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Invitation Tips

Invitation Basics

Selecting your invitation is a very personal decision and should reflect your unique taste, style and be appropriate for the type of event you are planning.  For instance, a black tie affair will have a more elegant look than a tented backyard wedding.  It’s your special day!  Your budget and style will dictate the look of your invitations and accessories.

Today there are many lovely traditional invitations to choose from as well as contemporary and unique choices.  There are so many choices including everything from the basic ivory panel cards to glittered accents, unique paper layers, botanical stocks, laser cut-outs, textures, shimmers, raised layers, self-mailers, appliques, special artwork, photography options and handmade papers.  The shapes also vary from traditional sizes to small and large squares, and tall rectangular shapes and more.   Also envelopes have options.  There is usually a basic envelope that comes with an invitation where the flap opens on the horizontal side.

There are also custom hand-made envelopes where the flap opens on the short end, and custom envelopes that are created out of the exact paper you select for part of your invitation.  Envelopes can make a beautiful first impression whether they are elegant, whimsical or simply unique.  For certain envelope stocks, you will certainly need the assistance of a calligrapher who is proficient at addressing names on many types of stocks.

Keeping your Guest List Organized

Staying organized when planning a party is one of the most important things you can do to help make the event planning stress free.  Organization can be as simple as typing your guest list on a computer spreadsheet which will allow you to alphabetize your list at the push of a button.  Once alphabetized, you can easily locate guests when responses begin to arrive.  You will also be able to keep easy track of total number attending, if a gift was received, if the thank you card was sent, assigned table number, menu selections requested, and so forth.  This can be as simple as starting a spreadsheet with these fields:  Last name (for easy sorting later) / First name / full name / kids names / address / yes-no response / total # guests / menu selection / table number / gift received / and so forth.

How Many Invitations Should I Order?

Prepare your guest list carefully before you place your order for invitations. Remember, you do not order the same number of invitations as your guest list.  Married couples get only one invitation.  Families with young children also just get one invitation.  Young adults aged 18 or older, even if they are still living at home, get their own invitation.  So you may, as an example, have 200 people on your guest list but might only need 150 invitations.

You'll also want to be sure to order about 25 extra invitations when you place your order.  It's easy to forget some people when constructing your guest list and also it's possible someone in your family may request you add some guests.  It's also very nice to have some extra invitations in excellent condition for framing and putting into memory books.

Ordering the proper number to begin with will save you time and money in the long run.  It's far less expensive to order an extra 25 at the time you place your order than later!  Also, remember to add even an additional 25 printed envelopes above your invitation order as there may be mistakes in addressing the envelopes.  It's entirely possible you may address something wrong and you'll need to resend the invitation in a fresh envelope.

The Basic Elements of an Invitation Ensemble

A formal invitation unit usually includes the invitation, single or double envelopes, printed envelope flaps, lined inner or outer envelopes, a response set, and a printed thank you card with printed envelope flaps.  Additional items may include a reception card, placecards, save the date cards, maps, weekend cards, programs, menus,  seals or strips to close the invitation envelope, and announcements.

Response Cards and Envelopes
Response cards are an effective way for your guests to reply.  The cards have a space for your guests to write their names and indicate whether or not they will be attending.  A printed return envelope is generally included in the price of a response set.  The front of this envelope is pre-printed with the name and address of whomever will be receiving the replies.  It is customary to place a stamp on the response card envelopes to make it more convenient for your guests to reply.

RSVP Card Tip
Simply number your guest list and then place a small number on the back corner of your response cards, small and in the bottom corner.  For instance, guest number 52 on your list will get the response card with the number 52 on it.  This is a handy tip in case your guest forgets to fill out their name on the response card. It's also great if you cannot read the guest's  handwriting.  All you have to do is look at the back of the card and you will know which guest it was from!

Invitation Wording Details

For formal invitations consider the following etiquette tips when preparing your wording.

