What is This Whole Etiquette Thing
and Why is it Such a Big Deal?
Wedding Invitation Etiquette
Etiquette is a big word for the rules of social conduct that our society considers to be appropriate and acceptable behavior – doing things the “right” way. Etiquette is only effective and proper when it actually strengthens relationships however, as courtesy has to be at the core of true etiquette. In the task of wording your wedding invitation and all the other nuances involved in that process, it is more important that relationships be considered as more important than the actually wording of an invitation.
We will attempt in the following pages to answer any questions you may have regarding your invitations, what all you need to know, and to lay out guidelines for proper wording giving explanations of each as we go along, and you can decide if that is the path you want to follow or make deviations as necessary for your particular situation. Many of our clients come to us with many different questions as the proper way to word their invitations just because they do not know how to do it properly and as you may imagine, there are many, many variations that come up as many family situations are different.
In no way is “doing it by the book” a good idea if some feelings are going to be hurt along the way. Common sense and courtesy often must prevail, but in the pages that follow, you may find the answers to many “etiquette” questions we have received over the years and our answers are the “proper” answers. You may decide to do some creative deviations of our suggestions if necessary to keep peace in the family. After all, this is a very special day you are planning here, let’s keep it that way. Etiquette was created I think to give us guidelines so that we can feel more at ease and comfortable knowing what is expected of us, because as we adhere to these guidelines, we can help to make our relationships more effective and comfortable.
I don’t believe that etiquette was ever invented to cause problems, so that is where common sense, courtesy and sensitivity of others feelings come into play.
Many traditions have come and gone along the lines of etiquette as it applies to wedding invitations, and some of what we are sharing here may be obsolete in fifty years. What we will be discussing in the following pages are currently relevant for the 21st Century.
There is a wealth of information in the following pages. It’s a long read but if you take the time to read it, all your questions should be answered as this is a pretty exhaustive list of questions and answers on the subject of wedding invitation etiquette.
You can use the search box below to help you search for an answer. Just type in a couple of keywords. If there is a match, this should help to sort through all the material below to see if we cover that topic.
How do I pick the right stationery, the right wedding invitation?
The stationery you use, the paper or card stock that you select makes a statement about you. It sets the tone for your wedding. It will be the first exposure your guests will have to your wedding and will create their first impressions. What kind of impression will it give? There is so much to consider. It is not something to just get out of the way because it is necessary. Not only do your wedding invitations tell them the pertinent information as to the date, time, location, etc., but it subtly tells them how formal it is, how they should dress and perhaps even what type of gift they may send.
If you are having a themed wedding, look for an invitation that can carry out that theme. Pick a font that fits your personality. If the invitation also fits your personality then that should be easy. The font needs to be elegant but easy to read. The ink color should go well with the invitation. Black is the most classic and elegant, but it is also appropriate if you want to carry out your wedding colors here. It costs just a little extra, but a lining for your inner envelope adds such an elegant touch. If you can afford it, you should.
If you are having a church wedding you would want something rather formal, whereas if you are having an outdoor wedding perhaps at someone’s home or at a beach, a something less formal with more color would be more appropriate. The ecru is the most traditional followed by bright or soft white. Black or grey ink is the most formal, but if your invitation has an accent color, or as in the case of many brides, you are trying to keep a color theme, you can select from a number of other ink choices. We offer 18 ink and lining color choices for the white invitations and 7 for the ecru.
When should I order my invitations and when should I mail them?
As a rule of thumb, they should be ordered at least two months before the wedding to have the time you need to get them all assembled addressed and in the mail 4-6 week prior to the wedding. Of course, it is best to go ahead and order them as soon as you have solidified all the details: time, place, place of reception, etc. If you are having a calligrapher address your inner and outer envelopes, but sure to check her schedule to be sure you can get your invitations in the mail in time. As a side note, if you are planning a summer wedding or one that is around a holiday, you may want to give your guests a couple additional weeks notice so they can be sure to plan appropriately since they may possibly plan another trip around that holiday or seasonal time.
Where should I purchase my wedding invitations?
From us of course! Seriously, the most important thing is to find someone you who has a wealth of experience and expertise in selling wedding invitations, and is capable of answering any and all of your questions about the different styles and qualities of papers, the wording, etc. You need to feel comfortable with them and have the confidence to trust that they know what they are doing, and will be able to provide you with exactly what you want and can already visualize. This is something that should be a relatively easy process, given the proper guidance and should not be something that you find yourself worrying about.
How much should I expect to spend on my invitations?
We get so many customers asking the average cost for 100 wedding invitations. Unfortunately that is something we just can’t answer. Your costs certainly will vary depending on several factors. It is determined not just by the quantity, but the quality of paper and the number of enclosures you will need and all the printing options you select. Keep in mind that even though your invitations play a very important role in setting the tone of your wedding, no matter how much you spend, it really only amounts to approximately 2% of the total cost of your wedding, if that much.
How many invitations should I order?
You should consider two things when determining the quantity of invitations you will need. A guest list of 150 people does not necessarily mean that you need 150 invitations. You will only need one invitation per married couple or for a single person over 18. If there are young adults living with their parents, they should have their own invitation rather than being included with their parents.
You should always order extras as there may be last minute additions to your guest list. It is always less expensive to order 25 more now than to have to re-order 25 later.
Should I order extra envelopes?
Always order extra envelopes to cover mistakes made in addressing. A calligrapher will insist that you have extra envelopes.
There are so many choices of fonts and ink colors. How do I go about knowing how to choose what is best for me and my invitation of choice?
The bride and groom's names are the focal point of your invitation. When choosing your typestyle, be sure to look closely at the capital letters of the typestyle you choose. A script font is most appropriate for a formal invitation.
Your best bet is to pick two or three favorites and experiment to see how it looks on the invitation you have selected and request a proof. There is usually is a charge for this but at least you will know whether or not you like it as a full page and you will know how it is going to look. Fortunately on our site you can see a virtual proof in real time that allows you to see multiple choices until you find just the right one. You can experiment with fonts and ink colors on any and all of our invitations and view a proof online. You can still request a black and white email proof or a color press proof (actual printed invitation) if you like for an additional charge but it really is not necessary since you can see it online.
