'We like you fine, but we're not buying dinner for you.'
October 9, 2013 8:08 AM   Subscribe

We met with a potential wedding reception venue today to get a quote, and the owner suggested that we can invite some people just to the party after the ceremony and dinner. From a cost cutting perspective that sounds awesome. But is it just too squicky, etiquette-wise?

The loose plan for the wedding is ceremony at a TBD location, champagne on a boat around the canals, then dinner/party at Venue. At first glance, inviting people just to the party part is really appealing - that way we can include coworkers/friendly acquaintances in the day but control some of the expenses. On the other hand, it feels like there's no non-dickish way to say 'hey, we'd like to buy you a bunch of drinks and dance all night, and sure, come to the ceremony, but we're not including you in the dinner.'

Related: should we count on all of our single guests bringing plus ones? I'm SO not crazy about the idea of having strangers at my wedding (I'm a highly strung introvert as it is), but it also feels churlish to not let our single friends bring dates.

Check my sense, hivemind.
posted by nerdfish to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you located? In the Netherlands, for instance, this is very common.
posted by Ms. Next at 8:11 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

From the excruciatingly correct perspective (in the US), no, you may not invite some people to just half of the party. Sorry.

In the case of dates, if any of your friends are in relationships that you view as a going concern, you should invite both of them. For the people who are truly single, will they know other people there? If not, imagine how you, a highly strung introvert, would feel being asked to attend a formal event full of strangers without being allowed to bring along anybody you knew. You are absolutely within your rights to ask your truly single friends to come by themselves, but it may not be the kindest option.
posted by KathrynT at 8:14 AM on October 9, 2013 [19 favorites]

Just from a logistical standpoint (I'll let others address the etiquette piece), how would you organize this? If the party and dinner are in different locations, it seems doable. But if the party immediately follows the dinner at the same place, what happens when one of the people who is only invited to the party shows up a bit early? Keep them outside and tell them they can't have any food?
posted by primethyme at 8:17 AM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you're in the US, no, you can't do this. You could probably have a separate party after the wedding for those who aren't close enough to be invited.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:17 AM on October 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

nerdfish: champagne on a boat around the canals

So this is the only part you want to exclude some people from? How long do you anticipate this part taking? If it is an hour or two, I think that is probably OK. The invitations to everybody would be "Ceremony at TBD, 4:00 pm, Reception at Venue, 8:00 pm" and you could just separately let the people you want on the boat know that there will be a boat ride in between the two.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:17 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the UK this is also quite common.
(At least I think so, I've been to one wedding which was not my own and have one coming up, they both did this)

Also you get to choose to offer "plus guest" or not.
So long as you are generally consistent and are not victimising anyone you can set the rules as you like. It's your wedding.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:18 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

To clarify: you want everyone at the ceremony and boat ride, but a subset at the dinner, correct?

The "single" thing needs a little more clarification: Is your definition of single "not dating anyone at all", "on the market but not serious with anyone", or "not married"? FWIW, I was always stung by invitations that invited me and not my boyfriend of six years; just because we weren't married didn't mean I was single.

That said, I think timing is the key here: If the sequence of events is ceremony, dinner, party, then inviting people to the ceremony and the later party will be strange, especially if *any* of those people are coming from out-of-town. If the sequence is ceremony, party, dinner, that seems a little bit better, but it might be tricky in terms of separating non-dinner people and dinner people (time inbetween the cocktails and dinner would help, as would different venues.)

I think trim your guest list, make a very apologetic face at work and offer to meet colleagues out for a post-wedding cocktail when you get back from your honeymoon, and save yourself some headache.

On preview: Ah, yes, if you are not in the US, disregard everything I've said. :)
posted by absquatulate at 8:18 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

First of all. It is your wedding, you can invite whoever you want. Usually I've seen that serious +1s are allowed (spouses, live-in SOs, people who have been together for a long time) but not that just everyone can bring some random person.

Second of all, (this is US based) no, you can't invite someone to the ceremony and to drink but not let them stay for dinner. I mean, you CAN, but it will be seen as super rude. The only exception would be if dinner was on a completely different day and therefore not a part of the immediate reception.
posted by magnetsphere at 8:19 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this is much more common in Europe (at least in England and, apparently, the Netherlands) than it is in America, and it's consequently embedded into cultural etiquette. If you are outside the US, I'd look at wedding blogs and sites to get a feel for how common it is/how people organize this and feel about it.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:20 AM on October 9, 2013

Common in the UK. The ceremony and meal are for family and close friends. The evening then gets opened up to work colleagues, leisure acquaintances etc.

On review, Rock Steady has it.
posted by epo at 8:20 AM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

As an American, I've never understood the enforced "this is a wedding and we are feeding you a sit down meal" thing. It seems very strange to me. It also seems backwards to start out a new marriage saddled with immense debt so that everyone can enjoy a dinner party eating foods that they wouldn't order even if they were at a restaurant.

