During my years as a Wedding Specialist for FineStationery.com, the majority of brides that I worked with knew exactly what they wanted for their big day. From the venue to the dress, the cake and the flowers, they thought no detail had been overlooked.
However, when it was time to personalize their wedding invitations, many brides were left questioning what they wanted to say. They had carefully selected the invitation style, and knew which envelope liner would compliment their color palette, but hadn’t thought of the words that would be printed.
While I found myself guiding these brides through every element, I shared their excitement when all of the details were put into words. When the personalization was perfect, and all of the details for their big day were in ink, many brides had an overwhelming feeling like, “Wow! I’m really getting married!”
I believe that writing a wedding invitation is an art. Traditional etiquette is commonly used when crafting a wedding invitation since a wedding is most often celebrated as a formal event. Carefully selected words and phrases can provide a wealth of information to guests. In order to write your wedding invitation and its supplemental pieces, it’s best to break it down into parts.
First, decide who is hosting the wedding.
To determine who the hosts are, look to who is actually paying for the wedding. If the bride’s parents will be paying for the wedding, and therefore hosting and inviting the guests, begin the invitation with their full, formal names. Their names are followed by the request and “at the marriage of their daughter.” In this scenario, only the bride’s first and middle name are stated, as her last name is implied. The groom’s full name will be stated. See Example A. As a nice gesture, you might choose to acknowledge the names of the groom’s parents below his name by saying, “son of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Anthony Cline.” Use their full, formal names and drop the groom’s last name since it will be implied.
If both sets of parents are paying for and co-hosting the wedding, use both sets of full, formal names. The bride’s parents are typically listed first in this scenario. The hosts’ names are followed by the request and “at the marriage of their children.” See Example B.
In the case that both sets of parents and the bride and groom will all be contributing to the cost of the wedding, you might choose to use just the names of the bride and groom to avoid a very “wordy” invitation. The acknowledgment of the parents and the bride and groom is followed by the request and “at their wedding” or “as they exchange vows.” See Example C.
When the bride and groom choose to pay for their own wedding, the invitation will not begin with the names of the “hosts,” but rather begin with a request to attend the ceremony followed by the full names of the bride and groom. See Example D.
After the hosts are established, the request takes place.
The way the request is worded depends on the actual location of the ceremony. When the ceremony takes place inside a place of worship, such as a church or synagogue, the line of the invitation that actually invites the guests to attend will typically read, “request the honor of your presence.” You may choose to use the formal British spelling of the word “honor,” which would be “honour.” Be sure to carry this choice through to the reply card supplement with the use of “favour” instead of “favor.” When the ceremony is held at a secular location, such as a home, park, garden, country club or other venue of choice, the line of the invitation that invites guests to attend will typically read, “request the pleasure of your company.”
The date of the wedding should be written out in full, starting with the day of the week and followed by the date and year. For example, “Saturday the twentieth of June, two thousand twelve.” In keeping with the formal style, the time of the ceremony should also be written out in full. The matter of a.m. or p.m. is usually implied (since you wouldn’t have a wedding at 3:00 a.m.), so you can leave that part off and use “in the morning/afternoon/evening” instead. Remember - Midnight through 11:59 a.m. = morning, Noon through 3:59 p.m. = afternoon, 4:00 p.m. through 11:59 p.m. = evening. If the ceremony will begin at 3:30, for example, the time would read, “half past three o’clock in the afternoon.”
After the date and time, you’ll want to list the location of the ceremony. If the ceremony is in a well known location, you can choose to leave out the specific address and just list the name of the venue, followed by the city and state (spelled out in full). If the venue is smaller and less well known, you might want to list the exact location (leaving off the zipcode, since it can be easily researched and is unattractive).
While it is standard to present reception information on a separate reception card supplement, you might choose to save paper and add this information to the invitation.
If the reception immediately follows the ceremony in the same location, the information would read, “reception immediately following.” If the reception is at a different location, and there is time between the ceremony and reception, the last part of the invitation will read, “reception” followed by the time (written out in full) and the name of the venue and the venue’s address. If the reception is in the same city as the ceremony, leave that off and just list the street address. If the city is different, note that fact, but leave off the state (chances are your ceremony and reception are in the same state).
If your wedding will be a black tie event, you will want to state this fact on the invitation by simply adding, “black tie” at the very bottom of the invitation.
Supplements are additional pieces of stationery that are included with the actual invitation. They provide specific details about the wedding. Typical supplements include a reception card, reply card with matching envelope, and a directions card.
A reception card is used to inform guests where the celebration will continue once the vows have been exchanged. The card should include the venue, address and time. If you’d like to include details about the reception, this is the place to do so (ex: dinner, dancing, cocktails only, adult reception, etc.) See Reception Example.
A reply card is included with the invitation as an efficient way for guests to let you know if they will be attending the wedding. A stamped and addressed envelope will be included with the reply card.
Let guests know when you’d like to receive a response by (typically 2-3 weeks before the wedding date, or otherwise dictated by your venue or caterer). Leave a space for guests to write their names, and prompt them to do so with “M_______________” (a proper reply would be filled out as “Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Harris”).
You’ll also want to leave areas for the guest(s) to mark whether or not they will be attending. If you have wording such as “Number of people attending ____,” then you’re risking the fact that a guest might think it’s alright to bring friends that have not been formally invited. It’s best to leave this off the reply card. In the case that your venue or caterer needs to know how many beef, chicken, vegetarian, etc. meals to prepare for the dinner, the reply card is a great way to ask guests which entree they prefer. See Reply Example.
Many people choose to include a directions & accommodations card with their wedding invitation. You might want to have a section with directions to the ceremony, and another section with directions from the ceremony to the reception. This is also the best place to make note of any recommended accommodations or hotel room blocks that have been set up.
The above examples are suggestions influenced by traditional etiquette and writing styles. Though these styles are most commonly used when personalizing a wedding invitation, it is best to stay true to your own style and keep the nature of your wedding (casual or formal) in mind.
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