The Second Tier Guests

by admin on August 3, 2010

I just went to a tacky wedding reception, and I hope the bride and groom won’t recognize themselves here and come after me!

On it’s own, the reception was fine. What made it tacky was that the couple had a slideshow of their “small, family wedding ceremony” playing at the reception. Except it wasn’t a “small, family wedding ceremony.” There were a ton of people there (including non-relatives), three bridesmaids and three groomsmen, and there was a full, sit-down-dinner reception complete with food, alcohol and cake! It was clear the reception I (and the other guests there) had been invited to was some sort of “second-tier friends” reception, for people who weren’t good enough to witness the happy couple get married, but still good enough to bring presents. And it’s not like the wedding and first reception were held months earlier in a different location. They were the day before, in the same city, and the couple could easily have gotten married at the location they’d rented out for the second reception. They also could actually have had a small wedding where and when they did, and had only one reception for everyone the next day.

Generally, the bride and groom are sweet, welcoming, kind people, so I’m not really sure what happened here. It’s entirely possible they really are clueless enough to think their guests at the second reception wouldn’t be insulted by a slideshow of the wedding and reception they weren’t good enough to be invited to. But it certainly made me feel like we’ve grown apart to the point where I can no longer consider them the good friends they once were. 0729-10

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Gloria Shiner August 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hope that they do recognize themselves! If they are truly that clueless, then they need a wake-up call. If not, then they deserve to be embarassed.


LovleAnjel August 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

The only defense I can think of is that their parents would only pay for x many people, and the secondary reception they paid for themselves. Although even that seems a little insulting.


Typo Tat August 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm

I think it’s important to remember that the whole wedding planning experience can be very stressful for young couples, and so they don’t always consider everything. I’m sure this couple didn’t mean to insult their friends, and had the best intentions in mind.

Was it tacky? Hell yeah. But is a one-time misstep really worth the loss of a friendship?


Mandy August 3, 2010 at 1:11 pm

That is a bit odd… I do find it funny that the writer says “I hope they don’t come after me!” in the first sentence and by the end they are saying, “I can no longer consider them the good friends they once were.” If they’re no longer your friends, who cares if they see you posting about their tackiness?


Daisy August 3, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Oh My. Had you but known, you could have accompanied an inexpensive but practical gift (perhaps an etiquette book) with a video of something expensive from their registry.


Chocobo! August 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm

This is super weird and I’m not sure I understand what’s going on. Surely it would be *more* of an extra expense to rent the space twice (or two spaces once) on different days for people than to just add on the “B-list” to the original venue?

I’ve definitely heard of “at-home” informal receptions for people hometown folk who couldn’t make it to a destination or cross-country wedding. Those don’t really bother me as the hometown folk generally are invited to the original wedding, the reception is informal, and gifts are not expected. In that case, a slideshow of the original wedding would be welcome, I think.

But this story is just weird, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what the bride and groom were thinking, to have a second reception the same weekend for people who were never invited to the “first” wedding.


Jayne August 3, 2010 at 2:23 pm

These hideous A & B receptions are getting more and more popular. And what is so sleazy is that they are held in a manner in which the B-guests don’t know they are B-listed in advance, just so the happy couple can rake in more gifts. Then when they get there…..surprise! The reception was earlier for the more important guests – just give me your present, that’s all I want anyway. It also allows the greedy couple to invite more guests to their various showers and pre-wedding events, thus even more gifting. It is a total con job.

It would be one thing if the happy couple were forthright and said due to finances, location or whatever, we can’t invite you to our A-list reception, but we are holding an inexpensive B-list get-together if you would still like to celebrate our marriage. However, if they did that, they would naturally receive fewer and less expensive gifts.


