Everything you need to know about wedding invitation wording and etiquette
Let’s get down to the details. You’ve booked your wedding venue and set a date, now you can make it official with your wedding invitations. The most important etiquette is making sure your guests get all the information they need. A basic invite has 10-12 lines, each playing its own role in the invitation. This article will give you a taste of each line and its purpose as well as some important things to remember for your other wedding stationery items.
Wedding Invitation Wording
The host line indicates the host of the event and who is issuing the invitation. Traditionally, this role was filled by the bride’s parents but today, most couples host the wedding themselves or with their families. No matter who is issuing the invitation, there’s a host line format fit for their invite.
The request line arguably plays the most important role in the invitation: it actually invites the guest to the event! It’s important to keep in mind that the wording of the request line changes depending on whether the venue of your event is religious or not. Invitations to events held at a religious venue use the phrase “request the honor of your presence”; secular events use the phrase “request the pleasure of your company”. While this is a tradition that is still widely used today, more and more couples are choosing to forgo the conventional phrasing and make use of more fun and celebratory request lines.
Working with the request line, the event line lets the guest know what event they are being invited to. This line specifies the type of event (marriage, reception, or anything else) and traditionally, the relationship of the host to the bride or groom, but it’s no longer necessary to include this relation.
Following the event line is the bride line. This one seems pretty straight forward— it just states the bride’s name, after all. However, depending on the formality of your invite, you might or might not need to include the bride’s title, middle name, or last name. (This is a well-established practice, but the wedding is about the bride and groom— we think you should write the bride’s name however she feels comfortable!)
Between the bride and groom lines is the joining word. This line serves to connect the names of the spouses-to-be and while it plays a simple role, the joining word does change depending on a few factors, namely the type of the event and its religious associations.
Similar to the bride line, the groom line simply states the name of the groom. This one doesn’t change much— writing the groom’s full name and his title is considered standard regardless of other lines. (Again, this is a well-established practice, but the wedding is about the bride and groom— we think you should write the groom’s name however he feels comfortable.)
The date line follows the groom line and states the day of week, date, and month in which the event will take place. Depending on the formality of the invitation, you might or might not need to write out numbers in words.
The year line simply states the year of your event. This line, however, is one of the only optional lines on the invite. It’s optional because it is generally assumed that the event will take place six to eight weeks after the invite is received. There isn’t any situation in which you absolutely must or mustn’t include the year line, so do whatever feels right for your invitation.
Stating the time of your event, the timeline changes depending on the level of formality of your invitation. If your invite is in a traditional or formal style, be sure to write out all numbers in words. Additionally, if your event will be taking place at a half or quarter hour, indicate this by writing “half after”, “a quarter after”, or “three quarters after”. It is also unnecessary to indicate time of day unless your start time is ambiguous, like nine or ten o’clock. If you do choose to include time of day, indicate it using phrases like “in the afternoon” or “in the evening” rather than just tacking on an AM or PM. (If your invitation is more casual, however, feel free to ignore all of these rules!).
The location line states the full name of the venue where your event will take place.
The address line, which states the address of the venue, is the next optional line. There are actually only a few scenarios in which you would include this line, such as when there is another facility with the same name as your venue or if the facility is not well known. Again, if your invitation has a traditional or formal tone, do not use any abbreviations or casual language; write out all street or building names completely.
City and State Line
The invitation wraps up with the city and state line, which lists the city and state of the venue. If your invitation is taking on a traditional or formal tone, be sure not to abbreviate any of the names.
These are just the basics, but hopefully you now have a solid foundation about the basics of an invitation. Each line takes on its own role and has its own etiquette, but the purpose of each line is the same: to relay information about your wedding as concisely and politely as possible. That being said, if an etiquette rule will lead to hard feelings, it’s completely fine to ignore it. The point of etiquette is to treat guests with respect. If it fails to do so, there’s no harm in modifying your invitation so that every guest feels welcome.
