A wedding invitation is more than just an invite to the biggest day of your life. So before choosing your stationery, be sure to consider these few simple Wedding Invitation Etiquette Tips to help set the tone in your guests’ mind before they even arrive. We have even more wedding stationery inspiration in our Wine & Country Weddings library, too.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette 101
It used to be there was only one kind of wedding invitation, and if Emily Post had anything to say about it, there was one way to write it. The bride’s parents were hosting, the ink was black and the paper was cream colored. Though there’s a lot to be said for tradition (and we do love a classic invitation suite), we’re not sorry to see this rigidity guide go to the wayside. Nowadays, invitation suites can be a lot more personal. You can incorporate colors and graphics that will set the aesthetic tone for your wedding, whether formal and elegant or quirky and casual. But, while there’s more room for expression, it’s not just anything goes. You want to carefully consider how to put together your invitations, because following a few simple rules of etiquette and being considerate with your choices can prevent awkward confusion, and keep everyone comfortable and excited about the big day.
Photo: Aaron Watson Photography
Which Names Go First On Wedding Invitations?
The traditional wording of the bride’s parents inviting guests to the marriage of their daughter comes from the days when women got married without ever living on their own, but rather going straight from their childhood home to a residence with their husband and parents covering all costs of the celebration. With increased independence and people getting married later, the question of phrasing is an opportunity for more flexibility. It’s up to the couple to decide who they’d like to name as hosts on the invitation. Parents, honorary parents, the couple themselves, children: there are arguments for all of them to be the ones inviting guests to attend the nuptial event. A good rule of thumb, for invitations and the wedding itself, is to be as inclusive as possible. Another good rule of thumb, which again applies to both the invitation and the wedding, is to keep it simple. Between these two rules, there are many possibilities!
How Should You Word Your Wedding Invitation?
From the formality “the honor of your presence,” which is used for religious ceremonies, to the casual fun of “we’re getting hitched,” there’s a phrasing that can capture the mood you’re trying to create.
The hosts do the inviting at the top of the invitation, and then the couples’ names are centered, followed by the pertinent information of the ceremony and the reception.
So few life events allow the sense of occasion as your wedding, so enjoy the opportunity to embrace invitations like spelling out the dates and the time.
How to Proof Your Wedding Invitations
Invitations have gotten increasingly elaborate and colorful, so when you’re reviewing the final proof before ordering, make sure that all names are spelled correctly, double check the date and time, and consider getting a fresh set of eyes to confirm that the formatting displays all this information clearly and consistently.
Why Are There So Many Envelopes?
The tradition of outer envelopes (with the address and the stamp) and the inner envelopes (with the names of those invited) comes from a time when envelopes could get rather dirty: the inner envelope was meant to provide a more pristine experience for the recipient. It’s a little gesture that helps set a more formal tone, but it’s not necessary, especially if your event is more laid-back.
Wedding Invitation PhrasingTip:
If you’re having a ceremony in a house of worship use the phrase “request your presence.” For all other locations you should use “pleasure of your company.”
What Does RSVP Mean on an Invitation?
This abbreviation is French for “respondez, s’il vous plait,” which means, respond, please! So there’s no need to add an extra please because the French have already incorporated it. We do recommend adding a date, to encourage action on the part of your invited guests.
How to Encourage Guests to RSVP
Numerous etiquette experts, as well as various wedding hosts, have bemoaned guests’ unwillingness to commit to attend. If you include a response card, providing an addressed, stamped envelope, it has shown to help increase your response rate. You should also consider including an email address: this makes it really easy for guests and can help you keep track of responses.
Who Gets a Wedding Invitation?
If someone has received a save-the-date, etiquette requires that they also receive an invitation. If someone is in a relationship, you should include the name of their partner on the invitation. It’s best to draw hard-and-fast rules for questions like kids or distant relatives (all first cousins but no second cousins, for instance). This way, even if people’s feelings are hurt, it’s clear from your end that it’s not personal. If you are inviting children, you can address the outer envelope to “The Smith Family” and then list the children’s names on the inner envelope (or, for more informal invitations, just go with “The Smith Family”).
Should Wedding Invitations Include Registry Information?
Here is an instance where you should keep art and commerce separated. We’re not afraid to declare it: registry information has no place on your invitation. Put it on your wedding website, let other family members spread the word if guests ask, but keep if off the invite.
Beautiful and meaningful wedding invitations set the tone for the event itself, and make people feel excited to be attending. Whatever designs and flourishes you may choose, have an eagle-eye for accurate information, clarity on who, exactly you’re inviting, and offer as many opportunities as you can for people to rsvp.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette isn’t about rigidity, it’s about comfort for others, and following the rules in this arena will allow you to know you’ve prioritized the comfort of your guests as you invite them to join you in the celebration of your marriage. ~
has written for Wine & Country since its inception. She has been an instructor at William & Mary, UVA and Virginia Commonwealth University, where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D. She lives in Charlottesville with her three daughters.