Livvy August 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm

More Bridezillism. “I want the wedding here, but it’s not big enough for all the people I want to invite….or…I can’t afford to have everyone at venue #1…. but I can’t consider a different venue!! This is about what I want! Waaaa!”


mommaknowsbest August 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm

This is true tackiness at its best. I have never understood inviting some people to the wedding, others to the reception, some to both, or “uninviting” others by just sending them announcement cards (that then hold several cards for places they are registered at, thereby inviting gifts).


Scarlet August 3, 2010 at 2:53 pm

I can understand the OPs sore feelings to a small extent, but at the same time, don’t really see any fault in what the newlyweds did. It appears that they wanted to involve as many as they could, in however many ways, in the celebration of their wedding. The fact that it was the next day, I think, is even more eveidence that is was a genuine attempt to include the rest… if this “second” reception were held months later and the slideshow viewed then I think THAT would be insulting. It’s hard to know the circumstances that fueled this couple’s actions, but being invited to a reception, no matter first or second, doesn’t obligate you to give a gift, so I don’t really take it as a grab… also, OP doesn’t say what kind of reception she had attended… was their food and dancing etc? Maybe the church only held so many people… I could go on. My point is that without more information, this doesn’t appear to be so bad to me.


Lisa August 3, 2010 at 3:11 pm

I’m confused…. so what exactly was served at this reception that made it different from the other reception?

And it doesn’t cost anything to invite people to a ceremony, so there has to be some reason other than finances that made a second reception for those who did not attend the ceremony necessary.


Rumi August 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I’m with Scarlet. It doesn’t seem unreasonable or insulting to me. Also, in some cultures, the bride’s side throws one reception party while the groom’s side throws another reception party on another day.


RP August 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm


I’m with the OP: I really don’t get this at all. It sounds like the people at this second reception were OK with not being invited to the wedding because they thought it was a very small ceremony with just family. But to have two receptions and to show the first one to the people at the second is just…bizarre. Why not invite everyone to the first reception instead of having two? Why tell all these people that the ceremony was only for family and then show proof to the contrary?


Enna August 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm

It’s odd. Could be cheeky way to get more gifts or showing off hard to tell. Normally people choose a venue they like which can contain all the guests.


Jillybean August 3, 2010 at 4:01 pm

@ Daisy – that’s funny!

@ Scarlet – you are correct that being invited to a reception does not obligate you to bring a gift (neither does being invited to the wedding for that matter), though most people assume if they are only invited to the reception it’s because a small ceremony is being privately held, and they bring a gift to celebrate the occasion anyway. I think if people realized they were being invited to watch a movie of the large scale event that they weren’t invited to, they might join the celebration, but I don’t know many who wouldn’t be offended.


QueenofAllThings August 3, 2010 at 4:13 pm

There’s no excuse for having two receptions one day apart. Either invite everyone to one reception, or don’t – but handling it this way just results in hurt feelings. I don’t understand why anyone would do it this way – as someone else pointed out, it’s MORE expensive to have the second venue/party, never mind the time and effort to put together a media display of something that happened just the day before.

Certainly I’ve seen cocktail parties in honor of the bride and groom, usually in the groom’s hometown (when was the wedding was in the bride’s hometown), but that’s more of a “meet our new family member” sort of thing – no band, no dinner, and no gifts expected.


SHOEGAL August 3, 2010 at 4:32 pm

I’m finding this really weird also. The first reception sounded as if was enormous – not a “small, family event” – on the same weekend? And was anybody from the 1st reception present at the 2nd? Were the parents there? If it was really possible to fit the 2 groups in the first venue then I have to conclude that the accomodations of the first venue were more costly than those at the 2nd – and the bride and groom, family etc (whoever paid) could not afford to host both groups of people at the 1st venue – so limited the guest list to the number they could pay for. The 2nd reception – which again, I can only assume was a cheaper venue all around – was to hold the people who didn’t make the first cut but who they still wanted to celebrate with. It is possible that this didn’t sound like a major breach of etiquette to them – they wanted to still provide a nice reception for the 2nd group of guests – and to celebrate with them – just couldn’t afford it at their venue of choice – so they split it up. Perhaps also – they really didn’t want the gifts – just wanted a nice celebration with friends. Unfortunately, this doesn’t appear the same way to the guest. Say I’m the groom’s Aunt Snooky and considered myself a valued & close relative but I realized I didn’t make the first cut??? I’d be crushed. It is just when I was seated at the last table at my cousin’s wedding. I was his first cousin – we grew up together – but I sat with the photographer and a co worker of the bride – I was very upset. Is it possible that due to an unfortunate seating arrangement and the brides insistence that her relatives come first – that it was the only possible place to seat me? Maybe we are all just too sensitive. I can make excuses for them but in the end – 2 receptions was a bad idea.


