonies. And if a big, traditional dance party reception isn't your thing, there are tons of other options! Some people just have cocktail parties, others have cookouts...while you should definitely have something for all those people to do, it doesn't have to be what you seem to be dreading. (If you want to do something different, Offbeat Bride has plenty of fun alternatives.)

Kelly Cummings on Nov 9, 2011

I don't think you should take off immediately after the ceremony but I do think it's okay to make the rehearsal dinner more of the party. It's a good idea to give your guests a heads up about it though, maybe on a wedding website so that the younger guests who would stick around to dance after the RD would know. I've photographed a wedding where the rehearsal dinner had an "after-party" after dinner, they had a band and everyone danced into the night, and then they had a 11am ceremony and the reception ended by 3pm or so. All of their friends knew about it and it was really fun. If your venue doesn't lend itself well to dancing or if you prefer the late night alcohol induced crazy dancing to mid morning/early afternoon dancing (which can be pretty pitiful, unfortunately) it makes sense to have the party the night before for an earlier wedding. Just be clear on the invitations and to your guests! Also, as some other commenters have said, if you want to elope maybe look into that option. Or having a tiny ceremony with any family members who would be hurt to be left out, and the party after the honeymoon. My husband and I eloped to San Francisco (but all of our families knew and were okay with that) and we had a blessing and reception later. I didn't have to leave the next day for a honeymoon and we just stayed on the dancefloor all night, it was awesome (for us). We hung out with out of town guests the night before since we knew we'd want to dance during the reception. I loved it.

promstreet on Jul 14, 2012

I gave her a description of each of them, along with the dress each of the girls picked out for the wedding and she’s designing a set to match each dress AND personality!

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