Before they ever take a seat in the pew, see your bridal gown, or take a bite of your wedding cake, your guests receive the printed pieces inviting them to participate in your special day. Make your first impression a good one by following some simple guidelines and creative suggestions from local stationers. We talked with Cheree Berry, owner of Cheree Berry Paper; Alicia Lantzy, owner of On Three Designs; and Julie Redmond, owner of Vellum Posh Paperie to get the answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning invitations.
When should we mail save the date cards?
Our experts agree that six months prior to the wedding is the ideal time to mail save the date cards. There are exceptions, though. If you are having a destination wedding, if a significant number of guests are coming from out-of-town, or if your wedding is on a holiday weekend, consider sending Save the Date cards closer to eight or even ten months in advance of the wedding.
When should we mail the wedding invitations?
Wedding invitations typically are mailed eight weeks prior to the wedding. The same rules apply here as for the save the date. Factors such as destination wedding, holiday weekend, or a large number of out-of-town guests mean you should mail the invitations earlier, 10 to 12 weeks in advance. Additionally, if you chose not to send save the date cards, you may decide to mail invitations ten weeks prior to the wedding.
What information should be included on the invitation?
“For the most part, only logistical information belongs on the invitation: date, time, location, address of venue, names of bride and groom, names of hosts. Typically, if the bride’s parents are paying, their names go on top. Sometimes couples choose to include the groom’s parent’s names as well out of courtesy,” says Berry.
The wording used on the invitation indicates to your guests what type of ceremony you are having.
“If you use the wording ‘honor of your presence,’ guests know the ceremony is taking place in a church or other house of worship. If you use the wording ‘pleasure of your company,’ they know it is at a non-religious venue,” explains Redmond.
Divorced parents, remarried parents, multiple hosts may complicate the wording. Reach out to your stationer for guidance on wording, particularly if you have a non-traditional family situation.
How long should we give guests to RSVP?
“The sweet spot for a reply is four weeks before the wedding. So if you are getting married on June 1, have your guests RSVP by May 1. You know some people will be late with their response, so four weeks allows you a week or two buffer before you have to get final numbers to the venue,” says Berry.
Redmond agrees with the four-week time frame, but also recommends couples take a look at the calendar before they select the return date.
“I don’t like the date to be on a Sunday because mail isn’t delivered that day. Picking a date that will stick in their head, like the first of the month, instead of a random date helps guests remember to send their reply,” says Redmond.
Who gets a plus one?
This question is a bit tricky, but our experts have guidelines for you. Weddings are expensive and guest lists need to be kept under control. Typically, if a couple lives together, is dating seriously or engaged, both should be invited to the wedding.
“This is completely up to the couple and may depend on how large they want the final guest count to be. True plus-ones, or guests, means that the person you are extending the invitation to could bring whoever they want, even someone you may not know,” says Lantzy.
In order to avoid that situation, our experts recommend addressing the plus-one by name on the envelope, rather than the invitee and guest. For example, the invitation should be addressed to Jane Smith and John Jones, rather than Jane Smith and Guest.
How do we share reception details?
This depends on whether the ceremony and reception are under the same roof. If the ceremony and reception are at the same location, reception details may go on the invitation. If the reception is at a separate location from the ceremony, reception details go on a separate card.
Do we need an inner envelope?
Not necessarily. Inner and outer envelope combinations are most often used for formal, traditional weddings.
“Many of our couples decide to forgo the inner envelope in favor of using that money to dress up their stationery by adding details such as a silk ribbon tie or to upgrade the paper quality,” says Lantzy.
Many brides aren’t using the inner envelopes to be more environmentally friendly and also to save money. Not only do you have to pay for the envelope, you also have to pay to have them addressed. On the other hand, the inner envelope allows you to further communicate who in the household is invited. If the inner envelope is addressed to John and Jane Doe, it is apparent that kids are not invited.
Do addresses need to be hand written?
If you are having a formal, black-tie wedding, you may want to consider having your invitations addressed in calligraphy by hand. However, advancements in digital calligraphy have made printing the addresses a viable and much less expensive option for couples. Many couples choose printed calligraphy not only for the cost savings, but also because they can match the print to the invitation.
Should we recommend attire?
Attire only needs to be mentioned on the invitation if it is black tie or black tie optional. A wedding website is a better place to include information about attire. If you need to remind your guests to wear appropriate footwear for a beach wedding, that can be addressed on a website.