  • All phrasing is in the third person
  • Punctuation is not used at the ends of lines such as commas, period, colons, etc.  The exception to this rule is with commas as they are used within lines to separate the day from the date, the city from the state, and a man's surname from Jr., II, or III, etc.
  • No abbreviations are used on formal invitations or in the envelope addressing such as in the following commonly used words: Road, Street, Avenue, Apartment, States, Reverend, Doctor, Rural Route, Post Office Box, and all military titles.
  • Exception to the Abbreviation rule are as follows.  It is accepted to abbreviate: Mr., Mrs., Mrs., and Jr.
  • Days, dates and times are always spelled out on formal invitations.
  • The year is spelled out, Two Thousand and Fifteen, as an example.
  • Only proper nouns are capitalized (names of people and places, cities, states, name of the day and week, month name, etc.)  Exceptions are the year line, "Two thousand" or where the noun is the beginning of a new sentence or thought ("T" in "The favour of a reply is requested" or "Reception to follow").
  • Be consistent with your usage of "honour/favour" or "honor/favor".  Traditionally formal, British spelling with the "u" is preferred on formal invitations.
  • It is considered socially incorrect to write,"no children please" on the invitation or any part of the wedding ensemble.  If children are not invited, simply address the envelope to the adult who are invited.
  • For the words "Black tie", the "B" in "Black tie" is capitalized, but not the "t".  Although many place those words directly on formal invitations today, protocol suggests to put it on the reception card only.  If you do not have a reception card, you will need to place it on the invitation.  Another variation if you do not want to require your guests to wear a tuxedo is "Black tie optional" which indicates that tuxedos and dark suits are accepted.
  • All times before six o'clock in the evening are considered afternoon.  Therefore, a wedding starting at five o'clock would be worded "at five o'clock in the afternoon", a wedding at five thirty would be worded "at half past five in the afternoon" and a wedding at six o'clock would be worded "at six o'clock in the evening".  However, if that is not pleasing to you, consider eliminating the wording afternoon or evening, as you can simply say "at five o'clock" if the time of day will be obvious, meaning there would never be a wedding at five o'clock in the morning so therefore we do not have to indicate that it's in the afternoon or evening.  Never write "a.m." or "p.m." on a formal invitation.
  • Spell out the day and date with the spelled-out number inverted before the name of the month and use a comma to separate the day from the date:  "Saturday, the first of May".  Using "on" before the name of the day is optional but just capitalize the first letters of the day and the month.
  • For a formal invitation, listing of the year appears on the line following the day/date line.  Only the first letter of the first word of the line is capitalized:  "Two thousand and fifteen".
  • Listing an address for the place is much more convenient for your guests, but is still optional, unless the wedding is in a home or at an uncommon location.
  • After the location name and optional address, include the city and state, separated by a comma, such as: "Chicago, Illinois".  No need to include a zip code.
  • If you want to include reception information on the main invitation, it should appear at the bottom of the text before the names of the hosts.  Be sure you don't have enough room for the text so the invitation text doesn't look crowded.  If there's not enough room it would be better to print a separate reception card.
  • The phrase "Rsvp" should have a capital "R" and small case "svp".  There are normally no periods between the letters.
  • If your invitation uses a monogram for a married couple, the bride's first name initial goes on the left, the groom's surname in the middle as the larger initial, and the groom's first name initial on the right.  There are some other ways to handle monograms too, so be sure to ask.
  • Be sure to include the name of honoree(s) or event title and hosts(s) is there are any on your invitation.

Assembling the Invitations for Mailing

Once your beautiful invitations are all printed and ready to be stuffed into your addressed and stamped envelopes, there are some guidelines to follow.  When inserting a foldover invitation into an envelope, hold the invitation in your right hand with the open flap facing right.  The fold goes into the envelope first with the invitation right side up.  If you are using a flat invitation (unfolded) insert it in the envelope with your right hand so it is face up.  The following items should be placed in the envelope together from bottom to top, depending on what elements you have:  Invitation, map, accommodation cards, weekend schedules, bus card, response set (card face up under the flap of the response envelope), and finally the reception card on the top.  Or, if your accessories are of varying sizes, place them in ascending order from the largest on the bottom to the smallest on the top.

Sealing the Invitation Envelopes

As anyone can tell you who has licked 100 or 200 envelopes, it's not a pretty job.  But a suggestion would be to try a glue stick or a sponge.  When using a glue stick, it’s best to purchase a few thin ones as you will need more than a couple if you are working on a many envelopes.   When applying glue, it’s wise to use sparingly so that the glue does not adhere to the invitation or seep out the envelope once sealed. If you are a purist and want to moisten the envelopes to seal without glue, try a small sponge.  Wet the sponge and ring it out so it's just moist, not soaking wet.  Then, simply dab carefully to moisten all parts of the glue area and seal, being careful not to let any water near your beautifully addressed envelopes. Water and paper are not the best of friends.

Calligraphy Options for Envelopes

Envelopes are the first impression of your event to your guests and careful consideration should be given to what method you select to address them.  Calligraphy is a centuries-old art that can provide a beautiful look to your envelopes.  You'll often see both hand lettering and computer lettering today.  While both looks can be lovely, the hand lettering is very special.  A talented hand calligrapher can create unique lettering looks and blend ink colors to find the perfect hue for your envelopes.  The finished result of hand calligraphy can be truly extraordinary.  Be sure to see samples of work and perhaps even get recommendations and referrals before you hire any calligrapher.  You want to be sure your calligrapher will be careful with your envelopes, be accurate in their work, and provide a timely finished job.

