If you think that invitations and save-the-date cards are the only stationery you’ll need to consider when planning your wedding, think again. Read on to discover what else you’ll need.
Whether stamped with a royal seal during the Middle Ages or sent as puffs of smoke from a Native American’s campfire, wedding invitations have always hinted at the type of celebration to come. And that remains a primary purpose today. Right next to letting people know about the wedding!
Think about it: formal invitations engraved on heavy paper indicate one type of celebration, while a cowboy-boot-shaped card touting a Wild West theme will give another impression entirely. Both selections are equally acceptable. It’s just a matter of finding the style that will best reflect the nature of your upcoming celebration. Just make sure to include the following information: who, what, where, formality of dress and what kind of food and entertainment will be provided (for example, dinner and dancing will follow the ceremony).
Stationery stores are the most popular source for wedding invitations and an excellent place to start your search. You’ll be able to go through a wide variety of catalogues and get a look at literally hundreds of styles. Another option is to order your invitations through the same department store that you register with. You can also order direct from a printing company. This can be a great source if you’re looking for something really unusual. And it may be quicker and more affordable than placing a custom order.
On the other hand, you might want to go to an independent print shop for help designing a one-of-a-kind creation. You can also produce the invitations yourself. With the right desktop publishing software, you can create almost anything you want at home. This option will save you money and offer you complete artistic freedom. If you have the equipment and the time, the possibilities are limitless!
Things to Consider
- Wording. Whether you follow tradition and use formal phrasing on the invitations or go for a more casual approach, it’s good to know what the etiquette is. A typical invitation includes the following:
- Host Line. With the increased number of blended and unconventional families, there are a lot of variations on this line these days. Traditionally, the bride’s parents were the hosts but now the groom’s parents often contribute too, so their names should appear on the invitation. Some couples host (pay for) the wedding themselves, so do the inviting, and add “together with their families”. This solves the issue of stepparents. Deaths, estrangements and divorces can also make wording problematic but with a bit of imagination (and perhaps a flick through a wedding etiquette book), you’ll figure it out.
- Request Line. Typically, ceremonies held in a house of worship “request the honor of your presence”, whereas at a different venue “request the pleasure of your company”. For an even more informal approach, the phrase “invite you to celebrate the wedding of…” is used.
- Bride & Groom Lines. The groom is traditionally referred to as “Mr.” while the bride has no title – although she can use one if she wishes. Some couples remove all titles to be more modern.
- Date & Time Lines. If it’s a very formal invitation, the date is spelled out, including the numbers.
- Location Line. It’s customary to spell out any abbreviations like “Saint”.
- Type of Event Line. This brief description of what type of occasion will be held will help guests decide what sort of attire is appropriate.
An example of a formal wedding invitation is as follows:
Mr. and Mrs. David K. Bennett
Request the honor of your presence
At the marriage of their daughter
Mr. Ben James Wright
Saturday, the Fourteenth of July, Two Thousand And _
At Five O’ Clock
All Saints Church
(Address) Denver, Colorado
An example of an informal wedding invitation is as follows:
Together with their families,
Katie Margaret Bennett
Ben James Wright
Request the pleasure of your company at their marriage
Saturday, July 14 20__
All Saints Church
Dinner and dancing will follow the ceremony
- Your invitation count will not be equal to your guest list. Order one for each couple or family group with children under age 16. Older children should receive their own invitations.
- Order at least 25 more than you think you’ll need. The upfront cost will be minimal compared to re-ordering. Also make sure you get a good supply of extra envelopes in case of addressing mistakes.
- Have at least one other person proofread your copy before ordering. Addressing Uncle Michael as Uncle Michelle = a definite faux pas
- Place your order no less than four months before the wedding. Allow an additional month for engraved invitations.
- When the invitations arrive, proof them and make sure you have the full count before accepting the delivery.
- You may find that having personalized stationery (letterheads for the thank-you notes, for example) with preprinted envelopes will save you heaps of time. Check with a stationer or a high-end art store to discuss your options. Or you could buy a ream of writing paper and use a rubber stamp with your initials on.
- Make sure that you have the proper amount of postage to avoid delays. Have the post office weigh one of your invitations along with all of its components.
