Wedding-Invitation Etiquette Made Simple

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Dear Alimay,

I just locked in a date for my wedding and am starting to think about invitations. But, I’m not sure what to do about them. Are paper invites necessary? Can I just send digital ones instead? When do they need to go out, and what should they include? Plus, as a wedding guest myself, I’ve always been confused about the best way to respond to an invite, so maybe you can shed some light on that process, too.

Paperplexed  

Dear Paperplexed,

In this digital age, guests can be invited in all manner of ways, but when it comes to invitations, our traditionalist side comes out — we’re 100% behind sending a paper invite. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and you don’t have to spend a ton of money, but sending a tactile piece to your guests is something we wouldn’t suggest skipping. Feel free to send your save-the-dates via email, Facebook, or heck, even Instagram, but delivering the invite this way just seems a bit impersonal to us. And, we’re guessing that not everyone on your guest list is super computer-savvy. Plus, how nice is it to get something in the mail?

Invites should go out eight to 10 weeks before your wedding, unless it’s a destination event, in which case you can send them up to four months in advance, so your guests have time to book accommodations and make travel arrangements. (If you don’t want to send invites out that early, simply set up a website with all the information and include its address in your save-the-dates.) 

As for what actually goes on the invite, your names, the date, and the location are obviously crucial. But, even that info has some guidelines. If your ceremony and reception are at the same venue, the invitation will do. If your reception is in a different location, though, the invite should be for ceremony only; include a separate insert card inviting your guests for cocktails, dinner, and dancing. There are particulars concerning language, too: If your ceremony’s going to be in a place of worship, “we request the honor of your presence” is appropriate, if it’s not, “we request the pleasure of your company” is the right way to word it. And, the invite is no place for your registry info. Direct guests to your wedding website instead, via an insert included with your invitation. One more detail to remember during the wedding-planning hustle: Put a stamp on your RSVP-card envelopes!  

Speaking of which, RSVPing can be confusing, too. Some RSVP cards don’t include a deadline (which makes it easier for the host to juggle staggered invites), so guests, be sure you send them in at least three to four weeks before the wedding. (Pro host tip: Guests are notorious for forgetting to put their names on RSVP cards if there isn’t a line asking them to. We recommend putting a discreet guest-coordinated number on the inside upper corner of each RSVP envelope, so you can tell who’s coming without the guesswork.) If you RSVP "yes" and can’t make it after all, you better remember to tell the host at least a week prior, or you can pretty much consider your friendship over (unless it’s an emergency, of course).  Then, there’s the matter of the menu. If you have a shellfish allergy that’ll make your face swell, make a note on your RSVP card so the host can alert the caterer.
Advertisement
What about plus-ones? If your invite doesn’t specifically mention them, don’t bring one. Asking if you can is all kinds of awkward (unless the bride is, like, your best friend and you met the love of your life after she created her guest list). Guest lists are carefully considered to meet all kinds of restrictions, so don’t put your host on the spot. If you do, don’t be surprised if she says no (but, hosts, try to say it nicely). If you are invited with a guest, you’re free to bring whoever you want, but keep in mind that they'll be costing your host a pretty penny. If you won't know most of the people there, it’s okay to bring your BFF or someone who will guarantee you'll have a good time, but if the majority of guests are your lifelong friends, think twice about bringing your random coworker as a date.

It may seem like a lot of rigmarole, but trust us, it’s all part of making a memorable day run as smoothly as possible, so you can focus on the fun.