A wedding invitation is more than just the way to get guests to your wedding. They can set the tone for your big day and give a glimpse of your overall color scheme and theme. It is a place to show a level of formality and personality. But invitations also contain potential hidden costs and etiquette faux pas. Let’s unpack some of the things to consider with your wedding invitation.
Wedding Invitation Do’s and Don’ts!
Digital vs Paper
This is a topic that was never discussed five or more years ago, but let’s face it we are in a digital age and it has become more and more common to do digital invites and/or RSVPs over the last couple of years. There is the obvious benefit of ease by opting for a digital invitation as well as letting the internet collect those RSVPs for you. However, it is important to think about your guest list, and at least consider the formal tradition of getting that wedding invite in the mail. Your older family members will not only expect a paper invite in the mail but look forward to hanging it on the fridge. They will also want to mail back an RSVP rather than logging in online to do so.
Your paper invite can add to your workload during the planning process and will definitely add to your overall cost. However, there are so many online options now to create your invites such as Minted, Shutterfly, Etsy, and Vista Print that can help ease the stress of overall design. When considering the cost of invites be sure you not only account for the design, paper, and printing but also the postage that goes along with them. When selecting your invitations make sure to consider the post office stipulations when it comes to size, weight, and extras like a wax seal as they can all impact the postage cost. A standard stamp carries dimension and weight requirements, and extra postage can add up quickly. Also, make sure to remember that a stamp goes on the return postcard or envelope. It is proper etiquette to include postage for guests to return their RSVP.
No matter which option you choose be sure you are sending out your invites 6-8 weeks before your wedding. If you did not do a save the date (sent out 9 months to a year out) then 8 weeks is typically a better option.
How to word your invites
Whether you are doing paper or digital you need to think through how you want the wording. There are so many options out there and our best advice is to decide how formal you want them to be. A typical wedding invite will start with who is inviting the guests to the weddings. So exactly how do you tackle that?
From a basic sense of propriety, the names on the top of the invite are who is putting on the wedding. More bluntly: the ones who are paying for everything. Parents contributing money by etiquette should be on the invitation as inviting parties. But also think about the connections to the guest list; does putting parent names help the extended family know who you are? If yes, consider including them regardless. If you are planning your own wedding, then you will be the ones inviting the guests. Putting parent names can be tricky especially with divorced and remarried situations so be sure to research what works best for your family dynamic.
These are typically bigger and bolder fonts so that you stand out. Whether you use first and last names only or include middle names is a personal preference, but a formal invite will include full names or just the first and middle if persons inviting share the same last name of the couples.
Logistics: Date, time, and location
If you are doing a more formal invite then it is etiquette to spell out the date and time, but you will see more modern invites using only numbers. Make sure you double-check the address for your locations and do add the city and state. Zipcodes are not typically used. If reception is happening in the same location following the ceremony then be sure you add the line “Reception to follow” or “Reception immediately following”.
A more informal option could be “Join us for dinner and dancing following the ceremony.” If reception is in a different location it is etiquette to include a separate card for reception details, but again if going less formal add it to the bottom and be sure to list the address. If you will be having a break after the ceremony be sure you clearly define that on your invitation.
Let’s get into reception-only invites. Sometimes the ceremony space is small, and it requires an intimate group only. Sometimes the family and friend groups are huge, and it is impossible (space or budget) to feed everyone. The solution can be a reception-only list. What is the best way to do this invite? Be clear. Make sure it is clear that they are being invited to only the reception and only include that specific time.
Consider using the wording “Join us for a celebration of our marriage”. How to set the timing? Start with dinner timing and add 60-90 minutes, and that is when you can expect your party to begin. Think about moments like the first dance and how that can be a great first thing for reception guests. A formal invitation or digital work great for these invites.
The +1 thing can be tricky. What is the protocol here for single friends? The biggest piece of advice is to establish a consistent plan for your invites. Any family or friends that are in a serious relationship will expect to be able to bring their +1. The easy path is to simply put their name “and guest” on the invite for those that you know are in a relationship.
If they have been together for a while and you know their significant other well then be sure to include their name. However, if you are unsure of their relationship status or suspect they are single and you don’t want the added guest then just list out the one person you are inviting. If they are wanting to bring someone hopefully they will ask you first and don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask the question, and probably a good bet to avoid awkward conversations later.
Adult Only Weddings
Another tricky subject is whether or not you want to allow kids. Are you thinking about an adult-only wedding? The biggest question to ask yourself is why. Is it a cost-saving measure or a space limitation? Are you trying to make the night more enjoyable for family and friends? Are you trying to extend their nights?
Most parents are probably more excited to put the kids with grandparents or a sitter for the night than they care to admit. 🙂 When eliminating kids from the invite it can definitely cause your guest list to go down. Some new parents are not ready to leave the kiddo for the night, and if travel is involved it may be next to impossible to leave kids at home. If you move forward with adult-only just make sure to make that clear on the invite and consider pre-filling out the RSVP with parents’ names only.
The RSVP Card
The proper construction of the RSVP card is how you can ensure the right guests are coming and you ask the right questions. Make sure to word the card as you expect the guest to RSVP, and you cannot be too clear. It is not a bad idea to have most of the info filled in for your guests. Such as filling out the name(s) and the number of attending if you need it to be concrete for your count and budget. This is also a good spot to separate out if they are adults or kids especially if you need to know for your meal. If doing adult only then the RSVP will most like just list out Adult and not give a kid option.
Be sure to put the date you want them to RSVP by which is typically a month before your wedding. Another fun option for your RSVP card is to ask for song requests, date night ideas, or marriage advice. Be prepared to not get all the RSVPs back and plan to reach out to those guests you haven’t heard from yet via phone, email, or social media about a month to two weeks before the big day. A good rule of thumb is to count on 75-80% of your guest count will come.
As the Guest
And now for the finale: the obligations of the guest. This blog is obviously for the wedding planning couple, but here is a quick section for the wedding guest. Please make sure to read the invite and plan to honor the intentions of the couple inviting you. Be mindful of the potential for only being invited to the reception or the wedding being adult only. Also, realize if you are single you may not be getting a +1.
These are your friends and/or family, and you want to be there for them. Realize this is one of the biggest parties they will ever throw and don’t let an invitation-based thing get in the way of that. Do not forget to return your RSVP, the couple is counting on you for not only a meal but seating which leads to centerpieces and other details of their day. Do not make them stress the last month and have to call you to see if you are coming. Also, be sure to plan your travel with enough time so you are not stressing last minute either.
Last piece of advice
Don’t forget to save one of your wedding invitations so that your photographer can capture your invitation suite with your other detailed pictures the day of. We often have clients that then put it in a shadow box or other container with other elements of details.
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