November 2017

Invitation Etiquette
[Wedding-September 2009]

In this fast-paced world where invites turn to evites and brides and grooms no longer seek registries but gift cards instead, etiquette is a term often forgotten, especially among desis!  More and more invitation cards poured in this summer stating the famous three words on the bottom “no boxed gifts.” This makes it more imperative than ever to state the no couple should print their invitations without consulting the etiquette laws at least once! This becomes especially important if you are self-printing or printing overseas.

Professional printers will be sure to give you some words of advice but if you leave it up to yourself then be sure to follow some of these simple rules and guidelines to ensure that your invitations and their wording are appropriate!

  • Write out names in full, including middle names. Omit a middle name if necessary, rather than using an initial.
  • It is appropriate and preferable to use the British spelling for “honour” and “favour”, unless you prefer to use the American spelling of these words.
  • Spell out all words, including the hour, the date and the year. Spell out all words in the address, including Street, Road and Avenue. The two exceptions to this rule in an address are Saint (St.) and Mount (Mt.)
  • Use Roman numerals in names, rather than “the third” or “3rd.”
  • For ceremonies taking place in a house of worship, use “request the honour of your presence.” Ceremonies taking place in a non-religious setting should say, “request the pleasure of your company.”
  • It is NEVER acceptable to write “No Boxed Gifts” or even mention gifts in the invitation itself! Instead have a close friend or family member politely spread the word verbally.
  • Should you use Ms or Miss for a divorced female guest? (Always use Miss)
  • How do you indicate your invitee can bring a date? (On the outer envelope use the invitee name only, but on the inner envelope you can add “and Guest”)
  • What is the proper etiquette for addressing envelopes to titled guests? (Use the invitees title and full name on the outer envelope, and just the title and last name on the inner envelope)
  • Is there a correct way to invite the children of your guests? (Add the first names only of the children on the inner envelope under the names of the parents)
  • If you’re not sure about whether or not a child of an invited couple should receive his or her own invitation, a good rule of thumb is that any young guest over 16 years old should receive his or her own invitation.
  • Be clear about whether or not your guests can bring guests of their own, or you might be faced with the awkward situation of having them ask you.
  • Wording follows very specific rules, as well. The ink is always black in a formal wedding invitation. The names of the people who are paying for the wedding are on the invitation. If the parents of the bride are paying, their names should appear. If both sets of parents are sponsoring the wedding, all of their names should appear. If the couple is paying for their own wedding, their parents’ names should never appear on the invitation.
  • When the parents are sponsoring, the last name of the child of the parents sponsoring the event is not listed.
  • Other than the names and places on the invitation, the only line that is capitalized is the year. The location and its city and state appear, however the physical address and zip code never do.
  • Never include instructions for gift registries in your invitation. The only polite way to let people know is to have your friends and attendants spread the word.
  • Regardless of whether the bride has thanked the donor in person or not, she must write a thank you note for every gift received.
  • Do not abbreviate anything. Use of “street” or “avenue” instead of their abbreviated versions is an old postal regulation that, while no longer required, is still used for formal invitations.
  • Hand write all addresses onto the invitation envelopes. This is another idea from the past which survives today to show careful thought and planning as to who is sharing in the wedding.
  • Clearly write numbers so that they are legible.
  • Place the return address on the back of the outer card. This is another old postal style that has survived for use with invitations.
  • Wedding invitations should convey the mood of the event be it formal, whimsical, low-key or intimate.
  • Wedding invitations need to communicate the details about the proceedings of the day.
  • You should be clear in both the language and the meaning when it comes to times, locations, attire, directions or any other items that are involved on the special day.
  • You need to send your invitations well enough in advance to allow for response and for guests to plan accordingly.
  • When inviting a guest to the ceremony, it is proper etiquette to also invite them to the reception.
  • Wedding invitation etiquette mainly follows either the formal or informal rules depending on which you decide to work with. Wording is very important. This conveys both the tone and the seriousness of the event.

Wedding invitations are not meant to be complicated so don’t let them be. Take a look at our Sample Invites article for more information on etiquette and wording and follow these simple rules and guidelines to get you started. The stress of your wedding is enough; don’t add on more by worrying too much about the invites. A few basic steps and you will have the perfect cards for your big day!


[photo credits:,,]

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