Wedding invitations are an absolutely critical component of planning your big day—they let the guests know when and where to arrive and in some cases alert them to fact that the wedding will be taking place at all. It’s important to remember, however, that there are certain rules that should be followed when sending out your invites. Here are some tips for wedding invitation etiquette.
When should wedding invitations be sent? Typically, they should be distributed between six to eight weeks before the wedding. This is important because it gives guests time to clear their schedules, and allows them to make travel arrangements if necessary. If you are going to have a destination wedding where everyone will have to travel, then you should aim to send them as early as three months. If you choose to send save-the-date cards, try to get those out six to eight months in advance.
If you’re setting a deadline for RSVPs, then make it two or three weeks before the wedding date. This gives them ample time to respond but will also let you get a final guest count in place a week before the wedding. If they haven’t responded by the deadline, then give them a call or send an email to see if they’re coming.
Do you have a wedding website? If you want to direct people to it, then simply putting the URL on the invitation is a discreet and tactful way to do it. Some wedding planners advise against this, though, so you may want to include it on an insert in the invitation instead or even your save-the-date cards.
Many people choose to bring a date or a “plus-one” to a wedding. If these extras are welcome, the couple can communicate this by adding “and guest” after the name of the recipient on the invitation. If not, simply putting the name alone should communicate that the guest should come alone. What should you do if a guest RSVPs for two people? Typically it’s best to give the person a call and explain that you’re planning an intimate wedding and that unfortunately, you couldn’t invite everyone with a guest. If you’re having an adults-only wedding, then the same logic applies to people who RSVP with their children’s names. Call them and kindly explain that the wedding is meant for adults only, and you hope that they can still attend.
Registries and Gifts
Wedding registries are a must for almost any modern couple, but many wonder if it’s appropriate to include registry information on the invitation. Although this practice is becoming more common, most experts still agree that it’s one best avoided since it can come off as though you’re demanding gifts. You can include registry information on your website, or share it with your close friends and family so that they can share it with other guests.
Some people who want a more intimate wedding wonder about the appropriateness of inviting people to just the ceremony and reserving the reception for family. This is generally not a good idea, because it comes across as rude. You don’t want people to think that you’re worried about the expense of feeding them or that their presence doesn’t matter to you. Everyone who was invited to the ceremony and other events (such as the bridal shower, engagement party, or rehearsal dinner) should be invited to the reception. The only exception is for special circumstances, such as if the ceremony and reception are held on different days or if multiple receptions are held. Even in that case, you’ll usually want to invite people to the reception only, rather than the ceremony.
How do you let the guests know what your dress code is? It’s important to include your dress code information on the invitation itself so that they know in advance. The invitation will help clue guests in about the type of wedding you’ll be having—a traditional invitation with beautiful calligraphy will indicate a formal event to your guests, while a brightly colored invite with fun fonts and playful pictures will indicate a casual dress code. It’s best, though, to clarify the dress code on the invitation; simply writing “black tie”, “cocktail attire”, or “casual dress” in the corner will do the trick.
You should include the return address so that people know where to RSVP to, but it generally goes on the back flap of the envelope rather than the invitation itself. Also, make sure that the address you use belongs to the person who has been designated to receive response cards. This is typically the person who is hosting the wedding—either you or your parents. Be sure that this address is also included on the RSVP envelope, and that the envelope includes postage.
Staying On Top
Although the etiquette surrounding weddings changes often, it’s important to try to stick to these rules. A well done wedding invitation is the best way to get information to your guests and start off the planning process right.
Bryan Passanisi is an online marketer and writer living in Redwood City, CA. Bryan has managed a popular wedding blog and has created viral content. He currently is a blogger for Shutterfly.