Invitation Etiquette 101

3 Wedding Hacks for Drama-Free Invites

Knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it is never easy!

Choosing who to invite, who not to invite and how to word your invitations without any hurt feelings? Now that’s a whole ‘nother story.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! ;)

In this guide you’ll learn how to:  

  • Create a guilt-free guest list without the drama
  • Use the right wording for your invitations
  • Properly address your envelopes - so they arrive safely to all of your guests!

Ready to jump in?

How Do I Build My Guest List?

Knowing who to invite and who not to while balancing your budget, venue size and family dynamics is no easy task – which is why it’s one of the hardest parts of wedding planning.

But it doesn’t have to be!

Here are three rules that will help you create a drama-free guest list in no time:  

Rule #1: All or Nothing

If you’re struggling with whether it’s “ok” to invite just your favorite aunt vs. all 3 because you’re running out of room on your guest list – this one’s for you!

The easiest rule to follow, this has saved our couples time and time again from unnecessary family drama on the big day. According to this rule: if you invite one aunt, you should invite them all.

By keeping your family members grouped this way, you’ll navigate your guest list while minimizing the potential for hurt feelings. After all, nobody wants to be “that one aunt” who wasn’t invited to the wedding!

Artisaire Quick Tip: If you’re struggling with which friends or colleagues to invite – remember that they’ve likely had to make similar decisions for their own wedding and will understand that not everyone can be invited. If you don’t regularly spend time with them, it might be better to save that invitation for someone you are closer with! Just don’t forget to thank them personally for their support of your engagement – something as small as that goes a long way!  

Rule #2: The Rule of Thirds

When weddings were hosted (and paid for) by the bride and groom’s parents (traditionally the bride’s family), the guest list was divvied up accordingly: 

  • 1/3 of the guests should be friends and family of the bride’s parents
  • 1/3 the guests should be friends and family of the groom’s parents
  • 1/3 of the guests should be friends of the bride and groom

Even if you and your partner are hosting your own wedding, this can be a helpful rule for creating a balanced guest list for both family and friends!

Artisaire Quick Tip: Once your guest list is built, use those 3 sections as the starting point for your seating chart! Not only will it be super easy to break each list into even numbers per table, but there’s a good chance your guests will know someone else sitting at their table as well - which is a total bonus!   

Rule #3: The Golden Rule

This might sound a little cliché, but it’s worth saying!

It’s never easy being the one not invited to the wedding – so reaching out to your friends who didn’t make your list (but were close) and thanking them for their love and support is a thoughtful touch that will go a long way!

Artisaire Quick Tip: Host a casual open house or BBQ to celebrate either before or after the big day and invite everyone to come – including those who didn’t make the guest list so everyone has a chance to celebrate with you! 

Who Should I Send An Invitation To?

Everyone on your guest list should receive an invitation!

Etiquette Tips:  

  • If you are sending an invitation to an entire family (that lives at the same address), it’s totally appropriate to send one invitation per household with all their names listed (assuming all children are under 18).
  • Guests over 18 years old should receive their own invitation, even if they live at the same address as their family.
  • Save the Dates should be sent out 6-8 months before your wedding to everyone on your guest list, so they have plenty of time to plan!
  • Make sure you have your guest list finalized before you send your Save the Dates out. There’s nothing worse than having to take back an invitation to someone who’s already received one!

Who Should Get A Plus One?

Nobody wants to go to a wedding alone.

Sending your single friends and fam a “plus one” makes it SO much more likely that they’ll attend. Plus – who doesn’t love playing a little wedding day matchmaker!?

While you might not be able to send ALL your guests a plus one if you’re having a small celebration (your friends will totally understand if that’s the case), it’s super nice to do so for guests over 21 if you can!

Here are 3 great ways to let your friend know they can bring a date:  

  • Address their invitation to [their name] and Guest;
  • Add a little note to their invitation sharing the good news;
  • Invite them for a quick coffee date and share the good news!

Artisaire Quick Tip: Keep track of “plus ones” on your RSVP master list by making a note next to each guests’ name who gets one. If your guest RSVPs before they’ve found a date (or just forgets) they may only put their own name on the card - so having this double check on your master list will help keep your numbers straight! 

What Information Do I Need to Put On My Wedding Invites?

Now that you know who you’re sending invitations to, let’s make sure they include everything your guests need to know!

Honestly, there’s nothing worse than spending hours on invitations your guests can’t read so whatever information you put on them – make sure it’s clear! Otherwise, prepare yourself for an influx of panicked texts the week-of!