Why not get married and have a simple reception? Drinks, cake, that sort of thing.

In the end, it's YOUR day...who cares what anyone else thinks?
posted by BrianJ at 8:22 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wait, I think we need some clarification. So here is the schedule:

1. Ceremony at TBD

2. Boat ride at Boat

3. Dinner at Venue

4. Party at Venue

I think it would be relatively simple to exclude people from #2 but invite them to #1, #3 and #4. If you want people to come to #1 and #4 only, that seems logistically harder.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:25 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think there's an appropriate way to do this unless you have a very small (like immediately family only) ceremony.

The general rule I always though with the whole "plus one" thing is that any guest in a relationship should be invited along with their significant other. People who are truly single don't automatically get a plus one, but it's considerate if they don't know other people at the wedding.

I've been invited to a wedding where I was invited, but not my partner who I had been living with for years. The bride was an old friend of mine, who chose to invite other friends and include their significant others (couples who had not been dating as long, were not living together, etc.). The general consensus was that the couple getting married picked who got invited with their SO based on whether or not they had met said SO before. I thought that was really rude. Also, all the other guests kept asking me where my partner was all night.
posted by inertia at 8:25 AM on October 9, 2013

"the owner suggested that we can invite some people just to the party after the ceremony and dinner. From a cost cutting perspective that sounds awesome. But is it just too squicky, etiquette-wise?"

This is totally totally fine and common in the UK.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:29 AM on October 9, 2013

Response by poster: To clarify 'single': I mean not dating anyone. There are maybe four people in the guest list who fit that description. Fortunately, they're all part of several groups of mutual friends, so they'll definitely know people, but I'm getting the feeling I should include a plus one for them.
posted by nerdfish at 8:29 AM on October 9, 2013

On the other hand, it feels like there's no non-dickish way to say 'hey, we'd like to buy you a bunch of drinks and dance all night, and sure, come to the ceremony, but we're not including you in the dinner.'

Why mention the part they're not invited to? Our invites just said something like "we'd love to have you along to the party to celebrate our marriage, it starts at 6:30pm and a buffet dinner will be served at 8pm".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:30 AM on October 9, 2013

OP, I didn't really understand your explanation of the sequence of events.

Regardless, it doesn't really matter: it is rude to offer different levels of post-ceremony hospitality to different 'categories' of guests (in Australia, anyway; and also in the US, from what I understand). It's either dinner for everyone, or offer less expensive hospitality to everyone, which is also fine.

BTW, I think this 'it's YOUR day, do what you want' thing that people will tell you? Is bullshit. You wouldn't offer two different 'tiers' of hosting at any other time, and you don't get a free pass on your wedding day.
posted by Salamander at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

but I'm getting the feeling I should include a plus one for them.

Nah, I think it's pretty common in the US not to give a truly single person an extra invite, especially if they will know lots of other people. However, wedding etiquette is very localized in the US, so it may not Be Done in your social group.
posted by muddgirl at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

To give a different perspective on US custom: when I had just graduated high school, our choir sang at our teacher's wedding. I think there were about 40 of us, and we'd driven 1.5 hours from home, so we had at least 20 or 30 parents as well.

We sang at the ceremony, went out for dinner somewhere else, and then came back and boogied down. I saw nothing wrong with it, and I don't think anyone else did, either, including my normally-stickler mom.

If you have a really good reason, it should be fine. But otherwise, I think the division is typically that you're a) invited to the wedding but not the reception (for some reason this is okay) or b) you're not invited at all. There may be a less formal party later on (like, in a week or a month) that more people can come to, but you should be clear about the separation.
posted by Madamina at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2013

Oh, re: the other question - I agree with muddgirl.
posted by Salamander at 8:34 AM on October 9, 2013

Yes, the two-level invite thing is totally fine in UK context.

The potential rudeness is not a result of doing it – it's a result of who's on which list (and people finding out), which is obviously partly a question of the numbers in each case. A friendly work acquaintance isn't going to imagine that they deserve exactly the same treatment as your close sibling. When you get down to grading the levels of friendly acquaintance, there's more potential for problems.
posted by oliverburkeman at 8:36 AM on October 9, 2013

Here (UK) it's very normal to invite acquaintances to ONLY the evening do, and it's reasonably normal to invite half the planet to the ceremony and the evening but not the dinner.

But if you are doing this latter thing, you have to be SO SO careful with the wording on the invitations. Even here where people are used to the practice, it's easy to read "You are invited to the wedding of... bla bla bla" and just kind of show up and follow everyone else about, without catching the underlying drift of "after the ceremony please bugger off and make your own entertainment, don't just traipse into the dinner".

