A table set for a wedding reception

According to etiquette, everyone invited to your wedding ceremony should be invited to the reception. However, it’s perfectly okay to have a small ceremony with a select few guests followed by a big party with all of your friends and family. 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 sigh of relief for couples who don’t like the spotlight or who 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. Here, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about reception-only wedding invitations.

Create Multiple Guest Lists

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.

Once you know what you’re doing the night before the ceremony, create your ceremony guest list. It can be anywhere 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 who is invited to the ceremony is also invited to the reception.

From here, you have several options. You can send two wedding invitations — one 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 evites, 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. This suggests they will not be witnessing your marriage but that you will be arriving to 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

This way, 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 that’s scheduled at a destination afterward. 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. Just be sure to hold firm if anyone pressures you to come to the ceremony, or it might become a slippery slope of exceptions.

9 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 as well. Just be sure to personalize the look and wording to focus on the reception.

1. Layered Florals Invitation

Layered Florals wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Shiny Penny Studio

Gorgeous hand painted florals and greenery take center stage on this lush invitation. The couple’s names are tucked into the artwork on banners above and below an artful “and.” Personalize 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.

2. 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 favorite wedding photo from your intimate ceremony. (Of course, this can work with your engagement photos as well.) Personalize your wording to say, “Join us to celebrate the marriage of Amelia & Mathis in a wedding reception September 10.”

3. Art Deco Diamond Invitation

Art Deco Diamond wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Becky Nimoy Stationary

For a reception-only invitation, this Art Deco design screams party. Gold foil diamond artwork á la Great Gatsby pops against a black background. In the center, plenty of stylized retro text and script holds your invitation details. Simply change the copy at the top to read, “Wedding Reception,” and include relevant information below.

4. Perennial Crest Invitation

Perennial Crest wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Signature Greenvelope

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

5. Rustic Evening Invitation

Rustic Evening wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Melissa Egan Design

Complete with string lights that suggest a nighttime affair, this bucolic invitation is perfect for a BBQ or barn reception. Edit the text to specify “wedding reception,” and you’re good to go.

6. 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 color scheme.

7. 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. A mix of simple text and script is accented by an understated monogram at the top. Change “marriage celebration” to “wedding reception,” and you’ve covered your bases.

8. 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. In the center, stylized text highlights the couple’s names and reception details.

9. Enthralled Invitation

Enthralled wedding reception invitations from Greenvelope

Design: Itsy Belle Studio

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

Wedding Reception Invitations Are Ready to Celebrate

If you’re having a private ceremony, you can still send party invitations for your reception. First, create two guest lists for each affair. Then carefully edit your invitation design and wording to specify that guests are invited to the reception only.

You can either send two separate invitations or simply choose a beautiful wedding reception invitation. Then use Greenvelope’s private messaging tools to reach guests who are invited to the ceremony as well. This can act as an easy RSVP card for each event. If any of your guests inquire about the ceremony, politely let them know it will be an intimate, private affair but you are thrilled to see them at the reception. Cheers to your beautiful day!