No, we didn’t mistype “wedding reception.” An anniversary reception is its own thing, though it’s likely you’ve been to fewer anniversary receptions than wedding receptions. Because of that fact, you might be a little in the dark about what exactly goes into an anniversary reception and how it differs from a wedding reception. Luckily, they’re actually quite similar.
Source: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com
What Is an Anniversary Reception?
Okay, so let’s get something out of the way real quick. You do not host an anniversary reception annually. That is a wedding anniversary, and the two of you should do your own thing for that. An anniversary reception happens a year after your wedding, once your stacked wedding rings have given you a sweet tan line to brag about.
Who Would Want an Anniversary Reception?
Generally, an anniversary reception is done if you had a really low-key wedding. There are two main reasons you would want one:
Reason one: You had a small wedding to save money and/or have a more intimate ceremony with just close family and friends.
Reason two: You got married during Covid and didn’t get to host that all-out wedding reception because, well, Covid.
Can you have an anniversary reception even if you had a traditional wedding and wedding reception? Well, sure, there’s no reason you can’t. However, anniversary receptions are usually going to be for people who fit one of the two previous categories.
Everything You Need to Know About Hosting an Anniversary Reception
Send Out Invites Early
Just like a wedding, you want to get those invites in the mail well ahead of time so people can clear their schedules and be in attendance. This is especially important if you invite friends and family from out of state. If your anniversary reception is going to be small and for more immediate friends and family, still send out invites early, but it isn’t as crucial.
Choose a Reasonable Location
For budget constraints, if no other reason. Seriously, venue costs are rising. Look, you want this to be fun, obviously. However, anniversary receptions, by their nature, are a little more low-key than wedding receptions. Also, you’re a year into married life and you probably won’t want to throw as much cash at a venue now. In fact, it’s prudent for many younger married couples to be thrifty with their anniversary reception venue. Nothing wrong with an aesthetic backyard!
Theme the Party
Just for fun, if nothing else. You don’t have the energy that comes with going from wedding ceremony to reception, but you do have greater freedom to lean into a theme and make a super fun party out of it.
Make an Event Out of It
Go big! Drinks, music, live entertainment, whatever you like. In a lot of ways, you have more freedom at an anniversary reception than you do at a wedding reception. People are coming for just this one event and planning is a little easier, so go as big as you can!
If you want to do a vow renewal with it, make that the central event (and don’t forget to consult a vow renewal checklist). You can really lean into the vow renewal and exchange women’s and men’s wedding bands (even if it’s the same band you were wearing already).
Don’t Forget the Photographer
You don’t want to miss these memories, right? This is especially true if you didn’t have a wedding reception already (or a wedding photographer at the ceremony). Photographers don’t come cheap – at least, good ones don’t. However, when you get your plethora of professional-quality photographs, you’ll understand why you paid the price you did for them.
You’ll Probably Want Caterers
Look, you don’t need caterers. You can absolutely do everything yourself, especially if you’re having a smaller anniversary reception. However, if you can swing it, caterers really do offer a lot. If you had a small wedding reception and you used caterers, you can always bring them back for round two!
Make Your Guests Feel Appreciated
You want to do this always because it’s just polite. However, because your guests are coming for this event specifically, much like a wedding, you want to show your appreciation. Gift bags and other things that would normally be at a wedding reception are a great way to thank your guests for taking the time to celebrate with you.
Planners Might Be in Order
Do you need one? No. Much like caterers, there’s no requirement. However, like having professional caterers, professional planners can pay for themselves. If you’re doing a small anniversary reception, this isn’t as big of a deal. If you’re doing a larger one, though, you should really consider hiring some outside help.
Dress Code Is a Little Less Concrete
So, technically, the dress code is a bit nebulous at weddings and wedding receptions, too. However, with those, there are at least some norms for what you can generally expect. There’s still a broad spectrum, but you’ve got reference points.
At anniversary receptions, you want to be very clear about dress code expectations because guests may not know what they should default to if you don’t mention it.
Gifts Aren’t Unexpected, But They’re Not Quite Expected Either
The norms around gifts are always a little uncomfortable. Should you expect gifts at your anniversary reception? The short answer is no. The longer answer is no, but it’s likely some guests will bring them anyway. It’s a little murky here, but just do your best to be gracious about receiving and not receiving gifts because you probably have enough stuff anyway.
Anniversary receptions certainly aren’t the norm, but in some ways, that’s great. You have plenty of creative freedom, so have fun with it!