wedding invitations

Invitations, the First Impression

December 14, 2013

You’ve been planning your dream wedding for months, but for your guests, the invitation is their first glimpse of what’s to come. It provides a clue to the event, and the level of formality, along with some indication of your wedding style: Formal or informal? Modern or traditional? You’ll want an invite that matches… and so, let the search begin!

Where to start

Wedding invitations include so many tiny etiquette details, from how to list the names to how to address the envelopes to how to arrange all the enclosures… and for this reason, it’s ideal to find a qualified local professional to be your “go-to” person for all of these questions – and more. Check online at to find stationers in your local area, attend local bridal shows or pull out the yellow pages. If you choose to purchase your invitations online, be sure to find a reputable retailer, and if possible, give yourself some extra time just in case there is a problem that would require more shipping time back and forth. You could also “test-drive” the customer service of an online retailer with an email and a phone question, to make sure they are reachable and responsive, to give yourself a little peace of mind.

When to start

Like all wedding responsibilities, the earlier you start, the more time you have to search, thoroughly evaluate options, and handle any problems that arise. It’s helpful to have your ceremony and reception details decided (when and where), and your basic wedding style and colors established. Knowing these things will help you find an invite that truly expresses the beauty and style of your day.

If possible, order the invitations and other wedding stationery six or more months before the wedding to give yourselves plenty of time for reading and correcting proofs, printing, addressing, stuffing and mailing. Mail the invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding. Let any out-of-town guests who would need to arrange flights and/or hotel rooms about the date as soon as you know it, either informally through conversation, or more formally with a save-the-date card mailed as early as possible. This consideration gives them more time and flexibility to make travel arrangements.

All the parts

Wedding invitations are typically comprised of several components, each with a different purpose. There is the ceremony card announcing the details of the ceremony with the optional tissue paper to lay on top (an old custom to protect the other enclosures from still-tacky ink), the reception card if applicable with those details, the response card with its stamped, addressed return envelope, the map if provided which also often includes hotel details for out-of-town guests, and the inner and outer envelopes. Some invitations combine these elements, such as including the reception information on the ceremony card, especially if it’s at the same place or immediately following. It’s also possible to simply eliminate some elements (such as the inner envelope or tissue paper covering the ceremony card), particularly for more informal styles.

The invitation wording

Traditionally, whoever is officially hosting (read: paying for) the wedding is listed first on the wedding invitations. Of course, you can work it out however you like with your families. (This is one area where it’s really important to have good communication between all parties!) Some couples today, who are paying for the majority of the expenses themselves, with help from their mixed and blended families, simply say “Mary Bride and John Groom, together with their families, request the honor of your presence at their marriage…”

This is also where it would be very helpful to have an experienced professional to assist! You could also do a search online to find invitation wording samples and discuss the options with your groom and respective families.

Assembling the pieces

The traditional way to put together an invite is as follows: start with the ceremony invitation on the bottom, cover with tissue if desired, put the reception card on top of it, and then put the response card with the unsealed return envelope and the map, if you’re using one, on the very top. Slide all items face up into the inner envelope. Do NOT seal the inner envelope, and slide it into the outer envelope with the addressee’s name facing the back flap so that it will be visible upon opening.

Addressing advice

The outer envelope should have a return address included on the back flap, and it’s probably well worth this small extra cost to have this done by the printer, so you don’t have to write the return address on every single invite you send! For the names and addresses of your guests, you can hand-write them, run the envelopes through your printer using a calligraphic font, or for a very beautiful and special touch, hire a calligrapher. One bride-to-be actually framed the envelope with her name and address on it that she received for another friend’s wedding, because the calligraphy was such an incredible and gorgeous work of art. What a visual treat for the guests of that wedding! Ideally, try to avoid labels, even clear ones, because they just don’t convey the sense of “specialness” and elegance that something as special as a wedding deserves.

The following guidelines provide the traditional “rules” when addressing wedding invites that do help convey that sense of specialness and elegance. Street names, cities and states should be written out completely without any abbreviations. To indicate both parties of a married couple, use both “Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Green.” When addressing an unmarried couple living together, use each of their full names: “Mr. Ronald Green and Miss Angela Thomson.” If every member of a family is invited, write “Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Green and Family.” If only the older children are included, their names are written below the parents’: “Miss Erin Green.” Adult children no longer living with their parents should receive their own invite.

Addressing children this way should let guests know if children are invited or not, but often this is unknown or overlooked by guests. If you’d rather not have children at your wedding, you could also include on the invite “Adult Reception.” And, you may just want to let certain guests know this as well when you talk to them in person.

A final, critical tip

When you’ve fully assembled your invites, take one to the post office, and have them weigh it, assess it and give you a definitive postage due amount. It may weigh more than one ounce, or be an odd size (such as square) that costs extra, and the last thing you want is 100 wedding invites coming back to you marked “insufficient postage!” So make that extra trip to the post office to be absolutely sure, mail them out, and take a deep breath. The wedding is officially underway!

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