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Proper Etiquette for Your Wedding Invitations

Updated on July 15, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.


Your wedding invitations are such a huge part of your wedding, and there are so many misconceptions about what is okay and what is not, that I would like to clear some of them up for you. When it really comes down to it, you can choose to do or not do anything you want, but being the one big moment that so many women wait for their entire lives, they usually want to do things by the book.

It's important that anyone reading this, and trying to take care of their invitations, remembers that no detail is worth stressing out. No one will notice if certain words aren't right aligned, if your date and time aren't written out in formal form, or if your ink is the right shade or color. No one. It will be the overall feel of your invitations, and the fact that you took the time to send them one, that will delight and inspire your guests. There's no reason you can't attempt perfection though!

Ordering Extras

Regardless of the number of invites you order, it's inevitable that you will make mistakes, want to add more people, and will want to have some for keepsakes. Make sure to add an extra 10% to the number of invites you order (at least 20 more than you think you'll need).

You are going to pay a fee for each order you make. If you don't order enough and need to go back and order more later, you'll pay that fee again (which is more than you likely would have paid had you just ordered the extras to begin with. It's always better to ave a few extra than to run out of invites and time. Remember it takes about 6 weeks for invites to be delivered.

Creating Your Invites

When it comes to the subject of etiquette and wedding invitations, there's so much to talk about, but only a few details in the actual creation of your invites. The big ones to be concerned with are wording issues, insert cards and RSVPs.


The first order of business is the names that are put at the top of your invitation. Traditionally these are the people that are paying or "hosting" the wedding. As the bride's parents are typically the ones to pay, their names would be the hosts. However, you can put anyone's names you'd like. It is your choice. Many couples are even paying for their own wedding, choosing to host their own wedding, and are only putting their own names at the top of their invite.

Next, make sure to write out your time and date at the bottom of your invite. Proper wedding etiquette states that you should not use any abbreviations on your wedding invitation. So, If your wedding is Saturday, August 18th, 2011 at 2:30 pm, your wedding invitation should read: (First line) Saturday, the eighteenth of August, two thousand and eleven, (Second line) at half past two o’clock in the afternoon. (eHow)

Finally, if your wedding reception will be held in the same location as your ceremony, all you need to do is add a single line at the bottom of your invite that says "Reception to follow." If both parts of the wedding will be in separate locations, it will be necessary to include a separate reception card.

Insert Cards

Reception cards are appropriate when directions and possibly a map are necessary to get guests safely to a second wedding venue for the second half of the wedding. Include the words, "Reception will follow at __________" followed by an address. "Directions/Map included on the back."

Other than an RSVP card, there are no other inserts that are needed for proper invitations. However, please don't make one of the biggest taboos in your wedding invitations and include your registry information. Not only is this disrespectful to all of your guests, but it gives the impression that you are only inviting them because you want them to bring you something.


Traditionally, couples have always included a response card for guests to indicate their attendance, and a self-addressed, stamped envelope for them to mail it back to you. However, it is just as appropriate to include an RSVP postcard, or even a simple RSVP insert card with an email address, phone number and/or even a wedding website for guests to RSVP. In order to limit attendance, write specific names at the top of each card so that your guests know specifically who is invited to the wedding.

Don't forget to at least set your respond date one to two months before your wedding so you can get final numbers for rentals, catering, etc. to your different vendors by one month out.


Ordering Your Invites

When ordering your invites, there are only a couple of important things to remember. First, order all of your stationary together if possible. This will allow you to avoid any additional fees for extra orders. You'll want to order about 8 months out if you are including Save-the-Dates. Next, order your invites at least 6 months out to have plenty of time for addressing, sending and handling RSVPs.

Order for households and not individuals. Just because you are inviting 120 people to your wedding doesn't mean that you'll need 120 invites. It will likely be more like 60 invites. This is a costly mistake many brides make. Count households before ordering rather than individuals. And finally, order about 10% more than you think you'll need to account for mistakes, accidents, forgotten guests and especially for keepsakes.

Quick Poll

How many people did you end sending invitations to?

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Assembling Your Invitations

Sending Your Invites

When your invitations arrive in the mail, each item should be in a different stack. As they are stacked differently, they will also be handled differently. You will see in the video above how your invitations will eventually be assembled, but before we get to that, they need to be addressed.

