Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Other than how to save money, the second biggest question I get when working with brides is how to word their stationery. These are some basic but most asked etiquette questions, and hope you find this useful as you are planning your wedding.

There are a lot of etiquette resources out there, so I tried to combine all of the basics into one blog post for my reader's convenience. Also, when ordering your cards through August + White, we can also provide wording and etiquette assistance as well!

Additional Resource: The Wedding Planning Guide & Checklist


Save the Dates

Save the dates should always be used unless you are having a small, informal ceremony. The information on this card should be basic, with names, date, location, invitation to follow and website address. You should only send a save the date to those who are getting a formal invitation. Many couples like to use their engagement photos on their cards; another great idea is to use a simple, sophisticated card (like the example below) and add a photo on top tied with twine. Simple and elegant!

If after sending a save the date you are notified that someone cannot attend, you should not send an invitation, so they do not feel obligated to send a gift. If it is someone close to you, sending an invitation with a note that this is for a keepsake works well.


The Basics of the Invitation

Invitation wording can become complicated, so try to keep it as simple as possible. Start with basic wording that coordinates with your wedding day.

GREETING (OPTIONAL)

The greeting can have a simple saying such as "Together With Their Families" or a more traditional phrase with the parents names. If the bride's parents are paying for most of the wedding, it is common to use their names in this section.

Mr. and Mrs. John Jones
invite you to celebrate
the marriage of their daughter

For divorced parents, most opt to use "Together With Their Parents" to keep it simple; or the names could be listed like this:

Mr. & Mrs. John Jones
and Ms. Rebecca Harper
invite you to celebrate
the marriage of their daughter

 

MIDDLE OF THE INVITATION

The bride and groom's first and last names should always be listed, but for a very formal ceremony often times the middle name is used as well. The invite section is just a simple phrase that invites them to your wedding, such as "cordially invite you to attend the wedding celebration" or informal as "invite you to celebrate our wedding day". List the ceremony time and location after this, minus the address. The address for all venues should be placed on a separate insert card or on your website for easy access.

 

BOTTOM OF THE INVITATION

If you are having a reception, put "reception to follow" as well at the bottom of the invitation so your guest will know that there is something after the ceremony. If you are having an informal reception with just cocktails and hors devours, you can simply put "cocktail and hors devours reception to follow". This way your guests will not expect a plated meal and know they need to make other arrangements.

If you are requesting special attire, this can also be put small and at the bottom of the invitation. The attire can be listed several ways; here are a few examples:

Black Tie; Summer Casual Attire; Formal Attire; Black Tie Optional; Beach Formal; Semiformal

Try to refrain from using just the word "Casual", because this can be miscommunicated easily and you may have some show up at your wedding in shorts and a tank top. 

 

WHAT IF NOT ALL GUESTS ARE INVITED TO THE CEREMONY?

If you are having a private ceremony and then a larger reception, you should have two separate invitations. The second invitation would have wording that is clear that they are only being invited the reception.

Example:
After their private ceremony
{names}
invite you to celebrate at their wedding reception
{date} {time}
{location}

or

Mr. and Mrs. ____________
would like to invite you to the reception celebrating the marriage of their daughter
{name} to {name}
{date} {time}
{location}

Also, many misconstrue only being invited to the reception to receive a gift; it is proper etiquette to add "your presence is the only gift we request" so it is clear that you want to celebrate with them, not that you just want another wedding gift.

 

WHAT IF I WANT MY WEDDING OR RECEPTION TO BE ADULTS ONLY?

It is best to spread the word that children should not attend. It is not acceptable to place "adults only" on your wedding invitations; however, it is perfectly acceptable to put this on your website. If you do not mind having children at the ceremony, but plan on having an adults only reception make sure this is clear, particularly if they are traveling. Be consistent with this message and call anyone in advance who may have an issue, or who you think may have an issue with not bringing their children. Of course, the ring bearer and flower girl are exceptions to this, since they would be included with the bridal party.

 

WHAT IF WE DO NOT WANT SOMEONE TO BRING A GUEST?

There are a few ways you can hint around this. Word of mouth should always be used, as this an informal way of notifying that you have limited seating. If they are in a committed relationship, even if you do not know the other person you should extend the invitation. It is important to stay consistent and not make exceptions to avoid conflict.

If you have singles that you are inviting, but not allowing guests, on the RSVP Card indicate "___ guest(s) attending" and auto fill this with a "1" for those who are single. If using a website, you can clearly state that guests are not welcome, such as:

"We are creating an intimate ceremony and reception with our favorite people; therefore, we please request that no additional guests attend. Please call or email us with any questions."


Reply Cards

For a more traditional and formal ceremony, RSVP cards with envelopes are used. For cost saving measures and convenience you can use a website to have your guests RSVP. This wording would be placed on an insert card with your website address as well as the deadline (3-4 weeks prior to the wedding). For a ceremony RSVP, generally you wouldn't use an email address; however, for a rehearsal dinner or if they are only being invited to the reception, this would be perfectly acceptable. This is also a great way to have them choose their meal selection if you are not having a buffet.


Insert Cards

Insert cards are a great way to display your website, accommodations, and other particular information that your guests would need to know.


Escort Cards vs. Place Cards

Escort cards are the cards that are placed in the foyer of the reception which have table numbers assigned. These seat assignments can also be done via a large bulletin board, chalk board, or framed for each table with the names underneath. Each person should receive their own card (couples will not be placed on the same card).

Place cards are used for seat assignments at the tables. For larger weddings, usually both escort and place cards can be used; if you have a smaller wedding with one or two large tables, place cards would suffice.


Thank You Notes

If you have received a gift from someone, you should always send a thank you note (not an email). Ordering your thank you notes well in advance of your wedding day is helpful to have them ready, and they should be sent as soon as possible, but no later than 2-3 weeks from receipt of the gift.


I hope these tips will help you with wording, envelope addressing, and etiquette for your big day!