Wedding Reception Etiquette for an Elegant Event


In today’s modern world, it seems that etiquette is a thing of the past.  Even the word “etiquette” brings to mind prim and proper ladies wearing white gloves and sipping tea while making idle chit chat.  For most of us, etiquette isn’t really a part of our day to day life anymore.  However, when you’re throwing a wedding, etiquette certainly should be a part of your special day.  Whether your wedding is a small, romantic affair or a large, formal, event, it should be as elegant, luxurious and classy as possible.

Here are two of the biggest wedding reception etiquette questions, and how they should be handled.

Can we have a cash bar?

This is probably the biggest question couples have when planning a wedding.  The answer is, emphatically, no.  A cash bar is never, never, never acceptable.  Often times a couple is trying to find ways to save money.  Naturally, the bar bill represents a huge chunk of money so couples question whether it’s ok to ask guest to pay for drinks themselves.  If you are looking to save money, there are other ways to do it without looking cheap, and unfortunately, when a guest arrives at a wedding with a cash bar, cheap is the word that comes to mind.

To save money on the bar bill, there are a few different things you can do.  One idea is to offer a signature alcoholic drink to guests.  If you are having a theme wedding, work together with your fiancé to come up with a drink that matches your theme.  This way, you’ll only be paying for a select amount of alcohol, rather than a fully stocked bar.

Another idea is to offer drink tickets to your guests.  Provide each guest with a set number of drink tickets (perhaps two).  After they’ve used their tickets, then they have to pay for drinks themselves.  Two drinks per guest is gracious, and also shows that you care about their well-being (you don’t want anyone driving home after drinking too much). 

The final option is to just offer soda, water, iced tea and coffee.  Rather than having a cash bar, it’s best to not offer anything at all.

Can we have an “adults-only” reception?

Another dilemma couples face is the question of inviting children to their wedding reception.  There are a number of reasons a couple might not want children present at the reception.  They may be trying to save money, they may be worried about how they’ll behave or perhaps they just want to provide their guests with an elegant evening out.  Whatever the reason, if you are not going to invite children, then absolutely NO children should be invited.  You shouldn’t make exceptions for some children and not others because people will be hurt.  For example, it’s not alright to invite your best friend’s child but not your young cousins.

Couples often ask what to do with children who are part of the bridal party.  The wedding community is divided on this issue.  Some think it’s absolutely fine to invite those children to the reception. You’ve obviously asked them to be in your wedding for a reason; because you love them and because they are well behaved.  Plus, asking a parent to spend money on an outfit for their child (as well as time for fittings, rehearsals, etc.) only to have the child not be invited to the reception would definitely cause hurt feelings.  However, others in the wedding community still say that if you’re not inviting any children, then no children should be invited, even ones in the bridal party.  It seems there is no right or wrong answer to this question, but whatever you decide, there are likely to be hurt feelings.

It’s important to note that if you do decide not to invite children, the proper etiquette for wording it on your invitation is “Adults Only Reception.”  It is never proper to say “No Children” or any variation thereof.

The most important thing to remember when planning your wedding is that it is YOUR day.  Learning the wedding etiquette rules are only part of the battle.  Make your decisions based on what you know in your heart is right and stick by them.  You’ll be certain to have a wonderful, classy wedding that you and your guests will remember for years to come.

Yvone Kon is a freelance writer, blogger and mom.  She frequently writes about wedding planning, wedding fashion, wedding entertainment and wedding bands in Scotland.  She is the author of the blog EventSpiration, providing inspiration and ideas for wedding, parties and holidays.  For freelance writing projects, please contact her via her blog. 


I am a former wedding/event planner and bridal consultant. Now, I'm a freelance writer, blogger and mom. I've written columns, articles and guest posts for many different websites and clients on a variety of topics, including wedding planning, wedding fashion and wedding entertainment. I am the author of the blog EventSpiration, providing inspiration and ideas for weddings, parties and holidays...(Read More)

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