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Ask the Pros: Invitation Etiquette

February 29th, 2012 by Jeannine

Ask the Pros: Invitation Etiquette

Wedding invitation wording can be a touchy subject. Words or phrases can easily be misinterpreted and offend someone, without you realizing. When I was planning my wedding, I turned to wedding forums and numerous websites for tips and advice. To make things easier for you, I’ve decided to go straight to the pros! Who better to answer invitation etiquette questions than these local experts:

  • Tammy Lyon of Uniquity Invitations creates beautiful invitation templates for the DIY bride, for $80 you get the full invitation suite in the design you choose, customized to your wedding, all you have to do is print them out and assemble them yourself!
  • Raquel Do of Inspirasian Creations sells Asian-inspired wedding favors on her website, as well as wedding invitations that can be customized with foreign language printing (Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and more).
  • Alicia Keats of Alicia Keats Weddings + Events is a former DreamGroup planner turned principal planner of her own company. She won the 2011 Industry Achievement Award at last November’s BC Professional Wedding Awards gala. You may remember her from the Wedding Planners 101 article we both worked on.

I’ve asked for their opinions on invitation etiquette. Here’s what they think…

Standard invitations include details such as dates, times, RSVP info, and directions.
Is there anything else a couple should add?

Tammy: It depends on the wedding. One detail to include on the invite is a dress code. If you are having a casual beach/outdoor wedding or a fancy black tie affair, it’s good to let your guests know. If there are many guests from out of town, a nice thing to include are inserts with local hotels, taxis numbers, & recommended restaurants. Also, inserts for particular separate events (Rehearsal Dinner, Open House, Gift Opening, etc.) may be included. Basically anything you believe will benefit your guests, and make their day or weekend a bit easier.

Raquel: Every wedding is different and have different stationery requirements. For those hosting many out of town guests some stationery to include are: (1) Accommodation card with special pre-negotiated rates, (2) Things to Do around town (include His & Her favorites).

Alicia: Best advice I can give is, when having a plated meal, not to forget to ask for the guest’s entrée choice (saves a LOT of follow up) or the name beside the entrée choice. Some couples include accommodation information, or an itinerary, some include a registry card (but this is not proper etiquette, but is commonly done).

How far in advance should you send out invitations and when should the RSVP date be set?
Does the same rule apply for destination weddings?

Tammy: I think for a local wedding with most guests from in town 4 – 6 weeks is sufficient. However for a larger wedding, or where many guests are from out of town the 6 – 8 weeks is better. For a destination wedding a save-the-date is very important. Send it as soon as you can (it does not have to match other stationary) and follow with a formal invite 8 – 12 weeks before or earlier if there is a larger guest list.

Raquel: Invitations should be sent out around 8 weeks before the wedding.  Anything longer and you will find majority of guests forgetting to RSVP and you will spend a good amount of time following up with phone calls. The same rules apply for Destination Weddings, however it is best to send out Save-The-Date announcements around 6 months to 1 year in advance to allow time for guests to book flights, obtain visa and accommodations. RSVP deadlines dates should be around 2-3 weeks before the wedding to give you ample amount of time to make seating arrangements and charts.

Alicia: I tell my clients to do what is right for them (if they have a lot of out of town guests, they don’t want to follow up on the missing RSVP cards too closely to their wedding date, maybe they want to send them earlier, or they have a B list). I warn them against sending them too far in advance as guests forget to RSVP even more so.

For fear of guests being late to the wedding, some brides may be tempted to write an earlier start time on the invitation, what do you think about this?

Tammy: If you have a group of guests that you fear are always late.. why not? It also gives you a touch more time just in case! Hey, they can’t start without you!

Raquel: If you feel this is necessary then I personally feel that you should only start a half hour before your intended start time.  Any longer than this and those guests who are polite enough to arrive early or on time will be waiting too long.  The bride and groom should never have to wait for their guests, so start the party on time or else the entire evening’s itinerary will be off schedule.  Those who are late will just have to miss all the fun!

Alicia: Tricky…When this is done it makes me look like I am late getting the wedding started, or that the wedding commissioner is late. Also, it is not fair on the guests who came early for the ceremony and then end up waiting an hour for the ceremony to start. Never do it more than 15 min in my opinion. I have seen this work really well before, but like I said it is tricky.

In the age of Google Maps and GPS, are printed maps and directions still necessary in an invitation?

Tammy: I think only if many guests are from out of town. It’s polite and useful.

Raquel: These are not necessary, but you need to know your audience.  Keep in mind that some of the more mature guests may not be tech savvy.  If you find it necessary to do so then a Direction Card is recommended as Map are difficult to find (and difficult to scale to size) and may require custom work.

