Google+ Southern Etiquette: Thorny Reception Issues - Southern Weddings

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We had a hard time coming up with an appropriate title for today’s etiquette dilemma — since it’s really a series of overlapping issues, we had a hard time finding something that encapsulated them all! Read on, because we’d LOVE your thoughts on this one. I don’t think there’s just one right answer!

From Brittney:

I’m still early in the wedding planning process, but my list of must-haves is pretty much set for the big day and while I was discussing the ceremony/reception with my mom, an interesting point came up. My mom wants me to have a church ceremony, which is fine, but I want the reception to be a barn raisin’ good time! And while most people invited to the ceremony wouldn’t be offended by attending a reception where a few cold ones are being passed around, there are some people (family friends, older family members, etc.) who would be offended. The last thing I want to do is disappoint my sweet granddaddy, but I’m not willing to budge on this reception. Our solution: a ceremony and small reception at the church with an invite-only barn party on the hush hush. So, here’s where I’m stumped: is this allowed? And if so, how do you pull this off?! I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I am pretty set on my big barn party! I can’t be the only Southern girl who has tried to balance honoring her family, not causing anyone to stumble, but having a certain vision for her wedding, right?! Any help you could give would be fantastic. Thank ya kindly!

My first instinct is that having a secret anything related to a wedding is just asking for hurt feelings when the secret inevitably gets out. Perhaps you go ahead with your tentative plan – church ceremony, small church reception, barn party – but put everything out in the open? Give guests a chance to check off which events they’ll attend on the RSVP card (and make it clear on the invitation that the barn party will be the most raucous of the three). That way, guests can pick and choose what they’re most comfortable with, and you can feel good knowing you’ve been above-board.

Friends, I (and I’m sure Brittney!) would love to hear from you on this one: have you run into this situation in your own wedding planning? Have you ever been to a two-part reception? Please weigh in in the comments!

emily Written with love by Emily
  1. avatar Mandy reply

    Brittney, I have experienced an almost identical situation. My grandparents are very against any alcohol. Although my fiancé and I are not big drinkers we do want to offer some fun drinks for our guests. I have a great relationship with my grandparents and I am very open with them. They know my heart and my relationship with my fiancé. However, my mom is going to take on this task. She is going to give them a heads up prior to the reception and explain our heart in the matter; to make sure we aren’t trying to go behind their backs but also aren’t desiring to offend them. My advice is to be yourself and be honest. Family is always family and although there are differing opinions honesty will always be respected more! Good luck!

  2. avatar Lillian Johnson reply

    This is an issue often at my facility. I make a few suggestions.
    ~If it’s grandparents who aren’t comfortable with the alcohol, you can always just wait to “open the bar” until after the cake is cut and the real party starts. Almost always, after dinner and after cake they head home.
    ~Another option I have offered is having the bar in an area off to the side where it’s not so in the face of those who don’t partake and serve everything in a glass/cup, no beer cans or bottles.

  3. avatar Marie reply

    I had a similar situation, 1/4 of my family is very conservative and does not drink. My fiance and I both want a lively celebration with all of our favorite people. We are simply having a traditional reception with a cocktail hour and a plated dinner. Those who do not drink will not stay late anyways, and can enjoy hors deourves and dinner with us. – then the party can get started! I can’t imagine having two seperate receptions. Time is so precious and goes by so fast.

  4. avatar Karen reply

    If I were a guest at your wedding, what would offend me and possibly hurt my feelings is being excluded from any of the festivities. For this reason… I would not keep anything a secret. Your guests are presumably adults who can decide for themselves what will or will not offend them. Give them the option of going to all three events. Just be sure they know that the barn party will be a throw down with music and alcohol.

    Having an after party following the reception seems to be a more and more common occurrence these days… especially with out of town guests that you don’t want to feel abandoned.

    I say go for it and have a great time! Your family and friends will just be happy to celebrate in whatever fashion they choose.

  5. avatar Ann reply

    I am doing the exact same plan as you. The way I divided it was to invite my immediate family, bridal party, and the bride and groom’s close friends. We will go from 300 down to 100.
    At the church reception, I will have my wedding cake and punch and cheese straws, and nuts.
    Hope this helps

  6. avatar Lisa Hays reply

    It’s your wedding. As long as there is a choice of “unleaded” beverages, I think you can serve “leaded” and let the chips fall where they may. The offended guests can leave early and if they are so brazen as to say something about your choices being the reason for their departure, smile sweetly, thank them for coming to the ceremony, state you will miss them, and go have a good time. My late F-I-L always said that the people who were meant to be there, will be there – and those who choose not to attend, weren’t meant to be there anyway.

  7. avatar Brittney reply

    Y’all are seriously awesome! Thank you, thank you, thank you Emily for sharing this and for al of your sweet suggestions and pieces of advice!

  8. avatar Denise reply

    The interesting irony to this situation is this is actually the first glimpse of your married life and essentially the first event your are “hosting” as a married couple! It is your party and the first of many parties you will have! I’m sure you want ALL guests to feel welcome. So unless the non-drinkers are actually paying for the wedding, I would have the alcohol bar on one side of the venue and the non-alcoholic bar on the other side of the venue. Children and non-drinkers won’t have to be anywhere near where the alcohol is served and those choosing to partake can do so. Enjoy your day!

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