And don’t be scared to mix it up— while the order of lines presented in this article is considered standard, times have changed. If you’d rather combine the date and year line or ignore the host line, feel free! While etiquette is important, there’s one part of the invitation that should never be ignored: you and your spouse-to-be.
Now that you have the wedding invitation details down, here are other etiquette tips regarding communication about your wedding.
Wedding Etiquette Tips
The term RSVP comes from the French phrase “Répondez s'il vous plaît” meaning "Please respond". In the past, invitations would have a specific response date and the guests would send a handwritten note indicating if they were attending or not. Today, RSVP cards come designed for the guest to sign off on. There are two basic parts of the RSVP: the reply card, on which guests indicate whether or not they will attend, and the RSVP information, which states the date (and sometimes the address) of where the reply card should be sent.
A very common mistake people make is phrasing their RSVP card as “Please RSVP” or “Kindly RSVP.” Because RSVP roughly translates to “please respond” it is redundant to add additional words in front of RSVP. Use either “RSVP” or “Please reply”.
If you want guests to RSVP on your website, simply list your URL where the reply information would go otherwise. If the URL is on your main invitation, there is no need to include a reply card.
Websites are a fairly new wedding concept in the grand scheme of things, so there isn’t really any “traditional” etiquette to turn to. The standard nowadays is to include your URL on your save-the-date. If you’re not sending save-the-dates, don’t fear! You can always include a separate enclosure with your invitation set that lists the URL or you can enter the URL on the back of the invitation. It is generally not needed to include “http://” or “www.” at the beginning of the URL and it saves space on the card.
It’s considered impolite to mention gifts anywhere on your invite. You want to keep it all about you and spouse-to-be! Even if you are saying “No gifts please” it is considered rude because it implies that gifts are expected.
If you have a registry, you can list all gift and registry information on your wedding website. If you want to stay truly traditional, exclude it from your website completely and simply have your wedding party notify your guests through word of mouth.
The general rule for dress code basically says not to include a dress code (on your main invite, at least). Your guests should be able to assume the level of formally based on the venue and time of day of your event. However, if your dress code is a bit out of the ordinary (black tie at 2pm for your beach wedding? No problem!), go ahead and indicate the dress code on the bottom right corner of your invitation. Another option is to include a separate attire card in your suite or save some paper by putting the information on your website.
Even if you don’t want children at your wedding, never write “Adults only” or “No Children”. Let the guests know this information through the outer or inner envelopes by including (or not including) children’s names. Another way to reinforce this is by including a line on your RSVP card that says something on the lines of “We have reserved __ seats in your honor.” You will have to write how many seats you have saved for that recipient but it makes it clear how many people are invited. On more casual invitations it’s acceptable to write ‘adults only’, but never use strictly exclusionary language (like “No children under age 10”, etc.).
It’s common nowadays for there to be more celebratory events before or after the wedding. If there are other events that all guests will be invited to (like a breakfast or brunch) feel free to include that invitation in the main suite as a separate card. If there are many events (like a weekend retreat) it’s appropriate to modify your RSVP card so that guests can note which events they’re attending.
However, if there are events that only some guests will be invited to, it would be best to send the invitation separately from your wedding suite. It minimizes the risk that someone will be invited accidentally, or even worse, someone you care about won’t be invited at all!
The reception is the activity after the wedding ceremony and where the fun usually happens. If your reception is at the same venue the ceremony was held, you can simply state “Reception to follow” on your invitation. If the reception is being held elsewhere, a separate card is recommended outlining the time and details.
While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it will not go unappreciated by guests if you let them know what to expect at your reception. If you’ll be serving a full meal or just refreshments, indicate this on the reception invitation. Guests will be able to make appropriate plans, be happy, and most importantly, not be hungry.
At the end of the day, this is your special day and the most important thing to take away from sending wedding stationery is to make it clear to your guests what to expect. Customs and etiquette change over time and certain stipulations may not apply to your situation or your guest list. We hope this guide has helped you plan out your big day.