Lady Silver August 3, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Could this have been a religious issue? I have heard that Mormons in particular are not allowed to let Non-Mormons into their churches (temples?)- if it were something like this, then it’s possible that this was the best the couple could do under the circumstances. Otherwise, they sound thoughtless.


Celeste August 3, 2010 at 5:15 pm

This actually has me thinking about my own wedding later in the month. We are having a very small immediate(parents, siblings and grandparents) family only ceremony at a river and a larger everyone invited reception after. The invitations made this all clear and so far everyone seems to understand etc…We were also planing on taping the ceremony to show at the reception…is this rude? I have mentioned it to some family members only going to the reception and they really liked the idea and felt more a part of things knowing they will still get to watch the ceremony.


Sheena August 3, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Having day guests and evening guests is very common in the UK.

Sometimes you want people to share your day with you but you don’t have the funds to have everyone there for the meal in the day (which is what bumps up the cost), so they are invited to the evening.


Harry August 3, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Hey … I have an idea … let’s have two wedding receptions. Twice as much money and gifts.

Sorry, these people are not your friends. I’ve never heard of anything so stupid in my life.

Is it worth the loss of a friendship? Sure would be to me. How insulting.


Tina August 3, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I feel like there’s more to this story.


kero August 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Since they were your good friends, I suggest to talk to them about what happened instead of dropping them out of your lives?? Honestly, I never heard of receptions beind held twice so I don’t know why they would do it.


evely28 August 3, 2010 at 7:54 pm

…..there was a full, sit-down-dinner reception complete with food, alcohol and cake…

Oh, the tackiness of showing your B guests what you did for your A guests that points to a wide disparity in the level of hospitality.


Shalamar August 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm

That reminds me of when a friend of a friend got married in Cuba. Due to the expense of making such a trip, only a few people attended the ceremony. Those people stayed in Cuba with the bride and groom for about a week afterwards and had a helluva good time. Once back home, they had a second ceremony and reception (from what I heard, the bride’s mother didn’t consider her to be truly married in the eyes of God until she got married on home soil). Fine, except that a large part of the second reception involved a big slideshow of the wonderful time the Cuba folks had. I don’t know about you, but seeing pictures from other people’s vacations bores me to tears, and this to me just seemed to rub salt in the wound. “See this? See how much fun we had in Cuba? Too bad you couldn’t afford to go!”


gramma dishes August 3, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Celeste ~~ Your situation is quite different from the one described in the OP. In your case, you really ARE having a tiny private wedding involving only your immediate families. Of course people at your reception would love to see the pictures or movies of the actual event.

That’s very different from watching movies of an event to which YOU were not invited, but many many other people clearly were and you hadn’t realized beforehand that you were not even on the A list until that moment. Watching the movies of other apparently better liked or “closer” people enjoying being at the wedding and at the bigger reception simply makes the B list guests feel second class.


Mimi_cat August 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm


I think people these days feel that they HAVE to include everyone they know, or anyone who might possibly have heard about their wedding. I’ve seen brides post on wedding board asking whether or not they should invite co-workers to whom they are not particularly close, only to be told “I’m sure they would be honored to be part of your special day!” Sorry, but a wedding invitation isn’t always the honor you think it is.


