Everything You Need to Know About Wedding Invitation Etiquette (Because, Yeah, It’s a Lot)
How do you tell your beach-loving cousin twice removed not to wear flip-flops to the Friday night kick-off dinner? Do you have to give your college roommate a plus-one? And is it rude to include your wedding registry on the invite?
Your big day is on the horizon and while your dress, the cake and even a killer playlist is all set, you have more than a couple of questions about what information to provide your guests and when. Fear not: We spoke to Myka Meier, author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy: A 5-Step Method to Mastering Etiquette, and got the scoop on wedding invitation etiquette (including the most common mistake that couples makes), so you can be sure you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s before hitting the post office.
What’s the deal with save the dates?According to Meier, save the dates needn’t specify a location for the event—so you can breathe a sigh of relief at having more time to select your venue—nor should they have a spot to RSVP. However, a save the date should mention the date of the wedding (duh) and should be sent well in advance of the formal invitation. What does that mean? “Save the dates are typically sent around eight months before the wedding,” says Meier, and even a couple months earlier if you’re having a destination wedding.
Common mistake: Not giving guests a heads up in the form of a save the date.
What to do instead: Send your save the date around eight months before the wedding and six months before the invitation.
What should you include on your wedding invitation?
A standard wedding invitation includes all the information you’d expect from any invite—a brief announcement of the event (i.e., Jack and Jill invite you to attend their wedding ceremony), along with the date, time and address of the venue. The invitation should also specify the location of the reception if you’re having one.
Common mistake: Leaving out important information on the invite.
What to do instead: Make sure to include the date, time and address of the wedding ceremony, plus any information about the reception if applicable.
When should you send out your wedding invitations?
The answer to this question depends on what type of wedding you’re having. In general, Meier says that wedding invitations should go out roughly six to eight weeks before the wedding. Destination weddings are a big exception to that rule; in this case, the invitations should be sent out at least four months prior to the event.
Common mistake: Waiting until the last minute to invite your guests.
What to do instead: Give your friends and family six to eight weeks notice so they have time to respond and plan accordingly.
When should you make the deadline for RSVPs?Per Meier, the RSVP deadline should fall somewhere between three and four weeks before the date of the wedding.
Common mistake: Giving guests too little time...or messing up your own planning by giving them too much.
What to do instead: Cut off RSVPs roughly one month before the wedding and everyone wins.
Where should you include information about your wedding website?
The list of information you must include on your save the dates is pretty short: names, date, time, location...and (you guessed it) your wedding website. Your wedding website is a useful platform for keeping guests abreast of any important event-related information, so you’ll want everyone to have access as soon as they've penciled the big day into their calendar.
Common mistake: Not having a wedding website.
What to do instead: Create a wedding website as a resource for guests and provide the info on the save the dates.
Should you include registry information on wedding invitations or save the dates?
The etiquette expert says no to this one, friends. Instead, Meier recommends relying on word-of-mouth (think: bridal party and family), your wedding website (where you can prominently post a link), or a combination of both to get registry information to your guests. It’s just a better look.
Common mistake: Including a link to the registry on either the save the date or formal invitation.
What to do instead: Add gifting information on your wedding website instead.
How to let guests know your dress codeIt’s not every day you find yourself in a position to tell someone else what to wear, so understandably this one might feel a little awkward. Don’t worry, though—Meier tells us that there’s nothing wrong with writing the dress code either on a separate reception card in the same envelope as the invitation, or in fine, italicized print at the bottom of the invitation itself. (Note: This should be a simple line and not an essay.)
Still think that a single sentence on the invitation leaves a little too much room for interpretation (but don’t want the invite to read like a rule book)? No problem. Per Meier, your wedding website has your back: “[it’s] a fantastic place to give wardrobe recommendations for the wedding, as well as listing any other dress codes for additional events you are planning for the weekend.”
Common mistake: Giving a super detailed dress code on the invitation.
What to do instead: Lean on your wedding website for that.
Do you have to give every guest a date or a plus-one?
Weddings are expensive and you’re trying to keep the guest list down to not go broke. (We get it.) So, do you have to give every guest the option of bringing a plus-one? Meier tells us that plus-ones are nice but not required in every situation. That said, she recommends giving a plus-one to any guest who has a “serious significant other” (someone they live with, for example), and all guests if you’re having a destination wedding—you know, so your loved ones have a travel buddy. One more caveat: “If you do not extend a plus-one for whatever reason, make sure there are a good number of other people invited to the wedding without plus-ones so there is not just one or a few lone people without someone to mingle, sit or dance with.” In other words, if most of the guests will be coupled up, do your single friends a solid and give ‘em plus-ones.
Common mistake: A guest list that leaves only a small number of people awkwardly flying solo.
What to do instead: Try to give plus-ones when you can to make sure all your guests can have a good time.
Where do you put the return address on wedding invitations?
This one’s pretty straightforward: If you want to keep the front of your wedding invitation envelope looking clean and pretty (but still want it returned to sender in case of a failed delivery), all you have to do is write or paste a sticker with the return address on the back flap of the envelope. Easy-peasy.
Common mistake: Scrawling a return address on the upper-left corner as you would a bill you’re paying.
What to do instead: Slap a sticker with the printed return address on the back flap of the envelope for a more elegant look.