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Invitation Etiquette

SAVE THE DATE CARDS:  If you want to give your guests extra notice of your wedding, you’re having a destination wedding which requires travel & expended stay and need lodging or date is also around a holiday or yearly special event like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, you can send save the date cards to guests 10-12 months before your event and indicate that an invitation is to follow.

Invitation Etiquette & What to Put on Them


What is invitation etiquette? It is properly following the rules and traditions when creating, mailing and responding to invitations. Even today with anything goes attitudes, there are still expectations, rules and guidelines that should be followed.

STYLE:  Your invitation defines your style and the tone of the party. If it is a formal affair, your invitation should convey that with the style of invitation chosen, the paper, layers, ribbons, formal fonts or hand calligraphy on envelopes, the time of day or evening and location of the party all give guests clues as to how they should dress and is their first glimpse of your event.  For a casual party, a more relaxed invitation, playful fonts, colors and graphics, location and time, also indicate to guests what you have planned.

WORDING:  Don't get wordy. Only the wedding details, date, time, location, host and rsvp info belong on the invitation. Do not include directions, accommodations or where you're registered. Those details, if you must include them, should be on a separate insert card or nicely typed up insert.

There many ways to word an invitation, always google or ask the company you are ordering your invitation from.  If parents are paying should we add them

  • ‘Mr. & Mrs. John Smith invite you to attend their daughter jane Doe.

  • If you are paying you can use your names ect.


RSVP:  Set your RSVP date for 6-8 weeks for destination wedding & 4-6 weeks for local wedding after your guests would receive formal invitations keep in mind when you need to have your final headcount for a caterer/venue.


RSVP CARDS:  Remember to put a stamp on them. Typically, the envelopes are addressed to come back to the host, but in the case of a wedding, if the bride is keeping track of the replies instead of her parents, her name and address can be on the response envelopes.


WHO'S INVITED:  Even if no children are invited, do not put that on your invitations. The place to state who is invited to the party is who the invitation envelope is addressed to. Make it clear on the envelopes who is invited to the party by writing each guest's name on the envelopes:  Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Miss Jessica Smith would invite their daughter too; Mr. Jason Clark and Guest, would indicate that Mr. Clark can bring a guest; Ms. Carrie Jones would indicate she is the only person invited, no plus one guest is invited.  If you have guests that reply that they are bringing more people than you invited, or their children, politely let them know that you only have room for the number of guests invited or that it is adult party and you hope they will still be able to attend without their children or without their additional plus ones or twos.

  • I have mixed feeling on this due to so many people not understanding proper etiquette you could not on the insert if you think your guest will not understand the envelope etiquette.

NOT INVITING PEOPLE:  When it comes to creating a guest list, invite the people who are in your lives. Don't invite people out of obligation or just because you went to their wedding, birthday, graduation, baby shower and then have yet to see them in years. It's easy to say don't stress over inviting your best friend from high school you haven't seen for years versus your BFF you hang with at work every day but go with your heart. To get technical, etiquette rules state that if you attended a social event of some significance, as a guest, you are obligated to send a thank you note to the hosts and also to extend a similar invitation to them within a three to four months.  So, technically, if you have attended a wedding or significant celebration within the last three to four months, and your budget can take it, consider adding those people to your event's guest list.  


ORDER EXTRA:  It is expensive and time consuming to order more invitations after the fact.  If your event is a wedding, formal occasion or a business event, you will want to order at least 25 extra invitations. You might need to resend an invitation, you forgot someone that should have been on your guest list or you have a "B-list" of guests, and you will also want keepsakes for yourself. 


DRESS CODE Your invitations are a clue as to what type of wedding you have planned. An ultra-fancy formal invitation would require a different type of attire than a beach wedding or backyard barbecue. When in doubt, guests can ask when they reply to the invitation. While it is not proper to put this information on your invitation, you could include it in a small font as the last line on an invitation, include the information on your response card or on your wedding website. An exception would be for a themed wedding when the dress code is the theme of the party.

REGISTRY:  In the case of registry, the only place to list this is on a wedding website give the information to the hostess, your mother, sisters, best friends, so they can relay the information if asked.  We've been asked, and these questions:

  • "is it appropriate to include what gift you want the guest to bring in the invitation?" Answer - NO!  

  • Can we ask for money instead of gifts?" Again, NO!  You can relay that you'd prefer money to the hostess, mother, or anyone else that might be asks about registry or what you'd like as a gift and they can relay that information tactfully to anyone that asks, but refrain from adding anything about money (including money trees) on your invitations.

