When you are planning your wedding, you may find that there simply isn’t enough room in your budget (or in your ceremony venue) to invite everyone to the entire celebration. Many brides and grooms choose to have evening guests as well as day guests – that is, people who will attend only the evening reception.
Because you'll have two distinct groups of guests on your wedding day, it's essential to make the evening group feel as welcomed and special as you do the daytime group. Your evening guests will be missing out on your ceremony and your wedding breakfast, but that doesn’t mean that they should feel any less special or cared about.
After all, you still want to involve them in your day, and you don’t want them to feel resentful that they’re not being invited to every part of it. In this guide, we’ll share 13 of the best ideas for making your evening wedding guests feel welcome and special on your big day.
1. Give them a Personal Evening Wedding Invitation
The simplest way to welcome your evening-only guests is through a traditional wedding invitation. However, make sure the invitation is personalised to feel special and unique to them. Don’t forget to also send them a save the date – but make it clear that they’ll only be invited to the evening, to save any confusion and hurt feelings later.
You should include information about when they should arrive and give them guidance for the dress code so that they don’t stick out from the day guests.
At Bride and Groom Direct, we have a great selection of evening-only invitations to send these special guests. You can choose from our beautiful Sparkling Hearts Invitation, our rustic-themed Rustic Twinkle Invitations, our formal Adorn Invitations, or hundreds more from our exclusive collection. Each one will make your evening guests feel like they're an important part of your special day.
2. Save Your First Dance for the Evening Reception
The first dance is an extremely special moment shared between the bride and groom, and it’s a key part of the wedding day that all of your guests will be looking forward to witnessing. A great way to help your evening guests feel included in the big day is to save your first dance for them.
When you're planning out your wedding day schedule, simply ensure that your first dance is scheduled to start after your evening guests have been told to arrive. So, if you’ve told them to arrive at 7pm, your first dance should start at around 7:30pm (to account for stragglers). This will help your evening guests feel included in one of the most important parts of the day.
3. Postpone the Cutting of the Wedding Cake
You can also postpone the cutting of the wedding cake until after your evening guests arrive. This is another iconic moment that all of your guests will be anticipating – it makes for some great photographs, and the symbolic feeding of the cake to one another marks the start of your lives as a married couple.
Most UK brides and grooms cut the wedding cake straight after the wedding breakfast. But if you can hold off until the start of the reception, your evening guests will really appreciate it. Getting to witness this key wedding moment will be a fantastic welcome for them – and they’ll also get to enjoy a slice of cake. What’s not to love?
4. Give Evening Guests a Welcome Gift
While most people expect wedding guests to bring gifts that the bride and groom can use in their home, you may want to go above and beyond for your evening-only guests by surprising them with a special welcome gift. It’s normal for brides and grooms to offer wedding favours to day guests (usually presented on the dining table), so your evening guests won’t be expecting this little treat - but they’ll really appreciate it!
Whether it’s something like a couple of expensive chocolate truffles, a personalised candle or shot glass, or even a goodie bag with wedding cake and a thank-you card, your evening guests are sure to feel welcomed.
5. Create a Seating Chart that Promotes Socialising
One of the best ways to make your evening-only guests feel special is by giving them an opportunity throughout the night to interact with the entire guest list, not just those who arrived at the same time as them. To do this, create a customised seating chart that ensures everyone can interact with everyone else at your wedding - even if they don't know each other beforehand.
We offer a range of beautiful table plans that you can completely customise with your own requirements here at Bride and Groom Direct. What’s more, creating a customised place card for all of your evening guests will let them know that they’re equally as special to you as any of your day guests.
6. Take a Group Photo or Set Up a Photo Booth
Chances are, your photographer will have taken most of the wedding photos after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast (in what’s known as “cocktail hour”). Unfortunately, this means your evening-only guests won’t have been included in these photos.
