Invitation and Envelope Wording
You've spent hours combing through those mammoth books at the stationery store and have finally found it: the paper to end all papers. As a bonus, you managed to get in a decent arm workout, too (after all, those stationery books weigh a ton!). But now that it's come time to put the printer to the paper, you're not sure what to write. Enough with the same old wedding invite language. The bride's parents have been "requesting the honor" of their guests' presence since the eighteenth century. Of course, you want to stay within the lines of etiquette, but you would also like to add a bit of personal flair to your invitation. As you stare at the lovely blank cardstock, it seems that your mind, too, has drawn a blank.
What are "the rules" on invitation wording anyway?
There are no rules. That's the good news. If you haven't had at least 13 wedding vendors tell you already, "This day is all about you." So, guess what? That means that you and the person that you've decided to spend the rest of your life with can invite guests to your celebration in whatever manner you'd like. However, you should keep two things in mind before you begin composing the invite.
First off, remember that invitations are the first tangible item to set the tone for your wedding. Along with giving your guests the "411" on the event itself, they are also meant to provide them with clues to the formality and overall feel of your wedding. So, if you are having a formal event, you may want to stick with the tried and true classic wording, after all, it has been tested through the centuries.
Secondly, wedding invitation wording is often intended to reflect who is hosting (and paying for) the event. This means that you will likely want to acknowledge the family members that are supporting you on your big day. Traditionally, this has been the bride's parents, but as the times (and costs) of planning a wedding have changed, so has the wording on the invites. These days, it is not uncommon to list the parents of both the bride and the groom on the wedding invitation and the wording can become tricky depending on divorces, deaths, and other family circumstances.
How creative can I be?
You have the freedom to be as creative as you want to be (Hey, it's your day, remember?). However, don't forget the obvious: When it comes down to it, this lovely piece of paper is intended to serve a functional purpose by providing guests with the information they need to find you in the chapel, on the mountaintop, or wherever your wedding day may occur. The invitation needs to tell your guests who is getting married and who is hosting the wedding, along with where, when, and what time the festivities will occur. For this reason, it's always a good idea to stick to the basics. If you make the invitation too clever, wordy, or complex, you run the risk of confusing your guests. Of course you have the freedom to say it in your own words, but just make sure that your words are succinct and to-the-point.
The wording of the invitation is the part people struggle with the most. There are lots of nuances to keep in mind. As you read through these and other sources you might consult, it's important to remember that etiquette traditions are strictly guides for you. If you want to do something a little different, you should!
Proper Addressing Overview
Most classic wedding invitations have an outer and inner envelope. The outer has the recipient's street address, a return address, and postage. The inner envelope has less information and should be addressed as if you were hand delivering it. With contemporary invitations becoming more popular by the day, it is not uncommon for invitations to only include one outer envelope. You will need to read each individual product description carefully to determine whether the invitation you have selected includes both outer and inner envelopes, or outer envelopes only.
The return address is printed on the envelope flap and should be the address of those hosting the event. If it is a wedding and the bride's parents are hosting, then it should be the bride's parents' address - names are not commonly used with a formal return address. Please note, guests who are unable to attend or who wish to send their gift before or after your wedding date will use this address to send packages.
Traditional etiquette says to "abbreviate nothing, hand address everything!" However, writing out "Northwest Two Hundred Nineteenth Street" is tiring and could even delay the delivery of your invitation by a day or two. The United States Post Office would rather you write "NW 219th Street" and for you to use state abbreviation ("CA" instead of "California."). Ultimately, it's up to you and you should also remember that hand addressing certainly takes a lot of time. If you decide to go the traditional route, this may be a good opportunity to get some of your friends and family involved with helping out, If they have nice handwriting!
Although a wedding invitation implies a gift in return, it is considered poor etiquette to mention the names of stores where you are registered on the wedding invitation. Instead, allow your friends to ask you or pass this information along to parents, the bridal party or grandparents who will be happy to inform your guests. Many couples also list their wedding website address on their save-the-dates and include their registry information and other wedding details on the website, which is perfectly acceptable.
If you do not wish to receive wedding gifts, it is not proper etiquette to print "No Gifts, Please" on the invitation. Again, this information should be shared with close friends and family members who will then communicate your wish to your guests. Many couples who do not wish to receive gifts, which is often the case with a second-time bride or groom, will provide the name of a charity organization to which wedding guests can contribute in lieu of buying a wedding gift for the couple.
Thank You Cards
Thank you cards usually allow for one line of printing that can be used in many different ways. First, you can have "Thank You" printed to match the font on your invitation. You can have a "couple's monogram" printed on the card, in which case it is known as an informal card since it doesn't require that it be used as a thank you. A "couple's monogram" consists of the bride's first initial, then the couple's last initial, and then the groom's first initial; "Sarah and James Riley" would appear as "SRJ".
Another option is to have your names printed on the card: "Mr. and Mrs. James Riley" would be most formal, while "Sarah and James" would be the least. This would also be considered an informal card. Please note that the bride's name should appear first on all printed items relating to the wedding.
There are benefits to both thank you cards and informal cards. Ordering "thank you" on the card allows you to use them as thank you notes for occasions other than the wedding. Ordering your names or monograms on the card allows you to use them as note-cards for personal notes or messages that aren't in reference to thanking someone for a gift. With so many options you are sure to find a solution that works best for your event.
For more examples of invitation and envelope wording, please click on the links below:
- Addressing Invitations Etiquette
- Traditional Wedding Invitation Wording
- Contemporary Invitation Wording