Anniversary receptions might not be something you've heard of before, but they're about to become huge new wedding trend.
After a year where weddings were postponed, downsized, went virtual or faced being cancelled, lots of couples chose to have an intimate registry office wedding or minimony on or near their original date and save the big celebrations for later.
You've probably heard us use the term 'sequel wedding' before, which is a small wedding followed by a bigger reception later on, and an anniversary reception is an example of that.
In essence, an anniversary reception is a party the couple throw on the anniversary of their wedding ceremony date. And after all the Covid wedding restrictions, they're about to be hugely popular!
Here's everything you need to know about throwing a wedding anniversary reception and how to make the day as memorable as possible.
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What Is an Anniversary Reception?
Covid threw a spanner in the works for many engaged couples and those who managed to make it down the aisle often had to completely alter their plans. That could have meant a whole new venue, a much smaller guest list, a different outfit, or even an elopement of just the two of you. With all the upheaval to your wedding plans, it can feel like the celebration aspect got left behind. This is where an anniversary reception comes in.
As the name suggests, an anniversary reception is an extension to the couples' wedding day, where they hold a celebration on the anniversary of the date they officially tied the knot. This could be a one year anniversary - which is the most popular choice - but there's no reason it couldn't be six months or even two years if that works better with your plans.
The anniversary reception will be a party in line with your original wedding theme, where you get to celebrate all the things you couldn't the first time round, such as the cake cutting and first dance. You're basically recreating the wedding reception you should have had without the ceremony part beforehand.
How Does an Anniversary Reception Differ to a Sequel Wedding?
A sequel wedding typically is a minimony (a very small ceremony with less than 20 people) or elopement, followed by a much bigger second wedding where you will have another ceremony and reception. This ceremony won't be the legally binding one; it could be a blessing or a celebrant-led ceremony with a symbolic handfasting, for example, but the day will contain all aspects of a 'normal' wedding day as well as having the big reception.
An anniversary reception is just the reception leg of the wedding. It will include the wedding breakfast, speeches, cake cutting, first dance and partying. Does this mean you can't have a ceremony at your anniversary reception? It would be usual but it's not off the cards.
However, we'd suggest the energy of an anniversary reception is about fun, laughter and dancing, and a ceremony can change the mood of that to something more solemn. If you want to reflect aspects of the ceremony, then what about a grand entrance of the couple that emulates the walk down the aisle? Or how about you swap humorous vows as part of your speech?
When Should an Anniversary Reception Happen?
In theory, your anniversary reception should be on the one year anniversary of your wedding date. However, this isn't always practically possible and it's totally fine to have it on the nearest weekend or even chuck the one year idea completely.
The point of the anniversary reception is that you can have everyone you wanted on your original guest list attend, so that could be six months to two years after your wedding date. There's been a huge rise in the number of brides who've got pregnant this year so it might not be the right time for you to have a wedding just 12 months on from your civil ceremony. The same thing goes if your anniversary clashes with big life events like a house move or milestone birthday of a loved one.
There is no right or wrong amount of time after your ceremony to have your anniversary reception, it's what works for you.
Do I Keep the Same Venue for My Anniversary Reception?
It's completely up to you, but you fell in love with that venue and envisioned your reception there already so it makes sense to stick with the same location. If you've had a great experience with the staff helping to postpone your wedding or throw a minimony for you, you know you're in safe hands when it comes to the big reception later.
Many couples booked in for a second celebration one year after their original wedding date when they postponed, and it's the perfect chance to have the day you dreamed of (just a little later than scheduled!).
We're aware that some wedding venues sadly may not be reopening after Covid and some couples parted with their venue on bad terms, so there's no obligation to the venue you originally had. You may also be in a completely different financial position, so don't feel bad about choosing somewhere like a pub, restaurant or village hall where you can have a much more relaxed reception that fits your new budget.
Should I Hire My Original Suppliers for My Anniversary Reception?
Absolutely! You likely won't have had the food, cake and entertainment you planned at your intimate wedding. Your anniversary reception is an excellent opportunity to treat your guests with all the amazing touches that you thought so long and hard about.
Again, this may come down to budget; you may not be in the same position to offer a sit-down meal for 100 people and might need to speak to caterers about doing a more informal BBQ or perhaps inviting guests after the meal time and just serve evening snacks as you dance. You may want to ditch the idea of wedding favours and save that money for something else. And of course, your original suppliers might have another booking on your anniversary date so you'll need to look for an alternative supplier.
There are a few suppliers we'd recommend you work hard to keep the same:
- We'd always recommend that you hire your same photographer so you have beautiful, cohesive memories of both events.
- Special entertainment such as a live band or a great DJ will make the event really memorable and will get everyone up on the dancefloor. If this reception is all about the party for you, then you need good music to create the atmosphere and a Spotify playlist won't cut it.
