Wording your Invitation
Basic rules of etiquette
- All phrasing is in the third person.
- Punctuation is not used at the ends of lines (commas, periods, colons, etc.); however, commas are used within lines to separate the day from the date, the city from the state and a man's surname from "Jr./junior/II/III", etc.
- No abbreviations are used. Either spell out a name or leave it out: "Mark Claude Manet" not "Mark C. Manet." Also, "Road", "Street", "Avenue", "Reverend", "Doctor", and all military titles should be spelled out. Exceptions are: "Mr." and "Mrs." Many etiquette specialists prefer that "junior" be spelled out. When it is spelled out, the "j" is not capitalized.
- If both Mr. and Mrs. Smith are doctors, they can be referred to as "The Doctors Smith."
- Days, dates, and times are always spelled out.
- Only proper nouns are capitalized (names of people and places, cities, states, name of the day of the 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 the formal, British spelling with the "u" is preferred in proper wedding etiquette but whichever form you choose, use it in both words.
- It is considered socially incorrect to write, "no children please" on the invitation or any part of the wedding ensemble. "Black tie" does not traditionally appear on the invitation. If the event takes place after six o'clock, your guests should assume that it is a formal event. If you are concerned, however, you may write "Black tie" as a right footnote on your reception card. Note: the "B" in "Black tie" is capitalized, but not the "t."
- It is considered extremely socially incorrect to make any mention of gifts on invitations on the theory that we should expect nothing from our friends except their presence, therefore never list where you are registered, the name of a charity for donations or your desire for money rather than presents. The only slight exception to this strict rule is for shower invitations where it is permitted to list the theme of the gifts ("Linens", etc.) but never where one is registered or any mention whatsoever of money.
Traditional Wording, line by line: (Weddings)
- Begin with the full, formal name(s) and title(s) of the event sponsors. These are not necessarily the people who are paying for the wedding. While the bride's parents traditionally sponsor a wedding, anyone can be a sponsor, including other relatives, the groom's parents, or the couple themselves.
- Following the name(s) is the phrase "request the honour of your presence" for a service held in a house of worship. The variation "request the pleasure of your company" is used for a wedding held in any other location.
- The next line reads "at the marriage of their daughter" or whatever the relation is between the sponsor(s) and the bride.
- The bride's full name follows but often excludes her surname. If her last name is different from the sponsor name or both sets of parents are doing the inviting, include it; otherwise, omit it. If you use optional personal or professional titles (Ms., Miss., Dr., etc.), then include her last name.
- Generally "to" is used on the line separating the bride's name from the groom's. The exception would be the use of "and" when both parents are doing the inviting or for a Nuptial Mass.
- The groom's full name--first, middle and last-is next. If the bride uses a personal or professional title, so should the groom.
- On the next line, spell out the day and date with the spelled-out number inverted before the name of the month and a comma separating the day from the date: "on Saturday, the first of May." Using "on" before the name of the day is optional but if you do, do not capitalize the "o."
- Listing the year is optional. If you choose to do so, it appears on the line following the day/date line. Only the first letter of the first word of the line is capitalized: "The year two thousand" or "Two thousand and nine."
- On the line after the date comes the time. List this spelled out: "at six o'clock" with the word "at" preceding the time. You do not need to put "in the morning" or "in the evening" since it should be obvious but you may if you would like to and must if it is not obvious (for example, a sunrise wedding "at six o'clock" would be more likely to get people there on time if you said "at six o'clock in the morning"). In any case, never put "a.m." or "p.m." on a formal invitation.
- The name of the place goes on the next line: "Grace Cathedral", "The Belser Arboretum" or simply the address if the wedding is in someFone's home.
- Listing an address for the place is optional (unless the wedding is in someone's home). If you do include it, place it on the line immediately below the name of the place.
- Generally the last line lists the city and state, separated by a comma: "East Greenwich, Rhode Island." Note that you never put a zip code here.
- If you are not using reception cards, you may include the information here as the last line of the invitation: "Reception immediately following", "Reception to follow" or "and afterwards at the reception." These sentences indicate that the reception is in the same place as the wedding. If it is not, reconsider ordering reception cards so that the important wording of your invitation will not be reduced in point size to accommodate the several extra lines of the reception information.
- If you are not using response cards and envelopes, in the lower left hand corner include "The favour of a reply is requested", or "R.s.v.p.", and a response address; however, if you have a reception card, put the R.s.v.p. corner line there in order to leave the invitation uncluttered. Note that properly only the "R" in "R.s.v.p." is capitalized since this is an abbreviation for a French sentence, "Repondez s'il vous plait." Likewise, since the sentence means "Respond please", never say "Please R.s.v.p." since that would be redundant.
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