Alicia: Not usually, but they look pretty and help fill up those insert cards. For some hard-to-find venues, this can be a good idea.

Is there a general rule for plus one’s?
When must you invite them and when can you skip it?

Tammy: I think the only rule is  to choose ahead of time to allow it for everyone or none.

Raquel: This is a tough one.  I think if you’re budget allows and they are a close friend, then a plus one would be a welcome gesture.  However if budget is an issue then I’m sure guests will understand otherwise.

Alicia: As far as I know, there aren’t any rules around this and it is up to the couple. Some couples know that the guest they are inviting won’t know anyone at the wedding and it is important to them to make the guest feel comfortable. Some set guidelines for themselves (for example, the plus one must have been with the guest for more then 6 months).

If you are not inviting plus one’s or kids, how can you send the message clearly on an invitation without offending anyone?

Tammy: You can simply state on the bottom of the invitation “Adults only please” another cue to this is to only list the people invited on the inner envelope if you are including one. (one very good reason to do so) Or outer envelope if not. If you write “The Jones,” it may be determined that is include the household. But if you write “Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Jones” many people will realize te invitation is extended only to the parents.

Raquel: Simply address the envelope to the person(s) directly and hope the message is clear.  Some find printing RSVP cards with “__ seats have been reserved for you” work just as well (you will need to fill in the blank of course).  You may find a few who do not know wedding etiquette and you will have to muster the courage to have a little conversation with them.

Alicia: “Adult only reception” stated at either the bottom on the reception card, or in the wording itself,  “We look forward to celebrating with you at our adult celebration.” Then provide nanny info on the wedding website or just provide an nanny invitation insert. Use the invited guest’s name so that you are as clear as possible. Regardless of how clear you are, some guests choose to play dumb.

Is there a polite way to ask for gifts on an invitation? What alternatives would you suggest? Is it tacky to include those gift registry cards on an invitation?

Tammy: No, not ever. That information is generally very well passed around by the mothers and bridesmaids.

Raquel: Do not ask for gifts or include any registry cards in an invitation.  It is always best to inform your guests by word of mouth.  However if no gifts are requested you can either encouraging donations in lieu or simply say “your presence is our present” on a separate enclosure card.

Alicia: Etiquette says, never to ask for gifts or money, instead let your family know so that they can tell the guests.  I’m a fan of having it on the website.

Do you agree with B Lists? If you do, how do you have a B List without letting anyone know/offending anyone?

Tammy: I think they are fine, of course keep it under wraps. But make sure that you send out the first set of invites early enough to allow time to send out any “extras” If this is for budgetary reasons, then maybe the “B” list is one thing you can knock off your list.

Raquel: The B list is very common.  First rule – Do not send them invitations less than 3 weeks before the wedding date.  This is a dead give away that they were on the B List. When working with a B list you can either:

  1. Send out the A List batch 8 weeks as per proper wedding etiquette. As declined RSVP come in within the first 1 to 1-1/2 weeks send out your B listers.
  2. Send out the A List batch 1-2 weeks earlier – This will give you a bit of a buffer period in hopes of gauging your declines from early RSVP responses.

Alicia: Ensure you are that no one on the A list knows the B list :)

Do you have any advice for brides before they send their invitations off to the printers?

Tammy: PROOFREAD! Most designers or printers are looking for other things than if your addresses are correct. Read everything backward and forward twice before giving your final approval. Spelling mistakes are costly.

Raquel: Double and triple check your proofs – Your printer should offer you a proof of your invitation before it goes to print.  This is your final chance to make any changes.  Once approved and signed off on, any errors found afterwards will be at your own expense for reprinting.  This is a must especially if ordering online or from another country where English is not their primary language. Order extra invitations – Always order 25 more invitations than what you need.  You never know if you will have last minute invitees or if some will be needed to send off internationally as Announcements.  It is ALWAYS cheaper to order the extra 25 from the original order than it is to order it after the order has been completed.

Alicia: Have at least five other people look it over. Triple check names and addresses, and ensure the date and times and locations are on them :)

Free Invitation Checklist

I’ve also created a checklist that you can download to help remind you of the things to look for when you proofread your invitations. Use it well :)

I hope this article has clarified a few things for you :) Thank you so much Tammy, Raquel, and Alicia for sharing your expertise with us! Be sure to check these fantastic ladies out if you need some invitations, wedding favours or wedding planning services.

Uniquity Invitations | Inspirasian Creations | Alicia Keats Weddings + Events

Photos provided by Uniquity Invitations and Inspirasian Creations

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  • February 29th, 2012 at 10:52 am
    Vinnie says:

    Great article Jeanine! Super informative!


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