Traditional etiquette may not apply.
There are plenty of articles about wedding etiquette just on this site alone, but it can be a lot harder to figure out if your big day is outside the norm. Many couples wind up not having their ceremony and reception on the same day, which can make most guidelines irrelevant to their needs. While some newlyweds elope for the specific reason to avoid a large celebration, others still hope to enjoy a party with their loved ones. After all, there are a variety of reasons lovebirds may choose to elope. For example, a military deployment can motivate plans to get married on a quicker timetable than initially anticipated, as can the diagnosis of a serious illness. Upon a return or clean bill of health, it’s natural to want to have something akin to the celebration you initially missed out on.
No matter your reasoning for eloping, whether it was at a courthouse or an exotic destination, here are some guidelines to follow for a reception to be held later.
- Unless you are recreating a ceremony, do not mention the word wedding in the invitation. In fact, even in that case you should be careful, as some guests may feel like they are being duped about this not being a “real” wedding. The phrase “Celebrate the marriage of…” will prove useful.
- Consider using your save the date as an announcement of elopement as well. Being alerted to a future party at the same time as finding out about your nuptials will help keep people from feeling like they were excluded.
- There is a perception that reception-only celebrations are just a way to get gifts. We know this is not usually the case, but it’s good to be aware of what people might be thinking. Be especially cautious with your registry if you choose to have one by keeping it on the small side and not publicizing it unless asked.
- You do not have to wear a bridal gown, but if you choose to, consider donning a more casual dress. It doesn’t need to be short, but a ball gown without a vow exchange won’t sit right with most attendees.
- While the newlyweds traditionally have a toast at their reception, it is especially important in this situation. It’s a great opportunity to make it clear how much you appreciate everyone celebrating with you, since some may still be hurt about not witnessing the vow exchange.