A Guide to Wedding Invitation Etiquette
As a wedding photographer, I’ve seen lots of wedding invitations. I’m going to go over each element in your wedding invitation one-by-one to help you get to grips with traditional wedding invitation etiquette. But before we get into it, I just want the record to state that none of this is set in stone. I’ll explain the traditional etiquette for the most formal weddings - but if you want to mix any of this up, you absolutely can! Informal and conversational wedding invitations are getting more and more popular. After all, you want your wedding invitations to sound like you, right?
#1 - Wedding Invitation Etiquette: The Envelope
The titles on the envelope are actually pretty important when it comes to wedding invitation etiquette. This is because usually the invitations are printed in bulk and don’t have individual names on them, so the names on the envelope indicate who, specifically, is invited.
How to Write Names on a Wedding Invitation
Titles and names should be written out in full. For married couples, traditionally you’d write “Mr and Mrs James Taylor”. If you’d rather take a more modern and informal approach, you can tweak this wording and go for “James and Amelia Taylor” or “Mr and Mrs Taylor”.
Couples who live together but aren’t married should receive one invite, and their names should be written out fully: ‘Mr James Taylor and Ms Amelia Paulson’. If you’re inviting a couple who don’t live together, they should receive separate invitations.
Now, if you’re inviting a couple who have kids and you want to invite the whole family, the first line on the envelope should be the couple’s name, and the second line can be the kids’ first names. Alternatively, you could address it to ‘The Taylor Family’ to indicate that everyone is invited.
If you aren’t hosting children at your wedding, the traditional wedding invitation etiquette is to simply put the couples’ names on the invitation without the children’s names. This will send the message that it’s only the parents who are invited - though you might have to field some questions about this later on.
Addresses should be written out in full, without abbreviations. So ‘P.O. Box’ becomes ‘Post Office Box’ and ‘St’ is written as ‘Street.’
Hopefully, you will have received the specific details of your guests’ plus ones when they RSVPed. In an ideal world, you should send the invitation out to the plus one separately. Don’t send the plus-one’s invitation to the person who you do know!
If you have some guests who haven’t RSVPed with a partner and you want to give them time to figure it out, you can include a stamped card in the invitation with a cut-off point for getting their plus-one’s information to you.
#2 - Wedding Invitation Etiquette: The Invitation
Traditionally, a wedding invitation acknowledges whoever is ‘hosting’ the wedding - ie, whoever is mainly paying for it. Traditional wording places the bride’s parents as the ones extending the invitation. However, these days it’s pretty rare to find a wedding that’s 100% bankrolled by the bride’s family. You can decide: do you want to go with the traditional wedding invitation etiquette, or for something more informal.
‘Mr and Mrs James Taylor request the honor of your presence at the wedding of their daughter Sage.' This could be replaced with a brief acknowledgement of family. Many couples prefer to say something along the lines of ‘Together with their families, Sage Taylor and Peyton Smith request the honor of your presence to celebrate their marriage’.
What a Wedding Invitation Must Include
There are some information that, no matter how you choose to word or present it, must be included in a wedding invitation.
- The name of the couple: this one is pretty obvious!
- The date and time of the wedding: for traditional wedding invitation etiquette, the date should be fully written out in words. Eg ‘Saturday, the Twenty-Second of September’
- The full address: again, the address of your ceremony should be fully written out.
- Reception details: be sure to include the start time of the reception. If the reception is in the same building as the ceremony, simply say ‘reception to follow’. If it is somewhere else, put the full address. It’s helpful to have a line about what the reception actually is, too - ‘dinner and dancing’, for example.
- Dress code: black tie? Cocktail? Sunday best? Be clear about the dress code.
- Your wedding website address
#3 - Wedding Invitation Etiquette: Info Card
You won’t have space to include all of the information on your wedding invitation. So, it’s usually a good idea to include a separate info card. You could just direct people to your wedding website if you want to skip this part. However, a tangible card is a very helpful addition for your guests.
This card might include further details about your location: directions for getting there and information about local hotels and accommodations. If you have lots of out-of-town guests coming in, I’d really suggest that you give them information about the area, and the airports. A timeline for when they should book their hotel would also be helpful.
This would also be a good place to put information about any health guidelines you are or are not following. If you’re asking guests to wear masks or social distance, for example, or if you are offering a streaming option.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette for Inviting Guests to the Ceremony But Not the Reception
So, what’s the wedding invitation etiquette for inviting people to the wedding ceremony, but not to the reception?
I’d suggest having a post-wedding-ceremony event of some kind. This could include tea and cake, cocktails and music, snack on the lawn outside the church. Basically, whatever fits with your wedding’s atmosphere. Then, on your wedding invitation, don’t mention the reception. Instead, mention ‘Drinks to follow’.
Then, for the guests who are invited to the reception, print the reception details on a separate info card which you put into their invitations.
Final Thoughts on Wedding Invitation Etiquette
I hope this has helped you navigate through all the wedding invitation etiquette that comes with inviting people to your wedding. Ultimately, while there are a lot of traditions, the most important thing is to communicate with clarity. ‘We’re gettin’ hitched!’ works just as well as ‘We request the honor of your presence’. As long as you’re letting your guests know everything they need to know, I’m pretty sure they’re going to be just as happy to receive either one of these invites.