If you include your registry information on the invitation, it appears you are more concerned with getting gifts than seeing guests at your event.

POSTAGE:  Don't buy postage until you weigh one of your invitations.  If your invitations are anything more than the invitation and an envelope or if they are square or an unusual size, take one to the post office complete with all the inserts and have them weighed to ensure you use the correct postage. For fancy, formal invitations or wedding invitations that could be ruined by the post office's automatic processing equipment, ask about getting your invitations hand cancelled with hand stamping that shows your envelopes have been processed by hand.

WHEN TO MAIL:  A general rule of thumb is to mail wedding or formal event invitations 8-10 weeks for destination wedding 6-8 weeks in advance. 

THANK YOU NOTES:  Order thank you notes at the same time as invitations. For wedding gifts received early, do not use stationery printed with your married name before the ceremony.  You may want to order two sets of thank you notes, one with your maiden name for bridal shower gifts and early wedding gifts and a set as husband and wife with your married name.


13 Things to NEVER Put on an Invitation

With today’s “anything goes” attitudes, there are still some traditional rules that should be followed.  

1.  Tense:  Invitations are always versed in third person.  Use “Jane Doe & John Smith invites you to their wedding…”, “at their house…” Never use “our,” “mine” or first person.

2.  Punctuation:  Invitations use line breaks or blank space between paragraphs to act as punctuation and periods are never used.  Exception is when using a poem, quote or saying. Be sure to go lightly with the commas, exclamation points and when in doubt, leave it out.

3. Capitalization:  Never use capital letters for the first letter of each and every word on an invitation.  Save the capitals for the beginning of a section or the first word of each line, proper names and other words that are normally capitalized. Use a bold or a larger font for emphasis, not all caps.

4. Abbreviations: Always spell out Street, Road, Apartment and names of States. The state is not required if all your guests are local or the state is obvious with cities like Chicago, Atlanta, New York. Numbers 1-9 should always be spelled out such as “Two Park Place.”

5.  Time:  The word “o’clock” is never capitalized. It is also never used after a time that is not a whole hour.  Use five o’clock, not 5:30 o’clock. When using anything but whole hours, use uncapitalized a.m. or p.m. (with periods). If you add “in the morning” that applies from 12:01 a.m. until noon; “in the afternoon” from noon until six p.m.; and six p.m. and after “in the evening.”

6. Registry/Gifts:  Never indicate that money is preferred over gifts. Never include any gift registry information.  This information should be relayed when guests call to RSVP or by word of mouth from the family if asked. Never state anything about gifts – even “no gifts” as it makes the assumption that gifts are expected.

7.  Meal Choices:  If your party or event requires guests to make meal choices, include this information on a separate insert card, response card or RSVP card.

8. Directions:  Never include driving directions or maps on the invitation. This information should always be included on a separate card. Do not use photocopied maps. Any maps or directions should be printed in the same style and on the same paper as your invitations when possible.

9. Zip Codes:  Zip codes are never printed on invitations. They are not necessary to get directions on website mapping services.

10. Children:  Do not use the phrase “no children” or “adults only.” How you address your envelope indicates who is invited and not invited to the party. If children are not listed on the envelope, they are not invited to the party.  When guests RSVP and add names or guests that are not invited, politely tell them or call them right away and explain who is invited.  If you think someone will automatically bring their children, consider calling them and state simply that as much as you would like to accommodate children, you simply don’t have the room to do so. (see above comments under etiquette.

11. Attire:  Usually your invitations will be an indication of the attire for the party. The fancier the invitation, the fancier the dress. An invitation to an outdoor barbecue has its own implied dress code and a wedding invitation with multiple insert cards will obviously be a dressy, if not formal event. If your event is a costume party and costumes are required, this should be included, possibly in a small font on the bottom or as “You’re invited to a Halloween Costume Party…”

12. Labels:  If at all possible, never use address labels on invitation envelopes. Absolutely NEVER use labels on wedding invitation envelopes for guests or for your return address.  You’ve spent time, attention and money to create perfect invitations and they deserve hand-written addresses on the envelopes. This will make a HUGE impact on your guests when they receive your invitations in the mail.

13. There is nothing wrong with do-it-yourself invitations, but NEVER send anything that looks homemade.  A laundry list of facts and clip art on copy paper will not impress your guests and your turnout could suffer.  Generally, you will save money by letting the experts — invitation printers and hopefully us — do your invitations. This is our area of expertise and you won’t have to spend time and money experimenting until you get it right.

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