How do we let guests know we are having an unplugged ceremony?
Since this information doesn’t need to be communicated in advance, it should not be included as part of the invitation. It may be mentioned in the ceremony program or couples may choose to post a sign as guests enter the ceremony venue. You also may ask your officiant or priest remind guests at the beginning of the ceremony.
What is the proper way to include wedding website or registry information?
Wedding website most commonly is included on the save the date card. One of the purposes of the save the date card is to allow guests to make travel arrangements and the website can provide necessary details.
“Some of our clients include a details card with the invitation that includes the website. It depends on how actively you are updating your website. If you have more information available closer to the wedding, you may want to remind guests to check the website,” says Redmond.
Registry information should never be included in any way as part of the invitation. Those details should be reserved for the wedding website or possibly a shower invitation.
How do we communicate that kids are not invited?
Make sure your invitations are addressed properly.
“Avoid general terms like ‘and family’ or ‘The Smiths’ and opt for full names, such as Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Smith,” says Lantzy.
If you are really concerned, there are ways to clarify who is invited through the response card by including a line that states “we have reserved ___ seats in your honor,” or even stating “respectfully, adults only.”
The wedding website is an ideal place to include this detail as well.
What other printed materials should we consider?
While your initial focus will be on ordering save the date cards and invitations, don’t overlook your day-of paper needs. Items to consider include ceremony programs, cocktail napkins, place cards or a seating chart, signature drink signs, menu, and a welcome itinerary for out-of-town guests. And you definitely need to order thank you notes. If you are working with a custom stationery designer, discuss ways to create items for your wedding day that compliment your invitation.
Speaking of thank you cards, how soon should we mail them?
You can start writing thank you cards as soon as you receive the gift. According to traditional etiquette standards, you have three months from the wedding date to send thank you notes, but why postpone?
“Create a habit of writing a thank you note the day the gift is received in the mail or at a shower so you don’t get overwhelmed. Or, if you are working on a large amount at one time, set a small, daily goal to write a handful to make the task seems a little less daunting,” suggests Lantzy.
When designing the thank you cards, take into consideration when you plan to mail them.
“If the thank you cards are personalized with your monogram as a married couple, wait to mail them until after the wedding because technically you aren’t supposed to use that monogram until after you are married,” says Redmond.
Are there trends we should consider?
“Textures are important. Not just printing invitations on paper, but including an organic element – linen paper, dried flower, or some other tactile element – has picked up more than ever,” says Berry.
“Pets, please! We are loving seeing how couples are sneaking their pets into their stationery. We’ve included pets in our black-tie stationery as well as our more low-key pieces and they look amazing across the board. We absolutely love this trend and hope it stays for a long time,” says Lantzy.
“It’s almost trendy to be traditional right now. I see a lot of classic invitations with a little personal flair,” says Redmond.
Are there trends to avoid?
“Anything that is too fussy or ostentatious should be avoided, especially right now. Anything too over-the-top can feel tone deaf in light of the current situation. You can be beautiful without being inconsiderate,” says Berry.
“The only trends I suggest to avoid are the trends that just don’t feel like you. If you want to include something on your wedding invitation because it seems like the ‘it’ thing to do but it doesn’t feel like it represents you or the event, don’t do it,” says Lantzy.
“Couples love navy or black envelopes with calligraphy in white and I’ve found the post office has issues with delivering those. It is a really cool look but I would do the opposite, have the navy invitation with white print but keep the white envelope with navy print,” says Redmond.
What creative ways do you recommend for couples to personalize wedding invitations?
“Be as personalized as possible within your budget but be sure both people are represented. If one person is a doctor, you don’t want to use a prescription pad as the save the date, but if both people are doctors, that becomes cheeky and fun. Consider something that speaks to how you met or how you got engaged,” says Berry.
“There are so many ways to make your wedding invitations truly one-of-a-kind. A stationery designer may be able to create something just for you: a custom painted venue, a hand-drawn monogram, or custom floral artwork. We love sneaking little, personalized details into artwork at On Three Designs,” says Lantzy.
“I work with designers who can create a custom crest that can be carried through all of your printed pieces: invitations, ceremony program, thank you cards. We can even make a logo for the dance floor,” says Redmond.
Written by Amy Zimmerman