Izzlebun August 3, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I agree that the succession of receptions is a bit tacky. From my own experience, I would hope that the bride and groom had a very good reason to do what they did–not just a shakedown for gifts. Having a non traditional ceremony, I have my own story to add–I was a little surprised at some of the indignance expressed at my wedding.

Background: The Husband and I are both atheists. As such, we didn’t want a traditional ceremony with a traditional officiant. We’re both writers and artists. As such, we wanted to create our own unique, personal ceremony. Also, we decided to get the legal stuff taken care of before hand so we wouldn’t have to worry about having a certified officiant the big day of our wedding (I’ve heard of so many horror stories of people failing to show, or deciding to insert their own religious or political slant, etc., etc).

About a week before our wedding, DH and I headed to city hall with a small party of our parents and siblings. We signed the papers and were legally married by a judge, then my mom hosted a small celebratory dinner that a handful of our closest friends attended. Maybe 10 people in all? I regarded this as a step towards the emotional bond of getting married, not really the whole thing. As in, we were getting the license, but weren’t reaaaaaally married yet.

A week later we had a huge celebration with both sides of the extended family, and all of our friends. We exchanged rings, exchanged our written vows in front of everyone dear to us, and had dinner, dancing, cake, toasts, celebration with loved ones. Even though we were celebrating our commitment to each other, I guess the word got out that we had signed our lisence a week before. I was surprised that a few relatives came up to voice their shock that they weren’t really attending a wedding at all. (!)


admin August 4, 2010 at 5:45 am

Sorry Isslebun, you were legally married the week prior to the second wedding. I think it is quite understandable why some relatives were offended at being invited to what they thought was the real wedding but was really a second wedding.


PrincessSimmi August 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm

If you can’t afford the wedding, don’t have one, wait until you can, or have a smaller wedding. Don’t alienate half your friends, regardless of the reasoning. Gah!


Kathryn August 4, 2010 at 4:29 am

Like Celeste, this has raised a question about my own reception :/

We’re having a morning wedding, followed by lunch for bridal party and family (and some family friends – that are not MY friends or FH’s, but those whom our parents are particularly close to), followed by afternoon tea for everyone: family plus all OUR friends. They are at the same location, on the same day and we are working on developing good transitions and communication with all our guests. The speeches and cake will be given at the afternoon tea portion of the day. We are doing this to keep costs down, as well as avoiding the need to cut people off our guest list due to aforementioned costs.

The people coming to the afternoon tea are of my generation (early 20s) and they are unlikely to be offended at not being invited to the lunch. Rather, we would love to celebrate with them and include them, without costs going through the roof.

Any red flags??


Ponytail August 4, 2010 at 5:13 am

Sheena, this isn’t the same thing as your description. If it were the case, then people from the first reception would be at the second. UK weddings, in my experience, seem to ‘pick up’ extra guests along the way. You have the wedding ceremony, a sit-down meal and then a disco/party. There’ll be more people at the evening event, true, but it wouldn’t be an event JUST for those who didn’t attend the ceremony/meal.
Curiously enough, it’s the opposite in my mum’s home country – there are TONS of people at the wedding ceremony in the church and then only an invited selection for the meal. Presumably, because the church is a public place and it doesn’t cost anything to invite people to the ceremony.


Chocobo! August 4, 2010 at 8:08 am

I have to disagree with admin re: Izzlebum. Perhaps she should have told people ahead of time that they were signing paperwork a week before, yes. Some people think that government status is what makes marriage “real”, and may be offended because they weren’t present for that. Knowing beforehand might have prevented the wedding-day offendees (where do they get off talking to someone that way on their wedding day, anyway? Save it for later).

But for me, it is the ceremony is the important part of marriage — not the reception, and certainly not legal categorization. If I never obtained legal marriage with the federal government, but still said my vows at my church (or for Izzlebum, with her officiant), I would still consider myself married. As a guest, I would consider it more important to be there for the ceremony than paper signing. I definitely agree with her there, but that is a personal opinion, I suppose.


m August 4, 2010 at 8:10 am

in certain cultures, two receptions are standard. Indian weddings consist of the reception thrown by the bride/her parents the first day, immediately followed the next day by the groom/his parents. There is something missing from this story.