How do I put all of these enclosures together to mail? There are so many, is there a special order? And what about these tissues, am I supposed to use them?
Yes, there is an order or assembly that is proper. First put your invitation down on the table, facing up, with the tissue on top. Next put your reception card (if you have one), again facing up. Next put your response envelope upside down with the flap up. Slide your response card under the flap, facing up. If you have additional enclosures (like perhaps direction cards, pew cards, etc.), put them on top facing up. Pick up the pile and pick up your inner envelope (this is the one that is lined and has no adhesive on the flap). Put the stack of cards in the envelope facing the back of the envelope. If your invitation is a folded type, the fold should be at the bottom of the envelope and when you pull it out, the wording should be facing you and you have put it in correctly if you can read the invitation without turning it. When the cards are in the inner envelope, turn that envelope over so that the front of it is facing you and put it in the outer envelope in which the back is facing you. If you have done this correctly, when the back of the outer envelope is facing you and you pull out the inner envelope the front of that inner envelope is facing you. In other words, the front of the inside envelope faces the back of the outside envelope.
Here is a great tip for assembling your invitations.
First of all I would count each of the pieces to make sure that you have all that you are supposed to and make sure that you have an equal amount laid out. Lay them out on a table in the order described above and start to assemble them. Do not seal them at this time. When you get to the last one, are there any extras, are any short? This is how you can tell if you possibly stuffed two of the same card in one of the envelopes or left out one. If your count is off, you will have to go back through and find out where you made a mistake. At least you know that way when you are done that they are all complete. Now you can seal them.
How do you know which is the inner and which is the outer envelope?
The outer envelope has glue on the back flap to seal shut. The inner does not and is a bit smaller. Also, if you chose a color lining for your envelopes, that is the inner envelope.
As for the tissues, that tradition got started many years ago when the ink didn’t dry instantly like it does now. The tissues were to prevent smudging and were put on top of the invitation separating it from the other cards. It had nothing to do with etiquette. It is something that has just stuck and became more of a tradition than etiquette. They are included with every order and most people continue to use them, however don’t feel compelled if you don’t want to. It is just as appropriate to send without as with the tissues. It actually isn’t a bad idea to go ahead and use them as the post office uses machines to cancel the stamps. The pressurized machines could cause some smudging. You can ask the post office to hand cancel them if you want and they will do that for you if you stand in line and ask them to.
How much postage will these invitations need?
That is going to vary depending on a number of things. Most are going to cost the rate for 2 oz. considering all the enclosures. Also, if your wedding invitation is a tri-fold, it is going to be heavier. If it is a large square, it is oversized. Believe it or not, the small square invitations that are around 5 ½” square require extra postage because they have to be hand canceled rather than going through their metered machine. Your best bet is to assemble a set and take it to the post office and ask before purchasing the postage so you will be absolutely sure what to buy. You sure don’t want these coming back to you because of insufficient postage!
Tips and Trivia on Addressing Envelopes
If you ever wondered why there are two (inner and outer) envelopes, they used to be delivered by hand. Your footman would delver them to your guest’s homes where they were accepted by the servants who then would take them out of the tattered outer envelope and hand the pristine inner envelope to your guests. Since they had already reached their destination, the address was not necessary, just the name of the invited guests. Wedding invitations are still delivered in two envelopes. The outer envelope of course contains the full name address with no abbreviations. The states and even “Rural Route” and “Post Office Box” are to be spelled out.
Only your guest’s names are to be printed and only their titles and last names are used. If a child living at home under the age of eighteen is invited, their first names would appear on the line underneath their parent’s names. If a child living at home is eighteen or older, they should get their own invitation.
The proper way to format the return address is to have printed only the two line street address on the back flap of the envelope. No names are to be printed here. It is usually the address of the person issuing the invitation which is usually the mother, however, this is the address that typically is used to send the wedding gifts, so if you would prefer that the gifts be sent directly to you, your address would be just as appropriate.
The most formal way to have your envelopes addressed is to have a professional calligrapher address them for you; however they don’t have to be if you or someone you know who is willing to help has nice handwriting. They should be done in black ink.
I’ve heard so much about not using abbreviations or numerals in the invitation copy, how about on the envelopes?
While it is appropriate to write out the numbers one – twenty, it is also fine to use numerals for the street address. Use whichever looks most aesthetically pleasing. Certainly use numerals for the zip code.
I am inviting a man and woman who are living together and not married. Whose name should go first on the envelope?
The woman’s name should go first.
I am inviting two sisters who live together. Whose name should go first?
The older sister’s name should go first, but if they both are over eighteen, they should each get their own invitation.
We are inviting a couple with children and we want to include the children. How do we address the envelope? Do we put “and family?”
Not on the outer envelope as wedding invitations are to be sent to adult members of the household. If you want to include the children, their names should go on the inner envelope under the parent’s names.
A number of our friends are in a dating relationship and want them to feel free to bring them to the wedding. How do we indicate that?
The best way if you know the names of the other individuals is to send them their own invitation, but a less formal but acceptable way is to write on the inner envelope either, Mr. “Stephen Sampson and guest,” or Miss Karen Brown and escort” or “Miss Karen Brown and guest.”
What is the difference between wedding invitations and wedding announcements?
The purpose of the wedding announcement is to let family and friends who were not invited know that the wedding took place. They are traditionally sent out by the parents the day after the wedding. They can be sent out up to a year afterwards but the sooner of course, the better. They follow the same format and are usually printed on the same stock as the invitations but do not include the time or physical address of the wedding, just the day, year and name of location (i.e.: First Baptist Church, Rockville, Maryland). The announcement usually begins with the parents names “have the honour of announcing” or “have the honour to announce.”
The wedding announcements can also be issued by the bride and groom in which case their names will appear on the first three lines then continue with simply “announce their marriage.” It would be presumptuous for them to include “have the honour” so that is not included if the announcements are from them. Also the word “joyfully” is not properly included as it is assumed that they are happy.
