Your Wedding Stationery Etiquette Questions, Answered
Congratulations—you've decided to tie the knot! Now, it's time to share the news. While resources like your stationer and wedding planner can help you navigate the details, you may find yourself left with some questions about save-the-dates, invitations, and other forms of correspondence related to your celebration. Fear not, brides and grooms—we're here to help. We've asked experts from top stationery companies to answer some of your most pressing wedding stationery inquiries. Now, you can spend less time worrying about things like wording and more time enjoying your engagement period.
Hosting an intimate, family-only ceremony? Throwing an informal reception? No matter the structure of your event, this practical advice can guide you. Wondering how to share important details, such as your dress code or your plus-one policy? We've covered all that, too. We've also addressed the logistics of things, from managing RSVPs to making sure your paper goods are mailed out seamlessly. And, we've even covered what to do in the event of a stationery mishap, like forgetting to include vital information on your invites! So, no matter where you are in your stationery timeline, there's something for you.
Here, Southern Fried Paper's founder and creative director, Chelsea Carpenter, plus their project coordinator, Alexandria Duarte, are joined by Fourteen-Forty's creative director, Tricia Kim. Together, these paper good pros tell you everything you need to know about modern-meets-traditional wedding invitation (and save-the-date, and announcement!) etiquette. Prepare for your stationery planning process to go a whole lot smoother after reading these tips.
For a family-only wedding, do you still send announcements to friends?
"While announcements aren't strictly necessary, they're a lovely way to share with friends who didn't receive a wedding invitation that you're now married," Carpenter and Duarte share. Kim adds that "they should only be sent after the wedding has taken place," and that "they should in no way be a solicitation for gifts." Instead, they should "serve as a way personally let people know firsthand that you've tied the knot," which is generally more courteous than having them find out indirectly.
Is it okay to ask some people to the reception but not the ceremony? If so, how should the invitations be worded?
Carpenter, Duarte, and Kim all agree that it's perfectly acceptable to have a smaller ceremony and a larger reception—just create two separate invites. "The wedding invitation should request the guest's presence 'at the marriage ceremony,' while a reception invitation should invite guests to 'the marriage reception,'" Kim says. In this case, "everyone would receive the reception invitation, while only some people would receive the ceremony invite," she explains.
Do you address save-the-date envelopes with "and guest" or just the name of your invitee? What about children?
Only if you want them there, and if so, make it clear. While Kim says its better to include the plus-one's name if you have it, if you don't, it's alright to write "and guest." Just make sure you're comfortable with whoever that "guest" could be—when in doubt, only extend the option to invitees in committed relationships, advise Carpenter and Duarte. According to Kim, "and family" is appropriate if you're inviting children, but again, you can include their names on the envelope.
How do you word the invite for an hors d'ouevres-only reception?
Carpenter, Duarte, and Kim recommend including the phrase "cocktail reception" somewhere on the invite. Or, you can get more specific, notes Kim: Instead of writing "dinner and dancing to follow," write "cocktails and hors d'oeuvres to follow," for example.
My daughter and her fiancé are doctors. Should their invitations include their professional titles?
Traditionally, if the bride's family is hosting, "the bride's name is listed without her professional title (unless she's active duty in the military) or last name while the groom's full name and title should be used. If the bride's last name is different from those hosting the wedding, her last name should be included," say Carpenter and Duarte. However, the bride's parents aren't always the hosts (and even if they are, not all modern events follow old rules).
Really, its all about preference, but Kim offers this rule of thumb: "Medical doctors should include their titles, spelling out the word "doctor" before their names. Ph.Ds, however, don't include the designation, and that goes for any degrees."
Should invites include inner envelopes?
"Inner envelopes were essential back in the 1700s, since mail was completely hand-delivered and letters tended to get quite worn by the time they reached their intended recipient," Kim explains. "The outer envelope would be removed before the pristine inner envelope and its contents were presented to the recipient." Nowadays, while they can still protect invites from wear and tear, they're optional.
They have other uses, too, though. "The inner envelope serves as a place to clarify who's invited so there's no confusion," Carpenter and Duarte share. "If children are invited, their names would be written below the parents' names. This is also the place to put 'and guest.'" ("If you only have an outer envelope, children and guests would be written below the parents' or invitee's names on the outer envelope," they explain.)
According to the Southern Fried Paper team, formality also comes into play: the more formal the event (think: black tie), the more they recommend both outer and inner envelopes.
Whose return address should we use for our invitations: ours or my parents'? They're paying for the wedding.
Carpenter, Duarte, and Kim all admit that traditional etiquette calls for responses to be delivered to the host(s). But according to Kim, that's not a hard rule. "The host line of the invitation will make it clear who's paying for the wedding, and if it's more convenient to have responses and undeliverable mail sent back to the couple, that's the way the envelopes should be addressed," she says.
I've seen invitations specify black-tie attire. Our wedding will be semiformal. Should we include that info somewhere in our suite?
"The 'default' expected wedding attire is cocktail which is essentially semiformal attire. If you would like your guests to wear something more on the formal side, then you can specify 'semiformal attire' on your invitation just to be clear. If no attire is listed, guests will assume cocktail attire is acceptable," share Carpenter and Duarte.
If you're calling out your wedding's dress code, you have a few options. "A semiformal designation can be made on the lower right hand corner of the wedding invitation, or on a separate enclosure card," says Kim. "If you'd like to be even more specific as to the kind of attire expected, the wedding website is a great place to elaborate."
I mailed our invitations before realizing we didn't include the time our wedding begins! What's the best plan of action?
This is another opportunity to utilize your wedding website, the experts agree. Or, they recommend sending out additional stationery as soon as possible. Kim says a "well-composed email" might even be sufficient.
Will the post office take issue with my maroon envelopes with white or gold writing?
"The post office does have strict rules about what is and isn't acceptable for mailing, but in our experience, they'll accept any envelope that has a legible address on it with the right amount of postage," says Kim. "Just remember to build in a longer delivery period into your stationery timeline, as sometimes colored envelopes need to be hand-processed (especially if the writing is done in calligraphy) since the automated machines have a tougher time reading them. Also be prepared for dark envelopes to arrive with a label adhered to the bottom of the envelope with a delivery barcode printed on it, since the barcode won't show up on the envelope otherwise." If you're worried about processing interfering with the aesthetic of your invites, she recommends both outer and inner envelopes, so the inside ones aren't affected.
Still worried about your stationery getting to where it needs to be? Carpenter and Duarte suggest "taking a sample of an addressed envelope to the post office for confirmation there won't be any issues with mailing."