I’m Not Religious, So Can I Skip The Ceremony?

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It can be challenging to keep track of the many wedding dos and don'ts in existence; there's a reason that there have been entire books written on the rules of conduct surrounding these events. This week, we answer two questions — one from a couple getting married, the other from a wedding guest — on ceremony protocol.
My fiancé and I are introverts, and we would like to keep our wedding ceremony very intimate. Is it okay to only invite people to the reception?
While most guests look forward to the cake-and-dancing part of the wedding day (and for good reason!), excluding some guests — but not others — from the ceremony could lead to hurt feelings. However, if you’re having a super-intimate ceremony (immediate family only, for example) you might be able to get away with it. If that’s the case, keep these tips in mind:
1. Consider having the reception on a different day. You could have a courthouse ceremony, followed by a big party to celebrate a week later. That way, it won’t be as obvious that you and 20 of your guests have just come from an event that the remaining 80 were not invited to.
2. Send a different invitation to those who are only invited to the reception. Consider language like “We invite you to celebrate our marriage with us at a reception…” or “Please join us for a celebration following our ceremony…” Sending a traditional invite will likely go over a bit better than just posting about it on Facebook (“Hey, y’all! Everyone’s invited!”) and will make it clearer what your intentions are.
My friend is getting married and I’d like to skip the ceremony. It’s going to be long, it includes a church service (and I’m not religious), and I’d just rather not go. Is it completely rude to just show up for the reception?
Your friend has invited you to bear witness to an important life event, and sitting that out because it sounds boring (but then still showing up for the buffet) is likely to be seen as rude by the newlyweds. We all do things we aren’t psyched about for our friends, and an hour won’t kill you. You also might be surprised and find the ceremony meaningful simply because of how much it means to your friends.
On the other hand, if you need to leave right after the ceremony and skip the reception, that’s definitely more acceptable. If this is the case, let the couple know when you send in your RSVP (or ASAP if you find out later) that you won’t be able to stick around. Don’t make them pay for a meal you won’t be there to eat (or leave them unsure as to whether you actually showed up or not). We also suggest you make sure to bring a card in this case; if you can’t add it to the card box at the reception site, simply ask another guest after the ceremony if they would be so kind as to add it with their own at the reception.

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