How To Word Your Reception-Only Wedding Invitations?

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Just take care that your wedding reception invitations are smartly worded so that guests know which aspects of your big day they are welcome to attend.

Having separate invitations for the ceremony and reception can be a big relief for couples who don't like the spotlight or would rather their ceremony be a private affair. You can also use wedding reception invitations to follow a spur-of-the-moment elopement or destination wedding with a big bash back home. We've broken down everything you need to know about reception-only wedding invitations.


Create Multiple Guest Lists

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A bride puts a ring on a groom's finger.

When you start wedding planning, the first thing you'll want to do is create multiple guest lists for your wedding events. Chances are you might not require a rehearsal dinner for a smaller ceremony, but it might be nice to gather with parents and a few close friends the night before.

Create your ceremony guest list once you know what you're doing the night before the ceremony. It can be from just the betrothed and necessary witnesses to a mid-sized group of close friends and family members.

Lastly, make a separate guest list for your reception. Just be sure everyone invited to the ceremony is also invited to the reception.

From here, you have several options. First, you can send two wedding invitations for the ceremony and one for the reception. Or you can send one invitation for the reception and include a private message for those invited to the ceremony with necessary details and RSVP information. With events, either option is easy and economical.

How To Word Wedding Reception-Only Invitations

Guests raise their glasses at a wedding reception.

However you decide to send your invitations, you'll want to be careful with your wedding invitation wording. Be clear in specifying that guests are invited to a reception celebrating your marriage. It suggests they will not be witnessing your marriage but that you will be arriving at the reception as newlyweds. Here are a few key phrases you can include:

  • Please join us at the wedding reception for Sarah and John in celebration of their marriage
  • You are invited to a reception celebrating the wedding of Josh and Adam
  • Just married! Join the newlyweds for a celebration at noon
  • The new Mr and Mrs Smith welcome you to celebrate their marriage at their reception

You can schedule your ceremony a few hours — or even a few weeks — before the reception. Or you might even host your reception before a ceremony scheduled at a destination afterwards. In this case, you might say, "Sarah and John invite you to a wedding reception in anticipation of their coming marriage."

Even with the best phrasing, some guests may be confused. If they inquire about the ceremony, let them know that you are holding a private ceremony but are excited to celebrate with them at the reception. However, be sure to hold firm if anyone pressures you to come to the ceremony, or it might become a slippery slope of exceptions.

Lovely Wedding Reception Invitation Designs

The last piece of the puzzle is to choose the right reception invite. Most wedding invitation designs will be versatile enough to work for reception-only events. Just be sure to personalise the look and wording to focus on the reception.

Layered Florals Invitation

Layered Florals wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Shiny Penny Studio

Gorgeous hand-painted florals and greenery take centre stage on this lush invitation. The couple's names are tucked into the artwork on banners above and below an artful "and." Personalise your wording to something like this: "Celebrate the union of Emerson and Joseph in a wedding reception at Trinity Episcopal." Matching save the dates and thank you notes round out this gorgeous invitation suite.

Elegant Overlay Invitation

Elegant Overlay wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Owl and Toad

If you already eloped a few weeks back and are holding a separate reception, a gorgeous photo card can double as a wedding announcement and reception invitation. Share your favourite wedding photo from your intimate ceremony. (Of course, this can work with your engagement photos.) Personalise your wording to say, "Join us to celebrate the marriage of Amelia & Mathis in a wedding reception on September 10."

Art Deco Diamond Invitation

Art Deco Diamond wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Becky Nimoy Stationery

For a reception-only invitation, this Art Deco design screams party. Gold foil diamond artwork á la Great Gatsby pops against a black background. Plenty of stylised retro text and script in the centre holds your invitation details. Change the copy at the top to read, "Wedding Reception," and include relevant information below.

