Deciding on the wording for your invitation can seem like a daunting task! I’ve put together this guide to take some of the stress out of the process, and provide sample wording for your wedding invitations. There is lots of conflicting information out there- when in doubt I defer to Emily Post for anything involving wedding etiquette.
I’m sharing my advice about following traditional wedding etiquette, but when all is said and done, it’s your wedding. Make sure you and your partner (and your families) are comfortable with the wording you decide on.
Wedding Invitation Wording
The information that is included in a wedding invitation is broken down into five sections: the host, the request, the couple, date and time, and location.
The first line of the invitation lists the host(s) of the event. Traditionally, the bride’s parents act as host, but it’s common to have the groom’s parents, both sets of parents, or the bride and groom hosting. You can leave the host line out completely, or alternatively use “together with their families”.
Use “the honor of your presence” for weddings at a place of worship. “The pleasure of your company” is used for secular locations. The old English spelling of “honour” can be used for traditional or formal weddings.
3. THE COUPLE
The bride’s name goes first, followed by the groom’s name. Use only the first and middle name if the parents’ names are listed. Formal invitations include the groom’s title. If the bride’s parents are hosting but you want to list the groom’s parents, do so after the groom’s name.
4. DATE & TIME
The date and time should be spelled out. Include a hyphen in numbers over twenty (twenty-three). Including the year is optional, but do not use “and” (two thousand and eighteen is incorrect). “In the afternoon/evening” is optional. Use “half after” for half hours.
List the ceremony location along with the city and state. The street address is optional (it’s a good idea if the venue is not well known, or if there are multiple venues with similar names in the city), but leave off the zip code.
6. Optional Information
If the ceremony and the reception are at the same venue, it’s common to include “reception to follow” (or similar wording). If they are at different locations or you have more reception details to include, you would use a separate card for the reception.
You can also include information about the suggested dress code (black tie, formal attire, black tie optional) if the invitation is to the ceremony and reception. Attire is generally listed in the lower right corner of the invitation.
Traditionally, no rsvp card was included (or a blank card was used) with an invitation— guests knew they were expected to respond to the host as to whether they would attend the event. These days however, it is common to include a response card (along with a stamped and addressed envelope).
The wording you choose depends on what sort of response you require from your guest: how many people will attend, the meal choice they prefer, or you may also want to find out who will attend another wedding event that same weekend, e.g. a welcome dinner or farewell brunch.
You may also want to consider assigning a number to each guest and lightly marking that number on the rsvp card in the event a card is returned with an illegible name or no name at all!
RSVP is an abbreviation for the French term “répondez s’il vous plait” which translates to “please reply”. (it’s redundant to put “please” or “kindly” before “RSVP” so skip it, or use “please reply”) If you used the old English spelling of “honour” on your invite, use the corresponding “favour” here.
2. Reply By Date
Make sure to include a response deadline for your guests. It is traditionally three to four weeks before your event, but you may want to adjust the date if you need to give your venue or caterer a headcount earlier.
3. Guest Names
Include a line for your guests to write their names. Traditionally, an “M” (for Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms) is included at the start of the line.
4. Reply Options
Provide a check box or line so your guests can note if they will or will not attend.
5. Additional details
You may also want to include space for guests to indicate how many people are attending. If you’re offering a meal choice, you can add a place for guests to indicate their preference. You might also ask that guests list any food allergies.
While the reception information is sometimes included in the main invite, you can also use a separate card. This is particularly helpful if the reception is at a different location than the ceremony, or if you want to let your guests know start times or end times for certain events at the reception. You would also indicate attire on the reception card.
The reception card is also an opportunity to let your guests know what to expect at the reception, that way if you’re having a champagne and cake reception they won’t show up expecting a full seven-course meal.
While frowned on by traditional etiquette, if you’re not inviting children to the reception, you could indicate it on this card by stating “adult reception”.
“Reception” is the standard heading choice, but alternates like “Celebrate” , “Dinner and Dancing” , or “The celebration continues” are also popular.
A formal reception card contains a request line like the invitation. Use “the pleasure of your company” for receptions held at secular locations.
If the reception begins as soon as the ceremony is over, you can use “following the ceremony”. You can also note if there is a cocktail hour, or specify dinner and/or dancing start times.
Include the full name of your reception venue, along with the street address, city, and state. Zip code is optional (but is traditionally omitted).
5. Additional details
You could include details such as transportation arrangements.
If you’d like guests to follow a certain dress code, you can indicate it on the reception card.
Envelopes and Addressing
One or Two Envelopes
Formal wedding invitations traditionally use a two envelope set for mailing. The outer envelope includes a return address and the guest’s full name and mailing address. The inner envelope lists the names of each guest attending. An inner envelope is the ideal way to indicate a guest can bring a date, or communicate if children are invited.
Traditionally, you will use the hosts’ address for the return address and RSVP envelope address. You can omit the name from the return address, but according to USPS addressing guidelines, there must be a name on the mailing address for the RSVP envelope.
Addressing your envelopes can be one of the more stressful parts of your wedding invitation process. Double-check the spelling of everything, find out if Aunt Lucy is still going by her maiden name, confirm your college roommate’s new address, and determine if cousin Leo is still dating Lucy before you mail off the invitations. While many people have strong feelings about how you should address a married couple, whether you agree or not this is the most formal and traditional way to do so.
1. Use your guests’ full name. For a married couple, that means “Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Lastname”. For other situations, Emily Post has a wonderful guide for addressing correspondence.
2. Use titles (Mr. Mrs. Ms). Spell out “Doctor” and “Reverend” if there is room. Do not abbreviate military titles.
3. Spell out words like Street, Boulevard, Post Office Box, and Apartment.
4. Write out the full state name.
If you’re using Banter & Charm to address your envelopes, please contact me to receive a guest addressing spreadsheet to use when gathering your addresses.