Wedding announcements are usually sent with “At-Home Cards” which are small enclosure cards on which their new address is given. These at-home-cards are not expected. They are just a nice and easy way to let people know your address. Wedding gifts are not expected upon receipt of a wedding announcement as they are upon receiving a wedding invitation.
When should I order my Wedding Announcements?
Not everyone needs wedding announcements, but if you do, the easiest would be to order them when you order your wedding invitations if you know at that time how many you will need. You can always order them later but will have to pay more for shipping if they are mailed separately.
What if we are having our reception a few weeks later, can we include the reception card with the wedding invitation?
No, they are separate events so should be mailed separately.
All about reception cards
Reception cards are not necessary if the ceremony and the reception are being held at the same place there is room at the bottom of your invitation to put the pertinent information. If they are being held in different locations, however, you will need a separate invitation to that separate event and that is your reception card.
If you are having a morning wedding and your reception is before one o’clock, the first line should read, “Breakfast” otherwise it should read, “Reception.” If the reception is to follow the ceremony, the next line should read, “Immediately following the ceremony.” If the reception is not to occur two or more hours after the ceremony, then the actual time should be indicated. If you are concerned about your guests knowing that a meal is being served you can always preface the word, “Reception” with “Luncheon” or “Dinner.”
The third line is the name of the location and the fourth line is the actual address. The fourth line can be omitted if it is a facility that is very well know and the address is not necessary or if direction cards are being included that would already have the address. If the reception is being held in the same city, the city and state can be omitted. If it is a different city, that should be included. If it is in a different state, of course that needs to be included as well. It never is wrong to include the city and state anyway if you like, but the zip code is never included.
If your reception is to take place at your parent’s house and their names are on the invitation, just enter their home address. Your guests will be able to figure it out. If you are having your reception hosted at a friend’s house, their name and address would be listed on the reception card.
If your ceremony is scheduled after six p.m. it is considered formal. Some guests will be aware of that, but not all, so if you want your reception to be “Black tie” you can indicate it on your reception card in the lower right hand corner. It will appear in smaller type.
There are a lot of children in our extended families and as much as we love them, we really want our wedding to be a formal event and having children there, we feel would spoil the mood. How can we indicate that children are not invited?
If the children’s names are not included on the envelope of the invitation, the recipients should know that the children are not invited. It seems a bit cruel to include “No children please” as corner copy. The best thing you can do is to simply talk to those family members and just tell them that you would love to include the children but because of expenses (or whatever reason) has prevented you from doing to. What some couples have done is title their reception card, “Adult Reception.” It is not totally proper but should get the job done. If the children are not invited to the reception, logistically it would be difficult to get them somewhere else after the ceremony and get back to the reception, so in most cases your guests with children would make other arrangements for childcare. If you don’t mind having the children at the ceremony but want an adult reception, you could arrange for the use of a room and hire a babysitter to care for the children during the reception. You of course would have to provide meals for them as well, so you would incur more expense trying to please everybody. You really are better off just talking with the families involved.
My fiancé and I are trying to save money for a down payment for a house. Can we ask for money in lieu of gifts?
Even though occasionally a bride and groom establish a money tree and ask their guests to contribute to it, it is still considered incorrect and in very poor taste to ask for money. It is presumptuous to show that you are expecting a gift in the first place. Also, some guests would really like to give you a special gift to be remembered by. The best way to let people know that you would prefer money is to instruct parents that if they are talking with any of your guests ahead of time and asked about what you need or where you are registered, they can let them know that you prefer money to a gift.
How do I let my guests know where I am registered?
It is in very poor taste to include a card announcing were you have registered. That is too much like asking for a gift. The best way to get the word out is by word of mouth. If you have set up a personal website, you can let the word get out, by separate email or word of mouth about the web site and you can have that information on the website along with all of your other pre-wedding information.
This is the second marriage for both of us and we really don’t need any gifts. How can we properly let our guests know that?
There are two acceptable ways you can do this. You can indicate as corner copy in the lower right-hand corner of the invitation, “No gifts please.” But the preferred way is to have a small enclosure card which states: “Your presence is the only gift we request.”
Just realize that even though you may not feel that gifts are necessary, many guests may feel that they are and/or see it as an opportunity to share their love with you. If you are older, they will not be giving you the same type of gift that they would give a younger couple. You may actually be pleasantly surprised at their gift. The decision has to be yours however if you want to mention, “No gifts please.”
All about Reply Cards and Envelopes
It is important and proper to send reply cards so that you can receive a count of the total number of guests who will be attending. Your caterer will need to know how many meals to prepare and you need to know who all is coming so that you can figure out the seating arrangements. There a number of different formats which are acceptable. On our web site when you get to that point, you can see which wording suits you best. Two things that are consistent are a request for a response with an “on or before” date, and a line in which to write their name and how they are responding – yay or nay. Nowadays with the personal websites, some brides are putting the URL where their guests can go to respond online and some put a phone number. Even though it is done a lot, it really isn’t proper and the written response should still be offered. Your address is printed on the response envelope which is included in the price of your order and of course, you should put the proper first class postage on that envelope that is being returned to you.
What is the date that should be requested for the reply cards to be returned?
You can check with your caterer to see if they need more time, but usually two weeks prior to the wedding date is sufficient. Unfortunately, there will be some guests who will not respond and you will probably have to follow up with a phone call.
Which is correct favour or favor?
Either. It is a matter of personal preference. Most brides prefer the English “our” version. The important thing is be consistent throughout all the invitation pieces.
Invitations to the Reception
There are times when wedding ceremonies and receptions may not have the same number of guests. Some couples, especially those in which the brides getting married for the second time may have a small, intimate wedding with primarily family and close friends and a larger reception afterwards. In this case the wording on the invitations and reception cards are reversed. The larger invitation is used as an invitation for the reception and the smaller card normally used for the reception information is used as the ceremony card with the details of the wedding.
