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Invitation Do’s and Don’ts

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As a stationery designer, I’m frequently asked by clients how to handle certain etiquette situations — which rules to keep and break. I’m here to help answer common questions about what rules you should hold and which ones you can toss!

You must first consider the type of event and what your families are like, along with who you are as a couple, before determining what your do’s and don’ts are. Is your wedding formal or informal, old-school or modern? Do you and your fiancé love traditions or break away from the mold? The answers to these questions will set the tone for how you should handle your wedding invitations. Here are your invitation do’s and don’ts.

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Formal + Traditional

Suppose the event is formal and traditional, as well as if you as a couple and your family are traditional. In that case, your invitation should generally follow formal etiquette rules.

DO

  • Include parent names on the invitation. Traditionally this is the bride’s parents only. However, some families choose to list the groom’s parents’ names even if they are not financially contributing to the wedding to honor their parents.
  • Use middle names for the couple. Traditionally bride uses the First and Middle name only (as her parent’s last name is at the top. If parents are divorced/remarried, then the bride’s last name would be used). Groom would use “Mr.” then First Middle Last.
  • Utilize a separate insert for anything not related to the ceremony itself. That means no website, no note about kids, etc., on the invitation itself. “Reception to follow” or “Reception to follow at Location” is acceptable. Traditionally, if ceremony and reception occur at different locations, a separate reception insert would be included for the reception and an additional insert for accommodations and misc. Information.
  • Use a mail-in RSVP. Suppose you’re traditional and having a formal event that means a physical RSVP. No online RSVPs! Online RSVPs are very informal and are not an appropriate reflection of a formal occasion.
  • Indicate attire. Traditionally this goes on the invitation itself, but you can also put it on a detail’s insert.
  • Opt for inner and outer envelopes. The outer envelope has formal titles & addressing. The inner envelope uses first names only and is also where you can indicate if children and guests are invited.
  • Limit the color palette. Traditional wedding invitations typically only utilize one or two colors, even if you have multiple colors in your wedding.
  • Go for a traditional, readable script. This could be entirely scripted, or it can be paired with a traditional non-script body font if you don’t love the all-script look. A casual script can work against your formal vibe.
  • Use formal RSVP wording. For example, Accepts/Declines, or Accepts with Pleasure/Declines with Regret.

DON’T

  • List registry information. This is considered a faux pas for a formal traditional event. If guests would like to get you a gift, they will visit your website from your save the date or request this information.
  • Use informal addressing styles. Use Mr., Mrs., Ms. Dr. Use full names, no first names only, no nicknames.

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Formal + Modern

If the event is formal, but you and your family lean modern, your invitation should fall somewhere in the middle on which rules you keep and which you can disregard.

DO

  • Pick the wording style that fits you. List parent names on the invitation, or not. Also acceptable is “Together with their parents/families.” The wording is usually based on who is hosting or paying for the wedding. When this is shared, a general statement is often preferred.
  • Use first and last names or first, middle and last names if you want to go a little more formal and traditional
    It’s up to you! Either is still formal.
  • Utilize a separate insert for anything not related to the ceremony itself. That means no website, no note about kids, etc., on the invitation itself. “Reception to follow” or “Reception to follow at Location” is acceptable. Most commonly, reception, accommodations, website, etc., are combined onto a single details insert.
  • Use a mail-in RSVP. Suppose you have a formal event that means a physical RSVP. No online RSVPs! Online RSVPs are very informal. However, some modern-leaning clients will break this rule if they’re not overly traditional.
  • Consider calligraphy style or a non-traditional yet formal script. You can also pair it with a non-script body font to give it that more formal feel. This is your opportunity to show it’s a formal event, but with a modern twist!

DON’T

  • Forget the attire. Make sure to instruct guests on what to wear; garden, cocktail, semi-formal, formal, black tie optional or optional.
  • Use informal addressing styles; this is a formal event! Use Mr., Mrs., Ms. Dr. Use full names, no first names only or nicknames here.
  • Be afraid to interject color into your invitation suite.  Your wedding invitation can still look & feel formal without being all one-color. Consider a limited palette of 2-4 colors vs. your entire color palette represented in your stationery.

Informal

If the event is casual, your invitation can (almost) toss the rule book out.

DO

  • Feel free to use “Together with their parents/families” if multiple people are hosting the event. The wording is usually based on who is hosting or paying for the wedding. When this is shared, a general statement on who is hosting is often preferred.
  • Use first names only if you want. It’s okay to only use first names for a casual event.
  • Decide if multiple inserts are needed. Just an RSVP may do the trick, or just a details insert. It’s still recommended not to put information that does not apply to the ceremony, such as your website, on the invitation itself, primarily due to overcrowding the invitation.
  • Use an RSVP option that makes sense; Mail-Style, Postcard, or Online RSVP. We like the look and the air of specialness a physical RSVP lends to an event. But if you’re hosting a casual event, you can opt for a postcard or online RSVP instead. A separate RSVP insert or details insert with RSVP information both work well.
  • Go for a playful or modern font(s) if you like. Your invitation can interject your personality and play into the informal event you’re having.

DON’T

  • Worry about attire. It’s a casual event, noting attire isn’t necessary.
  • Use formal addressing styles, unless you want to. Feel free to use first names only, first & last without titles, nicknames, or “+” between names instead of “and.”
  • Be afraid of color. Colored envelopes? Go for it! Multi-colored envelope liner? Do it! This isn’t a formal event, and you can do what you like!
  • Shy away from playful wording. For example: Can’t Wait/Can’t Come or Will Be There/Will Toast from Afar.

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