- You don't need an open bar if your budget won't cover that, but we love offering a welcome drink and something to toast the speeches with, even if the rest is from a cash bar. It sets the tone of a fun, relaxing evening when guests arrive to a nice signature drink.
- If photographs are being taken, then its nice to invest some of your budget in hair and makeup. You'll feel a million dollars and you'll likely have had your hair and makeup trials already so you trust your suppliers to know how you want to look.
What If I Need to Start Planning My Anniversary Reception from Scratch?
If you've planned one wedding, we get the hesitation of having to think about planning a second event. Your suppliers may not be available on your anniversary reception and that requires making enquiries, booking and planning payments all over again with a new set of suppliers. Eeek! Now don't panic, take a deep breath and remember an anniversary reception is all about having fun with your loved ones.
Make a list of the things that are most important to you - e.g. a cute tipi, amazing food, a fun mobile bar, a photo booth, a DJ, floral decorations etc - and prioritise booking these. Everything else, like favours and centrepieces, can be thought about later.
And don't forget that your bridal party are still there for you to rely on! Could your mum, dad, sibling, maid of honour or best man make a couple of enquiry calls to potential suppliers? Even if it's just finding out availability and prices to help you make a shortlist.
Can I Host an Anniversary Reception at My House?
Many couples choose their original venue as it's a great way to using the deposit that you've paid. However, if you're not obligated to a venue and want to do something casual, you are absolutely host an anniversary reception at home.
Hosting events can be stressful so decide how much of yourself you want to give to the organising. Getting caterers in will save you a lot of stress, but if you've got a dad who's a whizz on the BBQ and would happily man the grill for 50+ guests, then go for that.
Your home is where you're most comfortable and where might be most suitable for friends with children as you can plop them down in a room with a Disney film on (with some supervision). If home works for you, go for it!
Do I Wear the Same Wedding Dress or Suit to an Anniversary Reception?
Lots of couples decide to save their special wedding day outfits to wear at their reception when they can finally be seen by all their friends and family. Most often, a more casual or high street option is bought or hired for the trip to the registry office or elopement as it works better with the intimate, laidback vibe.
If you've spent a lot of money on your dress or suit and want to show it off, your anniversary reception is the perfect place - even if you've worn it at your ceremony a year before. Perhaps you could jazz it up with different hair accessories or shoes this time? A pop of colour can make an outfit look totally new. And don't dismiss the game-changing ability of throwing a cape, jacket or overskirt on something you've worn already to make it look like something you've never seen before.
It's really all about whether the outfit works for the occasion. If you've had to change the venue or season for your reception, your original outfit might be too warm or too cold, it might look out of place or not fit you any more (quite possible if you've had a child in the meantime or just because it's been lockdown!).
All that matters is you love what you wear and feel good in it in photos. (And pssst! A few extra sequins never hurt too!).
Do I Invite the Same Guests to My Anniversary Reception?
It depends what kind of party you decide to have. For example, if it's a complete re-do of your original reception, then you'd invite all the same people. This is especially the case if your parents have financially contributed to it as they'll still expect all the same invites for relatives and their friends.
If you and your partner have decided to choose a different venue and have a different kind of party, then the guest list doesn't need to be exactly the same. For example, if you're taking over a pub for the evening, it might not be suitable for granny in her wheelchair and your work colleague with the new baby. Your guests will be incredibly understanding and so long as they get to celebrate with you at some point, they won't be too annoyed if they can't attend the anniversary reception.
Our general advice though is yes, invite the same guests.
Do I Need to Send Wedding Invitations Again?
This IS your wedding reception, so yes, we'd say printed invites are the way to go. There are lots of different options if you'd prefer to go eco-friendly, like digital e-vites, so make the stationery work for you. What we would say is that this isn't a WhatsApp or casual group email situation. Set the tone for the day with how you announce it and invite people.
Should I Expect Gifts at an Anniversary Reception?
The gift question is always going to be a divisive one. Guests typically give a gift on the wedding day to celebrate the newlyweds, whether that's bringing a present with them, buying an item you've want requested on your gift list or leaving an envelope with a financial gift.
If the guests are not invited to the wedding day (e.g. because the guest list is extremely small or an elopement), then we'd expect them to bring a gift on the day they do get to celebrate with you, AKA the anniversary reception. The most important thing is to make it clear what you expect.
If you have a registered gift list, then contact your guests and say that you'll be keeping the list open until the reception the following year. Emphasise that you don't expect gifts for both occasions and are just happy that they will finally get to celebrate your wedding with you one day. This gives your guests the opportunity to purchase something for you on the ceremony day or for the reception day.
Alternatively, your guests may want to split their budget between a small gift like some flowers or a bottle of wine on the day of the wedding ceremony and a bigger gift for the anniversary party. This is a generous gesture and you should send separate thank you cards for both of the gifts.
Not inviting some of the guests to your reception? Here's our guide on how to deal with gifts for postponed weddings.