Prairie Hive

Wedding Reception vs. Ceremony

Every wedding ceremony and wedding reception is unique and different. After all, couples do things in their own ways, with some of them adding their personal touch to their big day.

selective focus photography white and pink isle flower arrangement

But what is really the difference between the wedding reception and the wedding ceremony?

The key difference between these two events is the specific part that they respectively celebrate during the day of the wedding. The wedding ceremony is normally held first. It is the actual spiritual, religious, or legal celebration where the couples are joined in marriage.

The wedding ceremony is followed by the wedding reception, which is the formal celebration of the new marriage often attended by the couple’s family and friends.

However, these two events are mutually exclusive. Couples will often choose to just celebrate the marriage with ceremony alone or they may even have an elopement.

What are the Differences between a Wedding Ceremony and a Wedding Reception?

The wedding ceremony and wedding reception are two significant aspects of a wedding day. The wedding ceremony pertains to the religious, spiritual act of marriage, which the wedding reception refers to the social event held after the ceremony. This is where the family and friends of the groom and bride celebrate with them.

It is also common for the ceremony and reception to be held at two different locations, especially when it is a religious ceremony. This can also be the case when it comes to civil ceremonies. However, for the past few years, there is a new trend where the civil wedding ceremony and the wedding reception are held in just one venue.

If you plan to hold both your wedding ceremony and the reception in the same venue, it is recommended that you consult with the venue coordinator to confirm if the necessary licensing is in place. You also need to check with the provider of your marriage license to ensure that the place where you plan to hold your wedding ceremony is considered legally binding.

What Happens During a Wedding Ceremony?

For most couples, the wedding ceremony is the most critical part of their wedding day. After all, this is the legal celebration of their commitment and love for each other.

Wedding ceremonies typically consist of the following:

The Procession

This is the entrance of the groom followed by the bridal party with the bride at the end. The procession happens down the aisle with the guests of the ceremony seated on both sides.

The Welcome

The celebrant, minister, registrar, spiritual or religious leader, or anyone ordained to marry the couple will start to welcome the wedding party and provide a few details regarding the ceremony.

people raising wine glass in selective focus photography

The Charge to the Couple

This is when the person who leads the ceremony will discuss things regarding the couple. They may also share one or two meaningful readings.

The Vows

The couple will share their promises of commitment and love for each other.

The Exchange of the Rings

The rings that represent the everlasting commitment and love between the groom and bride will be exchanged. These rings are also often blessed in religious wedding ceremonies.

The First Kiss

After the couple’s marriage is officially announced, they can now share their very first kiss as a newly married couple.

Signing of the Marriage Certificate or Register

There are times when the signing of documentation that legalizes the marriage is also done as part of the wedding ceremony.


The groom and bride will now leave the ceremony together officially as husband and wife after the ceremony concludes.

The wedding reception usually starts right after the recessional but not before photographs are taken and confetti is thrown.

The wedding guests will also go to the venue of the reception if it is held in another location. if the reception and ceremony are held in just one location, the ceremony is often followed by canapes and champagne reception to give the venue enough time to set up and prepare for the reception. It is also during this time when the new couple has their photos taken.

What Happens During a Wedding Reception?

The reception is the social event that celebrates the marriage. It also has several traditional elements that you might want to include, although a wedding reception is typically less formal compared to the wedding ceremony itself.

Wedding receptions often include the following:

The Champagne Toast

Prosecco or Champagne and some canapes are usually offered to the wedding guests once they arrive at the reception that they can enjoy while mingling with the rest of the guests. This is also normally the time when people sign the guest book.

The Entrance of the Newlywed

The guests will be asked to sit down after the initial reception to prepare for the wedding breakfast. After everyone is settled, the groom and bride will now be introduced for the first time as Mr. and Mrs.

The Wedding Breakfast

The day guests enjoy drinks and meals as part of the festivity.

people sitting in front of table talking and eating

The Speeches

At one point either during or after the wedding breakfast, the wedding party members will give their speeches. These are traditionally given by the father of the bride, the best man, and probably a thank you message from the groom and bride. Maid of honor speeches have also started to become a trend recently.

The Arrival of the Evening Guests

When the wedding breakfast is over, the evening guests may begin to arrive for the subsequent reception celebrations that will continue throughout the night.

The Wedding Cake Cutting

The groom and the bride will cut the wedding cake.

The Couple’s First Dance

The guests will now gather on the dance floor while the groom and bride will share their first official dance as a newly married couple.

The Evening Entertainment or Dancing

Following the first dance, the dancefloor is usually opened for the socializing and dancing to start.

The Evening Food

There will also be a bar with drinks on the night of the reception. The guests will also be served hot food that is not as formal as those during the wedding breakfast.

The Exit of the Groom and Bride

As the night concludes, the guests will gather to wave off the groom and bride as they leave the reception to start their new life as a married couple.

You see, the wedding ceremony and reception are two completely different celebrations of marriage and love!