Reception invitations always read: “request the pleasure of your company” since the reception is not taking place in a house of worship. The term “marriage reception” and “wedding reception” are both correct.
Not everyone will need pew cards but they are used when specific pew have been assigned for some or all of the guests. They help the ushers efficiently guide the guests to the assigned seating area. The pew cards are one on the enclosures sent with the invitations and have a space on the card which is filled in by hand with the appropriate pew.
Directions and Map Cards
Directions and map cards are much appreciated especially by out of town guests. The direction cards give simple but precise directions to your wedding/reception while map cards generally feature major roads with landmarks to help you guests find their way. Generally when direction or map cards are used, the street address is not included on the invitations.
Direction cards and map cards are usually included with the invitations but may be sent later in an envelope or as a post card to those who have indicated that they are coming. In that case you might want to include at the top a line reading, “We are looking forward to having you attend.”
One way to alert family and friends to your new address is to include at-home cards with your invitation or announcement. Some couples also include their new phone number if they know what that will be. Include the date that you will be returning from your honey moon. They will be worded a bit differently if included in an announcement than if included with an invitation since you will be married in one and not yet in the other.
Stationery needed after the wedding
Notes and cards which you will need for correspondence after the wedding and throughout your married life include informals and thank-you-cards which you can use long after thanking everyone for their gifts for a variety of brief correspondences.
The term, “Informals” is actually an misnomer in that they are a “formal” note – so much so that to keep it a “formal” note, only the bride’s name is to be printed on the front (i.e.: Mrs. Stephen Sampson) if the informal reads, “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Sampson it makes it more of an informal note. The thinking here is that even though the note is coming from both individuals, it is only being written by one person. The thought continues that if the groom will be writing some of his own thank you notes, he should have is own stationery with just his name on it. If you don’t mind coming across more casual, both names can be included. Again, first names (i.e.: Stephen and Karen Sampson) rather than “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Sampson, makes it ultra informal. So…I guess it really depends on how you want to come across and how important is it to you to be proper and formal.
Thank You Notes
“Thank You” notes provide you the opportunity to express your appreciation to those who were thoughtful enough to send you wedding presents. Besides expressing your appreciation, these thank you notes also let your recipient know that you did receive their gift and that nothing happened to it in the mail. Your “thank you” notes should be sent as soon as possible after the wedding. They seem more sincere if they are sent in a timely manner. In fact, if you receive some of your gifts before the wedding, it would be really smart if you can make the time, to send your thank you for those even before the wedding to get it out of the way and cut down on the number you will need to do when you get back from your honeymoon. Just realize that if will be using personalized stationery for these, you will need to get some with your maiden name on them since you won’t be married yet!
If you are thinking of having your thank you cards personalized with a monogram instead of your name, the middle initial is larger than the rest and is for your last name.
The first initial is for the first letter of your first name and the third is for the first letter of your maiden name after you are married. Before you are married, the third initial would be the first letter of your middle name. If you have a name like McDonald, you can either use just the “M” or McD” whichever you prefer. If you want to only use one letter as your monogram, most prefer to use the initial representing their last name.
Is it proper to have our return address printed on the back flap of our thank you notes?
The post office requires that a return address be present on any outgoing mail. Having your return address printed on the back flap certainly saves time from hand writing it and looks more professional than hand writing it and certainly looks better that cheap labels.
How many thank you notes should I order?
Be sure to order enough, of course to cover all your gifts, but I would definitely order more because there are many occasions in which you will need a thank you note. Someone invites you to their house for dinner, etc. Whenever something like thank you notes are personalized you get hit with a pretty big charge for the first 25, it is considerably less per item, the more you buy, so you are better off overbuying on something like that if you know you can use them at a later date.
To whom should I write thank you notes and what should I say? I’m really not very good with words.
Of course anyone who sent you a gift, even a family member deserves a thank you note and don’t forget the people who helped you in any way with your ceremony, reception, etc. Receiving cards and notes these days of quick phone calls and emails is actually very special. They mean a lot and because they are permanent and static, they can be reread over and over. However, don’t get writer’s block and put it off because you think it has to be a masterpiece. Just write how you would thank them in person. Your recipients really just want to assurance that you received their gift and that you appreciate it. If someone spent time helping you, even though it may be something they really wanted to do for you, it means an awful lot to even just a short note of thanks.
Don’t let your thank you notes pile up if you can avoid it. Try to keep up with them as the gifts arrive so you won’t be overwhelmed with so many at once. That way it won’t seem so much like a chore. Don’t worry if you can’t think of different creative ways of saying thanks. They aren’t going to be comparing notes!
A Bridal Shower
Many years ago a father proved a dowry of gifts that would accompany a bride (his daughter) into the marriage making her more attractive to potential husbands. It would help give them a better financial start in their new lives together. Today’s modern bridal shower is a newer tradition to take its place. It is attended by family and friends and is a way to jump start a bride and her groom to provide them with some of the basic necessities.
Bridal showers are hosted generally by the bride’s maid of honor or other close friend or friends. The invitations for these are usually informal. Many bridal showers have gift themes, such as kitchen, linens, lingerie.
Can my mother or sister have a shower for me?
It would be inappropriate for a family member to host a shower since the purpose is to receive gifts. It would appear that they are soliciting gifts on your behalf.
This is my second marriage. Is it appropriate for me to have a bridal shower?
It didn’t used to be, but like many other traditions, that is changing. Showers are now being held for second-time brides as well, especially if she did not have one before her first wedding.
The Rehearsal Dinner
The rehearsal dinner takes place the night before the wedding, after the rehearsal and is traditionally hosted by the groom’s family. They also issue the invitations, the wording of which can be formal or informal. A lot depends on the family and just how formal they want to be addressed. The invitations should not upstage the wedding invitations but should compliment them.
Who is invited to the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally the rehearsal dinner was reserved for the wedding party but nowadays, it includes the spouses, dates, and out of town guests, pretty much whoever both families want to include.
When should the rehearsal dinner invitations be sent?
A rule of thumb would be two weeks prior to the wedding.
