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Wedding Invitation Etiquette Guide

Updated on August 9, 2009

Your wedding should be the happiest day of your life but getting it right can be pretty stressful. Ideally the preparations for the big day should be every bit as enjoyable but this isn’t always the case, especially when it comes to who to invite and how.

Wedding invitation etiquette can be daunting, but with these tips you should be able to plan and carry out the process without any hiccups.

Sending the Wedding Invitations

Traditionally, the bride’s parents are considered the hosts of the happy occasion. Therefore, they would be expected to send out the wedding invitations. The situation today is more complicated. Increasingly, the bridge and groom are taking direct responsibility for their big day, and therefore it is becoming more common for the couple to send the invitations directly. Please note, however, that if you are relying heavily on the financial or logistical help of your parents, then the respectful thing is to allow them the small pleasure of sending the invitations.

If there are people who you would like to inform about the marriage, but cannot invite them for any reason, then it is best to send personalized letters to let them know the news. Also, for very close relatives and friends, try to ensure that the wedding invitation will not be the first they hear of your plan to marry.

Invitations should be sent around two months before the wedding, although six weeks is also acceptable. This gives potential guests the chance to organize time off work and make travel plans. If your wedding is during the busy summer season, it also makes it more likely that your invitation will be received first!

While some guests will need more notice than others (for example, if they live abroad or struggle to obtain time off work), it is nevertheless better to send all invitations at the same time. Otherwise you could give the unfortunate impression that you sent another batch of invitations to your ‘second choice’ guests after some of the first declined your invitations.

The guest list is often drawn up by the bride and her mother, but consultation is required with the groom and his family. It is also common for the bride and groom to produce a list together. It is polite and customary for the minister to be invited to the reception.

Preparing the Invitations

There is no standard wording for wedding invitations, and they can be addressed in a number of ways; the level of formality should depend on your relationship with the invitees or the tone of your wedding. In decreasing levels of formality, you can choose ‘Mr and Mrs Daniel Brown,’ ‘Daniel and Emma Brown’ or just ‘Dan and Emma.’ If the bride’s parents are composing and sending the invitations, then usually the bride’s surname is omitted.

Detailed information about the addressing of envelopes can be found here.

As a rule, avoid using any abbreviations in the text of your invitations. However, it is acceptable to abbreviate the date (e.g. 26th May 2010) if you think it looks better. Middle names can be included but initials look a little out of place. Be consistent with your use of American or British English, for example in words such as ‘honor/honour’ and ‘favor/favour’ and – most importantly – triple-check for spelling and grammatical errors!

While you should feel at liberty to choose your words according to your own preferences, there are some guidelines you should know about. For example, invitations to religious ceremonies generally opt for ‘request the honor of your presence’ while non-religious wedding invitations should read, ‘request the pleasure of your company.’

If you have a short guest list and beautiful handwriting then you do not need to have the invitations professionally printed. You can buy kits to print invitations from your home PC but be honest with yourself about the quality of the results. If you are planning to write the invitations by hand, then buy some good quality paper. 80gsm copier paper does not count!

Those who are invited to the reception only should be sent separate invitations. Some tried and tested sample invitations are shown below:

Etiquette for Responding to Wedding Invitations

If you receive a wedding invitation, reply promptly. Preferably, do so within a week. Traditionally, replies are written formally in the third person. For example, you can write something along the lines of ‘Mr and Mrs John Jackman thank Mr and Mrs Royston Pickles for their kind invitation to their daughter’s wedding and will be most delighted to attend.’ However, this flourish is by no means necessary. An informal note is almost always sufficient. The important thing is that the reply is sent quickly and that the response is unambiguous.

If you cannot attend, then apologize sincerely and still send a wedding gift to the bride and groom to be. Under almost no circumstances is it acceptable to accept the invitation and then change your mind later.

Addressing invitations to the wedding ceremony with the appropriate etiquette.
Addressing invitations to the wedding ceremony with the appropriate etiquette.
Wedding invitation etiquette, when inviting guests only to the wedding reception.
Wedding invitation etiquette, when inviting guests only to the wedding reception.


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    • profile image

      Chinese Wedding Invitations 7 years ago

      Very useful for me to prepare my wedding invitations.

    • alwaysabridesmaid profile image

      alwaysabridesmaid 8 years ago

      Great Hub!!!

      Thanks for sharing ideas.