Etiquette and Tips
Your invitations and accessories are going to set the tone and style for your event. It is the first indication guests will have of the event, so make it special. Printing your own invitations provides the freedom to tailor the invitation to your unique personality and setting of the event. Make an impressionable statement!
Invitations should be selected based on the formality and style of the event: Traditional formal, Traditional casual or Contemporary. If you would like to get a feel for the possible range of styles, click here to see some examples of print-your-own design ideas. We have an ever changing variety of great ideas available for you to create - there are many exciting possibilities. Or create your own and email us examples of your creations using our products.
In your initial planning, be sure to include all the additional items you will need for your mailing such as reception cards, response cards, rehearsal dinner cards, thank-you cards, table/place cards, programs, outer mailing envelopes, stationery, and menu cards. All items mailed with the invitation should be printed on cardstock/paper of the same quality as the invitation and printed in the same style. If you print all your invitation items at the same time, you will have a consistent look and style to your event, and will not be scrambling at the last minute.
Remember this rule of thumb: Invitations should be mailed at least 6 - 8 weeks before a formal event.
How many invitations do I need to print? To calculate the number of invitations you will need, count one invitation for each of the following:
- couple (married/partnered or living together)
- family with children under 18
- each child 18 years old or older and still living at home
- single guest
- escort of the single guest (specific named person)
- officiant and his/her spouse
- each attendant
- photographer/videographer usually request an original invitation
After estimating the number of invitations from above, add in extras, for mistakes, last minute guests and a few for mementoes and scrapbooking.
back to top
The general rule is that invitations should be mailed 6 - 8 weeks before the ceremony date. Save the date cards should be mailed out as soon as you know the exact date.
When you go to purchase your stamps at the Post Office, bring along one completely assembled and "stuffed" invitation with you. Have it weighed to determine the correct postage (inquire if there is an additional charge for hand canceling). With all the time and care you have put into hand crafting your own invitations, ask the post office to hand cancel them, especially if they have decorations, beadwork, three-dimensional inclusions, ribbons, etc., which may be wrinkled or damaged going through the postal machinery. Also, if the invitations are an odd size or shape, they will require extra postage. Donít forget to purchase stamps for other pieces of your invitation that require postage, such as the response cards!
Choose attractive postage stamps which will complement the overall look of your invitations. Another idea is to consider ordering customized (US Postal Service approved) stamps from http://photo.stamps.com/
If you are mailing outside the United States, remember that additional postage may be required on not only the invitation, but also the response cards.
Addressing the Envelope - Basic rules of etiquette
Invitations can be sent with either a double or single envelope. If using two envelopes, the inner envelope is lined, the outer mailing envelope is not.
It is traditional to use the complete, formal name and address of your invited guests on the outer mailing envelope of a double envelope set and on the outside of a single envelope. Do not use abbreviations other than "Mr." or "Mrs." Spell out Avenue, Road, Street and State name. See "Wording Your Invitation - Basic Rules of Etiquette" for more details on how to write titles and suffixes. Include zip codes on the same line with the city and state.
The inner envelope of a double envelope set should list only the titled last name (Mr., Mrs., Doctor) of the primary person or couple being invited. There are no addresses on the inner envelope. If invited, childrenís first names appear under the parentsí names. Invited children 18 or older should receive a separate invitation set. Each single guest (who is not living with a significant other) should receive their own invitation - your sister and her fiance should each receive their own invite. If your sister is single and she is not dating anyone in particular (and she is allowed to bring a guest), you would say so on this inner envelope by adding "and guest" to the title and surname.
If you do not use a double envelope, you must put this information on the outside of the single envelope by adding the childrenís names below the parentsí names or the "and guest" line beside the single guestís name.
back to top
- All phrasing is in the third person.
- Do not use punctuation at the end of a line. Commas are used within the line as necessary.