Invitation Must-Haves: 

  • Host names (could be yours, your family, etc.)
  • Your names (kind of an important one!)
  • Date and time of the ceremony (be specific and accurate here)
  • Location (make sure to include the location, city and state – especially if guests are coming from out of town)
  • After party details

Photo by Tara Lynn Butterworth | Stationery and Modelling by Jenny Sanders

Invitation Wording Tips: 

  • If you and your partner are hosting the wedding (or having a more casual one), using a phrase like “together with their families” is a lovely alternative to the traditional “hosts” line.
  • Write your dates and states out fully and don’t forget to use titles for your guests too!  
  • If you’re hosting your reception at a different venue than the ceremony – adding a reception card with details is a great touch. 
  • If your reception doesn’t include a full meal, make sure to be clear on the invitation (i.e. join us for cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres afterwards) so your guests can plan accordingly.
  • If you have a dress code for your wedding, this information is usually placed in the bottom right corner of your invitations or added to the details card.
  • Adding your wedding website to your invitations can be distracting – so adding a separate card with the URL is a lovely option!

Is There Any Information I Shouldn't Put On My Wedding Invitations?

Once you’ve added all the essentials to your invites, there won’t be room for much else – but whatever you do, avoid these 3 invitation faux pas:  

#1: Including Registry or Gifting Information

Your guests are coming to celebrate your wedding – not to bring you gifts. This information should never be included on your wedding invitations and is best left to your wedding party and family to share with the other guests as needed.

Artisaire Quick Tip: Wedding websites are another option for this information (and other important day-of details) – just make sure to word accordingly so it feels as gracious as possible.   

#2: "Adults Only"

This is a tricky one!

If you’re hosting an “adults only” event – it can be tempting to include that on your invitations, but this is an etiquette no-no! Instead, address your invitations specifically to the couple you are inviting. It’s assumed that only those addressed directly on the invitation are invited to attend!

If children are not invited, avoid using terms like “The Smith Family” on your invites because that usually means the entire family is invited – including the kiddos!

If your guests have young children, make sure to give them lots of notice (especially if your wedding is over a holiday weekend) so they have enough time to arrange childcare.

Artisaire Quick Tip: If lots of your guests have kids, consider hiring a babysitter for the whole group! It’s a generous gift and a great way to help their parents enjoy your big day stress-free!   

#3: Sending Your Invites Out Too Late

Ok, so technically this isn’t about what’s on your invites – but it needs to be said nonetheless!

Sending out your wedding invitations too late will cause more stress and likely cost you more money as well! The later you send out your invites, the less time you’re giving your guests to RSVP – which means you won’t have a final head count until much later.  Say hello to more money spent on catering, favors, rush fees, etc.  

Aim to send your invitations at least 6-8 weeks before your wedding so you get those RSVPs back in time!  

How Do I Word My Wedding Invitations

Now that you’ve got your guest list, timing and information down - let’s talk about wording!

To build your invites, you’ll want to start with the basic 7-part structure: 

  • The Host Line
  • Request Line
  • Action Line
  • Your Names
  • Date and Time
  • Location
  • Reception Line

Here are the two most popular arrangements:

Line #1: Host Line

This is where you’ll introduce the celebration with whoever is hosting it. The biggest thing to remember here is that the arrangement feels right to you – don’t try to force a certain wording or style if it doesn’t fit with the rest of your invitations.

Wording Tips:  

  • Use full titles for each host (Mr. and Mrs. John Alexander Smith)
  • Using “and” between two people’s names on the same line indicates that they are married, which is why you will put your name and your partner’s name on separate lines for your invitations!
  • If your hosts are divorced, list them on separate lines.
  • If two sets of parents are listed, it often makes the most sense to arrange them in the same order that your names are listed on the invitation.  (I.E. Bride’s parents names on the top line, groom’s parents’ names on the second line.)
  • If it feels like your host line is too long, “together with their families” is a lovely alternative.

Line #2 + 3: Request and Action Lines

Paired together with the Host Line, this is where you will set the stage for they type of celebration you’ll be having!

Most popular Request Line options:  

Formal (if parents are hosting)

  • Request the honor of your presence

Informal (if parents are hosting)

  • Would love for you to join them
  • Invite you to celebrate with them
  • Request the pleasure of your company
  • Would be delighted by your presence

Most popular Action Line options:

If parents are hosting:

  • At the marriage of their children
  • At the celebration of their union

If the couple is hosting:

  • As we tie the knot
  • As we get hitched
  • At our wedding

Artisaire Quick Tip: Remember to keep everything on its own line. The host names, request line and action line should all be on their own lines with the line break to differentiate each line. No commas are needed (unless for grammar reasons). 

Line #4: Your Names

This should be the most celebrated part of your entire invitation!

Traditionally, the bride’s full name will go first followed by a conjunction (like “to”) on a second line and the groom’s on a third line.