Wedding Invitation Wording
This is where we have to get down to a lot of nitty gritty stuff. I will bold each topic so if you don’t need help in any of these particular areas, just skip over it. In an attempt to be able to help anyone with any question regarding wedding invitation wording, I will be very thorough so this will be long, hopefully by so doing, cover all questions. If something isn’t answered here to your satisfaction fill out our questions form and someone will get back to you as soon as we have an answer.
Who is supposed to be sending the invitations and doing the inviting, the parents of the bride or the bride and groom themselves?
Well, that depends. Although it is most proper and what is seen the most often is for the parents of the bride to issue the wedding invitations for their daughter. However there are times when the bride and groom issue the invitations themselves. This may happen if the bride’s parents are deceased, but we are seeing even more of it today in the case of second marriages for the bride or if they simply are older and well established in their jobs and would prefer to just host the wedding themselves. Usually the invitation line is eliminated however the bride and groom can include their names as the hosts.
What if my fiancé and I are paying for the wedding? How do we indicate that on the invitation?
You don’t. As long as your parents are alive they properly issue your wedding invitations, however, if their names are not mentioned it will be assumed that you and your fiancé are footing the bill. If your parents are issuing the invitations to the wedding but you are paying for the reception, you can indicate that by having your parents do the inviting to the ceremony and reception card can indicate that you are sponsoring the reception by putting your name as the first line of the reception card and your fiancé’s name on the second line then the rest of the reception card would read, “request the pleasure of your company / at the marriage reception / immediately following the ceremony” followed by the name and address of the reception site.
The Bride’s Name
When the bride’s parents are issuing the invitations, neither her title nor last name is used since it is assumed that she has the same last name as her parents. If her last name is different, then it is used. Nowadays some brides like to include their title if it is doctor or esquire. That is not proper but it is a rule that is often broken today. Should you decide to use a title like that, then you would include your first, middle and last name.
Is it appropriate to have the bride and groom’s names in a larger font than the rest of the invitation? That is something that has evolved over time, gaining popularity in more recent years and it completely acceptable. The bride and groom’s names and the parent’s name already stand out as they each have their own line on the invitation, and are separated by the short lines (“and” and “to”) but if space will allow it, the bride and grooms names can be a bit larger.
The Groom’s Name
The groom always uses his full name, preceded by his title. Abbreviations are rarely used in invitations except for Mr. All other titles such as “Doctor,” “The Reverend” should always be written out although Doctor can be abbreviated if the name is exceptionally long. If it is mentioned again anywhere in the invitation, just be consistent in the spelling. On the subject of titles, designations such as Ph.D., M.D. are not used. Save those for business cards.
It is improper to use initials in wedding invitations. If your fiancé refuses to use his middle name it would be best to just put his first and last name and leave out the middle initial. That is the proper way. As mentioned, however, in my introduction, feelings and relationships are more important than etiquette, so you may have to weigh this out if it is an issue.
My fiancé is a lawyer. May he use esquire?
“Esquire” is a title to designate status and it is an honor that is bestowed on him by others addressing him, but would be presumptuous to put that designation upon himself in a formal invitation. It just would not be proper. It is not recognized as proper on a social invitation.
Everyone knows my fiancé by his nickname rather than is real name. Can we add his nickname in parentheses?
Not if you want your invitations to be done properly. His name should read as it is on his birth certificate.
Can Junior be abbreviated or should it also be spelled out?
Properly, “junior” is spelled out with a lower case “j” but “Jr.” is acceptable as an abbreviation even though it is less formal. Sometimes it is necessary with a long name.
How do we word an invitation where my mother is a medical doctor but my father is not?
Traditionally she would not use her title and the invitation would read as any other invitation, however “times they are a changin’” and many women feel slighted if they are unable to use their titles as men have for generations. If your mother wants to use her professional title it is socially acceptable for her to do so. Her name, preceded by her title, appears on the first line. Your father’s name and title preceded by “and” appears on the second line. It is important to include the word “and” as it signifies that they are married. Otherwise it would appear that they were divorced.
How do we word our invitations if both of my parents are doctors?
The most proper way would be for them to read, “Doctor and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson” but may read two other ways, “Doctors Sampson” or “Doctor Mary Jane Sampson and Doctor Stephen Andrew Sampson” instead.
How should my parent’s names read if my mother kept her maiden name?
The easiest way would be if she would agree to using “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson” for the purposes of the wedding invitation. The other way would be to print your mother’s name on the first line of the invitation and your father’s name, preceded by “and” on line two. In this format, no titles are used.
My father has a Ph.D. Does he use “Doctor” on my wedding invitation?
No, Ph.D. is an academic title that is reserved for academic settings. The use of “Doctor” is reserved for medical doctors and ministers with advanced degrees.
How should my parents' names read? My father is a minister.
The invitation line should read: “The Reverend and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson.” If he also holds a doctorate degree, it could read “The Reverend Doctor Stephen Andrew Sampson.” Neither should be abbreviated. If the line is too long, it can be split to read, “The Reverend Doctor/and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson.”
How should my parents' names read? My mother is a minister but my father is not.
Again, traditionally it is most proper if she uses her social title as “Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson.” However if she chooses to use her theological title, the first line would read, The Reverend Mary Jane Sampson.” Your father’s name would be given on the second line which would read, “and Mr. Stephen Andrew Sampson.”
My father is a judge. Should he use “The Honorable?”
“The Honorable” is always used when addressing a judge. However it would appear presumptuous for him to bestow that title upon himself. When issuing the invitation, he should use “Judge” as his title.
My mother is a judge and my father is not, how should their names read?
Just like the examples above, the most socially proper would be for her name to appear as “Mrs.” but if she wants to use her professional title, her name would appear on the first line preceded by “Judge.” The second line would read, “and Mr. Stephen Andrew Sampson.” Again, the word “and” communicates that they are married.
My father dislikes his middle name. Can we use just his middle initial?
The only time that would be proper would be if he only uses an initial as a middle name.