Outer Envelope

The outer envelope is always addressed formally using titles, first, and last names. While titles are abbreviated (Mr., Miss, Mrs., Ms., Dr.), all other words such as "Street," "Avenue" or "Boulevard" are spelled out. State names should be written in full without any abbreviations. Generally, an invitation to parents and children is addressed to the parents: Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Van Ness. (Emily Post)

Inner Envelope

The inner envelope bears the more familiar names of the specific people invited. This allows the host to be very clear about who is invited, and by omission, who is not invited. For example, the inner envelope for Mr. and Mrs. James Darling and the two Darling children Sarah and Johnathan would be: Martha, James, Sarah and Jonathan. It would also be appropriate to address the inner envelope to Meme and Papa or Aunt Martha and Uncle Bill.

Plus Ones

Since it's inappropriate to address a formal envelope with "and Guest," the two envelope system works well. Address the outer envelope to "Mr. James Smith" and the inner envelope to "Mr. James Smith and _____." You should always have the name of the individuals you are inviting. If you don't know the name of the individual, include a short note with your invitation: "Dear James, You're welcome to bring a guest to the wedding. Please let me know. Best, Laura." (Emily Post)

Return Addresses

The infamous return address is always a big question. Who do you want your RSVPs going to? Hopefully you have a friend or parent you can trust so you can have one less thing on your plate, but if you want to keep up with them, feel free to put your return address (maiden name, you are not married yet). The return address on a wedding invitation goes on the back flap. This may be in the form of an address label.


It is never acceptable to stick guest addresses onto your wedding invitations with address labels. Either have someone with great handwriting address your envelopes for you or hire a calligrapher. It is also not thought acceptable to send your wedding invitations through email or social media. Wedding invitations are very personal. Regardless of the style, shape, size or color of your invites, they should always be mailed out or hand-delivered, even if handwritten notes.

Mystery RSVPs

If you are not specifically identifying guests on your RSVPs, you may find yourself in the position of receiving mystery RSVPs. That's right.

To figure out the mystery identities of guests who reply but neglect to sign their names, try this trick. Assign each response card (and the corresponding guest on your list) with a number. Write the number of the back of the card, and then when you get the inevitable reply without a name, you'll secretly be able to match up the numbers.


Handling Incoming RSVPs

When it comes to RSVPs, there will be some hurt feelings, some disagreements and some explanations needed. This is normal and it happens for every couple during the wedding planning phase. No worries. Hopefully these next few tips will help you to handle some of these misconceptions in a respectful, appropriate manner.


The majority of your vendors will need a final head count at one month for food, rentals, flowers, favors, etc. You will also want this information for your peace of mind and to get final preparations taken care of in that last month. With all that you will have on your plate, RSVPs will be the last thing you want to think of. I suggest having all responses due by one month out and making phone calls right at one month, or a few days before, to get final answers. This is not disrespectful if you have given them plenty of warning.


If you wrote your RSVPs for specific individuals and not families and yet you receive RSVPs back with kids names on them, or more coming than you invited, treat them with dignity and give them a call back letting them know of your desires for an adult-only wedding. At that point, your guests will then have plenty of time to decide whether or not they can make it without the kids.

Plus Ones

Just as you would with additional children, if you chose not to invite "and guests" to your wedding and yet you receive an RSVP for more than the desired individuals, contact them as soon as you catch the error and make sure to respectfully explain that you were unfortunately not able to invite everyone with a guest. Make sure they know, however, how much you would like them to be there to celebrate with you though.

Wedding invitation etiquette is simply a baseline for what is appropriate and what is not for your wedding invites. This standardization helps couples to be successful in how to compile and send out their invitations, and also gives guidelines so that everyone is treated with the utmost respect. If you decide that these guidelines are not for you or would like to personalize your invitations in a way that would seem to challenge etiquette guidelines, don't worry about it. Ultimately, your invitations are a representation of the two of you and the event you are creating. Use your judgement and have fun with this project!

Now let's look at some Creative Wedding Invitation Wording and Saving Money on Your Wedding Invitations!

Quick Poll

What was the biggest issue you had with invitations?

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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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