It’s not called an invitation suite for nothing! From the save-the-date cards to reception cards to thank-you cards. There’s a lot of information your guest would need in order to join you on your big day. But if you are suffering from stationery overload and you can’t tell a reception card from a response card, we have put together a helpful guide outlining the most important cards that goes into your invitation suite. We’ll tell you when to send them, what to include on your wedding enclosure and how to say it as well as how you can combine them to save on postage.
Your wedding invitation is a complete package of the information your guests will need throughout the celebration. Who, what, when, and where are communicated in the theme of your ceremony. The enclosures, in the same paper, design, and typestyle, provide any additional information.
When to send: as soon as you choose the date
Typically used for holiday weddings or when guests must travel long distances, save-the-date cards simply inform guests when the ceremony will occur. The card may match the invitation, though not necessarily. Often, the card will note, “Invitation to follow.” Save-the-date cards should only be sent to people on the guest list. They give guests plenty of time to make travel arrangements and might include contact information for a particular travel agent, if one is coordinating the wedding arrangements.
When to send: six to eight weeks in advance
The Invitation card you chose is beautiful, but how do you word it? In this wedding invitation guide we’ll stick to the most common structure used in most wedding invitations. They include the following sections:
- Bride and Groom names
- Date, time & location
- Reception location
So let’s take a look at these one at a time:
The host section lists the names of those hosting the ceremony, traditionally the host was the parents of the bride who paid for the wedding. It should come first on the invitation and is reserved only for the hosts, whoever they maybe. If the couple hosts, their names are listed first and “at their wedding” follows the request line. More and more commonly, the couple wishes to have each parent’s name on the invitation, no matter the host. If both families host, the bride’s parents are listed first.
In this section we’ll include what our hosts are requesting. Whether it is to “Cordially invite” or “Request the honor of your presence” to the marriage of the couple. Take note that “Honour/ed” indicates the ceremony will be held in a church and “Honor/ed” for one not held in church. Informal ceremonies should be worded, “request the pleasure of your company.”
Bride and Groom Name’s Section
In this section you would include the bride and groom’s full name. Customarily, the bride’s name will precede the groom’s. The bride and groom section usually takes three lines: one for the bride’s name, another for “and” or “to”, and a final line for the groom’s name.
Date, Time & Location Section
This will be the when and where of the ceremony. The date and time line should be spelled out (i.e., the eight of June Two thousand and seventeen). When stating time, only write the hour (half past four or two o’clock). Do not include “am” or “pm.” If time of day is unclear, write, “in the evening,” or “in the morning.”
Reception Location Section
The location section gives the name, address, and city and state (no abbreviations) of your venue.
This section will carry any instructions necessary for the guests to know, such as dress code: “Formal Attire”, “Black Tie” or “Cocktail Attire” are all acceptable.
This section is provided for each guest to formally mail back their response regarding their attendance to the event.
Wedding invitations should be sent 6-8 weeks prior to your wedding date in order to gives your guests plenty of time to clear their schedules and make travel arrangements if they don’t live in town. If you are holding a destination wedding, give guests more time and send the invitations out three months ahead of your wedding date. Most couples send out save-the-date cards which go out six to eight months before the wedding date.
When wording your invitation, give your guests a solid idea of what to expect. If you are serving a sit down meal after the ceremony, this would be a great place to say “Followed by an evening of fabulous food, wine and company”, this line could also say “Cocktails, dinner and dancing to follow”. If you need to inform your guests of a gap of time or a change of location, say “Party to follow at 9pm at Club Avalon”. You can also use this line to set the tone for the celebration. “Wild celebration to follow,” or “Join us for an intimate dinner following…”
If you are having an adults-only wedding, address your invitations correctly—to each guest by name, not “and guest”. Your guests would understand that the invite is meant only for those mentioned. If you find that some guests reply with their children’s names added, give them a call and explain you’re having an adults-only wedding and you hope they can still attend. If there are a lot of kids in your family, you may want to consider hiring or arranging for a babysitter.