If your photographer is going to stick around for the evening reception, having them take a few group shots of you and your spouse with your evening guests will help them feel included. But if not, a great alternative is to set up a photo booth at the reception with funny props, and some disposable cameras or a proper camera on a tripod. This way, your evening guests will get to have a great time taking pictures and will feel personally involved in your day.
7. Make the Evening Food Special and Memorable
Your evening-only guests are obviously going to miss out on the cocktail hour canapes, as well as the formal wedding breakfast with the entire wedding party. For some guests, the food is the most highly anticipated part of a wedding – so make sure you offer some great fayre at your evening reception, so that your evening guests don’t miss out.
You don’t have to break the bank by serving a sit-down dinner for your evening guests, but make sure you at least serve a high-quality wedding food buffet – and let your evening-only guests serve themselves first, before those that enjoyed the wedding breakfast. Don’t forget dessert, too – setting up a sweet table where your evening guests can help themselves to cupcakes, doughnuts or pick ‘n’ mix will bring out their inner child and serve as a really memorable part of the day.
8. Give Guests an Itinerary for the Evening
Every wedding guest should be comfortable and know what to expect – i.e. what’s going to happen and when during your big day. While your day guests will have been given an order of service when they arrived at the ceremony, your evening guests won’t have that luxury.
So, help them feel included and in-the-know by preparing a customised evening-only itinerary detailing everything that’s going to happen, when and where (such as when the first dance will start, when the buffet will be served, what time to expect last call at the bar, etc.)
9. Offer Transportation to and from the Venue
Typically, evening-only guests are expected to make their own way to the wedding venue in the evening, and find their own way back home afterwards. However, to make them feel a little more special and welcome, why not set up evening guest transport to bring them to the reception venue and take them home again afterwards – such as pre-paid taxis, or a hired coach?
That way, your evening guests won’t have to worry about driving, or paying for parking or public transport, and will be able to indulge themselves in a tipple or two. What could be better?
10. Invest in Evening Wedding Entertainment
Your evening guests will be looking forward to drinking, dancing, and socialising with you and all of your other guests. But why not make the reception even more special and memorable for your evening guests by investing in some special evening wedding entertainment? For example:
1) Hog roast
2) DIY dessert station
4) Comedian or magician
6) Adult bouncy castle
You could even set up a games room at your reception venue, for evening guests that don’t want to dance but would rather indulge in some classic Monopoly, Cluedo or Jenga instead.
11. Thank Your Evening Guests with a Toast
Your evening-only wedding guests will miss the main toasts and speeches that are typically made during the wedding breakfast (after dessert and before the cutting of the cake). So, to help them feel included and appreciated, make sure you prepare a small toast prepared for evening reception, thanking your evening-only guests for being there and celebrating with you.
It doesn’t really matter which wedding party member makes the toast, but ensure they do it early in the evening, before your guests become a bit too tipsy to remember it later!
12. Provide a Complimentary Beverage for Evening-Only Guests
Most brides and grooms provide wine on the table for their day guests during the wedding breakfast, as well as a toasting drink (e.g. champagne) to enjoy during the speeches. Evening-only guests will, of course, miss out on this. So, a great way to help your evening guests feel special is to provide them with one or two complimentary drinks at the start of the evening.
You could do this by having a waiter present your evening guests with drinks on a tray when they arrive. Alternatively, purchase some drink tokens and hand one or two out to each guest as they enter the venue, so that they can exchange them for whatever they’d like at the bar. (Don’t forget to arrange this with the venue staff first!)
13. Don’t Forget the Thank You Cards
Remember, your evening-only guests are just as much a part of your big day as your daytime guests. They took the time to help you celebrate, so you owe it to them to give their presence the respect it deserves. Even though evening wedding guests may not bring a gift, it’s crucial to show your appreciation for the fact that they attended your reception and helped you enjoy your big day.
The best way to do this is with a personalised thank you card. Don’t just write a generic message: make sure to specifically thank each guest for any small way that they contributed to your big day, or reference a happy moment with them that you enjoyed at your wedding. Finish off by signing the card by hand (both of you!) and they’ll really appreciate the time you took to thank them personally.