Once the thrill of getting engaged wears off, you realize that there’s about a million and a half things to do.
Wedding planning is stressful–we all know that–but one of the most challenging aspects is navigating the unspoken rules of etiquette. Sure, you could decide to throw those conventions out the window and do whatever you want. But even if you’re determined to break the rules, you still need to know what they are first!
Invitations, Save the Date cards, and other wedding stationery can be confusing. Here’s what you need to know!
How to Address Your Guests
This might seem like a minor detail, but the way you address the wedding invitation envelope is important! First, you should ensure that you have up-to-date mailing addresses for all of your prospective guests. You don’t want any invites to get lost in the mail!
If you’re inviting a couple, there’s a tricky bit of etiquette involved. Strict traditionalists would invite “Mr. and Mrs. Wedding Guest,” but some folks aren’t keen on that kind of wording. And if your guests are a couple who do not share a last name, you might be best served to leave off the “Mr./Mrs.” and simply use their names in alphabetical order.
One important note: Address the invitations to the specific people you want to attend–not “and guest.” And if you have decided not to allow guests to bring children to the ceremony, make that completely and abundantly clear! If you do want to allow kids under 18 to attend, then include their names on the invitation (not the envelope). Children over 18 living at home should get their own invitation.
If you want to offer every guest a carte-blanche plus-one, that’s your prerogative. However, an open-ended plus-one is NOT required. Use your judgment–and consult your budget–to decide how liberal to be. Couples have accidentally caused lifelong rifts with their plus-one rules, so be fair and equitable above all else here.
When to Send Save the Dates and Invitations
Save-the-date cards should go out no later than three months before your big day, but six to eight months is best. This card is literally just a way to let your guests know not to plan anything else on that day. You could send out these cards earlier, especially if you’re planning a weekend-long celebration or a destination wedding.
Invitations should arrive in your guests’ hands no less than six weeks before the wedding. Make sure to include all the details so that guests can make an informed decision. And don’t forget to specify when you need those RSVPs returned! Two weeks is the bare minimum you’ll need to give a headcount to your vendors.
Must-Include Info for Every Invitation
A traditional wedding invitation is made up of several distinct parts:
At the top of the page is often found a monogram of the couple’s names. You might also have a small symbol instead of a monogram.
Below that, it is considered formal etiquette to share the host’s names–in other words, the folks footing the bill. On a traditional invitation, the bride’s parents are the ones “requesting the pleasure of your company” at the wedding of their daughter. Obviously, this is old-fashioned; modern couples might say something like, “We invite you to celebrate with us” instead.
Next–and in the biggest font possible–are the names of the couple getting married. Again, tradition dictates that the bride’s name is first. However, LGBTQ+ couples or those who simply don’t want to follow this gendered tradition can stick with alphabetical order.
Below that, include the details of the wedding date, time, and location. Be specific, but don’t include the actual street address of the venue. Why? It’s tradition. It’s also tradition to spell everything out instead of using numerals (e.g., “two thousand and twenty-one”).
Last, but certainly not least, is a notice about the reception. If you will be changing venues, you can mention it here or include a separate card. You can also set expectations here. “Cocktails and hors d’ouevres to follow” versus “Join us for an intimate dinner after the ceremony” lets guests know what you’re planning post-ceremony.
The dress code can be mentioned alongside the reception notice or on a separate reception card, if you’re using one. The most common options are “Black Tie,” “Cocktail Attire,” or “Casual Attire.”
The one thing you should NEVER include? The place(s) where you are registered. Instead, modern etiquette suggests that you include the address to your wedding website on the save-the-date card, then link to any registries from there.
Don’t Forget the Stamp!
Finally, remember that if you’ve sent an RSVP card, it needs to come with a stamped envelope so that your guests can send it back to you with no additional expense or hassle to them.
Yes, this means that you’ll need to double your postage budget. Currently, USPS stamps cost $.55, so remember to take that into account when you’re planning for stationery costs.