Here's What You Should (& Shouldn't) Put On Your Wedding Invite

Illustrated by Abbie Winter.
In many ways, your wedding invitation is like a sneak preview for the ceremony: It's when crucial details — the time, date, and venue — are made official, and the tone for the event is set. From your invitation, your guests will get an idea of what style of celebration you're aiming for on the big day.
There are many ways you can be creative with your stationery, but it's not the time to be lax about the details. According to Gina Wade, a leading entertaining and lifestyle expert and a special events planner in Los Angeles, formal invites should go out six to eight weeks before the big day, in order to give your guests enough time to make travel plans and arrangements. (For destination weddings, that time should be even longer: Wade believes that three months is ideal.)
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The exact wording to include on an invitation is a tricky question. To help with that before you head to the printers, we've asked the etiquette guru to share her list of do's and don'ts for writing a formal wedding invitation.
DO: Include A Host Line
Start with the names of those hosting the wedding. Traditionally, this would be the parents of the bride. With modern families, however, this can tricky. "It’s best to follow the format that makes that most sense for your family dynamic," says Wade. "If the couple has stepparents, or parents that are divorced, or passed away — a nice way to circumvent this is to simply note 'Together With Their Families' after the name of the couple."
DO: Specify Dining Options
"Most guests will expect that a meal will be served at the reception," says Wade. "But, if that's not your plan, it's best to note it on the invitation, so the guests can be prepared." Consider using verbiage such as "and afterwards for cocktails" to guests that a full meal will not be served.
DON'T: Use Abbreviations
Make sure that everything is spelled out, from street names to state names. House numbers smaller than “20” should also be written out in full. Wade also advises refraining from using "a.m." or "p.m." to denote the time. She thinks it's best to use the phrases “in the afternoon” or “in the evening,” no matter if you are doing a casual or formal invite.
DO: Budget Time For RSVP
Wade suggests making the RSVP cutoff date two to three weeks before the wedding, so that you have plenty of time to get the final head count to your venue and caterer. "No matter what, you'll always have a few guests that you have to track down personally for their reply, so make sure you allow time for that, too," she says.
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DON'T: Include Registry Information
"Never ever include registry information on your formal invite or your Save the Dates — it will come off like you're asking for gifts," says Wade. Registry information is best left for shower invites — as those are events hosted by friends — or listed on your wedding website.
DO: Tell Them What To Wear
The easiest way to inform your guests about the dress code is to include it in the lower right hand corner of the invitation or on the response card. The standard ones are: Black Tie, Cocktail Attire, or Casual Attire. "The style of your invitation should also give your guests a peek into the type of event you are having," says Wade. "A formal invitation in calligraphy will set a much different tone than a colorful, playful invite." The return address should always go on the back flap.
DON'T: Put Wedding Sites On The Invite
"Wedding websites are best saved for the save the date — they don't really have a place on a formal invite," says Wade. "If you aren’t doing a save the date, it's best for the couple to insert a small card into their invite with additional information for guests, but the link should not appear on the invite itself."
DO: Be Considerate About Children
Make sure that your invites are addressed only to the people you are extending an invitation to. If you are also inviting the kids, include their names on the invitation or address it to the whole family. "If you want your guests to come without their kids, and they RSVP'd for their children, call them up to explain the situation and that you prefer a child-free event," says Wade. "Do not put anything negative on your invite, such as 'no children please' — it comes off as exclusionary and sets a bad tone."
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