Yes I have stood confused in front of a seating chart at a dinner to which I was not in fact invited, due to my own inability to read for content. This is not to be recommended.
posted by emilyw at 8:36 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: ADDITONAL CLARIFICATION: we're (former) Australians in the Netherlands; most of our colleagues are Dutch and, thus, kinda confused that we're getting married at all. Also, the owner of the venue gave me the impression that this is very routine - he actually asked how many people we expected at the party vs the dinner.
posted by nerdfish at 8:39 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

For myself, the party is the only good part of a wedding. Ceremonies are a snooze. I would not be offended at all, and actually grateful, to just be invited to the party.
posted by mean cheez at 8:40 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think if you want to seperate out the "intimate ceremony/dinner" part of your wedding from the "big party" part, you could do that by holding them on seperate days. E.g. wedding ceremony/dinner Friday night, large reception Saturday, or something. Kindof like how people only invite close family/friends to the rehearsal dinner, or an after-wedding brunch.

Re the +1's, I personally have never brought anyone other than a significant other as a date to a wedding, and I would imagine your single friends wouldn't either, especially if they'll have friends there.
posted by Asparagus at 8:41 AM on October 9, 2013

OP, sorry to nag, but can you please clarify the order of events and who will be invited to what? Also, where most of your guests are from?
posted by Salamander at 8:44 AM on October 9, 2013

Sorry, missed the 'edit' window: because if your plan involves some guests coming to the ceremony, then disappearing while dinner is on, then coming back for the drinks and dancing, well...your Australian guests will probably think that's weird & rude. Whether that bothers you is your call, of course.
posted by Salamander at 8:49 AM on October 9, 2013

Like all etiquette, this depends on where you are / what culture you're operating within.

Example: Growing up, I was used to weddings providing a bottle of wine per table but otherwise having a cash bar (this allows you to invite a huge number of people while keeping costs down). Then I moved to central Canada. My now-husband and I were in a car on the way to a wedding and I freaked out because I didn't have any cash on me. He didn't understand my panic because, to him, of course a wedding will have an open bar.

Weddings are so fraught with unspoken rules and, super-unfairly, they will change from place to place and sometimes you have to guess what they are. Stressful!

If you're in the Netherlands, it sounds like you're OK, from an etiquette point of view, to go ahead with the two-tiered invitation scheme.

In my experience it is expected for an invitation to be "plus one" and you just have to roll with whoever the "plus ones" are. But if this causes you undue anxiety, maybe just ask your single friends if they had anyone in mind as a companion or date. If yes, then you get to have a little fun friendly chat about that (and maybe this will lessen your anxiety?).

And remember, ultimately, this is YOUR day. If something truly bothers you, you have veto power.

I did not appreciate how very stressful making invitation lists etc could be until I got married. It is good to try and remember that, while someone might be disappointed not to be invited to the intimate dinner portion of the evening, they will get over it, if they truly like you and are happy for you. Nothing will be ruined!

I hope your wedding is a wonderful day!
posted by erlking at 9:04 AM on October 9, 2013

Whoops, all the advice about "in the US" is pretty worthless. If it's common in the Netherlands to have coworkers skip the dinner, then have coworkers skip the dinner. If it's common in the Netherlands to let single friends have dates, then you probably should let your few single friends bring a date.
posted by muddgirl at 9:05 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ah, so you are in the Netherlands. As I said above, in that case it's very common, especially for coworkers, not so close friends, etc. Australian guests might think it's rude if they're invited for just part of the day, but those that are close enough to come over for the wedding, are probably on your list of dinner guests.

The Dutch usually have a list of close friends and family, called "daggasten" ('day guests') that are with you most of the day, the other guests just join you in the ceremony and reception or the party, or both. (For an indication: we had 30 or so daggasten, and 80 or so additional guests for the party.)

Make sure though, that early party guests don't stumble upon the dinner guests having dessert. There's plenty of ways to prevent that, for instance having the dinner in a different room from the party (which the venue owner will probably have in mind anyway) and making sure there's enough time for the dinner.
posted by Ms. Next at 9:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

we're (former) Australians in the Netherlands; most of our colleagues are Dutch and, thus, kinda confused that we're getting married at all. Also, the owner of the venue gave me the impression that this is very routine - he actually asked how many people we expected at the party vs the dinner.

This is de facto how weddings are arranged where you're having your wedding. In the UK, where it is also totally normal, this is called the evening reception, informally known as the "afters." You would be expected to provide a round of sandwiches for absolutely everyone around 10 pm or midnight. #2 has example wording for these separate invitations.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:37 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

What you describe is a quite common way of doing weddings in the Netherlands: ceremony, open reception to congratulate the happy pair, dinner for close family/friends, party for everybody else you want to celebrate your wedding with. (This is how my foster brother did his wedding last year.) Nobody will take offence at this, as long as you make sure you as the hosts are available to mingle once the party starts.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in the US and I get pretty opionated about these wedding etiquette questions. My thoughts may not have much bearing but here goes anyway.