Most calligraphers have their own styles that they are proficient at using.  They will normally offer you several looks to select from and the style you select should have a complimentary feel to the style of font used on your invitations.  When using a hand calligrapher, it is recommended that when you prepare your guest list for them, you use a clean font style so the artist working on your envelopes can easily read the information.  You will also need to prepare your list as you want the envelopes to be written, for instance:

Mr. and Mrs. David Harrison
       Miss Jessica Harrison
       Miss Hannah Harrison
435 Savannah Drive
Chapel Hill, North Carolina  27514

For a computer calligraphy program, you will need to prepare your guest list in specific ways too which will be defined by the program you might use.  Sometimes there are online tools that can assist you with this.  One consideration for choosing computer calligraphy is that you can usually have an exact match of the font style on the envelopes to the font style on the invitations. One nice benefit of using a hand calligrapher is that she may question anything on your list that looks incorrect!  A computer will never do that.

The cost of a hand calligrapher can normally range in the neighborhood of $2.00 per envelope, depending on the calligrapher and area you live.  The cost of computer calligraphy ranges normally in the area of $1 an envelope or you might be able to do your own for less.  Remember to be careful as some envelopes are too thick to go through home printers, especially when they have a lining.  One suggestion we feel strongly about is to never use labels for addressing envelopes for important events as they just simply don't look nice.

Addressing Your Envelopes

This guide should be useful when preparing a guest list to handle various situations.   This information is a combination of suggested formats from the Crane's Wedding Blue Book, the primary guidebook most stationers refer to for protocol, etiquette style for announcements and invitations and other correspondence.  We have provided some extra information for situations that more commonly occur in today's world, such as single envelopes for a formal invitation.  Therefore, the information shown is primarily accredited to Crane & Co; however, it blends gently with our own input and that of many local calligraphers.

  OUTER ENVELOPE INNER ENVELOPE ONE ENVELOPE
       
Married Couple with no children invited Mr ad Mrs. John Collins Mr. and Mrs. Collins (formal) Mr. and Mrs. John Collins   
    Mary and John   (casual)  
    Aunt Mary and Uncle John (personal)  
       
 
Married Couple with children under age 12 invited.  List kids names unless there are 3 or more kids, then say "and family".
(more formal version)
Dr. and Mrs. George Peterson
Mr. Samuel Peterson
Miss Susan Peterson
Dr. and Mrs. Peterson
Mr. Peterson
Miss Peterson
Dr. and Mrs. Peterson
and Family
 
Married Couple with children over age 12 list kid's names unless there are 3 or more kids, then say "and family".
(less formal version)
Dr. and Mrs. George Peterson
Benjamin and Jessica
Dr. and Mrs. Peterson
Benjamin and Jessica
Dr. and Mrs. George Peterson
and Family
 
Married couple with children under age 12 invited.  List kid's names unless there are 3 or more kids, then say "and family".
(more formal version)
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Adams
Master Jeremy Adams
Miss Karen Adams
Mr. and Mrs. Adams
Jeremy and Karen
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Adams
Jeremy and Karen
 
Married couple with children under age 12 invited. List kid's names unless there are 3 or more kids, then say "and family".
(less formal version)
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Adams
Jeremy and Karen
Mr. and Mrs. Adams
Jeremy and Karen
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Adams
Jeremy and Karen
 
Married couple with entire family invited Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harris
and family
Mr. and Mrs. Harris
and famly
or say:  The Harris Family
Mr. and Mrs. Harris
and famly
or say:  The Harris Family
 
Unmarried couple living in same residence Miss Christine Pritchett (or Ms. Christine Pritchett)
Mr. Troy Clayton
Miss Pritchett (or Ms. Pritchett)
Mr. Clayton
Miss Christine Pritchett (or Ms. Christine Pritchett)
Mr. Troy Clayton
 
Single man with guest Mr. Mark Hart and Guest Mr. Hart and Guest Mr. Mark Hart and Guest
 
Single woman with guest Ms. Rhonda Bryant and Guest Ms. Bryant and Guest Ms. Rhonda Bryant and Guest
 
Married couple  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harris Mr. and Mrs. Harris Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harris
 
Married couple where both are doctors and use the same last name Dr. Jennifer Sweeney
and Dr. Edward Sweeney         or…
Doctors Jennifer and Edward Sweeney
The Doctors Sweeney Dr. Jennifer Sweeney
and Dr. Edward Sweeney         or…
Doctors Jennifer and Edward Sweeney
 