This is where you have to be careful not to step on toes however. Explain the protocol to him. If he is adamant, just print the first and last name as second choice. The relationship is much more important than the protocol. If he is adamant to use his middle initial instead of his middle name, do it.
Wording for the “Request” Lines
The request lines invite your guests to your wedding and the wording varies depending on where the wedding is to be held. The correct wording for a wedding held in a church, temple, synagogue, or any house of worship is “request the honour of your presence.” The word “honour” is used to show reverence to God whenever a wedding is held in a house of worship. A ceremony held in any other location, even if it is a religious ceremony should be worded, “request the pleasure of your company.” They are both equally formal. They are just used under different circumstances.
What is the correct spelling of “honor?”
While most brides prefer honour, either is correct. It is a matter of preference. The most important thing to remember is consistency. If you use honour, then use favour if that word is used on your reply card. Similarly, if you use honor, then use favor.
The Date Line
The day of the week as well as the date are to be written out in full. No abbreviations or numerals are to be used. The day of the week comes first, followed by the date of the month and the month itself, (for example: Saturday, the tenth of October). The word “on” is not necessary and often makes the line too long. You can include the time of day if you like (i.e.: Saturday evening) although it is not necessary. By the way, afternoon begins at twelve noon and evening begins at six o’clock.
Invitations for weddings that are going to be held at eight, nine or ten o’clock should probably designate morning or evening and this is why. Many Roman Catholic Weddings are held at those times in the mornings because most Nuptial Masses are held before noon, while some Jewish weddings are held at those times after sundown to travel on the Sabbath. The time of day then can be noted on the time line instead of the date line.
The Time Line
If you are interested in a bit of trivia, there is an old superstition that being married on the half hour would bring good fortune since the minute hand is ascending towards heaven, whereas being married on the hour would lead to a bad marriage since, as with the minute hand, it is all downhill from there. It was also thought that being married at noon might be best as both hands were in the praying position.
If your wedding is held at seven o’clock, the time line simply reads, “at seven o’clock.” The time for a wedding held at seven thirty reads, “at half after seven o’clock.” You can add, “in the morning,” “in the afternoon,” “in the evening” although most of the time it is obvious which it is and is so is not necessary. If you think there could be any confusion, by all means include it. If you wedding is at twelve o’clock it obviously means noon, but it you want to expand on that time you should indicate “twelve o’clock in the afternoon,” not “twelve o’clock noon.”
If you are being married at 7:45, the way to word that is “at three quarters after seven o’clock. If that wording while correct seems awkward, you might want to change the time of the wedding to seven thirty or eight o’clock.
The Year Line
The year of your wedding date should always be spelled out and never numbers. The “T” in Two thousand doesn’t have to be capitalized but everyone does it so it would probably look incorrect if it wasn’t and it will look more polished if it is capitalized.
Wedding ceremonies are held at a variety of locations and the location line tells your guests the name of the location as well as the address. The full name of the facility, whether it is a church, synagogue, temple, club, home needs to be included. Be sure that you include the full name and use no abbreviations. Spell out everything. If your wedding is taking place at someone’s home, just include the address. If it is going to be an outdoor wedding you should include “in the garden” so that your guests will know what type of footwear to wear.
It is always proper to include the street address of the wedding ceremony but if it is a well know facility and the only one by that name it may not be necessary. If you are including direction cards it is not necessary. I bring this up here because if the invitation is beginning to look crowded at all, this is a line that could possibly be eliminated.
The last line in the main body of the invitation includes the names of the city and state in which your wedding is being held. They are to be separated by a comma. There are two exceptions to this rule which are New York City and Washington, DC. For weddings taking place in New York, “New York City,” or just “New York” are used since “New York, New York” seems redundant. As for Washington, DC, invitations can read, “City of Washington,” or “Washington, District of Columbia.”
What if your wedding and reception are at the same location?
When a wedding ceremony and reception are held in the same location, reception cards are not necessary. A line after the city and state can read, “and afterwards at the reception,” or “reception immediately following ceremony”
Anniversaries and Reaffirming Vows
While wedding anniversaries are observed every year, major celebrations in which there are receptions, are usually reserved for 25th, 40th, and 50th anniversaries. Usually silver ink is used for the 25th, Red for 40th and gold for 50th. The invitations are usually extended by the couple’s children and their spouses, but might be hosted by friends, other relatives or even by themselves. The year being celebrated is usually shown at the top. Usually a note either in the lower right hand corner or as a separate card states “No gifts please,” or “Your presence is the only gift we request.”
Reaffirmation of Vows
We were married in a civil ceremony but now we want to be married in a church. How do we indicate that on the invitation since we are already married?
You would mention your married names (Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson) request the honour of your presence…”to solemnize our marriage.”
(To solemnize means to make right before God.)
Statistically, about half of all Americans will divorce and remarry. Consequently, many of the invitations being issued today are for second marriages. When either the bride or both the bride and groom are marrying for the second time, the wedding invitations are sent out by the bride and groom themselves. If it is the first marriage for the bride and the second for the groom, the bride’s parents may still issue the invitation. It is the bride’s status that determines the wording of the invitation, not the groom’s.
Second time brides who are divorced typically use their first, middle and last name with no title, in which case there is no title mentioned for the groom either since you want to be consistent.
Widows marrying again to be proper should use “Mrs.” followed by her deceased husband’s name. If the widow is young, her parents can issue the invitation again. She can use her first, maiden, and married names, with no title.
The most formal wording for a second marriage omits the invitational line. A less formal, but still acceptable wording places the bride and groom’s names at the top of the invitation.
I am marrying for the third time. How should my name read?
Your first name, maiden name, and your second husband’s name are used.
I am divorced and getting remarried. May I use “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.?”
No, “Ms.” is never properly used on wedding invitations. It is reserved for business correspondence only. It sometimes is used in addressing envelopes. You can omit the title altogether and just use your first, maiden and married name in which case you will omit your fiancé’s title as well to be consistent.
I eloped for my first wedding. This time I want to have a traditional wedding hosted by my parents. How should my invitations read?
