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Reception back home when you marry abroad?

by | 11 March 2017 | Wedding Reception

After all the paperwork, family mediation, guest-list cutting and logistical admin, which you’ll do in total faith of online forums and hotel reviews, you’ll still have one burning question… ‘Should I throw a wedding reception back home?’ Well, should you?

There’s no doubt about it: having a destination wedding is a big thing. (Our Paul did it himself, and gave us the low-down on having a wedding abroad a while ago now.)

Before we get into this, it’s worth saying that destination weddings come with a few pitfalls.

Because they involve travel, it’s likely that a lot of your close friends and family won’t be able to make it – whether that’s because of age, family commitments or cost.

Whatever your reasons are for getting married abroad, your guests are always going to have an opinion. And the guests who are most likely to voice theirs are those that couldn’t make it to the actual big day. So, in a bid to keep the peace…

Flowers on a beach

Do you throw a full-blown wedding reception…

Having a reception when you get back from your destination wedding is one way to celebrate your new marital status (if money isn’t an issue).

Just think: you could make the people back at home feel like they were there on the beach/mountain/exotic island with you by playing a video of the ceremony in the background and hanging pictures up of the big day.

But, let’s get real for a second – this is only going to rub it in people’s faces. And they’d be lying if they said they weren’t a teensy bit envious, angry and resentful towards you, especially if they weren’t even invited to your wedding.

So, to minimise the risk of your guests drawing devil horns and fangs on your wedding photos, my advice would be to put yourself in their shoes.

The way they see it is that you selfishly decided to get married in a faraway place, which they couldn’t get to. So, how do you avoid any passive aggressive comments or bittersweet quips while still throwing a fun, happy wedding reception?

1. Don’t drag your ‘Just Married’ celebration out

Try to have your reception within a few weeks of your actual wedding. There’s nothing worse than your ears burning with comments like, ‘You wouldn’t throw a birthday party three months after your actual birthday!’.

That’s what Popup Weddings’ writer Paul and his wife Becky did: ‘We had a wedding party at home exactly a month after getting married in Thailand. Only eleven people made it to our wedding, so the celebration afterwards was pretty tame. A party for the sake of a party didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Besides, it meant that our relatives and extended family could come and congratulate us.’

Just married car with tin cans

2. Don’t ask for gifts

Make it clear that you’re not expecting gifts – you don’t want to seem gift-grabby. And anyway, if people wanted to get you something, they would’ve gifted it to you already.

3. Be prepared to have your ear chewed off. Or not

If you eloped to get married, be prepared to be bombarded by friends with the what, whys and hows? And (likely) ignored by your closest friends and relatives.

Ultimately, you made the decision to have the wedding of your dreams, which was, no doubt, in a stunningly beautiful location. And so you should! But with grown-up hood comes learning to live with the consequences; and in this case that’s backlash from grumpy friends and relatives. (They’ll get over it… eventually.)

4. Be prepared for a dip in the bank balance

Throwing a wedding reception at home will set you back a few thousand quid.

Paul explains: ‘Our reception was expensive. Probably more expensive than our wedding. It almost defeated the point of getting married abroad – we did that because we love travelling and, more importantly, so we could save a lot of money. But booking a hall, buffet and DJ set us back a lot where we had saved.’

Women with money

…or just have a casual party?

Unless you’ve got an endless budget, the downside to getting married abroad is that you have to forfeit some of the perks of having a larger, local event. And one of those perks is the all-singing, all-dancing wedding reception.

Now, traditionally speaking, the reception is supposed to be a ‘thank you’ to guests for coming to your ceremony. It’s also an expected formal occasion that will incur you and your guests costs – you’ll be inclined to wine and dine, while your guests will feel like they should bring a gift (plus they’ll probably have to travel, book a hotel for the night and buy a new outfit for the occasion).

So, with that in mind, why not have a casual party back home to celebrate your marriage without all the frills of a reception?

Party sign

On a practical level, it takes away the financial pressure and the mithering over wedding present etiquette.

While on an emotional level, a low-key event has a minimal rub-it-in-your-face factor, and is a much more genuine way of showing people that they’re just as much a part of your new life as those at the ceremony.

If you got married abroad and threw a celebration back at home, we want to know. Did you go for a formal reception or a casual party? And did you face any backlash from your friends and family? Share your experience in the box below.

About the author

Jo Wigley

From her word-nerd studio (way) down under in New Zealand, the copywriter in Jo crafts websites, advertising campaigns, scripts, blogs and brochures for businesses across the world. While the creative consultant in her helps brands, big and small, find their voice in one heck of a noisy world.


Wedding Reception Reception back home when you marry abroad?