If you have room on the bottom of your invitation card to fit the reception infomation, you may be able to save money and forgo the reception card. However, if space is tight, you will need to include a reception card with wording that indicates the formality and nature of the event. A reception held before 1p.m should indicate “Breakfast Reception”. Anything after 1p.m is just “Reception”. If you are having your ceremony and reception at the same venue, the reception card is not necessary. Simply provide the ceremony location, and then include”Reception to Follow Upstairs” or “Dinner and Dancing to Follow” at the bottom of the invitation. If your reception is held at a different venue or later in the day, a reception card will let guests know where to go, how to get there, and when to arrive. If you are not inviting everyone to the reception, reception cards are mandatory.
If your reception is held at a different venue, it is helpful to have a direction card. Don’t leave guests guessing if they have come to the right location. In addition to sending direction cards, the wedding venue address and directions to your venue should also be listed on your wedding website.
All wedding invitations should arrive with a response card. The cards should list the reply dateline, a space for the guests to write their names and mark whether or not they will be attending, and sometimes to note their choice of meals. When sending response cards, don’t forget to include a self-addressed and stamped envelope for your guests’ convenience. You may have a few guests with poor handwriting or who forgot to write down their names on the response card, so consider numbering the cards lightly in pencil on the back so you can cross-reference the number and the guest’s number on your list when the replies come in. If you are using an online response service, be considerate of older generations who may not be comfortable using computers and send them a response card instead.
Make your reply dateline two to three weeks before your wedding date to allow enough time for you to get a final head count to the caterer (usually one week before) and to finalize your seating arrangement. If some guests still haven’t responded by your deadline, give them a quick call.
Within-the-Ribbons Cards (Pew Card)
At church weddings, front seats or pews are reserved (with a ribbon) for immediate family, close friends, or special guests. Anyone seated there should receive a within-the-ribbon card to be presented to the ushers.
You do not have to send accommodation cards to everyone, just to out-of-town guests. Whether you are recommending hotels or have rooms block for your guests, listing the address and contact information for each hotel (and the room block code, if you have one) is helpful for your guests. Include a deadline for making reservations on your accommodation card as rooms can book up fast. If you’re covering guests’ accommodations, it is proper etiquette to indicate that on the accommodation card. You can also let your guests know if you have arranged shuttles for the evening.
When to send: two to four weeks after gifts are received
Thank-you notes are printed in the same style as your invitation theme. A great alternative to the traditional thank-you note is one printed with a photograph of the bride and groom. An engagement photo thank-you note makes a treasured keepsake for everyone.
This is where you write the names of each guest you are inviting to the wedding. Write each guest’s title and last name. When placing the inner envelope inside the outer one, make sure the guests’ names are clearly visible so you don’t get any surprise plus-ones. If you would like the invitee to bring a guest or an escort, indicate so. If children are invited, write their first names below their parents’. Children older than eighteen should receive separate invitations.
Envelopes should be addressed by a professional calligrapher who matches the typestyle of the invitation. If you wish, you can do it yourself with a black fountain pen. Most importantly, envelopes should never be typewritten, though your return address should be pre-printed with your invitations.
If you have multiple events planned for the weekend, put the dates, times, and locations (dress codes, if needed) on this card to make sure guests know when they should be in town. If guests are not all invited to every event, print individual cards for each event and put the appropriate cards in each guest’s invitation envelope. This information can also be listed on your wedding web site.
Wedding Web Site
If you have a wedding web site set up, this is one card you won’t want to skip. Share the URL of your wedding web site so guests can learn more about accommodations, dress code, and weekend activities—and maybe even RSVP online. To save on both printing and postage, consider a single insert that directs guests to your wedding web site. Then you can skip the accomodation card, the respose card and the reception card and put everything online. If there is room on your invitation, add a line at the very bottom that reads: “For more details, please visit [URL goes here]” to send guests to your wedding web site without an extra card.
Now that you have everything in place, you can begin to assemble your invitations. Place all enclosures on top of the invitation with the largest piece on the bottom and smallest on top. If your cards have a fold, that edge should be inserted first. With the inner envelope face down and back flap up, insert the cards printed sides up. Then put the inner envelope, unsealed, into the outer envelope so the inner’s addressing faces the outer’s back flap. Once all this is done you can seal the outer envelopes up and send the invitations off.
To determine proper postage and avoid returned mail, weigh the invitation and all enclosures in the envelope(s) together at the post office. When ordering your invitations, remember to add at least 10 for keepsakes and 15-25 more for last minute guests or guests who misplace their invitations. When handwriting addresses, errors are common so always order at least 20-40 extra envelopes.