Your wedding invitations should read just as if this was your first wedding, except for your name. Instead of your given names, your first, maiden and married names are used.
My first marriage was annulled. How should my invitations read?
An annulment makes a marriage null and void. Therefore you are entitled to use your maiden name. If you and your fiancé are going to issue the invitations, you can use the title Miss or you can omit the titles for both of you.
These are some of the most difficult invitations for which to create the proper wording without hurting someone’s feelings, so you may have to opt for a less formal way of presenting the information. There are some rather simple and straightforward rules to handle these situations and I will address them here, but if emotions take over, you may find these rules to be inadequate. Getting it right is not worth creating unnecessary tensions. As I mentioned earlier, etiquette is intended as a guide to good taste, to enforce good relationships and to make everyone comfortable by knowing what is expected. That said, you may find yourself straying a bit from the accepted rules.
The proper way to word an invitation in which the bride’s parents are divorced is to list their names at the top of the invitation. Her mother’s name is on the first line and her father’s name is on the line beneath it. The lines are not separated by “and.”
If the bride’s mother has not remarried, she uses “Mrs.” followed by her first name, maiden name and married name. If she has remarried, then she uses “Mrs.” followed by her new husband’s name.
If my parents are divorced and my father has remarried, where does his wife’s name appear?
Traditionally, it is your natural parents who “give you away.” Therefore usually it is only their names that appear on your wedding invitations. There are exceptions, of course. If the bride was adopted, then of course it would be the parent’s who raised her whose names would appear. If the bride’s mother was widowed and remarried when the bride was relatively young, her stepfather, although he may not have adopted her, helped to raise her so acted as her father. In such a case it is appropriate for his name to appear on the invitations.
I’m afraid that if I don’t include the name of my father’s wife on my invitations, it might hurt her feelings.
As I just mentioned above, the importance of etiquette should never out weigh the importance of relationships. The purpose is to build relationships, not to harm them.
I can think of a couple of suggestions I will offer here. Since it is not proper for her name to appear on the invitations, she could be listed along with your parent as one of the hosts for the reception. By doing this she would receive a place of honor on the reception cards while the invitations are still worded properly.
If you choose to do this, your mother’s name would be on the first line for the reception card. The second line would have the names of your father and his wife. The rest of the card reads, “request the pleasure of your company at the marriage reception” followed by the date, time and place.
Another way you could word your invitations that would work would be not to mention any of your parent’s names. You could issue the invitations yourselves by putting your name on the first line, your fiancé’s name on the third line with “and” separating the two and then say, “together with their parents”…Now this is not proper but would work if your parents were okay with that wording.
My parents are divorced and my father is paying for the wedding. How can we indicate that?
The wedding invitation is not the forum for that. Its purpose is to invite family and friends for a celebration of the giving away of the bride by the family to her new husband. The center of attention is to go to the bride and groom. If you really want your guests to know that your father is paying for the wedding, he can be mentioned on the reception cards as hosting the reception. It could read as follows: “Mr. Stephen Andrew Sampson requests the pleasure of your company at the marriage reception” followed by the date, time and place. That way it will be obvious he is paying for it.
My mother is divorced and has resumed using her maiden name. What title should she use?
Her name should appear without a title which means that all other titles should be omitted as well for consistency.
Why isn’t “and” used between the names of divorced parents?
The word, “and” connects the two as if they were married. Also it competes for the center of attention as the names separated by the short line (and) draws one’s eyes to that area of the invitation and it is the bride and groom’s names that should be set apart.
When one of the bride’s parents is deceased, her wedding invitations are issued by her surviving parent. His or her name appears alone on the invitations line. In most cases the stepparent’s names are not included. An exception would be if the stepparent helped to raise the bride from a young age and she is close to that stepparent. In this situation, when this is done, the third line of the invitation reads, “at the marriage of his/her daughter.”
The widow retains the use of her husband’s name. If she has not remarried, she continues to be known as “Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson.” If she has remarried, she uses “Mrs.” followed by her new husband’s name. In this case, since the bride will have a different last name, her full name appears without “Miss.”
My mother is a widow who has not remarried. She prefers the use of her first name. Can her name read, “Mrs. Karen Marie Sampson?”
A widow who has not remarried to be proper should use her deceased husband’s name, preceded by “Mrs.” (A divorced woman should use “Mrs.” followed by her first, maiden, and married names.) If your mother would really rather use her first name she should omit her title in which case all other titles should be omitted to be consistent. This will make the invitation more informal. (The titles are one element that makes the invitation formal.)
My father recently passed away and I would like to include his name on my wedding invitations. How can I do that?
While it is a lovely sentiment that you would want to include your deceased parent on your wedding invitation, there really isn’t a way to properly do that. The purpose of the invitation is to invite your guests to your wedding with all the details. It lists the host or hosts of your wedding and the only logical space to list your father’s name would be on the invitational line. However, since he is deceased, he cannot be a host.
Your father’s name of course can be mentioned in your newspaper announcement and can be mentioned in your wedding program during a prayer within the service. Your wedding is supposed to be a joyous occasion and reminding your guests of his passing adds an element of sadness to an otherwise joyous occasion. One way your could honor your deceased father at the reception would be to dedicate a small table decorated with a whit rose and a family picture with him and a note from you to him.
When the bride’s parents are legally separated, they may issue your wedding invitations together. Their names will appear on separate lines with the bride’s mother on the first line and the bride’s father on the second line with no “and” connecting them. To do this properly, the bride’s mother should use “Mrs.” followed by her husband’s name. If she doesn’t want to use “Mrs.,” She can use her first, maiden and last names without a title but if she does that no other titles should be used to be consistent. This makes the invitation less formal.
The bride’s parents may also, when legally separated but not divorced, issue your invitation together as “Mr. and Mrs.”
