We're having a drinks reception following our ceremony and a small dinner in the evening just with our parents. We are providing our guests with an arrival drink and a champagne toast, plus sandwiches and cake. How could we word our invitiations to set an expectation that there won't be lots of food and it's not a tradtional reception? Our reception starts at 2pm.
You are right that it's important to make it clear to your guests that there won't be a traditional sit-down meal for them as most wedding guests attending a reception this early on in the day will expect to be fed at least one meal, usually two - a sit-down wedding breakfast and then a late evening buffet. I suggest wording your invitations as follows: '...followed by a reception of champagne and canapes instead of a formal wedding breakfast', or '...followed by a champagne reception with light snacks only'. Sanwiches and cake sound lovely, though if you are hoping to party on into the evening then you will need to be prepared for many guests to have to leave to go in search of food at some point as your ceremony is at lunchtime and any guests who have had far to travel might not eat lunch and be hungry by late afternoon/early evening. It's an idea to email or phone as many guests as you can to suggest they eat an early lunch before coming just in case. If you want to keep dancing till dawn and feel you do need to put on some more food but don't have the budget to pay for a sit-down meal for all your guests, consider putting on an evening buffet from your local supermarket as their prices are very good and you could ask an usher or the best man to pick it up just when you need it. Hope that helps!