I think guests who are invited to a full wedding ceremony/reception should be invited with a plus one. I too am a serious introvert, and attending a big party without at least one person who understands WHY I'm tounge tied or hiding out in the bathroom all night is shear misery. If you want to celebrate with me on your big day (while maybe not technically required) it is certainly basic consideration to make sure I'm comfortable enough to , you know, CELEBRATE. In my opinion that extends to feeding me decent food and providing an open bar.

Now in spite of that I don't see any problem with being a guest who isn't invited to the entire event. ESPECIALLY if I'm a work friend or casual aquaintence and the ceremony and dinner are for a small number of very close friends and relatives. I think the numbers make the difference. If the number of people invited to dinner exceeds the number who got excluded it might feel a bit awkeard to be in the later group. But as others have noted, if I don't know you that well its a get-out-of-jail-free-card to be allowed to skip the ceremony and dinner seated next to people I don't know. If I am only invited to an after party I also don't expect to bring a plus one. At the same time it would be nice if my invitation stated that gifts were not necessary, just the pleasure of my company. The folks that got wined and dined would be the ones brining big fancy gifts because presumably they are the important people in your life.

As an introvert I have a very small number of significant people in my family but that doesn't mean I don't want to throw a party when I tie the knot. I just don't expect someone whose name I won't remember three years from now to break the bank buying me a gift, and I don't want to go into debt feeding them either.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:00 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

My brother did this at his wedding. Logistically he rented the hall for a couple of hours longer than the typical wedding. That allowed him to specify a time for the others to arrive when he was sure dinner was over. He also referred to it as the after-party, so people were clued in to the plan.
posted by Gungho at 10:01 AM on October 9, 2013

I don't know how good your Dutch is, but this is a common setup for a party like this. Open bar is the standard, cahs bar is very unusual in NL, but the venue owner will tell you that (and will likely have a couple of options to discuss with you like the all-in package I linked to).
posted by Ms. Next at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by mlis at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, just to confirm, from another Dutch person, this is the norm in the Netherlands. It would be really rather strange to invite everyone the entire day.

I don't think you should expect the people you want to invite for the party only to come to the ceremony. In my experience (which may not be generalizable) everyone is welcome at the ceremony, but it's not expected that you take the day off just to attend that if you're not invited for the rest of the day's activities. So the wedding invitation will state at what time the ceremony is, but the invitation is specifically for the reception. I would just have a look at how other wedding invitations are worded.
posted by blub at 11:29 AM on October 9, 2013

You could have your stationer provide reception cards with return addressed envelopes. The lucky few would find these cards tucked in with the ceremony invitation.
But first, imagine yourself in the situation of receiving a ceremony-only invitation to a wedding when you know others were invited to the reception also. Do you really want some people to feel left out, not quite welcome to your joyous occasion?
Another option is to have your stationer provide announcements to be sent to those who you know will not be able to attend, or who are not close friends, or are maybe business acquaintances. These state that Miss and Mister were married on such a date. They are snail mailed on the wedding day.
posted by Cranberry at 12:18 PM on October 9, 2013

Do you really want some people to feel left out, not quite welcome to your joyous occasion?

They are not going to feel left out. As has been evidenced by multiple people in this thread, what the OP is asking about is a standard way of holding weddings in many places outside the US. There are other cultural norms.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:25 PM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

In Canada - was recently invited to just the party part of a co-workers wedding. Made total sense to me. There was about 15 of us invited this way. We all thought it was great that we got to come, besides it's the most fun part of the night.
posted by dripdripdrop at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yup, what DarlingBri said. It would really be kind of weird to throw a whole big day long event including a sit down dinner for everybody here and as a coworker or friendly acquaintance I would feel kind of out of place at such an intimate event with close family and friends of the people who are getting married. Like multiple people said before: almost all weddings are like this here, so nobody feels the least bit weird about it (of course people use common sense - it would be tacky to invite 3 coworkers the entire day, and then a 4th only for the party, or something like that, but it is okay to invite a direct colleague that you are also friends with for the entire day, and four other colleagues for the party).
posted by blub at 2:24 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone who's been solo at way too many weddings, I'd certainly appreciate it if someone asked me if there was someone I'd like to bring as a companion. Being alone, even among friends, surrounded almost exclusively by couples at an event highlighting what you don't have can really suck. Especially if there's only four of them - just have a quick conversation with each of them about it. Most of them will likely not want to bring anyone and if there is someone who does want to bring someone, it would give you a chance to set up dinner or something ahead of time to meet them.
posted by Candleman at 5:21 PM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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