Wedding Invitation Etiquette: When to Send, Wording and More Details

With wedding invitation styles available for just about any personality, couples have an unlimited number of options. From luxe letterpress invites to fun and quirky designs, invitations let couples show off their style while giving guests a glimpse of the anticipated event.

One thing that still remains important, however, is the invitation etiquette. Many of the same rules still apply today as they have for generations. Everything from how to address the envelopes to wedding invitation wording are things couples should consider. Read on for tips to create a polite invitation that lets your personality shine.

Finding the Right Words

Wedding invite with couple in field
Many couples still choose to use formal phrasing on their invitations. Because committing your life to someone in front of your nearest and dearest is such a significant event, it’s no surprise that couples approach it with decorum. While a formally phrased invitation can work for any style of wedding, it’s particularly appropriate for a traditional affair—a church ceremony followed by a black-tie reception, for example. Using formal language will signal to your guests that they can expect a truly elegant event.

A formal invitation may read something like this:

Mr. & Mrs. Henry Nakagawa
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their daughter
Alyssa Chiemi Nakagawa
Stephen Michael Gallagher
Saturday, the eleventh of October
two thousand and fourteen
four o’clock in the afternoon
Saltwater Farm Vineyard
349 Williams Avenue
Stonington, Connecticut
Reception to follow

The format may change slightly depending on whether the event is hosted by multiple sets of parents, the groom’s parents or the couple themselves. In any case, it’s simply a matter of swapping out the names at the beginning of the invitation.

If you and your fiancé are more casual—and you’re hosting a rustic, whimsical or artistic wedding to match—it’s completely acceptable to loosen up the language. For a more relaxed vibe, you could change the spelled-out numbers to numerals in the addresses and dates. You could also remove the hosts’ names entirely, simplify the phrasing to something like “Together with their families…” or, even more straightforward, “Alyssa Chiemi Nakagawa and Stephen Michael Gallagher Are Getting Married!”

Can’t decide? Sit down with your fiancé and look at other couples’ invitations for inspiration, browse our invitation selection or try one of our free samples and talk about how you’d like to welcome your guests. Your perfect wording could come out of a casual conversation!

Once you’ve created a list of options, choose the one that feels like the best reflection of your personalities. It helps to start with a general template and play with the language until you’ve found phrasing that fits.

It’s All in the Details

Rustic wedding invite
While couples can let their creativity flow when choosing the language for their invitations, there’s not much wiggle room when it comes to the essential elements of an invitation. Keep in mind the three Ws:

  • Who. Include the full names of the bride and groom. For a formal invitation, include the full names of the hosts, too.
  • When. Clearly list the time, date, month and year of the event.
  • Where. Include where the event is taking place, with a full address (zip code not required).

As a general rule of thumb, the main invitation should only include the key details of your event. However, guests will appreciate additional information to be included on your invitation. A few details you may consider:

  • Attire. Should guests wear black-tie, garden party attire or will the wedding be themed? Don’t leave them guessing—tell them what to wear on your big day!
  • Map. Whether you’re getting married in your hometown or you’re heading to a destination, out-of-town guests will appreciate a map and clear directions to any venues.
  • Accommodation Details. If you’ve reserved a block of rooms at a local hotel, give your guests plenty of time to reserve in advance.
  • Activities. Will there be dancing? A casual rehearsal dinner? A lively after-party? Let your guests know so they can plan accordingly.

Perfect timing. You want to ensure that your guests have plenty of time to clear their schedules in order to attend your event, so it’s important to send your invitations well in advance. Here are the general timing guidelines:

  • Save the Dates: Six to eight months in advance
  • Invitations: Six to eight weeks in advance
  • Invitations for Destinations Weddings: Three months in advance

In addition, you’ll want to request RSVPs within three weeks of the event so you can get an accurate head count. Traditionally, RSVP is only used on reception or combination wedding/reception invitations—not on wedding-only invitations. It’s generally placed on the lower left of the invitation.

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

Couple kissing on wedding invite
While certain rules have loosened up over the years, there’s one that still applies: don’t include gift or registry information on your invitation. This little detail is considered a faux pas. Instead, recruit family members and your wedding party to fill guests in on the detail if they ask, and include a link on your wedding website.

Speaking of your website, that link is better shared on your save the dates or invitation insert than on your actual invitation.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Your invitation envelopes are the simplest but hardest-working members of the complete package. Unlike its contents, which are printed en masse, the envelopes must be addressed individually, with careful attention given to name spellings, addresses and, of course, handwriting. Here’s what to keep in mind when addressing envelopes:

  • Guests’ names should be written in full, with appropriate social titles included (i.e. Mr. and Ms.).
  • Spell out all words in an address and spell out house numbers less than 20.
  • The return address traditionally goes on the back flap and in many cases, they’re still handwritten—although we offer a fun selection of return address labels.
  • Keep in mind that responses and gifts will likely be sent to the return address on the invitation. If you’d rather have them sent to a different address, list it below the RSVP line.

Now that you’re a wedding invitation etiquette pro, make sure you have the perfect wedding programs and menu cards to match!