Introduction to Traditional Wedding Invitations
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Introduction to Traditional Wedding Invitations

Traditional Wedding Invitations

Most people look to books on etiquette for the "right way" to do something. Relax, and instead think of etiquette as a set of traditional practices instead of a set of rules. If you wish to stray a little from tradition, it's really OK to do so!

When it comes to wedding invitations, traditionalists favor an oversized, engraved invitation on heavy ecru paper with a tissue layover and an inner envelope sent inside of an outer envelope. The elegance of traditional wedding invitations is often the go-to way to invite people to a celebration.

Components that make up the traditional wedding invitation

For the traditional basics, each mailing will include a wedding invitation with outer envelopes, a response card, and a reception card. If you believe as much as we do that the wedding invitation sets the tone for your event, then you may want to include more. Nice touches for wedding invitations include direction cards, maps, envelope lining, and more. And there are other printed paper products to consider, such as thank you cards or informal cards, programs, place cards, seating cards and more.

Invitation enclosures are usually used for formal events such as weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, and corporate dinner/cocktail receptions. There are rules of etiquette surrounding each one, of course!

Response Card

Response (or RSVP) cards allow your guests to inform you if they will be attending your event and how many people they will be bringing with them. Response cards can be classic fold over cards, panel cards or double-sided postcards (with the RSVP wording on one side, and address on the back side). They should be sent out accompanied by an addressed, pre-stamped envelope to encourage your guests to send it back. These cards can be blank with your own handwritten message on them or they can be printed with your wording.

Response deadlines should be no later than two weeks before the special day, or the date your caterer needs a final count. If after two weeks you haven't heard from some people, phone calls can be made to those having trouble putting pen to paper. This gives you time to figure out exactly how many people will be attend.

A helpful trick that will save you lots of time is to lightly number the response cards on the back in correspondence with the number that appears next to your guest on the list. When you receive your response cards, you can just check the number on the card with the number on your list so you won't have a splitting headache trying to read everyone's fancy handwriting.

Having your name and address pre-printed on the front of the Response Card envelope is a handy and easy way to encourage your guests to respond promptly. Traditionally speaking, the host's name and address (for example a bride's parents' address) should appear on the response envelope. If you are part of a blended family or live a long distance from the host(s), you may need use your own discretion. It's traditional to save the first appearance of the bride's and groom's names together until after the wedding. So, if an unmarried couple is living together, have the cards sent to the bride only.

Reception Card

Reception cards are needed only if the reception takes place at a location separate from the ceremony. If they're hosted at the same location, you may choose to say, "Reception immediately following," or "Dinner and Dancing immediately following" to inform your guests that the reception will be held in the same location as the ceremony.

If the ceremony and reception are held in different locations, you may enclose a reception card. Or, when only a select number of guests are invited to the reception, a separate card should be enclosed. It should be of the same paper and type style and is generally half the size of the invitation.

Map/Direction Card

This card may be essential to ensure that no one gets lost or ends up arriving late to your event. You can have simple text directions, guiding your guests step by step to each of your destinations (usually to the church, and to the reception). You can also opt to submit either a hand-drawn map or have the ceremony site give you a copy of their own map and have it printed on the card. Clearly written street names and clear map drawings will certainly help out the chronically lost. Please note that not all brands will allow you to submit your own map. You will have to inquire about this option when you have decided which invitation you would like to order.

For the most elegant look, have the same printer of your invitations also print your directions card. This way, you can be sure that the paper stock chosen will match your invitations perfectly. An alternative to sending the directions cards with the invitations is to send it upon receiving their response card indicating that they are planning on attending your event.

Accommodation Cards

You may want to send this card with the invitations going to your out-of-town guests. It lists hotels or places to rent in the area you are having your wedding. Include phone numbers and any information they will need to know to schedule a place to stay. This is especially helpful if your wedding will take place at a vacation spot.

Additional Matching Items

It is always fun to have your Thank you cards or your Programs printed on the same paper as your invitation and there are still so many options!

Save the Date Cards

A great way to let your out of town guests know about your wedding date is to send Save-the-Date cards. They may be essential for planning flights and taking time off around peak vacation times. Save-the-dates should be sent out at least 3 months in advance of your wedding date, but it is recommended to send them 5 months to a year in advance. This card may match your invitation; you can pick a similar card in a smaller size or choose a very simple version of your invitation. You may also opt to pick a card that is more casual or reflects the location or theme of your wedding (Hawaii/tropical, Colorado/Mountains, Hydrangeas, and Lilies etc.).

Informal/Thank You Cards

The informal card can be ordered to match your invitation and is most commonly used as thank you notes. It can be printed with 'Thank You', your names, a monogram or a motif on the outside. The inside is left blank allowing you to write a small personal message. Thank you notes can match your wedding invitations or your personality; just remember that you will need plenty of them. You will be writing thank you notes for more than just your wedding. There are always many occasions surrounding your main event where gifts are given and there are many people to thank for their gift of support. You will want to write a thank you card for each gift given at each event; bridal shower, engagement party, bachelorette party, etc. and they should be sent soon after the gift is received. This means you may be sending thank you notes before your wedding date. They never go bad, so it can't hurt to order more than you think you will need!

At-Home Cards

This card allows you to tell friends and family of your new address and the date you will begin residing there.

Pew Cards

Also known as within-the-ribbon card. This is sent to guests you want to honor by having them seated in reserved pews closest to the altar, or "within the ribbon". This lets the usher know who gets the special treatment.


Programs are an extra touch of formality that help guests understand the direction a formal ceremony is going in, what is being done next, and the explanation of any special rites that are unfamiliar to people of a different religion. They can also be used as tributes to special people in your lives. For the most elegant look, have the same printer of your invitations also print your programs. This way, you can be sure that the paper stock and typestyle chosen will match your invitations perfectly.

Place Cards

Place cards help your guests find which table they are seated at and are usually blank or printed with your name with space for your guests' names and table number, if they aren't already placed on the table. This is great when you have a special seating arrangement and you want your guests to find their place without any problems. They are also helpful in letting your caterers know who is having the chicken or the vegetarian option. You may tie different colored ribbons on the place cards or use stickers to indicate the different meal choices your guests have made.

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