Wedding Invitations: What's The Etiquette?

23/07/2015 11:46 | Updated 23 July 2015

When it comes to wedding planning, there's the stuff you can't wait to do (cake tastings, anyone?) and the stuff you have to do but aren't really sure about (and are finding pretty stressful). Two words: Wedding invitations.

Wedding invitations Image by:  Marnie Burkhart/Corbis

One of the most crucial parts of the big day planning, your wedding invitations can help set the tone and theme of the occasion as well as determine the most important part of the wedding: the family and friends you want to have there, celebrating your special moment with you.

Sorting out the invites can feel overwhelming because there's a decision to be made on everything from the wording you want to the style of paper you choose. Since navigating the waters of wedding invitation etiquette can be murky (how do you make it clear kids aren't allowed - without offending your bestie?), we quizzed go-to girl for all things wedding-related and founder of bride&glory wedding planning, Anna MacDougall, on all of the details.

"Traditionally, it would have been the parents of the bride who would have sent the invitation (i.e. Mr. & Mrs. Proud Parents request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter XYZ to Mr. ZYX), but with more couples hosting and paying for their own weddings, this is no longer always necessary and the invitation can come from the couple themselves."

Obligatory details you can't leave off the wedding invites? The location of the ceremony, the date and time and the address of the reception venue (if different from the ceremony).

Check out all of Anna's pointers on wedding invitation etiquette below...

How far in advance should you send out the invites?

I stick to the rule that you shouldn't send invites until your guests are likely to have invested in a calendar for that year so they have somewhere to write the glorious news into.

Typically, you'd send them somewhere around 10 to 12 weeks before your wedding day, slightly earlier if your wedding is overseas.

​If you've set the date and really, really want to make sure everybody's diary is clear, save-the-date cards are the perfect 'advance notice' that can be sent anywhere between six to eight months in advance.

When should you ask people to RSVP by?

Given the insanely busy lives we all seem to lead these days, a stretchy buffer zone is advisable so I would set the RSVP deadline as two months prior to your wedding date - it'll give you time to chase those who lost the invitation under the pile of post in the kitchen and forgot to respond.

How do you make the dress code clear?

Traditionally, or as the Debrett's Wedding Guide would state, morning attire should be worn unless otherwise stated.

Wedding bouquet of pink roses and wedding rings on invitation

However, as couples have become more confident in shaping their wedding days to suit their personalities, it has become customary to add a note on the dress code for your day. That way, if you've gone for a more relaxed festival-feel, your guests don't feel the need to don the top hat and likewise, if you're aiming for über-glam, your guests are aware that they are free to get the killer heels and gowns out of the closet.

How do you gently indicate adults-only or no plus one?

I've found that being subtle in this area usually doesn't work so be open from the start and, if you don't want to incur the wrath of your guests, you can always blame the venue. Lines such as: "We regret that, due to the nature of our venue, we are unable to safely accommodate children" work quite well.

A plus one should be granted for everyone who is married, engaged or living together.

If someone who doesn't fall into this category has 'snuck in' a partner on their RSVP, speak to them and explain that, due to restrictions on guest numbers, you are only able to accommodate spouses/fiancé(e)s/live-in partners but that you would love for their partner to be a guest at the evening reception (if applicable).

What other info needs to be included on the invite?

You should always include information on timings/directions/transport and accommodation options/carriages for both ceremony and reception venue (if different). You should also let your guests know your policies on presents and children and details on the dress code (if specific).

Ask your guests to advise you on specific dietary requirements (allergies and food-intolerances only, otherwise you'll be swamped with 'I don't like sprouts' comments). And lastly, the RSVP date and address and a contact number if guests need to get in touch.

Where should registry info be included?

This will depend on the style and design of your invitation. Usually, you'd add extra sheets that contain details such as directions/transport/accommodation/carriages and asks for dietary requirements.

Do evening or ceremony-only guests need separate invites?

Yes they do, otherwise you'll have a very awkward moment when evening guests turn up for your ceremony and wedding breakfast with nowhere to sit.

Are there any big stationery trends at the moment?

I believe less in trends and more in couples using their wedding days to reflect their styles. Some of the coolest wedding invitations I've seen have all tied the couples' personalities in with their themes, and beautifully so. So whether it's a traditional style, worthy of Smythson, or a handmade colour feast - for me there is no right or wrong.

Just remember your wedding invitations are the first glimpse your guests get at what to expect from your wedding day, so let them reflect that in style and colour.

Any budget-saving tips on invites?

If you're not afraid of a little crafting and happen to know someone with beautiful handwriting, you could always make your own. Beware though, there's a reason why there are professionals doing the job full time - it will be time-consuming. Make sure it all fits into a standard envelope and send them early enough so you can use 2nd class stamps to save on postage.

Letterpress is beautiful but if it busts the budget, look into thermography as an alternative. And there's always going down the route of paperless post although personally, I think you can't beat the excitement of having a wedding invitation flutter onto your doormat.

Need some wedding planning help? Check out Anna's website, bride&glory, for more information.

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