With satin ribbons tied gently, elegant papers matched perfectly, and graceful swirls of letters cascading across the page, a wedding invitation is the announcement of a dream-fulfilling day. It speaks of promises to be made and the gathering of family and friends. It is a guest's first glimpse into a milestone event.
The wording of a formal wedding invitation follows a specific style that celebrates all parties involved while stating the details of the day.
The first line announces the hosts. Traditionally, these are the bride's parents, but now it is fairly common for the bride and groom or others to serve as hosts. A conventional line stating "request the honour of your presence" is appropriate for formal weddings, and "request the pleasure of your company" is acceptable for more casual ceremonies.
The next few lines vary, depending upon who is hosting the event. Often these lines indicate the hosts' relationship to the bride, followed by the bride's full name. The word "to" has a line of its own and precedes the groom's full name.
On the next lines, the day, month, and year are spelled out: "May 5, 2007" becomes "Saturday, the fifth of May, Two thousand seven." The time, on a separate line, also is written out (e.g., "five o'clock in the afternoon").
The wedding location gets its own line, and the city and state are next. Finally, if all wedding guests are invited to the reception, the last line gives information about the location and time; for example, "Reception begins at six o'clock at the Westover Golf and Country Club."
Check a wedding planning book or stationery store for resources for the wording of an invitation to match your needs.
Enclosures in the invitation, though not necessary, are a considerate touch and help clarify details. A reception card is useful, especially if the reception will be held at a place other than the wedding site. Using a separate card for this information keeps the wedding invitation clearer.
Another practical reason for a separate reception card: Some guests may be invited only to the wedding, and it's easy to insert reception cards into the envelopes of those who are invited to the reception. The card should indicate the time the reception begins (or say "Reception immediately following the ceremony"), followed by the name and address of the location.
Other enclosures to consider are a menu-choice card, a map with directions to the wedding and reception, and a rain-location card if needed.
An RSVP card is customary; with the obligatory self-addressed, stamped envelope, it allows guests to reply quickly and easily and provides the hosts with a head count to determine the amount of food needed. Set the RSVP card return date two to three weeks prior to the wedding. All cards should match the style of the invitation.
A new trend in wedding invitations is to send a save-the-date card. This announcement goes out three to four months prior to the wedding. The save-the-date card represents the first news of the occasion many guests receive. It allows them to make arrangements as needed well ahead of time. Typically, the card includes general information about the wedding as well as any special accommodations the couple has made for guests (such as meals or reserved blocks at hotels).
- Because a wedding is so personal, the envelopes should be handwritten.
- If time is an issue, enlist others to help address, or consider hiring a calligrapher.
- Always spell out street names and write out street numbers from one to twelve (e.g., "8th Ave." becomes "Eighth Avenue").
- Use guests' complete names; nicknames are inappropriate.
- Children over the age of 18 each should receive a separate invitation, even if they live with their parents.
- Check the postage. When you have a full invitation assembled with inserts, take it to the post office to confirm the required postage; before purchasing stamps. Remember to ask about postage for invitations going to other countries.
- Mail the invitations six to eight weeks ahead of the wedding date. For faraway friends and family, even more time is necessary: eight to 10 weeks. If your wedding is during a holiday weekend or you're planning a destination wedding, consider sending all your invitations eight to 10 weeks ahead.
Careful selection of invitations is one way to cut wedding costs. The amount of postage required can vary substantially, depending on size and weight; nonstandard shapes can be costly to mail.
Stunning invitations, from engraved to those made using less-expensive printing processes, are available from vendors who cater to every taste.
Crafts and scrapbooking stores also carry a vast array of papers, vellums, ribbons, and other supplies for couples wanting to customize their announcements.
The number of invitations ordered will influence the cost. It is usually cost-effective to order 10 to 20 percent more invitations and components than needed. Reordering is costly, and having leftovers is better than running out. Purchasing extras also allows for inevitable "afterthought" guests and errors made in addressing.
The process of creating wedding invitations is an opportunity for a couple to put their own signature on the occasion. This is the first announcement of a moment to be remembered forever.