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Invitation Wording – Traditional Etiquette and Modern Interpretation

Photo by The Portos

Photo by The Portos

Working on wedding invitations can be a joy for some and a nightmare for others. Let me walk you through some of the advice I give my couples when it comes to wording their wedding invitations.

There are very traditional rules of etiquette when it comes to wording a wedding invitation. These rules have been followed for generations and some of your guests – especially your older guests – will expect to receive a formal wedding invitation written in proper etiquette. However for some couples these etiquette rules feel too stuffy for them or the formal nature of the traditional wording just doesn’t fit the type of wedding they are planning. Remember that your invitation is the first glimpse your guests get to let them know what your wedding will be. The colors, language, and level of formality all give indications on what they can expect when they attend your event. Whether you stick with traditional etiquette or not be sure that your wedding invitation reflects the essence of your event and sets the tone for what your guests should expect from your soiree.

Wedding Invitation

This is the main card in your suite and it relays all of the information about when and where your ceremony will take place. At minimum you will need to list your names, the date of the wedding, and the address to your ceremony location. If you wish to follow etiquette you would also list the names of the parents who are contributing financially to the wedding. Traditionally invitations list the parents of the bride as they are are the ones often expected to host the event, followed by the bride’s first and middle name (no last name since it is assumed she has the same last name of her parents), then the groom’s first, middle and last name, followed by the ceremony date and location. Here is how a traditional invitation would be worded:

Dr. and Mrs. James Smith

request the honor of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Jane Ellen


Mr. John Joseph Jones

Saturday the twentieth of June

two thousand twenty

at four o’clock in the afternoon

St. Mary’s Church

10 Lodge Street

Albany, New York

There are lots of work arounds to this traditional format if the bride’s parents are divorced, one parents is deceased, or if the groom’s parents are contributing and the couple wishes for their names to also be listed. There are also variations for same sex couples, as well as couples who follow other gender identities.

If this same couple in the example above was getting married and didn’t want such a formal invitation they may choose to go with something like this –

You are invited to the wedding of

Jane Smith


John Jones

Saturday June 20, 2020

St. Mary’s Church

10 Lodge Street

Albany, New York

As with the traditional format there are lots of ways to word a more information invitation, and none are wrong as long as the essential information is included (who, when, and where).

Reception Card

If you notice in the examples above the ceremony location is listed but the reception location is not. In a traditional format a wedding invitation lists the ceremony location only and if there is a separate place for the reception that information is listed on a separate card. This Reception Card gives guests the details of when and where the reception is taking place. Reception cards often look like this –

Please join us for

the wedding reception

starting at five o’clock in the evening

90 State Events

90 State Street

Albany, New York

Of course a less formal way could be to list the reception details at the bottom of the main invitation or to word a reception card something like this –

Join us for dinner and dancing!

5:00 pm

90 State Events

90 State Street in Albany

If a couple is having their ceremony and reception in the same venue then they often will list “Reception to follow” or “Dinner and dancing to follow” at the very bottom of their wedding invitation

Response Card (RSVP)

This is the card that your guests send back to you to let you know if they will be attending or not. If you are having a plated meal you will also be asking them to indicate their entree selection here. This card comes with an envelope which will be addressed to the person who will be keeping track of all of the RSVPs (traditionally that was the mother of the bride, but more common now is for RSVP to go straight back to the couple). Just don’t forget to stamp those envelopes before you assemble the suite. With a traditional response card you list an “M” as a place holder for people to complete it with an “r”, and “s”, or a “rs” to complete it as Mr, Ms, or Mrs. Ok here is an example of traditional wording for a response card –

The favor of your reply is requested by

June 1, 2020


___ will attend

___ will not attend

Filet mignon ___

Salmon ___

Vegetarian ___

If you wanted to go a more casual route you could make the wording more casual or add something fun in to show some of your personality.


Don’t miss out! Just let us know before June 1.

Name __________

___ I’m in!

___ I will regret not being there basically forever

Cow ___

Chicken ___

Veggie ___

In more modern times some couples are choosing to forgo the RSVP card all together and instead ask their guests to reply online through an e-RSVP site (often a page on their wedding website). Replying online might be a little tricky for some of your older guests but it does save money on stamps and it also ensures everyone will visit your website to get any additional information you share there (lodging, shuttle details, gift registry sites, etc). If you decide to go with an e-RSVP you can list the instructions on how to reply either at the end of the wedding invitation or on a separate card (like an RSVP card but one that has no envelope and doesn’t need to be mailed back to you).

Other Enclosures

Formal invitations do not include any other enclosures except for the occasional piece or two of tissue paper to keep those fancy cards from sticking together. However less traditional couples sometimes choose to add other pieces of information into their invitation suite, such as cards with their wedding website listed, hotel information, shuttle schedules, gift registry details, or details about other events that the guests might be invited to such as rehearsal dinner, welcome drinks, or a post-wedding brunch. Just remember that every extra piece you add to your invitation suite is making the whole suite heavier, and heavier invitation suites require extra postage.

Check out some of our related posts for more Pro Tips!

Wedding Invitation – How To Assemble

Wedding Invitation Timeline – When to Order, Assemble, and Mail

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