Invitation Etiquette: How to Send "Martha-Approved" Addressed Wedding Invitations

Posted May 28, 2015

We LOVE sharing recaps of the beautiful and special weddings we get to be part of here at I Do, but we also like to take a time out every now and then to explore the wedding world at large. Today, we are going to dive into invitation etiquette. As if brides aren’t overwhelmed enough with cake flavors, reception venues, shoe selections and picking a DJ who will keep the crowd on their feet, many brides also struggle with the ins and outs of ‘Emily Post-approved’ wedding invitations. How in the world is a gal supposed to know how to address those beautiful, custom envelopes in the most elegant, “proper” way possible? We’ve gathered some tips that we think could provide a helpful guide. Break out your calligraphy pen: here come some time-tested notes!

One of the first questions a bride may be facing is- when should the invitations be addressed, stamped and ready to be popped in the mail? While wedding invitations traditionally go out six to eight weeks before the wedding, you can really never give too much notice. Additional consideration may be needed for your invitation mailing timeline if there will be many guests coming from out of town, or you are planning a destination wedding. This will be sure to allow plenty of time for your guests to make travel arrangements. Many couples also send out save-the-date cards. These typically go out at a minimum 6 months months prior to the wedding, but between 6-12 months.

From magnets to invisible ink, couples are finding more creative and fun ways to create their save-the-dates and invitations. Whether traditional or totally innovative, just remember to make sure that all pertinent information is included. For save-the-dates, the names of the couple getting married and the date are the most important details, along with a note that an invitation will follow. If you have a website, save-the-dates are a great place to share that information. Wedding websites are a great place for sharing information not typically included on invitations- such as registries, dress codes, and venue information if necessary, such as parking instructions.

Speaking of timelines, the RSVP cards enclosed within the invitations will include a deadline for responding. Generally, the RSVP deadline should be at least two to three weeks before the wedding date, although we even encourage closer to four weeks. This will allow enough time to get a final head count to the caterer (usually 7 to 14 days before), to adjust needed rental items, and to finalize any seating charts & place cards. Another important note to remember is that the RSVP card should always include postage, regardless of whether it is the traditional small note with envelope or cost-effective, causal postcard.

Of course, no one can RSVP without an all-important return address. The return address usually goes on the back flap of the envelope, if there is an envelope. The return address is traditionally the residence of whomever is hosting the wedding- most usually the bride’s parents, but sometimes the bride herself if she wishes to be the one in charge of keeping track of response cards. Some planners (like ourselves) even offer RSVP management, particularly for very large events where meal options are noted on the response.

One thing you can be sure to leave OUT of your wedding invitation & save the dates text is registry information. It is considered impolite to include these details, because it can appear as though you’re asking for gifts. Instead, list registry information on your wedding website, or make sure your wedding party, family and close friends know where you are registered. They can pass the word along as the need arises. Additionally, as friends or family members throw engagement, bridal and wedding showers for you, the hosts of those events will note your registry locations on those specific gift-giving event invitations when they are sent.

Being specific in wording for guests addressing can radically change the number of attendees as well as tone of your day. Without clarifying, some guests may assume that bringing a guest or guests is 100% fine, while your budget does not account for those extra people! Another item you can cross off your punch list to indicate on your invite is wording regarding guests bringing children. The address on your invitation (to each guest, by name, not including an “and guest”) is considered to be enough information to clue guests in on whether they should book a sitter or pick out itty-bitty party attire for their wee babes. Brides typically feel very distinctly for or against this topic- check out our post here with tips on navigating children at weddings.

Your guests’ entire names should be written on the outer envelopes. “Street,” “Post Office Box,” and “Apartment” should all also be written in full. The same is true for city and state names and any house numbers smaller than 20, though “Mr. and Mrs.” generally are abbreviated. Below are some written out examples for many relationship and status situations you may encounter as you endeavor for etiquette:

Married couple: (note that it’s also fine to list both full names)
Mr. and Mrs. Ryan Gosling

Married couple, each keeping their own name: (alphabetical order)
Ms. Eva Mendes and Mr. Ryan Gosling

Married couple, doctors:
Doctors (Drs.) Eva and Ryan Gosling

Married couple, only husband is a doctor:
Dr. and Mrs. Ryan Gosling

Married couple, only wife is a doctor:
Dr. Eva Gosling and Mr. Ryan Gosling

Married couple, wife is doctor AND kept her maiden name:
Dr. Eva Mendes and Mr. Ryan Gosling

Living together, but not married: (names on two lines, alphabetical order)
Ms. Eva Mendes
Mr. Ryan Gosling

Same sex couple:
Mrs. Ellen DeGeneres 
and Mrs. Portia de Rossi

Single woman: (unless she is a doctor)
Ms. Eva Mendes  (Hint- if she is under 21, it’s appropriate to use “Miss”)

PHOTO CREDIT  |  the talented Chris Isham for his beautiful work in the image above, from an event we worked together this past January; stay tuned for this sweet couple’s recap coming soon!