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Invitation Etiquette: Creating Invites That Are Perfectly Personalized

With styles available for just about any personality, modern couples have seemingly unlimited options when it comes to wedding invitations. From luxe letterpress invites to fun and quirky designs, invitations let couples show off their style while giving guests a glimpse of the anticipated event.

Wedding invitations have come a long way since the formal affairs of yesteryear, but one thing hasn’t changed: the etiquette. Many of the same rules still apply today as they have for generations before, from how to address the envelopes to which information should be included—and which should be left out! Read on for tips on creating a perfectly polite invitation that lets your personality shine.

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Finding the Right Words

Many couples still choose to use formal phrasing on their invitations. Because committing your life to someone in front of your nearest and dearest is such a significant event, it’s no surprise that couples approach it with decorum. While a formally phrased invitation can work for any style of wedding, it’s particularly appropriate for a traditional affair—a church ceremony followed by a black-tie reception, for example. Using formal language will signal to your guests that they can expect a truly elegant event.

A formal invitation may read something like this:

Mr. & Mrs. Henry Nakagawa
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their daughter
Alyssa Chiemi Nakagawa
Stephen Michael Gallagher
Saturday, the eleventh of October
two thousand and fourteen
four o'clock in the afternoon
Saltwater Farm Vineyard
349 Williams Avenue
Stonington, Connecticut
Reception to follow

The format may change slightly depending on whether the event is hosted by multiple sets of parents, the groom’s parents or the couple themselves. In any case, it’s simply a matter of swapping out the names at the beginning of the invitation.

If you and your fiancé are more casual—and you’re hosting a rustic, whimsical or artistic wedding to match—it’s completely acceptable to loosen up the language. For a more relaxed look, you could change the spelled-out numbers to numerals in the addresses and dates. You could also remove the hosts’ names entirely, simplifying the phrasing to something like “Together with their families…” or, even more straightforward, “Alyssa Chiemi Nakagawa and Stephen Michael Gallagher Are Getting Married!”

Can’t decide? Sit down with your fiancé and look at other couples’ invitations for inspiration, browse the Wedding Paper Divas selection and simply talk about how you’d like to welcome your guests. Your perfect wording could come out of a casual conversation!

Once you’ve created a list of options, choose the one that feels like the best reflection of your personalities. It helps to start with a general template (visit this link for several options) and play with the language until you’ve found phrasing that fits.

It’s All in the Details

While couples can let their creativity flow when choosing the language for their invitations, there’s not much wiggle room when it comes to the most essential elements of an invitation. Keep in mind the three Ws:

  • Who. Include the full names of the bride and groom. For a formal invitation, include the full names of the hosts, too.
  • When. Clearly list the time, date, month and year of the event.
  • Where. Include where the event is taking place, with a full address (zip code not required).

As a general rule of thumb, the main invitation should only include the key details of your event. However, guests will appreciate additional information to be included in your invitation suite. A few details you may consider:

  • Attire. Should guests wear black-tie, garden party attire or will the wedding be themed? Don’t leave them guessing—tell them what to wear to a wedding!
  • Map. Whether you’re getting married in your hometown or you’re heading to a destination, out-of-town guests will appreciate a map and clear directions to any venues.
  • A ccommodation Details. If you’ve reserved a block of rooms at a local hotel, give your guests plenty of time to reserve in advance.
  • Activities. Will there be dancing? A casual rehearsal dinner? A rollicking after-party? Let your guests know so they can plan appropriately.

Perfect timing. You want to ensure that your guests have plenty of time to clear their schedules in order to attend your event, so it’s important to send your invitations well in advance. Here are the general timing guidelines:

  • Save the Dates: Six to eight months in advance
  • Invitations: Six to eight weeks in advance
  • Invitations for Destinations Weddings: Three months in advance

In addition, you’ll want to request RSVPs (an abbreviation of the French respondez s’il vous plait) within three weeks of the event so you can get an accurate head count. Traditionally, RSVP is only used on reception or combination wedding/reception invitations—not on wedding-only invitations. It’s generally placed on the lower left of the invitation.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

While certain rules have loosened up over the years, there’s one that still applies: don’t include gift or registry information on your invitation. This little detail is considered quite a faux pas. Instead, recruit family members and your wedding party to fill guests in on the detail if they ask, and include a link on your wedding website as well.

Speaking of your website, that link is better shared on your save the dates or invitation insert than on your actual invitation.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Your invitation envelopes are the simplest but hardest-working members of your suite. Unlike its contents, which are printed en masse, the envelopes must be addressed individually, with careful attention given to name spellings, addresses and, of course, handwriting. Here’s what to keep in mind when addressing envelopes:

  • Guests’ names should be written in full, with appropriate social titles included (i.e. Mr. and Ms.).
  • Spell out all words in an address and spell out house numbers less than 20.
  • The return address traditionally goes on the back flap and in many cases they’re still handwritten—although Wedding Paper Divas offers a fun selection of return address labels (which you can check out here.
  • Keep in mind that responses and gifts will likely be sent to the return address on the invitation. If you’d rather have them sent to a different address, list it below the RSVP line.

Do you have more questions about invitation etiquette? Chat with our wedding etiquette specialist or contact Wedding Paper Divas for more information.

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