Etiquette, put simply, is a code of behaviour or expectations that fulfill social convention. It may shock some to know, that tradition and etiquette is alive and well when it comes to wedding invitations and weddings in general. Even if you are having a non-traditional wedding, according to your culture, background or society in general, this remains true.
Wedding invitation etiquette does have guidelines to which you should adhere, and there are also some guidelines that are more flexible. In general, these guidelines fall into four categories; timing, wording, guest list and details. Below you’ll find a modern approach to etiquette issues.
When do you need to send the invitations?
Generally speaking, 8 - 16 weeks before the wedding, if you want your guests to come. You could make it earlier if you have a lot of travelling guests. Give them time to book flights and accommodation, without having to pay premium pricing.
How do you choose the RSVP date?
Give your guests at least 2 weeks to respond if you can and also if you can, make it about 6 weeks before the wedding, so you have time to finalise numbers for the venue/s and caterer and get place cards and additional stationery produced.
We have written a complete article about "when to send your wedding invitations" with more details and options.
Do I have to put the parents' names on the invitations?
The actual names should only appear if they are hosting. That is, they are paying for all or part of the wedding. Otherwise it should be the couple inviting the guests and perhaps, ‘together with their parents’. This may change with cultural influences.
How do I layout the text and what font/s do I use?
There are those who will go into great detail about how this should and shouldn’t be done. Basically, if it’s a formal wedding, the invitation should reflect this with its layout, font and wording. Don’t use abbreviations, use a formal style font and formal language. For a more casual wedding, you can use more casual fonts and wording and abbreviate a few things where appropriate.
How do I include extra information for the guests?
You can add RSVP details to the bottom of the invitation rather than send a separate card. You CANNOT put gift registry or wishing well details on the bottom of the invitation, that’s just plain and simple rude! Insert a separate card if you wish to inform people about such things. You can add a dress code if you think it’s necessary. Any extra detail that will take more than one line should probably be somewhere else. For example, accommodation or transport details.
Guest List Etiquette
Who should I be inviting?
Cultural influences will play a significant part here, so take those into account where necessary. Generally speaking, start with family members and then move onto friends. Invite those you have a relationship with. Family members that you don’t see or speak with regularly can be left off the list. Don’t feel compelled to invite work colleagues. If you never see them outside work, why start now?
Should I invite out of town guests?
Just because someone lives far away and probably won’t be able to go, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite them. If they are important to you, send the invitation and let them decide. That’s the polite thing to do and you may get a pleasant surprise at what people are willing to do for their friends and family.
Should I have a secondary guest list?
Even with allowances for modern flexibility this is really a no-no. If the person isn’t close enough to make the first list, why invite them? And imagine if the person found out they were just making up numbers! How would they feel and would they want to come? My advice is to steer clear of this nightmare of an idea!
How do I handle plus ones?
It’s better to ask for the name of an intended guest’s partner and put that on the invitation than to simply write, ‘and guest’, ‘plus one’ or ‘and partner’. If you don’t know or can’t be bothered checking, then I’d question the depth of the relationship and whether they should be invited. There’s nothing wrong with inviting singles.
Etiquette Details and Invitations
How do I address the envelopes?
The basic rule is that everyone who is invited should appear on the envelope in some way. So if you’re inviting kids, you can mention them by saying, ‘Mr and Mrs Smith and family’ or ‘Mr and Mrs Smith, John and Mary’. If not, just address it to, ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’.
Should older kids living at home get an invitation?
If you are inviting the whole family, then as a general rule, kids over 15 should get their own invitation, addressed to them. Definitely send a separate invitation to any adult children living with their parents.
Should I put a return address on the envelopes?
It can be expensive to get the stationery supplier to put this detail on the envelope, but it’s a good idea to print some labels or hand write the return address. It will explain why someone hasn’t responded if you get an invitation returned by the post office and you can then take steps to contact them another way.
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