Wedding Invitation Etiquette and Wording Made Easy
Jan 10, 2022
The right wording for a wedding invite depends on several factors, not just etiquette. Our guide breaks down the details for you.
If you’ve been looking on Pinterest, you’ll have noticed that there’s no standard wording for a wedding invitation – each one is as different as the couple they belong to. On one end of the spectrum, there’s the traditional engraved suite with all the wording etiquette present and correct, and on the other end is the modern suite with minimal text. And in between, there are hundreds of variations.
So which one should you adopt?
The truth is, the wording for an invitation depends on several factors:
- Your personality as a couple
- Your family
- The level of formality at your wedding
- The venue of your wedding
- Which other enclosures are present in your invitation suite
As a general rule of thumb, the main invitation should give your guest all the essential information they’ll need at a glance, leaving the details to the other enclosures. We’d recommend having at least a catch-all Details enclosure where you can list other information such as your wedding website and dress code.
Less text is also better – since the main invitation is likely to be the first thing your guest will see, it’s important to make a great first impression. After all, the invitation sets the tone for the wedding!
To help you, we’ve outlined the different parts of an invitation below, so you can decide what works best for you.
Wedding Invitation Wording
This is the first line your guests will see, which usually appears at the very top. It’s usually the names of your parents or families, something along the lines of:
- “Mr. and Mrs. Jeremy Goldman”
- “Together with their parents”
- “Together with their families”
Fun fact: The host line originated from the tradition of the bride’s father giving her away, so it was usually the bride’s parents’ names up there.
These days, the host line can include one or both sets of parents. It depends on the level of formality you want, and who’s chipping in for the wedding. If one or both families are contributing, you should ask them if they want their names included, or if they’re okay with a general line such as “together with their families” (bearing in mind that too much text may be visually overwhelming).
Since the rules for the host line are fluid, you can choose to include a step-parent or close relative who has raised you. If the people in the host line are not married, their names should appear on separate lines without being joined by “and”.
Wording for different situations
If the parents are divorced
The mother’s name should be on the first line (she can use either her maiden or new last name if applicable), followed by the father’s on the next line.
If the parents are remarried
In some cases, a situation may arise where you want to include your step-parent(s) as well. In these cases, we’d recommend using “together with their families” for succinctness, but if names are necessary, you can have “Mr. and Mrs. (last name of the remarried couple)”. The first name is usually not included.
If the parents are separated
The mother’s name should be on the first line, followed by the father’s on the next. In this case, since they’re not divorced yet, the mother can use her married name.
If one of the parents is widowed
In this case, the surviving parent’s name is used. You can also choose to include “and the late (deceased parent’s name)” if you would like to honor their memory.
Generally, host lines are very personal and their wording does not have to be governed strictly by etiquette.
In some cases, you might not even want to include a host line at all. If you and your partner are the ones paying for the wedding, then you can exclude the host line. In fact, plenty of modern invitations leave this out.
This is the line that officially invites your guests to the wedding, and one of our favorite parts of the invitation because it has so many variations depending on the tone of the wedding and personality of the couple.
Traditionally, this line reads “request the honor of your presence at the marriage of” (note: it’s “honour” if the wedding is taking place at a house of worship”) and comes after the host line if the parents are the ones issuing the invitation, e.g.
However, you can have casual variations such as:
- Invite you to share their joy
- Invite you to celebrate the marriage of
- Request the pleasure of your company
- Invite you to party with them
The position of the request line can come after the couple’s names if they are the ones issuing the invitation, e.g.
Your choice of wording also depends on the type of wedding you’re having. If the ceremony is happening at a church, you might want to use a traditional line, but if it’s a mermaid-inspired wedding at the beach, by all means go ahead and invite your guests to party.
Remember that the invitation sets the tone for the wedding in both appearance and wording!
Names of the couple
These take up the most room on the invite, and will be the first thing your guests see. Usually, it’s the bride’s name first. Both names should be spelled out in full, e.g. “Abigail Lynn and Patrick Neal”, without any social or academic titles.
The exception is when it’s a medical or military title, but these should be spelled out, e.g. “Captain Abigail Lynn”, not “Cpt.” Also, no nicknames – unless it’s an intimate affair and you are known to both sides of the family by that nickname.
For same-sex couples, your names can go in alphabetical order, or by the order in which people know you, e.g. “Chris and James” or “Sarah and Kate”.
For the date line, it’s the day of the week first, followed by the date and month. These should usually be written out in full with no abbreviations, e.g. “Saturday, the second of November”.
The year isn’t necessary since people don’t really plan for weddings more than a year in advance, but you can include it for clarity if you like. It’ll also make for a lovely keepsake and heirloom that your family will look back fondly on. If you do, it should also be spelled out in full, e.g. “Two thousand twenty-two”.
The same rule should apply for the line indicating the time: it should be spelled in full. These are some examples:
- 12.30 p.m. – half past twelve
- 8 p.m. – eight in the evening
- 2.45 p.m. – a quarter to three o’clock
For the sake of clarity, we’d recommend having your ceremony at the top of the hour or half past just in case some guests misread the time. For timings that may be ambiguous – such as 9 o’clock, which might mean morning or evening – you may want to include the time of day, e.g. “nine o’clock in the evening”.
Possibly one of the most important lines – you’d want your guests to show up at the right place, after all! For this line, you should indicate the name of the venue, such as Four Seasons Hotel, New York, or Saint Peter’s Cathedral.
For places of worship in particular: the full name of the venue should be spelled out, i.e. “Saint” instead of “St.” Actually, we recommend doing this even if you’re not getting married in church, because spelling it out reduces ambiguity.
One question we often get is: Should I include the street address? The answer is no, not for the main invitation card. You can include this on a separate details enclosure or on your wedding website instead. However, the city and state can be included, especially if you have several out-of-state guests.
If your wedding is taking place outdoors, it’s common courtesy to include a line that indicates this (e.g. “in the garden”) so that your guests know they should wear appropriate footwear (and not, say, five-inch stilettos).
Finally, if you have the space, you can include a last line for any other essential information, such as whether the reception is held at a different venue. If the reception and ceremony are both held at the same venue, you can have a line such as “reception to follow” or “dinner and dancing to follow”.
Again, to be mindful of the space available on the main invitation, we’d recommend having a separate Details enclosure where you can list other information such as the dress code and reception venue details.
What to leave out of the invitation
What not to have on a wedding invitation is just as important. These seemingly harmless details may not come across as intended, potentially sounding impolite. Remember: your invitation may be going out to people beyond your inner circle, so you’d want to be mindful of the tone.
This is a list of things we’d recommend leaving out:
- Registry details. It carries the implication that gifts are expected, and should not be on the main invitation. Instead, you can list this on your wedding website.
- Whether children are allowed. It can be a touchy topic, so we recommend reaching out personally to guests who have kids and letting them know.
- Anything to do with alcohol or food. This is not necessary here. You can indicate this information on the Details enclosure or on your wedding website. Food selections can go on the RSVP card.
- Pre- or post-wedding events, such as a farewell brunch. You may not want to invite everyone to this, so it’s best to leave out this detail and communicate the pre- or post-event personally to those who are invited.
Don’t worry if you’re still unsure of some details – your stationer will be able to advise you based on your situation. We do this for all our couples at Hey Hunn, whether they opt for semi-custom or bespoke wedding invitations. If you’re looking for invitations that are timeless, whimsical, and romantic, take a look at our Signature Suites or inquire with us.
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