Perennial Crest Invitation

Perennial Crest wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Signature Greenvelope

Romantic watercolour blooms surround a monogrammed crest in this vintage invitation design. Raw edges and whimsical cursive text complete the shabby-chic look. Customise the text at the bottom for a reception card to read, "joyfully request your presence at a wedding reception."

Rustic Evening Invitation

Rustic Evening wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Melissa Egan Design

Complete with string lights that suggest a nighttime affair, this rustic invitation is perfect for a BBQ or barn reception. Edit the text to specify "wedding reception," You're good to go.

Dainty Dandelions Invitation

Dainty Dandelion wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Bonjour Paper

A kraft paper background is decorated with a hand-drawn botanical frame on this sweet invitation. The laid back style is perfect for a barn or garden reception. Or you can instantly transform this design for an elegant black-tie affair by selecting a pink and rose gold or black and gold foil colour scheme.

Rustic Charm Invitation

Rustic Charm wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Jessica Williams

A chalkboard background (also available in wood or kraft paper) gives this wedding reception card vintage flair. An understated monogram accents a mix of simple text and script at the top. Change "marriage celebration" to "wedding reception," and you've covered your bases.

3 Photo Charm Invitation

3 Photo Charm wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Claudia Owen

If you had an intimate elopement or town hall ceremony a few months back, there's no better way to share the snapshots than a photo collage card. This smart invitation card can house three photos from your wedding or engagement shoot. The stylised text highlights the couple's names and reception details in the centre.

Enthralled Invitation

Enthralled wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

This dramatic invitation is perfect for an evening reception. The hand-painted alcohol ink background features gold foil accents to create a luxe and stunning effect. The suite includes matching save the dates and thank you notes, ideal for the modern couple.

Create Separate Guest Lists

Creating separate guest lists lets you track which people attend both parts of your special day and the others who are only invited to the reception.

Remember that proper wedding etiquette says that you must send a wedding reception invitation to everybody who attended your ceremony. Of course, some of your ceremonial guests may skip out on the reception, but they'll appreciate the request nonetheless. 

Stand Your Ground 

After finalising your separate guest lists, be prepared to stand your ground against guests who have received reception only wedding invitations. They may ask you to make an exception by including them in the ceremonial proceedings. 

If you alter your guest list once or twice, you're more than likely to keep going and not leave many other people who are only attending the reception.

Don't be afraid to be honest if your guests ask why they received a wedding reception invitation instead of a ceremonial one. They're less likely to feel offended if you explain your reasoning, especially if it's out of control. Be sure to remind these guests that you're excited to have them during your reception.

Design Your Invitations 

Consider designing your wedding invitations with two cards.

The main card should contain reception only invite wording mailed out to everybody on both guestlists. In addition, you should include an insert with ceremonial information only for the people invited to both parts of your special day.

This design becomes especially helpful by limiting any potential confusion or hurt feelings among your guests. 

After deciding on the design of your wedding invitations, plan to send out your reception only wedding invitations as you would with the standard invitations. Plan to time your wedding invitations so your guests have enough time to pick out wedding attire and make travel accommodations if necessary. 

Schedule Your Events

Your wording for reception only wedding invitations truly depends on how you've decided to schedule the events of your ceremony and reception. 

Suppose you and your partner plan to have both events on the same day and organise your wedding reception timeline, so there's enough time in the middle. You may have some guests who only received a wedding reception invitation arrive early and realise that they were not asked to attend your ceremony. 

You don't have to worry about this potential awkwardness for ceremonies and receptions happening on different dates. In addition, this option works for brides and grooms who don't mind spending more money and extra time during the planning process.

Decide On Reception-Only Wording

wooden name tags arranged on table during wedding

Reception only invitation wording ultimately comes down to personal preference. For example, you may want to write with formal language to reflect the extravagance of your event. On the other hand, an informal writing style makes more sense if your celebration is casual.

No matter which writing style you decide to use for your reception only wedding invitations, you need to include the right information so nobody misunderstands and misses your celebration. 

