Your save-the-dates, invitations, and all the printed correspondence surrounding your celebration can move along without a hitch, with help from these solutions to common sticklers others have faced before you.
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For a family-only wedding, do you still send announcements to friends?
Sending announcements is by no means mandatory, but, "It's a very nice thing to do," says contributing editor Peter Callahan, owner of Peter Callahan Catering. "The tradition is civilized and purposeful, because you are personally letting people—who might otherwise hear the news secondhand—know about this momentous occasion in your life." The printed note can simply state (along with the wedding's date and location) that the bride and groom "announce their marriage." What it should not be is a solicitation for gifts. Unless someone's been invited to the wedding, they're not expected to give a present.
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Is it okay to ask some people to the reception but not the ceremony? If so, how should the invitations be worded?
This is completely acceptable and more common than you might think. There's an established protocol when it comes to invites. "Basically, you have two versions of the suite," says associate style editor Cassidy Iwersen. "There'll be a reception invite, with a separate ceremony card printed for those you want to attend both." For the dinner-and-dancing invitation, you might say, "Mr. and Mrs. John Fritz request the pleasure of your company at the wedding reception for their daughter … " Just keep in mind that while a party invite always requires an R.S.V.P., the ceremony enclosure should be without. Having an extra card printed is more costly, but it's an elegant way to cover your bases. If you don't want the added expense, a more informal way to go is to extend the ceremony invites via phone call or note, and send the same reception-only suite to everyone.
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Address save-the-dates exactly as you would the inner envelope of a wedding invitation. That means "and Guest" if friends are welcome to bring a companion whose name you don’t know, and listing the children or simply writing "The Smith Family" when the whole gang is invited. Not only is that proper etiquette, it also gives people the information they need to plan ahead (like whether they need to hire a babysitter for the event).
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How do you word the invite for an hors d'ouevres-only reception?
To clarify that you’re hosting a cocktail party, not a five-course meal, clearly state "cocktail reception" or "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres to follow." Set the soirée earlier and include an end time by saying something like, "Cocktail reception to follow, 5 to 8 p.m." That leaves ample hours for mingling and noshing, while still allowing time for hungrier guests to grab dinner afterward.
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My daughter and her fiancé are doctors. Should their invitations include their professional titles?
It depends on who's hosting the event. "If it's the bride's parents, tradition calls for leaving off their daughter's title on the stationery," says associate style editor Katie Covington. "But if the couple is issuing the invites, including 'Doctor' before their names is completely optional." If you're hosting, refer to your daughter by her first and middle names only, but include her fiancé's full name (first, middle, last), as well as his title of doctor. (For the record, "Doctor" in stationery-speak means a medical doctor, not a Ph.D. Also, you should never include an academic or professional degree such as M.D. or Ph.D. after a name.) Still, the etiquette of wording invitations, and of addressing envelopes, is constantly evolving, mostly toward the casual. In general, as long as you're consistent in how you address people and in whether you abbreviate or spell out their titles, you've covered your bases.
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Nowadays, they're completely optional. They were developed back in the 1700s to protect the important contents from the wear and tear of delivery. The idea was that recipients would open and discard the dirty exterior, revealing the pristine inner envelope inside. Today, there are a few more practical reasons for using them. They let you address the invitation to more people than would fit on the outer envelope, which is very helpful if you’re inviting a family with a lot of kids. Ironically, they're also useful if you don’t want children at your event—the absence of their names on the inner envelope subtly reinforces this idea. Finally, if you're letting singles bring a date, this is the place to write their name "and Guest."
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Whose return address should we use for our invitations: ours or my parents'? They're paying for the wedding.
Typically, those hosting an event are the ones responsible for collecting the R.S.V.P.'s. However, more and more brides are handling that duty themselves, even if their folks are footing the bill. Here's one reason why that's a smart idea: Guests sending money or something off your registry tend to default to the address listed on the outer envelope. Using your own means presents end up in the right place, saving Mom and Dad from playing middleman. They already get pride of place on the invitation itself (if you're going with the traditional wording of Mr. and Mrs. John Doe request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter). Unless your parents particularly want to be the R.S.V.P. recipients (whether out of custom or because they don't want Aunt Ida to know you two have already moved in together), having all mail come to you ensures their role as host is an honor, not a burden.
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It's fine to add the phrase semiformal dress to your stationery, either in the lower corner of the invite or on an enclosure card. However, in most cases, doing so isn't necessary; unless guests see the words black tie, they're likely to default to semiformal dress anyway, meaning suits and ties for men, and cocktail dresses for ladies. If you're worried about people over- or under-dressing, or you want a specific look, like sundresses and shirtsleeves, you could put a lighthearted apparel suggestion on your website, perhaps with whimsical pictures or illustrations. One exception: Traditionally, parties starting at six o'clock or later are black tie, so guests might assume any evening affair is an ultra-fancy fête. If your celebration starts after six but you would prefer that guests don't don tuxedos and floor-length gowns, it would be wise to include a request for semiformal dress.
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I mailed our invitations before realizing we didn't include the time our wedding begins! What's the best plan of action?
"Start by taking a deep breath—mistakes happen," says senior editor Jaime Buerger. Then send a follow-up mailing as soon as possible. "This can be a straightforward 'corrections' card with the time of the ceremony," notes Jaime. "Or, if you can swing the additional expense, print a more detailed itinerary that spells out when each weekend event is happening, with sections for the welcome party, ceremony, reception, and any other festivities, such as an after-party or next-day brunch." Either way, prominently display the 411 on your website, and ask attendants to get the word out, too.
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Will the post office take issue with my maroon envelopes with white or gold writing?
Officially, the United States Postal Service bans envelopes in highly saturated shades, but it does accept colored envelopes and cards as long as they don't interfere with the reading of the address. In our experience, if the writing is legible, the letter is deliverable, and white or gold writing would be readable on maroon. There are some mailing missteps that could lead to the dreaded "return to sender," though, including envelopes that are addressed with blind embossing (save that technique for your monogram). And oversized, uniquely shaped, or too-heavy pieces need extra postage (for specifics, head to USPS.com/businessmail101). One last tip: "Many post offices will hand-cancel mail for free if you ask," says senior editor Jamie Buerger. "This means envelopes will be processed by a person, not run through a machine that could damage the invites you've no doubt labored over."