There is a great deal of traditional etiquette surrounding wedding invitations, but as societal expectations continue to evolve, many modern couples have been applying these rules more loosely. Below are some tips, use them as a guide, but remember they are not the "be all end all" of wedding invitation etiquette!
The wedding invitation should be reflective of the tone and formality of the wedding, as it is the first impression guests will receive about the occasion.
The first line is typically used to indicate who is hosting the wedding. Traditionally, the host was the bride’s parents, dating back to when a father gave a bride to her groom. (My how times have changed!) This line can also signify the host is the financial sponsor. Both parents can be used to be more inclusive.
Be sure to spell out all dates, times and locations. For example: "Sunday, the twelfth of May at three o’clock in the afternoon."
A line detailing the wedding reception (or separate reception card for very formal weddings), should be included with every invitation. Be sure to indicate a time and location of the reception if it is being held at a different venue than the ceremony.
Addressing the Envelope
Traditional etiquette suggests that all addressing should be done by hand in black ink. With shifting notions of etiquette it is ok to be creative. Pinkpolka Wedding Design offers unique addressing options such as a return sticker wrap or custom envelope printing. Be sure to write out full names and addresses on the envelope.
Be sure to check postal standards and costs so that you have enough postage on your invitations. It is not mandatory to include postage for reply envelopes, however it is much appreciated and helps ensure you receive timely responses from your guests.
A formal request to return a reply should always be made on the wedding invitation. The response is generally requested at least two weeks before the wedding date. A "M___________" is provided for the guest to include their name (i.e. Mrs. Smith). You may want to lightly mark a number on the card and keep a master list of guests in case of illegible handwriting. The response card is also a good place to allow guests to choose their preferred entrée, or to indicate any food allergies and special dietary conditions.
It is helpful to give your guests ample notice for your wedding date. If the guests are local it is standard to send the invitations 6 - 8 weeks before the wedding. If you are inviting out-of-town guests or having a destination wedding, 10 - 12 weeks is standard.
Kids: Whether or not you decide to include children at your wedding reception, you have to make this clear through the way you address the invitation. Avoid directly stating "No children" or "Adults Only". You can make your intentions clear by addressing the envelope to the parents only. If children are invited you can include "and Family" or "and Kids."
And "Guest": It is not required to include a guest on the invitation for a single friend or family member. If you are aware that a single person is seeing someone, it is thoughtful to allow him or her to bring a guest. It is also good etiquette to find out the guest’s name so that the invitation can be properly addressed.
Gift Registry: Although gift registry cards are often used, traditional etiquette frowns upon providing details of gift registries with your wedding invitation. The inclusion of this implies that you expect a gift. Remember: "An invitation calls for presence, not presents".