OP August 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

OP here, for some clarification. The couple are not Mormons, who can only invite church members in good standing to temple weddings. They did not get married in a church at all, so I can’t see any religious reason for two receptions.

The first reception was at a cheaper (as in, free), smaller venue. The second reception venue was large enough for guests from both receptions (which is why I think they should’ve just had one big reception), and there were guests there from the first reception. The second reception was an hors d’ouvres reception. The bride’s parents are pretty traditional, so maybe they really wanted a sit-down dinner, but I still think it’s rude to show pictures of that fancier reception to the people eating cheese and crackers. Had they shown a slideshow of just the ceremony, and been discreet about the first reception, I wouldn’t have been offended because I wouldn’t have known! At first I thought the reason I didn’t get a wedding invite was because there was a cost issue, but once I saw that they paid for two separate receptions, it was clear that cost wasn’t the hang-up. I also don’t think they’re the kind of people who consciously thought “two receptions = more gifts,” but it came off that way. I don’t think it was an issue of the bride’s family paying for one reception and the groom’s paying for the other because guests from both sides were excluded from the first reception.

@ Celeste: If you truly are having a family-only wedding ceremony, I don’t think it’s offensive to show pictures of that at your reception. What’s offensive is calling it that, inviting a bunch of friends, having a fancier reception for those people, and then showing all that to the people at the less fancy reception.

I don’t think this is something worth throwing away the friendship over, but I do think it’s worth scaling back the relationship over. Hence I feel I can only consider them friends, and no longer “good” friends like they used to be. I truly didn’t realize I was a “second-tier” friend to the couple, and it stung to find out this way.


Sarah August 4, 2010 at 9:30 am

I’m just wondering were the OP’s bride and groom of Irish origin? I’m Irish and I can tell you that this practise (which I dislike greatly) is widespread. You invite all the family and close friends to the wedding ceremony and the meal, then people who aren’t as close, or workmates, are given “afters” invitations.

I find it very rude, as it divides your guests into two “classes”, and when my fiancé and I get married, it will be small, and the same people invited to the reception will have been at the other parts too.


jenna August 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

Ponytail – are you from New Zealand? I’ve heard this is really common there and I wouldn’t presume to talk about etiquette in another country (ie not America) as I know it’s not the same and that’s OK. But in the USA inviting someone to the ceremony but not the reception is more or less the height of rudeness! It’s interesting how these things differ even within Western culture.

The tacky thing in this post was inviting people to a reception with less “stuff” (f00d, alcohol, cake etc) and showing them the video of the earlier reception. If it had been a tiny wedding and family only meal with maybe one best friend each, and then a big reception later, I think it would not have been a big deal. Even a video of that would have been fine as all would have been able to see that the wedding itself was truly tiny. The crime here was having a large-ish wedding and then making it clear to Reception #2 people that that’s what they did. It’s OK to have a tiny wedding (like just immediate family) and a party later, but not to have a regular wedding and a B-list party later!


LovleAnjel August 4, 2010 at 10:10 am


Sorry but that was a faux pas. There are many non-religious options for officiants. My husband & I are also atheists, and we looked into everything– justices of the peace will perform ceremonies out of court, you can have a friend or family member become officiant-for-a-day (perfectly legal, just fill out some online forms). We ended up having my mom’s priest marry us, excluding the religious references (he had permission from the bishop so it was all above board).

I would be insulted too– it seems like A) you couldn’t wait a week to get at each other or B) you wanted a private ceremony but also the gifts and attention from a big wedding. You effectively had a sham wedding to fool your guests. It’s okay to be married in small ceremony and have a separate reception– I’ve been to lots (the bride even wears the dress!) but no one pretended it was the real deal. Guess what– marriage is a legal contract and you are married when you sign it. It doesn’t matter how you “feel” about it. You could “feel” like you don’t actually own a car, but you are still on the hook for the loan payments.