Married couple where both are doctors and use a different last name Widow, if widowed recently Widow, if widowed a long time Man is a Judge/ Rabbi / Cantor / Pastor Dr. Kimberly Jones
Dr. Bradley Clark
Mrs. William Edwards
Mrs. Karen Edwards   
Honorable and Mrs. Troy Clayton
Rabbi and Mrs. Joel Abrams
Cantor and Mrs. Joel Abrams
Pastor and Mrs. Troy Clayton
Dr. Jones
Dr. Clark
Mrs. Edwards 
Mrs. Edwards 
Honorable and Mrs. Clayton
Rabbi and Mrs. Abrams
Cantor and Mrs. Abrams
Pastor and Mrs. Clayton
Dr. Kimberly Jones
Dr. Bradley Clark
Mrs. William Edwards 
Mrs. Karen Edwards
Honorable and Mrs. Troy Clayton
Rabbi and Mrs. Joel Abrams
Cantor and Mrs. Joel Abrams
Pastor and Mrs. Troy Clayton
 
Woman is a Judge/ Rabbi / Cantor / Pastor Honorable Christine Wolf and Mr. Charles Wolf Honorable Wolf and Mr. Wolf Honorable Christine Wolf and Mr. Charles Wolf
 
Married Couple with wife who has a hyphenated last name Mrs. Rebecca Simon-Kaufman
Mr. Charles Kaufman
Mrs. Simon-Kaufman
Mr. Kaufman
Mrs. Rebecca Simon-Kaufman
Mr. Charles Kaufman
 
Divorced Man Mr. James Smith Mr. Smith Mr. James Smith
 
Divorced Woman Uses her married name, such as Mrs. Lauren Goldman (unless she has legally changed her name) Mrs. Goldman Uses her married name, such as Mrs. Lauren Goldman (unless she has legally changed her name)
 
Married Couples in white one is an Officer Colonel and Mrs. Troy Clayton Colonel and Mrs. Clayton Colonel and Mrs. Troy Clayton
 
Married Couple in which both are Officers Colonel and Mrs. Troy Clayton
or
Captain Christine Clayton, U.S. Army
and Colonel Troy Clayton, U.S. Army
Colonel and Mrs. Clayton
or
Captain Clayton
and Colonel Clayton
Colonel and Mrs. Troy Clayton
or
Captain Christine Clayton, U.S. Army
and Colonel Troy Clayton, U.S. Army
 
Single Woman who is an Officer Captain Christine Pritchett, U.S. Army Captain Pritchett Captain Christine Pritchett, U.S. Army
 
Single Woman who is a Junior Officer Lieutenant Christine Pritchett, U.S. Army Lieutenant Pritchett Lieutenant Christine Pritchett, U.S. Army
 
Single Man who is an Officer Colonel Troy Clayton, U.S. Army Colonel Clayton Colonel Troy Clayton, U.S. Army
 
Single Man who is a Junior Officer Lieutenant Troy Clayton, U.S. Army Lieutenant Clayton Lieutenant Troy Clayton, U.S. Army
 
Single Man who is a Noncommissioned Officer or Enlisted Man Mr. Troy Clayton Mr. Clayton Mr. Troy Clayton
       

When to Order your Wedding Invitations or Bar/Bat Mitzvah Invitations

For a major event like a wedding or a bar/bat mitzvah, you’ll want to begin your shopping for invitations about six months in advance of your special event.  Then, for the best selection, consider ordering your invitations about five months before your occasion.  Why so early?  There are several factors to consider such as:
  • production time and delivery of the invitations which may range from three to six weeks, depending on which invitation you order;
  • you’ll want to send out your invitations six to eight weeks before your date;
  • a calligrapher will want about three weeks to work on your envelopes.
  • and you’ll want about one week to carefully assemble your invitation order before you mail it out, being extra careful so all your guests have the necessary information.
Therefore, you might need up to 18 weeks before your date from the ordering to the mailing of your invitations!  So, all these factors add up to the need to order early!

What if you don’t have that much time?  There are always more simpler options that can be time savers such as less time involving invitation orders and perhaps addressing your own envelopes if you have lovely hand-writing! 

Additional Considerations

1. Watch for commonly misspelled words.  Here are the correct versions:
  • occasion
  • accommodations
  • hors d'oeuvres
  • complimentary (given free as a courtesy)
  • complementary (to make complete or perfect)
  • email
  • regretfully
  • regrettably
  • presence
  • dessert
 2. Using honor/favor vs. honour/favour
  • honor and favor are American versions
  • honour and favour are British versions
  • there is not a "right" or "wrong" way to use the American or British versions.  It is a personal preference, but the versions should match.
3. Using fillet vs. filet
  • fillet is the American version, example: Salmon Fillet
  • filet is the French version, example:  Filet Mignon
4. Using R.s.v.p. vs. R.S.V.P. vs. Rsvp for a footnote
  • In script lettering styles, upper case RSVP looks awkward and difficult to read.  The periods are not necessary.  The ideal version is Rsvp


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