Wedding Invitation Etiquette: What to Do and What to Avoid

Wedding rings on wedding card
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The wide variety of current wedding invitations provide a bride-to-be with endless ways to showcase her personality and wedding style. Long gone are the structured wedding stationery rules (where all invitations were either white or ecru with black engraved script), a change that has instilled the wedding industry, with new life. One thing that hasn't (and, arguably, shouldn't) changed? Wedding invitation etiquette.

Wedding invite etiquette provides simple rules to allow any bride to effectively communicate the details of her wedding while doing so in a polite, respectful manner.

You Should:

  • Include major details, such as the bride and groom's names, and the location and date of the ceremony. Obvious to most, I know, but you would be surprised at the number of brides with whom I've worked who come to order their invitations without this information prepared. If you are ordering online without the help of a consultant, triple check to make sure you have this basic information.
  • Proofread everything! I cannot stress this enough. While working as a wedding stationery consultant, I would routinely encourage my brides to look over the spelling and placement of the text. While I could catch mistakes like street name misspellings, I had to rely on my brides to tell me if names were correct. Don't be the bride who only gives a quick glance over the proof, only to realize your mistake once the final prints are done.
  • Indicate through your wording who is hosting the ceremony. When an invitation states, "Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Susan Marie," it subtly states that the parents of the bride will be hosting (i.e. paying for) the event. Couples today have options on the wording since the rules on wedding hosting have changed: the parents of the bride, the parents of the groom, both sets of parents, the couple or a combination of the above could be potential hosts. Just make sure to give credit where credit is due, and use the appropriate wording.
  • Be consistent throughout your invitation suite. If you have a more formal wedding (and thus, a more formal invitation), write out all numbers, including dates, times and years. Thus, instead of putting "Friday, August 15th. 2013 at 3 p.m.," you'd want to write out "Friday, the fifteenth of August, two thousand and thirteen at three o'clock in the afternoon." It is wordy, but for a formal invitation, it adds a sense of elegance. For more casual invitations, I still prefer to write out the numbers, but it then becomes a matter of personal preference. Whatever you do on a casual invite, make sure you do it consistently.
  • Know when to send individual invitations. For family groups with children under eighteen, it is fine to send one invite for all. However, if there is a family group with children over eighteen still living at home, each child over eighteen should receive a separate invite. Couples, whether married or not, should receive one invitation, as long as they live at the same address. Young people who are not dating, but who still room together, should receive individual invitations.
  • Send your invitations six to eight weeks before the wedding ceremony and reception. Any earlier will cause your wedding invites to arrive to close to your save-the-dates and any later can interfere with guests' abilities to get time off from work, arrange childcare or book hotel rooms.

    You Should Avoid:
    • Attempting to squeeze the reception information onto the bottom of the wedding invite. Yes, you'll save money on an extra enclosure card, but the overall effect will be confusing to your guests. The ceremony and reception are two separate events, and thus, their information should be on completely separate pieces of paper.
    • Asking for or referring to (in any way) for gifts or money. Gifts are supposed to a token of your guests' appreciation, so requesting them is extremely inappropriate. Avoid including registry information anywhere in your wedding suite (a better place to put this would be on your wedding website with links to the registries). Other phrases to keep off of your invitation: anything mentioning a "money tree" or "monetary donations." Such desires should be passed along verbally to select friends and family members who can then let guests know of your preference if asked.
    • Printing information on the back of the invitation. If you'd like to include hotel information, your wedding website address or directions to the venue, simply order another enclosure card with this information. Text should be contained to the front of the invitation only.