JS August 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

I have to agree with the admin here, Izzlebun–you were “reaaaaaaaaaaaaaaally married” when you were legally married. Your relatives weren’t attending a wedding–they were attending a party. Which is not necessarily bad per se, but it should be advertised as such.


Bint August 4, 2010 at 11:17 am

I actually think playing the big video of their wedding is tacky. Nobody at the reception was invited! It sounds a sweet idea, but it does come off as egotistical and rubbing their faces in it.

Plus two full receptions is just weird. Why couldn’t they have had the small ceremony and then one big reception for everyone?


Sensible Shopper August 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

In regards to Mormon weddings – only a few people (members in good standing – they have to hold a “temple recommend” from their Bishop) are allowed to attend a temple ceremony. That is the ceremony ONLY. NO reception can be held inside the temple, and NO pictures or video may be taken. A reception is held at a completely different venue, if it’s held at all. Many people forego the reception, entirely. Since rings are not exchanged as part of the temple ceremony, many couples have a “ring ceremony” at the reception.

The invitations reflect this. The invitations specify “You are invited to the reception in honor of the wedding of . . .”, with date, place and time. Those who are able to attend the actual wedding ceremony (called a sealing), receive an insert in the invitation: a tiny card that says “Sealing to be held at ______ temple, at _____ time.”

While anyone who has a temple recommend may attend the sealing, most people don’t go unless they’ve been invited, as the rooms are small. And it’s not uncommon to have members of the wedding party, such as parents of the bride and groom, or bridesmaids, be unable to attend the actual ceremony, and many couples forego an official wedding party for this reason. There is no function for a maid of honor or best man, let alone bridesmaids and groomsmen, at the ceremony, itself, so their part is simply to stand in a receiving line and smile at the reception.

All that being said – there is no reason for a Mormon couple to have two receptions within days of each other, at the same city. Bi-coastal friends and relations requiring two receptions? OK. I can even see having video of the first reception at the second reception, so that people can see Aunt Margaret dancing up a storm, or Uncle Buddy sucking on the helium balloons and making funny voices. But certainly not the cereomny, itself. To do that in the same city, and the very next day, really does point to the A-list/B-list interpretation.


Ruth August 4, 2010 at 11:37 am

@admin if one doesn’t consider a legal wedding to be anything more than a contract between two parties & the state, then it’s not a “real wedding.” They’re just civilly married/contracted to each other. A marriage isn’t something that any government can decide, it’s a decision that two people make when they exchange their own vows and mark the beginning of their life together. And it’s on that occasion that the wedding occurs. Consider the many countries in which civil & church/family weddings are held separately.

For philosophical reasons, my philosophy professor of a husband (they take philosophy seriously) didn’t want anything state-related in our ceremony and we wanted to be married by a friend who wasn’t licensed for legal weddings (had been, but had recently retired from being a pastor to teach). Two days before the wedding, we dropped by the courthouse, got witnesses there, were in and out in 20 min or so, and got the legal paperwork of marriage out of the way. We then went back to work on wedding prep for our actual wedding where we would join together in the bonds of holy matrimony. We didn’t move in together, start sleeping together, any of that, just because we had a legal document.

Fortunate, unlike poor Izzlebun’s case, none of our relatives presumed that just because the state was involved and we did it before our church wedding that our courthouse excursion was our wedding/marriage. Our wedding was lovely, it was a small, very traditional Anglican wedding ceremony, and that’s what we celebrate as our wedding anniversary, our marriage, etc. That was our real wedding, not our “second wedding.” That was where we joined ourselves to each other, and I think it’d quite rude of you to suggest that just because we did the paperwork a couple days earlier this was some kind of lesser wedding. I honestly think you ought to apologize to Izzlebun on this one. As a rule I think you make good calls, Miss Jeanne, which is why I’m flabbergasted by your take on this.