- Do not use abbreviations. All titles should be spelled out except for Mr., Mrs. and Ms. They are the only acceptable abbreviations on an invitation. Full names, not initials, should be used for the bride and groom. Spell out a middle name or leave it out. All street listings in the address should also be spelled out. Example: do not abbreviate "Road", "Boulevard", etc. Use Roman numerals in names, rather than "the third" or "3rd"
- Spell out days, dates, and times.
- Only proper nouns are capitalized - exceptions are where the line is the start of a new sentence.
- Be consistent with your usage of "honour/favour" or "honor/favor." Use either the British version or the American version, but use it consistently (Do not mix "honor" with "favour", etc.). In other words, use the "u" in both words or don't use it at all.
- For ceremonies taking place in a house of worship, use "request the honour of your presence". Ceremonies taking place in a non-religious setting should say, "request the pleasure of your company".
- Be as gracious as possible. Do not write "no children please" on the invitation. Only those guests whose names appear on the envelope are invited. If the children are not mentioned, they are not invited. If children are not allowed, rely on your bridal network to relay the "no children" expectation - do not put it in writing.
- Do not make any mention of gifts. We should never expect anything from our friends except their presence. It is also considered socially incorrect to make any mention of a gift registery. Do not under any circumstance mention that you would like to receive money in lieu of presents!
See our offerings of sample wording relating to Commitment Ceremonies/Civil Unions.
Wedding invitations are traditionally printed with black ink in an "engraved" or script type style. These more traditional type styles are also appropriate for use on invitations to other formal events. Here are some examples of type styles (fonts) you might try:
back to top
A basic invitation usually consists of the invitation, vellum/tissue and a response card with a stamped self-addressed envelope. For more formal events, an outer mailing envelope is used along with the foil-lined inner envelope.
Depending on the event, other items for consideration include: Reception card, maps, directions, or an assortment of various other cards.
Vellum, often called tissue, was originally put on top of the invitation to prevent the inks from smudging. Due to modern advances in ink quality, it is no longer necessary. It does lend a formal look and feel to the invitation and many people still prefer to use it.
Invitations can be sent with either a single or double envelope. At one point in time, before the US Postal Service, invitations were hand-delivered by servants or staff. An outer mailing envelope was needed to keep the inner invitation envelope clean and pristine. Today, the choice is yours. Many brides stick to tradition and still use the two envelope system. Many invitations are sent with single envelopes. If you do plan on using both an outer mailing envelope and an inner envelope, only the inner one is lined.
As a side note: Our invitations include inner lined envelopes. We offer outer mailing envelopes separately.
Reception cards should be included when the reception is held at a different site than the ceremony. These cards should be printed on the same quality paper and in the same style as the invitation.
Response cards provide a simple and painless way for your guests to reply. Is is recommended that the return envelope be stamped and self-addressed for the ease and convenience of your guests. If guest have not responded by the RSVP date, it is proper to place a follow up phone call to verify that they received the invitation and that it was not misplaced in the mail.
back to top
Maps to the ceremony and/or reception can be printed as a small card or on stationery. Remember, if they are mailed along with the invitations, they need to be printed
in the same style and quality paper as the invitation; otherwise, they should
be mailed separately.
If the reception is in a different location than the ceremony, maps can also be made available at the ceremony.
Any out-of-town guests will appreciate the forethought put into a listing of local accommodations. Don't forget to provide phone numbers and website addresses, if appropiate. A small card or stationery can be used for this purpose.
A special way to designate VIP seating for selected guest is to provide a pew card, sometimes refered to as a "within-the-ribbon card". Upon arrival at the ceremony, the special guests present these cards to the ushers. They will then be escorted to the pews, sectioned off with ribbon, in the front of the church. It is easier to send the pew cards once you have received the returned response cards - you will then know how many reserved seats are required. The response/reception cards work well for this use.
At home cards are an easy and convenient way to inform everyone of your new address and the date you will begin to reside there. If the woman is keeping her maiden name or hyphenating it, the card should list the womanís name and man's name in full on seperate lines. Otherwise, surnames are generally not listed.
back to top
These are the formal announcements of your engagement and can be as formal or casual as you desire.