The format and wording for weddings involving members of the United States armed services are the same and the same general guidelines are used. The only difference is in the use of titles. It gets a little tricky here. Whereas civilians use “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Doctor,” military personnel use their military titles, which often include their rank and even their branch of service. I will give numerous examples here to try to explain. Military titles should not be abbreviated. Officers in the army, air force, and marines with a rank of captain or higher use their military titles before their names. Navy and coast guard officers with a rank of commander or higher also use their military titles before their names. When an officer’s name is used with his/her spouse’s name, the branch of service is not mentioned, whereas if his/her name is used by itself, the branch of service is mentioned on the line beneath their name and the title is used.
Junior officers do not use any titles before their names (neither military nor civilian) unless listed with their spouse. When listed by themselves, their title appears on a second line before the name of their branch of service. First and Second Lieutenants in the Army both use “Lieutenant” In the Air Force and Marines, however, “First” and “Second” are used.
Retired, high-ranking officers generally continue to use their military titles. Their retired status is noted after their service designation. When a retired officer is mentioned with his wife, neither his designation nor is title is used.
PARENTS OF THE BRIDE
Parents Are Married
FATHER IS AN OFFICER
Colonel and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
FATHER IS A JUNIOR OFFICER
Lieutenant and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
FATHER IS A RETIRED OFFICER
General and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
FATHER IS A NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER OR ENLISTED MAN
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
MOTHER IS AN OFFICER
Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
Major Karen Taylor Sampson
United States Air Force
and Mr. Stephen Andrew Sampson
BOTH PARENTS ARE OFFICERS
Colonel and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
Captain Karen Taylor Sampson
United States Air Force
and Colonel Stephen Andrew Sampson
United States Air Force
BOTH PARENTS HOLD THE SAME RANK
Colonel and Mrs. Stephen Andrew Sampson
The Colonels Sampson
or Colonel Karen Taylor Sampson
United States Air Force
and Colonel Stephen Andrew Sampson
Parents Are Divorced
FATHER IS AN OFFICER
Mrs. Karen Taylor
Colonel Stephen Andrew Sampson
United States Air Force
FATHER IS A JUNIOR OFFICER
Mrs. Karen Taylor Sampson
Stephen Andrew Sampson
First Lieutenant, United States Air Force
FATHER IS ANONCOMISSIONED OFFICER OR ENLISTED MAN
Mrs. Karen Taylor Sampson
Stephen Andrew Sampson
United States Air Force
FATHER IS A RETIRED OFFICER
Mrs. Karen Taylor Sampson
Colonel Stephen Andrew Sampson
United States Air Force, Retired
MOTHER IS AN OFFICER
Captain Karen Taylor Sampson
United States Air Force
Mr. Stephen Andrew Sampson
Commander Judy Marie Samson
United States Army
Judy Marie Sampson
Ensign, United States Navy
NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER OR ENLISTED WOMAN
Judy Marie Sampson
United States Air Force
Major Robert David Jones
United States Marine Corps
Robert David Jones
First Lieutenant, United States Marine Corps
NONCOMMISSIONED OFFICER OR ENLISTED MAN
Robert David Jones
United States Marine Corps
Roman Catholic Weddings
Weddings to be performed in the Catholic Church are to be publicly announced three times either from the pulpit or the church bulletin before the wedding. Theses are called banns.
Catholics can be married in a simple wedding service but most choose to include a Nuptial Mass (or service). If the wedding ceremony will include a Nuptial Mass, that needs to be indicated on the invitation because the mass itself will be around an hour long and your guests need to be aware of that.
It used to be that Nuptial Masses were only performed before noon, but now are performed in the afternoon as well. Unless the bishop has granted special permission, Nuptial Masses may not be performed during Lent or Advent.
The bride and groom “are joined together in holy matrimony” so “and” is used instead of “to.”
According to Jewish tradition, marriages are made in heaven. Men and women are brought together to marry one another by God himself. Men and women are joined together in marriage so in this tradition, the joining word on Jewish wedding invitations reads “and” instead of “to.”
Jewish custom also celebrates the joining of the two families, so the names of the groom’s parents always appear on the invitations. The proper way to do this is to have their names appear beneath the groom’s name on a line that reads, “son of Mr. and Mrs. John Perry Solomon.” Occasionally if the bride and her parents want to honor the groom’s parents even more they can place their names at the top of the invitation beneath the bride’s parent’s names. In this case the bride uses her full name but no title. When this is done, the groom’s title is also omitted for consistency.
Hebrew lettering is often used on Jewish wedding invitations. They might include a quotation from the wedding blessing, or the entire invitations text may be reproduced on a part of the invitation. When this is done, the Hebrew version appears on the right inside page and the English on the front.
Mormon weddings are open only for those who are members of the Mormon faith. The bride and groom are “sealed” for “time and eternity” in temples open only for practicing Latter-day-Saints. They are generally small and intimate, attended only by family and close friends. The reception afterwards is a much larger affair to which all the friends and extended families are invited. Since more guests are invited to the reception than the ceremony, this is a case where the invitations are used for the reception and the reception cards are used as the ceremony cards which are enclosed with the invitations of those who are invited to the temple ceremony. These invitations to the reception read a bit differently than a traditional reception invitation in that it is mentioned that the wedding ceremony was performed in the Latter-day Saint temple. Because families are emphasized so much in the Church of Latter-day Saints, the groom’s parents are honored by having their names mentioned on the invitation. Their names appear under the groom’s name, preceded by “son of” on a separate line. The reception itself is a bit different as well, as they are more of just a “drop in” affair to congratulate the new couple, visit a bit and leave. So the invitations will mention a time frame during which the reception will be held. Ceremony cards draw a distinction between weddings held in a Mormon temple and wedding held elsewhere. When weddings are held in a temple, it is so noted on the ceremony card. Is it proper for us to send a photo of ourselves along with our wedding invitations? While it is often done by those from the Church of Latter-day Saints, it is not proper to do so. The purpose of the wedding invitations is to invite guests to your wedding.
Hopefully we have been able to answer most if not all your questions here. If you do have some lingering questions about anything you have not found answered here, please feel free to ask us either through our contact form or give us a call on our toll free line (1-800-214-8990). One of our expert representatives will be more than happy to help you. You have my word on that!