The tone of your wedding starts with the invitation. It indicates to the guests not only where and when the special event will be held, but also the formality of the fete, who's invited and, just as importantly, who's not invited. Invitation etiquette might not seem important in this modern era; however, guests -- particularly those of an older generation -- will likely appreciate the clarity that a proper wedding invitation provides.
The wording appropriate for a wedding invitation varies based on who is paying for -- or, in politer terms, hosting -- the wedding. If the bride's parents are hosting, their names should be listed first; for example: "Mr. and Mrs. William Smith request the pleasure of your company at the wedding of their daughter." If the bride and groom are paying, their names are listed as requesting the guests' presence. If all parties are contributing, the invitation would state, "Together with their families, Melissa Smith and Michael Collins request the pleasure of your company at their wedding."
Additionally, the phrase, "The pleasure of your company is requested" is used when the ceremony is not being held at a house of worship. If it's taking place in a church, temple or other religious facility, the phrase, "The honour of your presence" -- note the British spelling of the word "honour" -- is written instead.
Couples on a limited budget might wonder if they have to invite children or an extra guest for every attendee. The answer is that you do not; however, proper etiquette dictates that it must be clear on the invitation’s envelope. The name(s) on the envelope indicates who is invited to the wedding, so putting simply the guests’ names without “plus one” or “and family/children,” notes that those people are not invited.
If you’re using an outer and inner envelope for your invitations, it’s proper to just address the outer envelope to the parents or the single guest. On the inner invitation, include the children’s names, if invited, as well as the single guest’s name and “plus one.” You can choose to use informal names on the inner envelope, such as “Aunt Emily and Uncle Charles.”
If you know that a guest cannot come to the wedding, it’s a matter of personal preference rather than etiquette as to whether they should still receive an invitation. A close friend or family member might see not receiving the invite as a slight, while a guest with whom you’re not very close might see the invitation as a gift grab. Use personal judgment.
When to Send
Be mindful of your guests’ time when choosing to send wedding invitations. Although you might be running behind on planning your wedding, the guests need time to plan -- particularly if you’re having a destination wedding or a lot of out-of-town guests. Send save-the-date cards three to four months before the wedding, and follow up with formal invitations six to eight weeks before the big event. Indicate that the guests should RSVP two to three weeks before the wedding. If guests have not replied by the RSVP date, a simple phone call from you or your parents can clarify if the guest is attending.
The Appropriate Information
Naturally, a wedding invitation should indicate the date, time and location of the wedding. As technology has evolved, couples have created wedding websites that contain additional information about your nuptials. However, wedding website The Knot suggests putting that information on the save-the-date cards rather than the formal invitation. If you must, you can include a small inserted card that has the website URL. It is on this website, not on the invitation itself, where you can fill in details about the registry, dress code and other pertinent details of the event. It is never appropriate to include mention of gifts on the invitation, even if it's to say "No gifts, please."
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