Few things warrant a big celebration as much as reaching 50 years of marriage. A 50th wedding anniversary reception may be a stand-alone event, or it may follow a renewal of vows ceremony. Whether you are planning your own golden anniversary, plan to host a reception in the couple's honor or have been invited to share in the celebration, there are certain rules of etiquette that should be considered.
It's common for a 50th anniversary reception to be hosted by an adult child or children in honor of their parents. However, it's not an obligation, and siblings, grandchildren, friends or the couple themselves can also host the celebration.
Depending on how formal the 50th anniversary reception will be, invitations should be received by invitees between two and eight weeks before the event. For formal affairs, six to eight weeks is standard. Casual invitations can be sent by mail or digitally at least two to four weeks before the event. Invitations should include the name of the couple, the date, time and location of the reception, dress code (if applicable), and RSVP information. Traditionally, unless one or both holds a professional or military title, the couple's name is written in the format of "Mr. and Mrs. William Smith." It is also acceptable to write both given names out in the modern format of "Jane and William Smith" or "Ms. Jane Jones and Mr. William Smith," if a surname is not shared. Note that when both given names are used, the wife's name is first.
The traditional color for the 50th wedding anniversary is gold, and the color is commonly featured in the design of the invitations.
Gift registry cards or gift requests should not be included with an invitation. While adding "no gifts, please" is traditionally considered inappropriate, it has become acceptable to make such a request on the invitation.
Upon receipt of an invitation to a 50th anniversary reception, the invitee should respond within a day or two in the manner stated on the invitation: if by phone, use the number given with the invitation. If an RSVP response card has been included, fill it out and mail it back.
Dress according to the formality of the event. More formal events require dinner jackets, suits or tuxedos and long or cocktail dresses. For a more casual event, sport jackets for men and sundresses or blouses with skirts or slacks for women are appropriate. If there is any uncertainty, ask the host when responding to the invitation.
Gifts are not obligatory for a 50th anniversary reception, though guests frequently choose to honor the couple with a gift.
Appropriate gifts for a 50th anniversary reception include sentimental gifts such as items related to the marriage year, restaurant gift certificates and charity gifts in the couple's honor. The traditional 50th anniversary gift theme is gold. Gifts of gold jewelry are customarily given from one spouse to the other, though sometimes very close family members such as grown children give gifts of gold as well.
Gift registries are not customary for a 50th anniversary; it is appropriate, however, for the guest to inquire about gift preferences when responding to the invitation. If the couple does have any needs or preferences, the host shares that information with the guest at that time.
If the couple has requested no gifts, guests should honor that and refrain from bringing a gift to the reception. If the guest chooses to give a gift in this case, it should be given at a different time or mailed to the couple's home.
Speeches and/or toasts are customary at both formal and casual 50th anniversary receptions. Brief speeches are usually given by the couple; having one half of the couple speak for both is acceptable. Additional speeches may also be given by one or more of the couple's grown children or grandchildren, members of the original wedding party, siblings and/or close family friends.
Food and dancing are commonly a part of an anniversary reception. If food will be served, the host should be mindful that many older guests--not least of all the guests of honor--may have special dietary requirements, and plan accordingly.
Delaware-based Daisy Cuinn has been writing professionally since 1997, when she became the features editor for her local biweekly music newspaper. She has been a staff writer and contributor to online and offline magazines, including "What It Is!," Celebrations.com and Slashfood. Cuinn holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Temple University.