Gift received cards are different than a thank-you note. They merely acknowledge that a gift was received before the wedding and should never be sent in place of a personally written thank you note. The gift received card can be preprinted and should be sent as soon as a gift arrives. This step allows the newlyweds to wait until after their honeymoon to compose their thank-you cards.
Menu cards will have the listing of the entrees you have selected for the receptionĖ a nice touch. Usually, one per table is provided. Depending on the occasion, the menu can be printed on a small card, stationery or program cardstock.
If you are planning assigned seating at your reception, print a place card with each personís name and table number. These cards should be placed on a table at the entrance to the reception and arranged alphabetically.
Programs add a nice personal touch to the ceremony and are a nice way of letting guests know the sequence of events. Many guests will appreciate the listing of your attendants, officiant, and the title of the music which will be played during your ceremony. The program is a nice memento of the event and should be saved in your wedding album.
These cards can be mailed up to a year before the actual wedding date. They are useful if your event is scheduled for a busy holiday weekend and/or for guests who will be flying in for the ceremony and need to make advance travel plans.
Sometimes referred to as "informals". A personal thank-you note should be written for every gift you have received. We suggest that you print your thank-you notes along with your invitation. You can use our pre-printed thank-you cards or create your own using the basic response/reception cards. Whatever you use, print some with your maiden name/initials for thank-you notes sent before the ceremony. If you plan on changing your name, print cards with your married name/initials for notes sent after the wedding. Be sure to make the note personal - mention the gift and how much you like it. Also mention how you plan to use the gift.
As the name suggests, these cards are sent to announce the wedding. Announcement cards are usually sent after a wedding to friends who were not present at the ceremony.
back to top
Traditionally, there is a specific order for assembling your invitations for mailing. As a rule, the invitation and enclosure cards are placed in the envelope in order of size and importance. The largest enclosure cards are placed closest to the invitation. When enclosure cards of the same size are used, the card that is most important for your guest to see would be placed closest to the invitation as follows:
- With the back of the lined envelope facing you, take the invitation and insert it into the lined envelope - fold side first. The printed side of the invitations should be facing you (and the back of the envelope). If using vellum/tissue, layer it on top of the invitation (over the printing). For single invitation cards with no fold - the printing will still face the back of the envelope.
- On top of the invitation, place the reception card.
- You response card should be next and should be nested within the flap of its own envelope (Do not insert the response card into its own envelope. The guest should be able to see the printing and read the information easily). The response card will be printed side up, the envelope will lie upside down.
- Any other items to be enclosed, should go in last.
- When using two envelopes, the inner envelope is unsealed and inserted into the outer mailing envelope with the printing facing the flap.
- All printing should be facing the back of the envelope - it should be the first thing the guest sees when they open the mailing.
As a general rule, any remaining pieces are usually layered in ascending order of size from largest, just above the respond set, to smallest on top.
If you are using two envelopes, write the names of the guests, including children, on the front of the inner lined envelope, using the title and surname (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Dr., etc.). Place the inner lined envelope into the outer mailing envelope - again, make sure that the printed side with the names face the back (flap) of the envelope. Remember, do not seal the inner lined envelope!
back to top
A recent develpment - many bridal sites offer couples the ability to create their own customized wedding website. There are many ways that a website can be crafted to compliment your event. Your site can be as fun or as formal as your personality and your event inspires. Not only will the site be a momemento of your special day, it is useful for relaying important information to guests - especially those loved ones who live too far away. This information could include: maps & directions (link to mapquest.com); information about the reception hall (provide a link to the site); or a listing of local accommodations (again, provide a link. Out-of-town guests will appreciate this touch). Much of the information which is traditionally mailed as part of the invitation package can be provided for your web savvy guests on-line. Etiquette dictates that a website should not replace the time-honored tradition of a formal written invitation or a personal thank-you note, but it can be a useful tool for planning your special day.
For more information, see Letitia Baldridge's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the '90s, Letitia Baldridge, Rawson Associates, 1990