In general, you can only have a handful of people at your courthouse wedding. That’s often one of the appeals.

Yet you can have as many people at you want at your reception! Focusing hard on a killer reception can be one of the ways you make your courthouse wedding special.

Choose Your Timing

Did you know? You can have a reception up to three to four months after your wedding. You don’t have to worry about having your courthouse wedding and your reception on the same day (pretty handy, if you eloped).

If you need a little time to plan the perfect party, you can take it. Of course, it’s always better to plan in advance.

Remember, increasing the number of guests generally increases the amount of lead time you’ll need to find a venue or a location, so take that into account when making decisions about who to invite and where to go.

You should also give some thought to the total length of the reception event itself. Most receptions include a cocktail hour, a dinner, toasts, dancing, cake cutting, a little more dancing, the formal last dance, and a grand exit. If you want to include all that in your reception you’ll need to book your venue for 5 to 8 hours.

Finally, consider the schedules of the people you’ll be inviting. If you’re inviting a lot of parents with school-age children they won’t thank you for plopping your reception down into the 2nd week of August, especially if you’re asking them to travel. Consider what might be convenient and fun for the people you want to celebrate with.

Make an Elopement Announcement

Elopement announcements are trending on Instagram, and with good reason. Done right, they can ease the sting of your elopement by focusing on the romance. Pair it with an invitation to the reception to make it clear that you’re not cutting your loved ones, family, and friends out of this important milestone in your life.

Instead, you give the impression that you just got caught up in the romance of it all, (whether that’s true or not) and that now you’re ready to break out the bash with everyone you care about.

When your invitees really stop and think about it, they might just appreciate not having to sit through an entire ceremony.

Choose an Amazing Menu

There’s nothing worse than bad food at a wedding, and if you’re only planning the reception there’s no excuse. You can make the food your central focus.

Book a room at a hot new restaurant, or find the tastiest, most reputable caterer in your area.

If you really want to knock the reception out of the park for your guests, be considerate of diets that might not align with your own. Make sure there are more vegan options than a limp lettuce salad. Think about including some keto-friendly foods for the diabetics and dieters among you. If you know Uncle Bob has a dairy allergy then make sure there are tasty alternatives on-hand.

This doesn’t need to be hard. You can make it happen with a few staples.

  • Beautiful fresh fruits and berries are friendly for almost every diet.
  • If you offer bread with butter and cheese, consider offering a vegan option like hummus, fig spreads, or nut spreads too.
  • Have at least one meat-based appetizer, one vegan appetizer, one vegetarian appetizer, one carb-free appetizer.
  • Avoid seafood, as many people have strong opinions about it, or allergies.
  • Offer simple entrees, one meat-based and one vegetable-based.
  • Offer at least one carb-free side, and at least one vegan side.
  • Cheese, butter, sour cream, and other ingredients can often be offered on the side.

Of course, your budget might not be capable of accommodating everyone, but being mindful and thinking through your options can go a long way.

Don’t assume you know what everyone you’re inviting eats unless you’ve specifically asked. People’s dietary needs and preferences can change rapidly, especially if they are quietly grappling with health concerns. They might not be comfortable asking for special accommodations.

All this focus on food may take a little extra work on your part, but it will be well worth it when your guests are fed, happy, and having a good time. Besides, it’s a great excuse to taste your way through the menus of several tantalizing options!

Focus on Finding Fantastic Professionals

Hopefully you’ve at least hired an amazing photographer before now, if only to help you put your elopement announcement together. If you haven’t? It’s time to invest in one. You’ll also want to invest in a fabulous DJ (or put together a killer playlist, if you’re on a budget).

If you’re hosting the reception in a home you might want to recruit a few relatives or friends to help you out this way. Either way, having a few people whose job it will be to make the day great can go a long way towards creating a fun, memorable day.

Yes, You Can Have a Registry

Most guests will appreciate having a pre-chosen list of gifts to select. You can make your celebration gift-optional, of course. Wording on the invitation can read: “Gifts are welcomed but not required. If interested, here is our registry link.”

If you do put a registry together make sure you focus on household goods you really need, and offer an array of options at an array of price points, as well as the option to contribute to bigger gifts.

Offer a Toast to Your Guests

At a traditional wedding ceremony, the best man tends to make a speech and call for a toast. At a post-elopement ceremony after a courthouse wedding, it’s acceptable for either the bride or the groom to stand up and do the same, but this time, for the guests.

In this case, it’s again about easing any hurt feelings that might have been generated when you choose to go small, private, and civil for your wedding.

Manage Your Mindset

When you do a wedding ceremony a little bit differently it’s natural to feel a little self-conscious.

Just remember that ultimately this is your wedding and your marriage. You’ve chosen an alternative: a cost-effective, lower-stress, quieter option. One that is perfectly acceptable and increasingly prevalent.

Don’t think of anything you’re doing as a substitute for a “real” celebration. Your reception is a real celebration. Focus on making memories, plan well, and the rest will take care of itself.