The Only Guide to Reception-Only Wedding Invitations You Need

Here's how to word your invites so nobody's confused.
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
kim forrest the knot
Kim Forrest
Senior Editor
  • Kim writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in etiquette and planning advice
  • Kim manages freelance writers for The Knot Worldwide
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Kim was Associate Bridal Editor at Washingtonian magazine and Associate Fashion Editor at Conde Nast’s Brides Local magazines
Updated Jun 19, 2024

While a traditional wedding includes both a ceremony and a reception on the same day, many couples are choosing to treat their wedding ceremony and reception as separate occasions requiring separate reception-only invitations for loved ones invited to part two of the wedding. Whether your wedding timeline includes both events on different days or you're simply planning a more intimate ceremony, properly worded reception-only wedding invites make it clear to guests exactly what they're being asked to attend (and when, and where—basically all the need-to-know details you'd include on any wedding invitation). But what is the right wording, exactly? Here's all the reception-only wedding etiquette you need to know.

In this article:

What Is a Reception-Only Wedding?

A reception-only wedding is a celebration of a couple's marriage—pretty much a wedding that's just a party, without the legal ceremony (though some couples may opt to have a symbolic ceremony during this event). The wedding ceremony likely took place days, weeks or months before, and this event is a party where family members and friends can gather to share well wishes, mingle, eat, drink and dance.

These events can be formal or casual, have big or small guest lists (though they are typically on the larger side) and can take place at a variety of wedding venues or other sites. Couples typically hire the full spectrum of wedding vendors for reception-only weddings and send out printed invitations to guests for the occasion. Still drafting your dream team of wedding pros? Find local venues, photographers, florists and more on The Knot Vendor Marketplace.

Why Should We Have a Reception-Only Wedding?

Reception-only weddings have been around for a while, but they've grown in popularity over the last few years. In fact, several celebrity couples have gone this route, including Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, and George and Amal Clooney. There are a few reasons why a couple might want to throw a reception-only wedding:

  • You opted for a small, private ceremony with just immediate family and now want to celebrate with the rest of your loved ones.
  • There was a small destination wedding that not many guests were able to attend, and you'd like to host a larger party to include more family and friends.
  • There was an elopement due to certain circumstances (a military deployment, spur-of-the-moment trip to Vegas, etc.) and now you'd like to host a larger celebration.
  • You had a small ceremony and want to celebrate your first (or subsequent) anniversary with a larger event.
  • You said "I do" at a legal ceremony in the US, followed by a larger destination celebration in another country that has more restrictive marriage laws.
  • You chose to have a micro-wedding and have since decided you'd like to host a larger party.

Who Is Invited to a Reception-Only Wedding?

A ceremony and a reception-only wedding typically have separate guest lists, with a reception's guest list longer than the ceremony's. However, that can mean 50 guests or 500. It really depends on your budget and the style of event you'd like to create. The one rule of thumb: Everyone who was invited to the ceremony should also be invited to the reception, unless you're hosting a friends-only celebration.

When Does the Reception-Only Wedding Take Place?

A reception-only wedding can take place hours, days, weeks, months or even a year after the ceremony. It really depends on your specific circumstances and the type of wedding you're planning. For example, some couples opt to have a private ceremony earlier in the day, followed by a larger reception that same time. Others may choose to have their reception a few weeks or months after the vows are exchanged (for example, J.Lo and Ben hosted their reception about a month after they said "I do" in Vegas). And there are also anniversary receptions, where the couple and their loved ones celebrate a year after the ceremony.

Where Does the Reception-Only Wedding Take Place?

Depending on the formality of the event, there are a variety of locations where a reception-only wedding can take place. Of course, there are traditional wedding venues like banquet halls, ballrooms, barns, loft spaces, gardens and more. For a more low-key vibe, you might host their reception-only event at a casual restaurant or have a backyard BBQ. You can have a little more flexibility with choosing a venue for a reception-only wedding, since you won't need a space for a ceremony. No matter your vibe, you'll find a beautiful reception venue on The Knot Vendor Marketplace.

Reception-Only Wedding Invitation Etiquette and Wording

Ready to create your wedding reception-only invitations? If you're following traditional wedding invitation etiquette, you'll send a printed invitation, but if your event is more low-key, you can email your guests with the details. That said, we're fans of paper stationery for all of your wedding-related events—no one wants their invites to end up in the dreaded spam folder. And when The Knot Invitations has so many budget-friendly designs to choose from, what's stopping you? Pick up coordinating stationery for everything from the your save-the-dates to your thank-you cards.

When Should Reception-Only Wedding Invitations Be Sent Out?

Just like with a wedding invitation suite, a reception-only invite should be sent out six to eight weeks before the big day. If it's an event where many guests will have to travel, you might consider sending these invitations earlier. You might also consider sending save-the-dates to your guests six months or more before the party invitations go out, if you have the time. Some couples feel that guests will be offended that they weren't invited to the ceremony, but loved ones are usually just happy to be included in the celebration.

Do Reception-Only Wedding Invitations Need RSVP Cards?

You'll need to include some way for your guests to RSVP as part of your reception-only invitations. RSVP cards are definitely the more traditional and formal route, but you could also do online RSVPs as part of your wedding website. This is definitely a faster (and more environmentally-friendly) way to receive your guests' responses.

Reception-Only Wedding Invitation Wording Ideas

With reception-only wording, you should have two goals in mind: Provide details as to when and where the event will take place, and make it clear that a ceremony already occurred. Wording such as "a celebration of their marriage" indicates that the ceremony has already taken place, and the you're already married. Here are some reception-only invitation wording templates:

Morgan and Jordan Green
request the honor of your presence
at a celebration of their marriage
Saturday, the ninth of January
Two-thousand twenty-four
at seven o'clock
Rob Roy Country Club
Mount Prospect, Illinois

Avery Smith and Regan Jones
will be married in a small ceremony
on Saturday the tenth of August
Please join us at their wedding reception
Saturday the twelfth of September
Two-thousand twenty-four
at seven o'clock
The Coronado
Saint Louis, Missouri

Amy and Roger Smith
are thrilled to announce the marriage of their daughter
Sarah Caroline
Bailey Walker Johnson
Please join us for a reception
to celebrate their marriage
on Sunday, the fourteenth of April
two thousand and twenty-three
at 5 o'clock in the evening
Dockside at Dukes
Seattle, Washington

We exchanged vows in a private ceremony
on March 28, 2023 in Syracuse, New York
Please join us for a celebration of our marriage
Saturday, May 23, 2023 at 6 p.m.
The Hay-Adams
Washington, DC
Blake and Cameron

We eloped!
Please join Sam and James to celebrate the joyful occasion.
on Saturday, June 18, 2024 at 6 p.m.
Madera Kitchen
Los Angeles, California

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