- Even if it is less than the weight limit, an oversized invitation will always cost more to mail.
- Be sure to put the appropriate postage on your response cards as well. You’ll need a final headcount for the caterers.
- Review your guest list to make sure that all the names are spelled correctly and addresses are current.
- Mail invitations six to eight weeks before your event, all at the same time.
This form of invitation can be the most elegant – and the most expensive. It is a very labor-intensive process and can take quite some time to complete in large numbers. Most people hire professional calligraphers to produce this sort of invitation. Though some stationery stores now have calligraphy machines that can inscribe invitations at a faster rate and lower cost.
Engraving is a time-consuming and expensive printing process, but the results are certainly impressive. Invitation paper is stamped from behind with a metal plate that raises the lettering. Ink is then applied to the letters and allowed to dry. You can expect to wait a minimum of six weeks for your invitations to be produced, but you will also be able to save the metal plate as a keepsake.
This type of printing is a popular, more affordable alternative to engraving. These invitations are prepared by using a glue-based solution that binds a very fine powdered ink to the paper. The invitations are then heated in a drying process that creates the raised-letter effect.
You can hire a professional printer or use your own computer system to create some very affordable yet elegant invitations. You won’t be able to achieve the impressive raised look of engraving or thermography, but you’ll avoid much of the expense and production time.
These invitations fall under the “do-it-yourself” category. This process is only for those with near-perfect penmanship and a lot of patience. But it may be your best choice if you are having a small, intimate celebration or if you have a tight budget.
Before you decide, read more here:
Your costs will vary quite a bit depending on which of the invitation types you select. Typically, you can expect to pay around $5 for each invitation packet. Of course, you may pay as little as $1 apiece or up to $15 each for elaborate calligraphy invitations. That translates to anywhere from $100 to $1,500 for 100 invitations.
Add postage to that total and you can see how quickly the costs add up. Heavy paper stock used for formal invitations will require more than standard first-class postage. So you’ll need to weigh in that cost when making your selection. And don’t forget about adding postage to your reply cards as well!
For a truly formal wedding, where money is no object, invitations are hand-delivered rather than mailed. Most couriers will charge you between $5 and $10 per delivery. That’s a whopping $500 to $1,000 in delivery fees for those same 100 invitations! Now, before you despair and decide that you’ll just have to email everyone, take a moment to peruse our Money-Saving Tips section.
Your order form is your contract in this instance. But you still need to be sure that all agreements and order details are covered. This will be your only recourse if you are not satisfied with your invitations. Make sure the order/contract covers everything that you and your vendor have agreed upon, and that you feel comfortable before signing it. Your invitation order should contain:
- Time and date of transaction
- Date and time of order delivery
- Total cost of order including any taxes
- Payment schedule including any deposits
- Type and description of invitations
- Detailed list of invitation components
- Number of invitation packages
- Exact wording and design of invitation elements
- Satisfaction guarantee
- Vendor’s business name and contact information
These days, a simple Facebook relationship status update is enough to let people know of your engagement, but if you want to go the traditional route, a printed announcement is an elegant way to deliver your happy news. They are often sent by the bride’s parents but can be sent by the couple (with added details of where, when and how the engagement took place).
Save-the-date cards are becoming a must in today’s hectic world. You’ll want people to pencil in your wedding date as soon as possible so that your guests can plan their year (sending them out three to six months before the wedding is customary but you can send them sooner if you wish). Some people send save-the-dates over email but a physical card that they can stick on their fridge means the date won’t be forgotten as soon as it’s read. Plus there’s no chance of it going into their junk mail folder! They are less formal than the wedding invitation but give guests the first impression of the style of the wedding. Some people get creative and send their save-the-dates as fridge magnets, pencils or even a “message in a bottle” for a destination wedding.
For more on save-the-dates, visit:
RSVP cards are included in with the invitation so that guests can send them back and it can be determined how many people will make it to the wedding. They should be printed in the same style as the invitation. If you are sending an invitation just for the ceremony, an RSVP card isn’t required unless you need to know the exact number of guests for special seating arrangements. Include a self-addressed and stamped envelope so that your guests don’t have to worry about postage when mailing their RSVP card back.
