Ultimately it’s up to your preference how to convey information to wedding guests, especially if the invitation design is very informal. These rules of etiquette for wedding stationery are simply a recommendation.
WHEN TO MAIL SAVE THE DATES & INVITATIONS
Traditionally, save the dates should be mailed to guests 4-6 months before the wedding, or 6-8 months for a destination wedding. Invitations should be mailed to guests 6-8 weeks before the wedding, or 3-4 months for a destination wedding. That gives guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and make travel arrangements if necessary.
The invitation should read so that those hosting are the ones inviting you (typically, hosting = paying). If one or both sets of parents are hosting, then it should read that they are inviting you to the marriage of their children. If the couple is hosting, then it should read that the couple is inviting you. If everyone is hosting then it is the couple along with their parents. Deceased parents should definitely be listed, as “the late”.
Formal addressing should include FULL street names with no abbreviations (i.e. Avenue, Street, Boulevard, etc). City and state names should also be written out fully. NO ZIP CODES on the invitation itself. With more unique and modern invitations, sometimes this is not possible due to space constraints. In those cases, it is important to be CONSISTENT above all else. For example, don’t say Saint Louis in one spot and St. Louis in another.
Be sure to include the day of the week, month, date, and year.
Timing should be written out (e.g. one o’clock in the afternoon). “Morning” is anytime before noon. “Afternoon” is anytime between noon and 5:00. “Evening” is anytime 5:00-10:00.
REGISTRIES & GIFTS
Contrary to common practice, it is not appropriate to list registries, requesting of cash only gifts, or even saying, “please no gifts” on your invitation. NOTHING that in any way indicates guests should be bringing gifts. (Traditionally, this is the purpose of a shower, not for wedding day). If this information must be included, it’s best to include a separate detail card for this information.
It is perfectly ok to include your wedding website on a separate card, not on the invitation itself.
You do not need to have a reception card if your ceremony and reception are at the same venue.
VARIABLE GUEST INVITES
Some weddings invite a certain group of guests to the ceremony and reception, and another group of guests only to the ceremony or only to the reception but not both. In such case, versioning invitation suites is best, so guests don’t see details not meant for them.
Before setting the “return by” date for your RSVP cards, check with your caterer on when your final numbers are due. Take that date and add 1 week – that is the date you should ask guests to respond by. This gives you a whole week to get a hold of guests who have not responded before you have to give your final count. If response time does not depend on catering, guests should reply at the latest by 2 weeks prior to wedding day. Typical etiquette suggests 6-8 weeks for guests to respond, or 8-10 weeks for destination weddings so guests can arrange travel. If you need totals and have not heard from guests, it is perfectly acceptable to make phone calls to confirm guest attendance.
Always include a spot for number attending on your RSVP card. This will give you a heads up if there’s been any miscommunication regarding who had been invited.
If you plan on not inviting children, use the wording “Adult Reception” in order to avoid any possible confusion. (DO NOT put “No Children” on your invitation.) If you plan on inviting some children, but not others, be sure to be VERY clear when you address your invitations who specifically is invited.
LIMITED COUNT FOR GUESTS
“We have reserved ___ chairs for you” is not appropriate etiquette. In limited-space scenarios (or when paying for meals requires limited funds), be very specific how the invitations are addressed, rather than how the response card is worded. For example, instead of “The Smith Family” write out “Mr. & Mrs. John Doe and Suzie Doe”. By listing out each guest (children included), guests will know clearly who is invited.
If any of your guests are married, engaged, cohabiting, or in a significant long-term relationship, you MUST invite their significant other, even if you’ve never met them. When you invite someone’s significant other, be sure list them BY NAME when you address the invitation (not just “and guest”). This will (hopefully) prevent them from bringing some random person with them should the significant other not be able to make it or the relationship ends before your wedding.
MAPS & PARKING INSTRUCTIONS
GPS is useful for locating venues, however if your venue is particularly difficult to find and/or has an unusual parking situation (e.g. street parking only, free valet, parking lot down the street, etc), it’s important to include instructions or a simple map. Also consider that not all guests may have access to GPS or smartphones for assistance.
Make the most of your programs, don’t just throw the wedding party and ceremony order on there. Include fun facts about you and your fiancé, a little humor, a game to pass the time, or even some helpful information regarding the flow of the day and what guests can look forward to at the reception. Your guests will love something different.
THANK YOU CARDS
Thank You cards should be mailed to guests within 2 months after your wedding date, but the sooner, the better. They should be handwritten, individualized and mailed with an envelope and a stamp. Your guests spent money on a gift, possibly bought a new outfit, maybe had to find a babysitter, and chose to spend that night celebrating with you. Formal thank yous are definitely in order.