If you think back to all the wedding invites you’ve ever received, you may have noticed that they’re all uniquely worded in some way – though generally will follow a pattern of invitation traditions.
The good news is that the etiquette rules are actually much simpler than you might expect and are only there to serve as guidelines. The most important rule of all is that you work with your stationer to create a meaningful and beautiful wedding invitation that represents you and your love story.
If you’re wondering where to start, and how to adapt the rules in a way that feels personal and respectful, here are some tips from the Ananya Team.
Traditionally, wedding invitations included the bride’s parents’ names, implying that the celebrations were being hosted by the mother and father of the bride. These days, many couples graciously opt to include both sets of parents (regardless of who is contributing more to the budget), or neither, if that feels right. A friendly, collaborative option would be, for example “Together with their parents, Hannah and Tom request the pleasure of your company...” – and your stationer can help you brainstorm the best combination, especially if any of the parents are divorced (include them on separate lines, for example) or no longer with you (in which case you may want to say, “daughter of...” rather than implying the wedding is hosted by them).
The invitation to join
There are many ways to ask your guests to join you in the celebrations, with different levels of formality: for example, "would love for you to join them" is a little less traditional than "request the pleasure of your presence". This is where you’d also include the names of the bride and groom, especially if they haven’t appeared in the host section of the invite. Traditionally, the name of the bride preceded the groom's name, including middle names and titles if applicable, though couples now often choose to list them alphabetically or in whichever order ‘sounds’ better, and to omit surnames and titles.
The time and place
For formal weddings, everything would be written out in full (no numerals), but this can be written in whichever way feels most natural to you. You would then also include the name of the location, city and full street address. You might choose to have ceremony and reception information on separate cards if you wish, particularly if held in separate locations. If the location is the same, you can add “reception immediately following” or “followed by dinner and dancing” to let your guests know. Generally, you wouldn’t need to include the time that the reception starts unless you don’t want guests moving from one place immediately on to the next.
The dress code
Wedding invitation etiquette typically suggests that a dress code should be included on the lower right-hand corner of the invitation. Many couples now omit this information or choose more creative wording, especially for destination weddings (“it’s all about the hat”, “cocktail chic”, or “summertime soiree”, for example). If you don't include a note on attire, expect your guests to take a cue from the style of your invitation.
Most couples choose to include a separate response card for guests to fill out and return in the post. If it feels right for you, don’t be afraid to have fun with the wording, so for example, a positive response might be “I’ll be there with bells on”, “Wouldn’t miss it for the world!”, and so on. You also have the option of asking guests to RSVP via a wedding website, in which case you can include the website address.
The gift list
Traditionally, it was deemed bad etiquette to include a gift request in wedding invitations, but these days it is widely done by most couples. This saves your guests the time and effort of contacting the wedding party to find out which gifts are needed or suitable, and also removes some of the pressure from them! You can include a message to say how much you appreciate their company, and that you don’t want them to feel obliged to give you a gift - but that if they wish to, there is a gift registry they can use. Asking for financial contributions to a honeymoon or future project is also very common, and widely acceptable now. In Indian weddings often couples will ask for ‘no boxed gifts’ which means that they would prefer money.
Unless your wedding venue and budget can stretch to allowing plus ones to all your guests, try to come up with a rule when sketching your guest list (for example, couples that have been together for a certain amount of time). Then, make it very clear in your invite whether a plus one is included or not by addressing it appropriately – you can even express that your event is private, intimate or small, so guests get the hint!
If the venue or style of wedding is such that children aren’t invited, do make sure this is very clear, as this will affect families that need to make alternative arrangements. Address your invitations to exactly who is invited, or some guests with children might assume their whole family is invited – and you can add a small note on your invite or wedding website explaining tactfully what the situation is. This can be a sensitive issue for many parents, so do invest time on thinking about what you’d like to express. Also, if you’re allowing children of close family but not others, do warn your guests of this with something like “Unfortunately, as much as we’d love to invite all of our friends’ children, we can only accommodate a few close family children. We hope that you will understand this decision and we very much hope you will still be able to join us on our special day”.
In summary, we would recommend giving your guests as much information as you can in an honest and open way, while not being afraid to make it your own.