Wording Tips:  

  • Traditionally, the bride's name will be listed first, followed by the groom. .
  • If you are same-sex couple, you can choose whichever order you like for your names – though alphabetical by last name is the most common!
  • The most common conjunction is “to”, though some cultures and self-hosted couples will use “and”.  Traditionally, the use of “and” means that a couple is already married – which is why most people still use “to” for this part of their invitations.

Artisaire Quick Tip: Make your names pop by using letterpress printing, gold foil or embossing for this portion of your invites!

Line #5: Date and Time

This is the most important information you’ll put on your entire invitation so whatever order you use, make sure this information clear and easy to read!

Wording Tips:  

  • Date is traditionally listed first, followed by the time on a separate line, but feel free to play with the order based on what flows best!
  • The date and time should be written out using full words:  Saturday January Twenty-second at two o'clock in the afternoon. 
  • If the wedding is less than 12 months away, you do not need to include the year – though we love adding it in there for the keepsake factor!
  • When writing out the year, “and” isn’t traditionally used but is becoming more and more common with modern invitations: "two thousand nineteen" vs. "two thousand and nineteen".

Artisaire Quick Tip: Be accurate with your timing. Guests usually arrive early to weddings so if your ceremony starts at 6:00, tell them 6:00! 

Line #6: Location

The biggest thing here is to give your guests enough information without going overboard – that’s what a details cards and custom map inserts are for!

Wording Tips: 

  • If your venue is a well-known location, using full name of the venue with the city and state (written out in full) is enough!
  • If your venue is harder to find, consider adding a custom map illustration or a details card with directions/travel accommodation for your guests.
  • Zip codes shouldn’t be added to your invites.
  • Commas shouldn’t be used either (unless it makes sense to).

Line #7: Reception Line

The last line on your invitation is where you’ll let your guests know what’s happening after the ceremony!

Wording Tips:

  • If your reception is at a different location – make sure to include that information with a Details card explaining timing, directions and travel arrangements.
  • Most popular options:
  • Reception to follow
  • Reception immediately after
  • Dinner and dancing to follow

Artisaire Quick Tip: Don’t let your guests go hungry! Most guests will assume your reception includes a sit-down dinner so if you aren’t celebrating with a traditional ceremony ( i.e. heavy hors d’oeuvres or cocktail and light snacks), make sure to let them know so they can plan ahead!

Here's how it looks all put together: 

How do I address my envelopes properly?

Now that you've got your invitation wording down, let's make sure those envelopes are addressed like a pro!

Stationery by Plume Calligraphy

To prevent any troubles at the post office, make sure your envelopes have these 4 things:  

1.  Your guests' names

  • Written out, in full, with titles!
  • If you are inviting a whole family (including the kids), it’s perfectly appropriate to address their invitation to “The Smith Family” instead of writing out every individual name.

2.  Their full address

  • Double and triple check that the address is correct before addressing
  • For a formal wedding, write out all streets, cities and states in full!

3.  Your return address

  • These should be pre-printed on the back flap of your envelope

Stationery by Papel & Co.

4.  POSTAGE!

Addressing Tips:

    1.  Always address your guests as “Mr.” “Mrs.”, “Ms.”, “Miss” or “Master”

  • Use Ms. for single guests over 18
  • Use Miss for girls under 18
  • Use Mr. for men over 18
  • Boys do not need a title if they are under 18, though “Master” is a super cute option if you like consistency!

    2. If one of your guests uses a title (such as Dr. or Captain), don’t forget to use that when addressing their envelopes and always list their name first.

  • If the husband is a doctor:
  • Dr. and Mrs. Jonathan Smith
  • Dr. Jonathan Smith and Mrs. Sara Smith
  • If the wife is a doctor:
  • Dr. Sara Smith and Mr. Jonathan Smith
  • Dr. Sara and Mr. Jonathan Smith
  • If they are both doctors:
  • Doctors Sara and Jonathan Smith
  • The Doctors Smith

    3. If a married woman has kept her maiden name, list names alphabetically by last name! This goes true for same-sex couples as well!

    4. If you are inviting an unmarried couple who lives together, list their names alphabetically by last name and be sure to put them on separate lines!

    5. If you do not include children’s names on the envelope or use “The Smith Family”, your guests might not think they are invited so make sure to include children specifically if they are!

  • It is most appropriate to reserve children’s names for inner envelopes only. Some parents may be concerned with the safety of having their children’s names visible.

The Wrap Up

Now that you’ve learned the 3 Wedding Hacks for Drama-Free Invitations, you’re ready to start designing your invitations!

Up next we’re sharing the Ultimate Wedding Invitation Guide and how you can find the perfect paper, print and pieces for your suite.

If you’ve been wondering how to navigate all the different options and pick the right ones – this guide is for you!

See you there!

XO,

The Artisaire Team