photo by Michelle Renee Photography
Oh my goodness, you’re getting married! You’ve been doted on by family, friends, co-workers and now it is time to invite them to one of the most special days of your life! But, you’re finding yourself jumping through hoops of invitation etiquette trying to create the design and look that you’ve always dreamed of, while still maintaining that classic, traditional feel that you love!
So, I have compiled a list of the most common questions brides have about etiquette for their invitations, along with a little explanation as to why certain ways of wording your invitation are considered “proper” and others aren’t!
1. Whose names are listed as inviting the guest to our wedding? Both of our parents have contributed and we don’t want to leave anyone out!
Traditionally, only the parents of the bride have their names listed on the invitation as they are usually the sole financial contributors. However nowadays, many weddings are paid for by the bride’s parents and the groom’s parents, by grandparents, or sometimes by the bride and groom themselves. The names that are listed on the invitation as “hosting” the wedding are meant to be the ones that are throwing the celebration in honor of the bride and groom.
If you’re unsure about who should be listed, the best way to avoid any etiquette faux-pas is to have an open conversation with your parents and your fiance’s parents as well as any other major stakeholders (grandparents, etc.) about their feelings on the matter. This way you are sure to avoid any hurt feelings! You wouldn’t want your celebration clouded by rocky relationships caused by an invitation. So when in doubt, we say the more the merrier! We can help you find a way to honor each important stakeholder in some way in your invitations!
2. When should I send out my invitations?
Typically, invitations should be sent out 6-8 weeks before your wedding date. This ensures that your guests have plenty of time to receive the invitation, check their calendars, and mail back their RSVP. But, if you are having a destination wedding or your wedding is on a big weekend or holiday, we recommend giving your guests a bit more time and sending them out 12-14 weeks in advance. Another popular trend is to send out Save the Dates – these let your guests know to “save” your wedding date on their calendar, and give you a little more time to iron out the details before you send the invitation. It’s also a great way to show off those gorgeous engagement pictures!
3. Should I use “honour of your presence” or “pleasure of your company”?
While it may seem silly, “honour of your presence” on an invitation is usually reserved for weddings that take place in a church or place of worship. The English spelling of “honour” instead of “honor” is used. If you wedding is not in a church, you typically say “pleasure of your company” instead.
4. All of the wedding reception information is listed on my wedding website, is it okay to list my wedding website on my invitation?
Traditionally wedding invitations are very formal, and include only the information on who is hosting the wedding, the bride and groom’s name, the time of the ceremony, and the location. It is also appropriate to include the dress code that is appropriate in the bottom right corner of the invitation. Extra details like wedding websites, hotel accommodations, travel information, etc. would be better suited on an enclosure or details card!
5. How do I politely let my guests know that their children are not invited?
It is perfectly appropriate to host an adults-only affair, whether that be because your venue requires it, or to keep the tone of the wedding more formal. Some brides handle this by arranging child care at the venue, to allow their guests to enjoy the night off, but this is certainly not required. The most polite way to let your guests know that only they are invited, and not their children is to properly word your invitation envelopes. Your invitation envelope would simply be addressed only to the parents, not to the children. Another way to do this is using inner and outer envelopes. Your outer envelope would list Mr. and Mrs. Charles Smith. On your inner envelope you would then list the parent’s first names, Charles and Stephanie, which would alert the parents that children Jack and Kate are not invited.
If you’re worried about reiterating this to your guests, you can also list on your response card “____ seats reserved in your honor” and fill in the appropriate number of seats on each card. If you have a guest who RSVPs and includes their children, just have whoever is organizing your RSVPs give them a friendly call and explain the situation. Let them know that you’d like your wedding to be a night off for them, too!
6. If I know that someone can’t attend, should I still send them an invitation?
This one is highly debated by modern and traditional etiquette experts! Some modern experts argue that while it is always nice to receive something in the mail that isn’t a bill, a wedding invitation usually infers a request for a gift, so sending an invitation to someone that you know cannot attend seems gift-grabby.