Any wedding reception invitation should feature your and your partner's name along with the date and time of your event. Including the name of your chosen venue may seem like a no-brainer, but omitting the address will only cause unnecessary confusion among your guests.

In reception only you can write wedding invitations by saying how the event is being held to celebrate the marriage. Your guests will assume that you and your partner have already been married by the time they arrive at the venue, even if you haven't provided them with any specific information about when the ceremony occurred.

If your ceremony and reception are planned on different days, take this opportunity and use reception only to invite wording that clearly states when the ceremony has occurred. Your guests are less likely to be upset if you describe your ceremony as private or intimate. 

Make It Clear It's A Celebration.

Another key aspect of wording a reception-only wedding invitation is to include verbiage that denotes it's a celebration of your wedding, which insinuates that your ceremony has already occurred during this event. For example, you can say, "Please join us in celebrating our recent union at our wedding reception." Suppose your parents or families are to be included in your invitation. In that case, you can switch this too, "Together with our parents or families, we invite you to join us in celebration of our recent union," or "Mr and Mrs Joe Smith invite you to celebrate the recent union of their daughter Jane Smith to Jack Johnson at their wedding reception." This wording provides a lot of clarity.

Use The Term "Just Married"

A vintage car with a sign on the back that says 

Adding the term "just married" to your reception-only invitation clarifies that this event will not include a ceremony. Instead, try using "just married" as a clever yet informative header on the invite and then add: "Please join us to celebrate the newlyweds at a reception celebrating their union."

Try Something Clever

There are many ways to word your reception-only invitation that is clever and a play on your post-ceremony celebration. For instance, calling it a "happily-ever-after party" is one way to do this, or denoting that your event is "nothing fancy, just love" on the invite gives your guests a good clue. Another way to do this is by using the header, "oh yes, we did!" as a play on "I do." Finally, for a couple who loves to indulge in adult beverages, use the theming of "wine and brews after the I dos" for your reception-only invitation. These are more quirky and lighthearted phrases but could work if that's the vibe you're going for.

Announce An Elopement

If you eloped and want to celebrate with a more formal reception, feel free to denote that on your reception-only invitation. It provides another great header with simply the words, "we eloped!" at the top, indicating that this event won't include a formal ceremony.

Be Clear About The Term "Reception"

As long as you include the term "reception" in your invite, you should be able to convey to guests that they're coming for just a celebration rather than a full, traditional wedding. The term "invite you to a reception celebrating our/their marriage" is pretty clear, so don't get too hung up on potential confusion. Plus, you can always direct guests to your wedding website on your invitation, where you can spell things out.

This breakdown simplifies something that may seem daunting at first. Inviting your guests to your wedding reception is acceptable, and as long as you communicate it clearly, you'll be set up for success!


So, you've decided to have a reception-only wedding. It is a great option for couples who want to celebrate with friends and family in an intimate setting but don't want the hassle or expense of a full wedding. It can also be a good choice for couples who are already married and want to throw a party! But now comes the tricky part – how do you word your invitations? We've got some tips to help ensure everyone knows the occasion without giving away too much information.

You have options if you want to send an invitation to just your reception. For example, you can send a traditional wedding invitation and adjust the wording to clarify that your ceremony is private. Or, you can send an invitation designed especially for reception-only celebrations. Both have options to include an rsvp card.

If your reception is at a different venue, you must include a small enclosure with your reception address and start time (also called a reception card). In addition, the line "reception to follow" can optionally be added to the bottom of the invitation for stylistic purposes.

While certain situations make it acceptable to invite some guests to the ceremony and reception and others to just the reception alone, you should never do the opposite. Inviting someone to your ceremony and not the reception would most likely hurt their feelings, so you shouldn't even consider it.

In this case, a natural question comes up: can you invite people only to your wedding reception and not the ceremony? The answer is, "yes, you absolutely can!".

The most common option for casual invites is to list first names on the inner envelope, or you could even include nicknames if you want to bring some personality into it.

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