The Etiquette of Writing and Addressing Wedding Invitations

Before you select your invitations, you need to know how to properly word your invitations; send all the right enclosures with your invitations; and properly address the envelopes so that everyone clearly understands who’s invited.


Mail the wedding invitation six to eight weeks beforehand, with an R.S.V.P. request of two to three weeks prior to the event so you can get a final head count.  Give guests at least 15 days between the invitation’s arrival and the RSVP deadline to figure out the logistics. Sending pre-stamped enclosure cards or permitting RSVP via email may also encourage guests to respond faster.  Approximately one week before the numbers are due to vendors, make follow-up calls to guests who have yet to reply. This is a great time to ask your wedding party or family for some help.

The tissues that come with engraved invitations are meant to protect the ink from smudging before the invitations are delivered to you. Including them in the envelope is rather like wearing a plastic poncho over your dress so as not to ruin it for a really special occasion.

Your invitation sets the tone for your wedding — and that starts with the envelope.  Do not use pre-printed labels!  Now, I'm not saying you need to hire a calligrapher, but it adds such a personal touch to handwrite the addresses. Perhaps ask a friend or relative with nice handwriting to help out. Or, try this calligraphy cheat: Using a fancy font in a very light gray, run each envelope through your printer, and then trace over the printed address using a calligraphy pen. Your guests will never know your secret!

Spell out professional titles, such as Doctor and Reverend, and all military titles (General, Major, and so on.) for names on your invitations. Acceptable abbreviations are the nonprofessional titles of Mr., Mrs., and Ms. Don’t include academic titles, such as PhD, on the invitation unless the person is a minister with a theological degree. And no nicknames! Use full names instead (such as Michael rather than Mike). If you choose to include any middle names on the invitation, spell them out, too.

Spell out street names, such as Avenue, Boulevard, and Street, on all invitations. Also spell out days of the week, dates, months, times, and numbers in addresses for invitations to black tie and formal weddings. For invitations to semiformal and informal weddings, you can use numbers freely.

For a ceremony in a house of worship, use the word honour to show reverence to God, as in “request the honour of your presence.” For a location other than a house of worship, even if the ceremony is religious, use the phrase “request the pleasure of your company.”

Give the hosts of your wedding top billing on the invitation.

Wedding gifts should always seem to come as a pleasant surprise. You can tell people where you’ve registered, but only if they’ve asked, but registry cards should NEVER be included in the invitations.  While registries are helpful for those who don’t know the couple’s tastes, it is a compliment if a guest takes the time to pick something more personal—even if that something is yet another crystal flower vase.

You must invite both halves of a socially recognized couple. Those who are married, engaged, or living together count as social units. You are not obligated to give single guests and guests who are involved in more casual relationships the option to bring a date. You do, however, want to be consistent and avoid making exceptions.

Since it's awkward and impersonal to address the outer envelope as "Mr. James Smith and Guest," the two envelope system works well. Address the outer envelope to "Mr. James Smith" and the inner envelope to "Mr. James Smith and Guest." If you're only using one envelope, include a short note with your invitation: "Dear James, You're welcome to bring a guest to the wedding. Please let me know. Best, Laura." If there's time and James supplies the information, you can send his guest an invitation, too.

If you do not want your guests to bring their children, it is rude to specifically say "no children" on the invitation. Opt for saying that the event is an "adults-only affair."  Address the inside envelope with exactly whom you’re inviting. For example, writing “Mr. and Mrs. Swanson” tells your guests that just the Mr. and Mrs. are invited, not their children.

Because an invitation comes with the expectation of a gift, you don’t want people to think they have to give a gift even though they cannot attend. If someone lets you know that they have a conflict, don’t follow up with an invitation. In the case of very close friends and family, you may want to send an invitation anyway with a note that explains you are sending it as a keepsake.

If you’re planning to walk down the aisle at 7 p.m., the time on your invitation should be 7 p.m. Don’t leave your guests waiting just because you want to make sure no one misses your grand entrance. Most guests know better than to show up right at the invite time anyway, so if you put 6:30 for a 7 o'clock ceremony, some of your guests could be waiting around for as long as an hour before you begin.  Choosing to do "First Look Photos" easily solves this problem.

Include lodging information on a separate enclosure card with a map and directions to your ceremony and reception. You may also include this information with your save-the-date cards and/or on your wedding Web site.

Before you buy stamps, take an assembled invitation to the post office and have it weighed. It's likely that the inserts, or even an unusually shaped envelope, will call for extra postage.

Check the postage. Remember that maps and other inserts sent to out-of-town guests will make those invitation heavier than ones sent to local guests and may require a postage adjustment. In that case, be sure to assemble two sets and have both weighed. 

How to Stuff the Envelopes

  1. When two envelopes are used, insert the invitation (folded edge first for a folded invitation, left edge for a single card invitation), so that you see the printed side of the invitation when the envelope flap is opened.
  2. When there are enclosures--reply card and envelope, map, printed directions--they are placed on top of the invitation, printed sides up, in size order with the smallest on top. Again, when the flap is opened, the printed side should be visible. If the invitation is folded, insertions are stacked in size order - smallest on top - but within the fold.
  3. The inner envelope is then placed unsealed in the outer envelope, so when the outer envelope flap is lifted, the name(s) of the guest(s) is visible.