I side with the traditional etiquette experts, who say that an invitation should always be sent, because you should give all of the guests you would like to celebrate with you at your ceremony the courtesy of being invited, and give them the opportunity to accept or decline. Plans change, and you wouldn’t want your friend or family member to think that you didn’t really want to invite them anyway, or that they were forgotten. A wedding invitation, after all, is an invitation to share in the celebration of you and your fiance’s wedding – it has absolutely nothing to do with gifts!
7. How do I let someone know if they can, or cannot, bring a date?
The best way to let your friend or family member know that they can bring a date would be to address your invitation correctly. If you are just inviting your friend, it would be Mr. Andrew Smith. If you are inviting your friend and a date, it would be addressed to Mr. Andrew Smith and guest. Guest would not be capitalized, as it is just a placeholder, not a name! You wouldn’t call Mr. Smith’s date “guest” if you were speaking to him or her!
However, if you know the name of the date that Mr. Smith would be bringing (for example if he is engaged, or has a long term girlfriend) it is more appropriate to list her name on the invitation as well. You would then address it to Mr. Andrew Smith and Ms. Lily Goode. Keep in mind, though, that a named invitation is non-transferable. Meaning, should Ms. Goode not be able to attend, you are saying that Mr. Smith should not bring a different date.
8. When should I make the deadline for my RSVP’s?
Several different things should factor into when you set your RSVP deadline. Your caterer and venue may require a final head count 2 weeks before your wedding date. If you set your RSVP date after that, and don’t know what your exact head count is, you may end up paying for food for guests who won’t be there, or you may end up not paying for enough, and risking empty plates! You’ll also want to ensure that your guests have plenty of time to receive the invitation in the mail, check their calendar, sent their reply, and have it arrive in your hands. While etiquette dictates that your guests should reply as promptly as possible, some may receive your invitation while they are out of town, or in the middle of a busy week. Typically, setting your RSVP deadline 3-4 weeks before your wedding date allows you plenty of time to receive the RSVPs, and make last minute phone calls for those you haven’t heard from before you need to turn in your final numbers to your vendors.
9. One of my close friends and her boyfriend just broke up, and now she wants to a friend from college who I don’t know – can I tell her no?
This one requires a few questions! First, how did you address the invitation? If you addressed it to your friend and guest, you were permitting her to bring a guest of her choosing. If you addressed it to your friend and her boyfriend (by name), then named invitations are non-transferable, and she should not substitute another guest in his place. That being said, the most important thing to consider is how your friend feels! You are well within reason to not want to have guests that you are not close with attending your intimate day, but you don’t want to make her feel uncomfortable or alone either. What are your other guests like? If there are several single ladies attending your wedding, consider letting her know that she won’t be the only one not paired up, and seat her at at table with those ladies. She may end up having an even better time than had she brought a date! The best way to handle this situation is to have an open conversation with your friend and keeping her feelings in mind, while staying true to your wishes for your wedding!
10. Should both of our full names (first, middle and last) be on the invitation? I’ve seen some where only the bride’s first and middle name are listed!
When the bride’s parents are listed at the top of the invitation, if the bride shares the same last name as her parents, typically her last name is omitted. It would read “Sarah Katherine to Mr. Patrick John Brooks”. This was traditionally a way of showing the beginning of the young woman leaving her family, for a man with a title (hence why Mr. is used). Today, that can seem very antiquated, so most brides just pick what looks best on their invitation, or the wording that they like best! You may want to list your full name as it is one of the last official times you will see your maiden name, or you may want to just use the first names for both of you. The choice is yours!
Etiquette isn’t just a book of rules meant to make your life difficult. It is meant as a way to ensure that you are treating everyone with the utmost kindness and hospitality, and that no feelings are mistakenly hurt. Etiquette rules have greatly changed and adapted over the years – the same etiquette that you have been taught today may be totally different from what your parents practiced, and even more different than what your grandparents practiced. To ensure that you conduct yourself with the utmost class in all of your wedding endeavors, a conservative approach is recommended.
Divergence from ‘traditional’ etiquette can be appropriate, especially if you are going for a more casual feel for your wedding. The best way to determine if you are following etiquette rules is if it doesn’t feel quite right to you, it probably isn’t!
The most important thing to remember when planning your invitation wording is to be courteous, and have fun doing it! If you have any questions about the proper way to word your invitations, feel free to send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, I am happy to help make your planning a bit easier!