The other was just registration paperwork and swearing before a judge. I don’t celebrate the day I got my driver’s license or the day I filed for change of name with the Social Security bureau.


Margaret August 4, 2010 at 11:41 am

Actually, Isslebun, the second event wasn’t a second wedding at all -it was a party.


RP August 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

@ Celeste: Since your wedding will actually be a small, family-only affair and the invitations to the reception made this clear to the guests I think a video of the wedding at the reception would go over well. The problem in the OP’s situation is that they felt duped by the bride and groom. In your situation everyone knows what is going on and won’t be surprised or feel slighted.

@Isslebun: I regarded this as a step towards the emotional bond of getting married, not really the whole thing.
And you just assumed everyone would see it the same way that you did? If you’re legally married then you’re married. You even had guests and a celebratory party afterward. You didn’t just sign paperwork, you had a ceremony too.

I understand wanting to get the paperwork done to make sure there’s no snafus for the ceremony but but you can’t assume people will think of you as only ‘partially’ married when by law you are married and you’ve already had a party to celebrate it. If signing the paperwork is a big enough deal that you invited people to it and had a special dinner afterward then why wouldn’t your other guests see that as a big deal too?

I think if you’d explained what the deal was to the guests ahead of time it might have turned out better.


Xtina August 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Sheena–in the U.S., you’d solve the problem of the expense of serving a full meal to guests by not serving one; you’d instead opt for a ceremony/reception at a time of the day where a lighter set of refreshments would be served as opposed to a full meal.

I don’t know–it just seems to me that if you can’t properly invite and host people to both the ceremony and the reception, then you need to plan on a smaller or cheaper wedding, cut down on your guest list, or something–you don’t pull out all the stops for some people and then try to trick others into thinking they’re participating in “the wedding and reception” when they clearly are not. Having a gathering that is distinctly separate in both tone and date to celebrate with people you may have not been able to invite to the wedding/reception (as in the case of destination weddings, or a private/small ceremony, etc.) is appropriate IF it is clear exactly what it is, and no gifts are expected.

Perhaps this couple thought it was nice of them to try to include so many people by having two receptions, but it’s just not a good idea–I suspect this was probably simply lack of etiquette knowledge on the part of the couple as opposed to greed or spite….as further evidenced by the playing of the video of the real ceremony and reception at the second-tier reception. Agree with others that I wonder how come they would go through the expense of planning a completely separate event when it would probably have been much, much cheaper to have a few more people at their proper wedding and reception. I doubt it would have cost them anything to have more people at the ceremony; in theory, at least, wouldn’t it be no cost to them to have people watch their ceremony?


Izzlebun August 5, 2010 at 8:26 am

@Lovleangel “I would be insulted too– it seems like A) you couldn’t wait a week to get at each other”. WHOA THERE. Judgmental and uncalled for speculation.

From some of the comments, I’m still a little surprised by the opinion that the exact moment your legal status changes is the moment of marriage, and any celebration outside of that window of time is spurious. I didn’t look at it this way, which is why I celebrated my union in the way that I did. I mean, I realize that my views aren’t necessarily eye to eye with everyone, and this gives me some insight into why some relatives decided to question me about the legal status of my marriage the day of my celebration. (@Chocobo!, weird, right?) I don’t think anyone meant any malice, just had a curiosity about the proceedings.

