Understanding wedding invitation etiquette can save you a whole lot of stress—even if you decide to break some of the more old fashioned rules.
There are a lot of emotions involved in weddings. So the more you can boil things down to simple emotionless guidelines, the better. But even more important, if your grandma is operating by a etiquette playbook you’ve deemed irrelevant, you might end up hurting her feelings when you really want to thrill and delight her. And we can’t have that, can we?
That said, there is a lot of wedding invitation etiquette that just hasn’t been updated to make sense in the current world of weddings. So let’s, once and for all, go over the rules—as they were once and as they are now.
Modern Wedding Invitation Etiquette
Should We Send Save-The-Dates? And When?
Save-the-dates are a relatively new invention (Don’t believe me? Ask your parents if they had them.), which means there is a refreshing (or confusing) lack of formal etiquette surrounding them.
First up, save-the-dates are totally optional. It’s handy to provide significant advance notice to guests. In fact, giving notice six months or more in advance is great, and a year in advance for true destination weddings is even better. But that notice can come in any number of forms. You can send a save-the-date email, or make save-the-date phone calls. Or, of course, you can send out cute note cards or magnets or whatever creative trinket your heart desires. But only spend cash money on save-the-dates if you really want to. Because again? They’re optional.
Here is one word of warning about save-the-dates: if you send them out way in advance, and your ideas about the wedding change, you may well be stuck with the guest list you’ve got. Sure, you can send out notes saying you called it all off and went to the courthouse with your families. But it’s a lot harder to send a note saying you reduced your guest list from 150 to 100, and the recipient didn’t make the cut. So tread lightly, and only give notice to folks you know you will be inviting, no matter what.
When Do We Send Wedding Invites?
The standard rule, which dates from back when weddings were mostly local affairs, is that wedding invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks in advance of the wedding. But the real truth is lots of folks won’t make travel arrangements until they get an honest-to-God invite. (See above about save-the-dates occasionally being revoked, and your great aunt not even really understanding what they are.) So if a lot of people are going to have to travel for your wedding, sending the invitations out three months in advance will be a greatly appreciated. (And trust me, nobody will forget about the wedding because you sent them a little early.)
How Do We Address Wedding Invites?
There is this false idea floating around out there that if you’re having a formal wedding, and sending formal invitations, that you have to use traditional honorifics… even if they’re not the honorifics the person in question uses.
So here is the hard and fast rule: you should address people by the names they actually use. If you want a deep dive on smart and proper (kinda feminist) wedding invitation wording, you can check out the #APWplanner. But the short version is you can use honorifics or skip them. If you’re using them, children under twelve can be addressed by Miss or Master. Unmarried women, or women that kept their names can be addressed as Ms. Married women who changed their name can be addressed as Mrs. (Or Ms.!). Doctors can be addressed as Dr. or Drs. (if there are two). And men get addressed as Mr. (…And that’s why we need feminism.)
What Information Should We Include On Our Invitation?
While it can be fun to get visually creative with your wedding invitations, you don’t want to get creative with communicating the information, because well, you want people to come. While we’ve gone in depth on wedding invitation wording in the past, the real key is just to remember to legibly communicate who, what, where, and when.
Do we Include Registry Information?
Old school traditional etiquette insists that you never include any information on your wedding registry, because that should only be spread by word of mouth. However, all your wedding guests really like to find registry information on wedding websites, so do everyone a favor and put it there. (I’m calling the rule change as official.)
In general, however, you probably don’t want to mention anything about gifts on the wedding invitation. You want people there because you love them, not because you want a soupspoon, so don’t muddle the message.
How Should We Let People Know About Our Wedding Website?
If you’re sending out save-the-dates, putting your wedding website on them can be a helpful way to give guests a better feeling for what your wedding will look like (and encourage them to buy plane tickets, if you’re holding off on sending official invites till a few weeks out). When you send out your formal invitation, it’s helpful to include the wedding website information again. Typically you don’t print the website on the actual invitation, but instead on one of the (sometimes many) accompanying pieces of paper.
And no, you don’t have to have a wedding website if you don’t want to. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Do We Have To Include A RSVP Card?
Only if you want to get RSVPs.
What Should We Make The RSVP Deadline?
Remember that people will consider maybe kind of thinking about putting their RSVP card in the mail on the RSVP deadline you give them. Maybe. So in short, make the RSVP date at least a week earlier than the date you need to give your caterer a final head count, since you may spend that week calling around and chasing answers. Setting an RSVP deadline of three to four weeks out from your wedding will help keep you sane. (And really, who can’t decide if they’re going to a wedding until one week before?)
RELATED: HOW TO ACTUALLY GET PEOPLE TO RSVP
How Many Goddamn Pieces of Paper Do We Need To Include In This Invitation Anyway?
You need to include an invitation and probably an RSVP card (see above). You can include a variety of other materials if you so choose: maps, schedule of events, you name it. However, it’s easy to include any extra information on a wedding website and save a few extra dollars.
Do We Have To Allow Single Friends Plus Ones?
In short, no.
In longer, they might really want them. Particularly if you only have a few single friends, giving them a chance to bring a buddy (date or not), will increase the odds of them attending. (Social anxiety is a bitch, y’all.) If for whatever reason you decide not to offer plus ones, make sure that you take good care of the single folks. Seat them together, introduce them at any welcome parties you might have. Tell each of them who they should look out for, and what they should talk to them about. (And pray for hook-ups that end in storybook romances. What? Just me?)
We’re Having A Wedding With No Kids, How Do We Make That Clear?
The traditional way of letting folks know exactly who is invited to the wedding is simply by listing the names of the invitees on the envelope. No children? Don’t list them.
However, in reality, this signal can sometimes get lost in the noise. Flights are booked before official invites arrive. New parents are not used to seeing their kids names on envelopes in the first place. Envelopes go straight in the trash. So you’ll need to be a little clearer, while keeping it kind. The wedding website is a great place to note that you’re not having kids at the wedding. (Word this nicely, and stay away from things that read along the lines of “NO KIDS PLEAZ.”) You can also call loved ones with kids to talk about it in person.
How Do We Let People Know Our Dress Code?
Well, it depends. If you dress code is “Black Tie” or “Semi Formal” or “The ceremony will take place on grass, so please make footwear choices accordingly,” just put the information on your wedding website, or on an insert card in your invitation. If your dress code is “Everyone wear pink and black only,” don’t include it anywhere, because you don’t get to pick out your guests’ clothes.
Now how about you guys? What tips or tricks do you have for wedding invitation etiquette? What regional or cultural variations are important to keep in mind? Give us the scoop!