A request to attend your celebration can be worded and arranged in countless ways to reflect the style of the occasion and the changing times. However, while it is important to insert your personality into your wedding invitation, it is also important to observe the rules of etiquette regarding invitations so that everyone is both comfortable and clear on the details.
1. Host Line
Start with the names of those issuing the invitation, traditionally the bride’s parents. Evolving family structures and financial dynamics often make this the trickiest part of the process, so follow the format that best fits your situation.
2. Request Line
Two phrases are the most traditional; one indicates the ceremony will be in a house of worship, the other that it will not. But informal wording is becoming very common. Just be sure that whatever phrasing you choose indicates that guests are being invited to a wedding ceremony or the reception only.
At a Place of Worship: Request the honor of your presence…
Informal Ceremony: Would be delighted by your presence
at the marriage of their children…
Informal Reception Only: Invite you to join them at the wedding reception of…
3. Bride and Groom Lines
Because the bridal couple are the stars of the invitation, their names are set off, on separate lines. The preposition linking them goes on its own line: traditional American formatting uses the word “to”; some Jewish formats use the word “and.”
Traditional: If the bride’s last name is the same as her parents’ above, it is typically not repeated. No courtesy title (such as Miss or Ms.) is used.
Contemporary: If the couple or both sets of parents are to host, treat the names equally.
4. Date and Time
Don’t worry about using a.m. or p.m., or a phrase such as “in the evening,” unless the wedding will be held at 8, 9, or 10 o’clock. The year is traditionally omitted as well, but it is sometimes included for the invitation’s keepsake value.
Traditional: Spell out numbers and capitalize proper nouns only; you can begin the line with the preposition “on” if you’d like.
Contemporary: Though using numerals is a more modern practice, it is not necessarily more casual.
It’s traditional not to include street addresses of houses of worship or well-known locations, but this is less common lately. Commas are not used at the ends of lines, and the state is always spelled out.
Traditional and Religious: Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, Walkersville, Maryland
Contemporary: If you are using a street address, numerals are acceptable but no ZIP code is needed; this is not for mailing.
6. Reception Line or Card
If the ceremony and reception are in the same space, they can be on a single invitation. If the reception is held elsewhere, a separate card might be helpful. It is no longer considered acceptable to invite some people only to the ceremony.
7. R.S.V.P. Line or Reply Card
Brides today generally include paper, envelope, and stamp to encourage guests to respond to their invitation in a timely manner, even though traditional etiquette doesn’t actually call for them. It’s not rude to omit these, but it might be risky.
R.S.V.P. Line on the Invitation: It goes in the lower left corner; you can also include mailing address, phone number, email address, or website.
On a Separate Card: A traditional fill-in-the-blank version provides the first letter of Mr. or Mrs.; or try a single line, such as “Please let us know whether you will join us,” with space for writing.
8. Special Details on the Wedding Invitation
If your event won’t include a full meal, it’s courteous to inform your guests. Use phrasing such as “and afterward for cocktails” instead of the classic “at the reception.”
If you want to stress the importance of the style of dress—black tie, for instance, or casual attire—place that information in the lower right corner, or on the reception card. The only thing that should not be included anywhere on your invitation—not even as an insert—is your registry information.