Also, getting a license squared away before having a wedding ceremony is not that uncommon. I haven’t been to many church officiated weddings, but I guess traditionally the officiant signs and notarizes the day of? The one churchity affair that I was a bridesmaid in, I recall that the Pastor had the couple sign the marriage license well before the church ceremony. They got a judge to come out and legally marry them with me as a witness. So, indeed, they were legally married about a week and a half before being ceremonially and emotionally united in the church. I think that their wedding was real. I’ll bet that they thought so too 🙂


Margo August 5, 2010 at 10:35 am

I agree that showing the 1st reception was tactless, but it sounds to me as though the coupel planned the wedding and reception, then realised they couldn’t invite eveyone they wanted to so added an extra party – they liked you enough to want you to be part of their celebration, they didn’t mislead you in any way. If they are your freiends, chalk it up to tactlessness and move on. If you can’t…well, maybe you weren’t that close in the first place!

Izzlebun, I agree with your thinking, and I think it is bizarre for anyone to be ‘offended’. Puzzled, maybe, that you didn’t mention it. (Although I think it is far ruder on the part of your guests to have critisised!)

That said, in those circumstances I think the situation could have been dealt with by how you invite people – it sounds as though your guest was offended that they had not realised that a ceremoney had already taken place, not becasue they had not been invited to that ceremony.
I had some friends who had a similar arrangment – they got married in a civil ceremony (just immediate family) then held the reception which included a ceremony and vows which they had written themselves and which included the bride’s children, and the committment which her husband was making to them. That was the important part of it for all of them, and as guest we were all invited to help celebrate their marriage. It was made clear on the invitations that the ceremony we were invited to was a commitment ceremony + reception.


Jillybean August 5, 2010 at 10:54 am

@ Ruth, the difference between what you did, had the “marriage license legally witnessed” and moved on with the wedding (sounds like you guys didn’t invite people to it) is different than, “…headed to city hall with a small party of our parents and siblings. We signed the papers and were legally married by a judge, then my mom hosted a small celebratory dinner that a handful of our closest friends attended.” Izzlebun had a wedding, albeit a small one, but she had a wedding. Then she had a second larger wedding where the majority of the guests assumed they were watching them get married – they were not. She was already married. Miss Jeanne does not owe apologies. She was correct.

I agree whole heartedly with this assessment by RP: If signing the paperwork is a big enough deal that [Izzlebun] invited people to it and had a special dinner afterward then why wouldn’t [her] other guests see that as a big deal too? (and thus be offended).

If you want a small wedding, then you have a small wedding. If you want to have a larger celebration, then you do that – with the caveat that you TELL people – we are celebrating our marriage, not we are inviting you to a wedding.


Izzlebun August 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

A clarifying point Jillybean. As I mentioned before, my mom hosted the dinner. She invited us to dinner after we signed the documents. We treated it as a rehearsal dinner. Two sets of parents, two siblings, and the four 4 people in our wedding party. Why does this preclude me from having the celebration that we planned? I’m again, really surprised by the rigid interpretation of this.


Heather August 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

“About a week before our wedding, DH and I headed to city hall with a small party of our parents and siblings. We signed the papers and were legally married by a judge,”

” I regarded this as a step towards the emotional bond of getting married, not really the whole thing. As in, we were getting the license, but weren’t reaaaaaally married yet.”

Come again? You said you were legally married by a judge. And you and your husband are atheists, so it wasn’t a religious ceremony which would make you feel really married. I’m genuinely curious what would make you feel really married, if not being married by a judge?

I know some in some cultures the marriage isn’t official until it’s been consummated, but I’m assuming that wasn’t an issue here.


Jillybean August 5, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Izzlebun – it doesn’t preclude you from having it, but as you learned the hard way, people were offended that you legally married before your wedding without sharing that knowledge (or the event itself) with them first. People expect you to get married at your wedding – that’s what a wedding is for. Maybe it’s simply because etiquette holds that you give a gift for being invited to a wedding, not the reception, that people felt duped – like you staged a wedding (I word it that way not to minimize what it might have meant to you, but just to illustrate that you had already married with a small group of VIPs) just so you could get the gifts that people bring for weddings. I’m not saying you did that, so please don’t misinterpret, but just saying how people might view it. I’ve heard stories like yours before, and without a doubt it comes with a bride shocked that guests were hurt or offended, but every time, they are.


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