Readers are always surprised to hear that I’m someone who loves etiquette (in a feminist, sometimes rule breaking sort of way). I can tell you that on a wedding invitation “Requests the honor of your attendance” signals a religious wedding, and “Requests the pleasure of your company” means a secular service. I know that people (couples or no) with different last names have their names and honorifics written on separate lines (ladies first), which is both a technical etiquette rule and a practical one (because have you tried fitting two honorifics, two first names, and two last names on one line of an envelope? It gets crowded up there). I also can tell you that if you have an inner envelope, children’s names are only listed there (in a charming nod to privacy). I’m a veteran rule breaker, but when it comes to things like wedding invitations, I like to consider myself a knowledgeable one.
Because it’s that time of year, we wanted to do an open thread on wedding invitation wording (and yes, we’ll round up your best stuff). But before we get there, I thought I’d do my best to answer the etiquette questions flooding our mailbox, both about wedding invitation wording and envelope addressing, with my decidedly Progressive Traditionalist, feminist spin. Your mileage may vary.
- What you put on the invitation matters a lot more than what you put on the envelope. As long as you manage to not deeply screw up, most people will never remember the envelope. They won’t remember the invitation either, but you might. Our wedding invitation, with its historical data (names, dates, places), and emotional significance, is one of the wedding mementos that has already stood the test of time. I have a feeling it will be around for awhile.
- Address people as they wish to be addressed (to the extent that you know). If your widowed granny likes to be addressed as Mrs. John Smith, for god’s sake address her that way. Refusing to do so is just as obnoxious as the relatives who refuse to address you as Ms., when that’s what you go by.
- Related. Somewhere or other, people got that idea that even if a woman goes by Ms. Her Last, if they’re hiring a calligrapher and doing formal wedding invitations, they have to address the couple as Mr. and Mrs. Hislast, or it’s not properly formal. Bullshit. What’s improper (period) is addressing people by names that are not theirs. The correct form of address is (over two lines): Ms. Herlast / Mr. Hislast. All of us Ms.’s thank you in advance.
- And finally, there is the always tricky “hosted by” line at the top of the wedding invitation. Once upon a time, it was always the bride’s parents listed up there “Mr. and Mrs. Wombly-Plat request the honor of your presence…” These days, it’s flexible, and therefore, confusing. Maybe you list both sets of parents. Maybe you word it so that you’re the ones hosting, maybe you use the general “together with their families.” But to answer our number one email etiquette question, no matter what the parent who’s grumpily writing a big check tries to convince you, being listed as a host at a wedding is an honor, not something that is sold to the highest bidder. If so-and-so’s mom is writing a big check, and so-and-so’s family can’t write a check but loves you very much, and you want to honor both, you honor both. There is no “way to show who contributed more financially,” in listing order, because in short, that’s no one’s goddamn business. Honor who you want to honor, and nicely tell the check writers to kiss off. xo, Meg
And with that, I’d like to turn the reins over to you, APW. How did you word your invitations? Anything steal-able? Any questions for the team?
P.S. There is nothing we write at APW that causes a greater furor than etiquette. I find it a little dizzying, but it’s true that one of our greatest comment kerfluffles to date was over whether or not you have to send Thank You notes. You do, by the way. (Fun fact, now-APW-Managing-Editor, then-reader Maddie asked that question. She just informed me she still hasn’t sent Thank You’s, so I’m just going to sick Alyssa on her, because she deserves it.) It seems that the problem with discussing etiquette is that people dislike the faintest whiff being told what to do, though I like to think of etiquette as giving us some shared rules of the road to bend as needed. So let’s reframe it this way: it’s so much easier to break the rules (or makes a statement) in a way that makes sense if you know what the rules are in the first place. Or this is what my WASP Jewish feminist Progressive Traditionalist self believes.
Photo by Julie Green for APW Sponsor Up Up Creative.