Wedding ceremony invitations and wedding reception invitations should reflect the style of wedding you have chosen and your personality as a couple. The purpose of the invitation is to invite family and friends to a celebration for you as you begin your life together.
When a wedding reception is at the same location as the wedding ceremony, a simple line is included on the wedding invitation itself stating, "reception following the wedding," or "a reception will follow immediately after." But most of the time, the reception is at a different location and a separate reception invitation will be included with the wedding ceremony invitation.
Any wedding reception invitation needs to tell the guest what to expect--cocktails, dinner, buffet, barbecue, dancing or whatever your plans are. Of course, all invitations must have the location of the event and the times. Include directions or mention a landmark to assist your guests.
A formal reception invitation may or may not state that it is black tie, but almost always will indicate the time allotted for dinner, dancing and sometimes a cocktail hour. Formal receptions usually are held at elegant venues, such as hotels, halls or ballrooms. Formal wedding receptions are almost always an "adult reception," and that should be stated in those terms on the invitation, not "no children allowed." A formal reception invitation will begin with the names of the hosts, whether the parents or the couple, requesting or inviting the guest to a celebration of the wedding. This etiquette has relaxed somewhat for formal reception invitation wording when the invitation is included in the wedding invitation, and it is now acceptable to omit the host names and simply announce a reception will be held, giving the details. The details will usually specify a schedule of sorts, such as: Dinner at 8 o'clock followed by Dancing until Midnight, or Cocktails 7 to 8 p.m. Dinner 8 to 9:30 p.m. Dancing 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
A response card the guest fills out and returns is always included with formal wedding reception invitations.
Informal wedding receptions can mean a more casual setting such as at the home or garden of a family member, a theme-type reception such as a Hawaiian luau or barbecue. Such receptions may be in a more formal setting, but serving casual food in a buffet style, with or without dancing. These things should be included in the wording of the reception invitation. As an example, "Please join John and Mary, following the ceremony, for a barbecue celebrating their marriage at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Doe. 123 Main Street, Anywhere USA." Or, like the formal invitations, informal can begin with the hosts' names inviting the guests to a Hawaiian luau to celebrate the happy couple. Depending on the number of guests invited and the theme of the reception, a response card may or may not be included.
Many times, the couple has chosen to elope and have a small, intimate ceremony with a few close family members and friends, or have their wedding ceremony at a romantic location miles away from their home. Those circumstances do not mean the couple, or parents of the couple, cannot host a post-wedding reception for family and friends celebrating the recent marriage.
There are considerations and requirements that a post-wedding reception invitation must include. The invitation must make it clear that the wedding has already taken place, at another time and place. And, like a wedding invitation, the hosts to the reception must be named, requesting or inviting the guest to the celebration of the marriage. Like any other wedding reception invitation, a post-wedding reception invitation then will contain the specifics of time, place and venue. Most, if not all, receptions given post-wedding are informal.