Each couple, each single person and all children over 16 should get an invitation and response card to themselves. State if they can bring a plus-one. If children’s names are left off, this indicates that they are not invited. Some people also spell out the fact that children won’t be included in the celebrations so there’s no confusion. Be sure to include a deadline date of when they have to have responded by.
It’s a good idea to figure out a way to track your RSVP cards too. You’d be surprised how many guests forget to write their names on them (d’oh!) so you should write a small number on the back of each card and match these to a list of everyone’s names. So when a card is sent back blank, you’ll know who it’s from.
Usually only seen at large, formal affairs, pew cards tell family members and VIPs that they will be sitting in a reserved section. They should show the ushers the card at the ceremony, who will escort them to their seats. The cards will either assign a specific pew number or specify a certain area where the guests can choose their particular seat. Pew cards are either included with the invitation or sent after the RSVPs have been collected. It’s often easier to send them out after you know who’s coming so that you know how many special seats to reserve.
Ceremony & Reception Cards
If you are inviting different people to either the reception or the ceremony, you should include separate cards with the date, time and location of the two different events. They should be printed in the same style as each other. A reception or ceremony card may also be required if the events will be held at different locations. If you are inviting the same people to both and the whole day will be at one location, only one card is necessary.
These will walk your guests through the ceremony with its sequence of events. They can include readings so that people can follow along and lyrics to songs so that guests can belt out the tune when the time comes. A ceremony program is also a good way of letting guests know who your officiant, attendants and ceremony musicians or singers are.
For what to include, visit:
Place Cards/Seating Plan
Place cards will let people know where they’ll be sitting at the reception. People often agonize over the seating plan (will Susan get along with Sam? Better not put Will and Lucy near each other) because they want their guests to have fun and not feel awkward. Place cards can either be sat ready on the tables or laid out alphabetically near the entrance of the reception by a seating plan so guests will know where to sit. The cards should relate to a certain table – by color, number or name, for example. Try to find out everyone’s name who will be attending the wedding – “Plus One” or “And Guest” won’t make someone feel all that welcome.
Get signs printed to put on each table so that guests can identify where they are sitting. Some couples like to make these themed – each table could be a name of their favorite song, for example. Or each table could be named after places that are special to them. They are often displayed high above the flowers and decorations so they are clearly visible when guests are trying to locate their table.
If you don’t want your guests to be late because they got lost, provide a map to the ceremony and reception sites. Include both written and visual instructions and remember that different guests will be coming from different locations. Assume that some people will forget to bring their map, so print extras off and hand them out at the ceremony if guests have to travel somewhere different to get to the reception.
Many of your guests will probably be from out of town so will need to find accommodation after the wedding. It’s a good idea to do the research for them and suggest a few places they could stay – in varying price ranges. Some hotels offer cheaper rates if you reserve a block of rooms – make sure you highlight this to your guests. And don’t suggest places that are a very long way from where the celebrations are taking place. Send your suggestions along with the invitation. Also mention any transport you are putting on for your guests so they’ll know what arrangements they need to make themselves.
If an outdoor ceremony or reception is planned, a rain card is included in with the invitation to let guests know of a replacement location should it tip down with rain. They should be printed in the same style as the invitation.
People will want to know what they’re going to eat at your reception, so print off a couple of menus per table. More often than not, they won’t be choosing what they’ll have but it’s nice for them to be able to read about it before they indulge.
Not every couple sends out a wedding announcement, but they are a good way of letting certain people know of your nuptials. They are usually sent to friends who are not invited to the wedding as the number of guests is limited or they live too far away to attend. They may also be sent to acquaintances who would like to know about the marriage. They should include the date, city and state where your marriage took place. Announcements shouldn’t be sent to anyone who received a wedding invitation. They should be addressed prior to the wedding and mailed the day after.
For more on wedding announcements, visit:
For every gift received, a thank-you note should be sent. It’s the polite thing to do. For some dos and don’ts, visit http://www.mywedding.com/blog/planning/?p=1815
To add a personal touch, you can customize napkins or matchbooks with your initials and/or wedding colors – or even a phrase or quote that means something to you.