Asking your friends and family to attend your wedding should be easy, right? Once you start composing save the dates and wedding invitations, centuries of wedding invitation wording etiquette starts looming over you. Of course, rules are made to be broken. It’s good to know the origin of traditions so you can determine which to follow and which to eschew to express your style.
Save the date wording
Save the dates (fortunately) don’t present too many complications. As long as you mention both names, the event date, and location, and indicate an official invitation is coming, the rest is up to you. Full names or first names? Long-winded or just the facts? The exact venue or just the city? These announcements can be as casual or formal as you’d like. Read more on save the dates—including when to send them—here.
Wedding invitation wording
It’s when you get to the wedding invitation itself that etiquette rules really come into play. For the most traditional invitations, the wording is more or less paint-by-numbers. Times have changed and families come in all shapes and sizes. Rather than doing things as they’ve always been done, tweak the wedding invitation formula to your own needs. Ahead, we broke down the wording traditions line by line so you can determine what works for you.
The host line
The hosts officially extend the invitation. Traditionally, this was the bride’s parents, but today, this line simply lets guests know who is hosting the celebration. Typically this is any combination of parents or the couple itself. Many couples choose to include both sets of parents, regardless of who is hosting. If you’d like to include divorced parents or step-parents, keep each couple or single parent on their own line. If you are using titles like Mr., Mrs., or Dr., whoever has the highest professional rank goes first. A few examples include:
Bride’s parents hosting: Rupa and Arun Mehra
Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bradley
Two sets of parents hosting:
Mr. John Chang and Mrs. Lavina Truscott
and Dr. Dara Lazar
Clarissa and Richard Dalloway
and Peter Jeong and Brian Martineau
Dr. and Mrs. James Cooper
and Conner Aube
and Mr. Pierre Bezukhov and Mrs. Miriam Carter
Robert Arms and Carrie Meeber
and Sophia and Peter Cheng
and Oscar and Lucinda Hopkins
All parents and the couple hosting: Together with their families
Including a deceased parent: Rework the order so the parent goes after the person getting married.
daughter of Carrie Farb
and the late Herschel Farb
Couple hosting: Skip this line and go straight to the couple line.
This line lets guests know if the wedding ceremony will be a religious or secular event, as well as the formality. If the hosts request “the honour of your presence,” guests know it will take place in a house of worship. If they ask for “the pleasure of your company” the ceremony will be elsewhere. You can spell out numbers and use British English spellings in order to invoke a sense of formality. Other examples include: “would love for you to join them” or “invite you to celebrate with them.”
These are the most prominent and visually striking names on the invitation. The most traditional way to do this is to include the bride’s first and middle name, followed by the groom’s full name. A more modern take is to list both first and last names. For a graphic or casual spin just use both first names. For a same-sex couples use alphabetical order or chose whichever looks or sounds better.
Date and time
Formal invitations include the day and time written out, while for more modern ceremonies numerals are fine. Including a.m. or p.m. is unnecessary as most weddings take place between late morning and early evening. Some couples prefer to highlight the numerals to call attention to an auspicious or attractive date.
If the ceremony and the reception will take place at the same location, this line lets you know where the wedding will take place, and that there will be a reception to follow. Use “and afterward at the reception,” “reception to follow,” or “reception immediately following” to make this clear to guests. Generally, the name of the location is included along with the city and state. The specific address is unnecessary. If there is a separate reception venue that goes on a subsequent line, along with the time if it’s not immediately following the ceremony.
This line is optional, but if you’d like to give your guests guidance on the dress code place this text in the lower right-hand corner of the invitation. If you skip this, guests will infer what the dress code will be based on the formality of the invitation design. Dress codes include white-tie, black-tie, cocktail, festive attire, or beach formal. Creative couples can have fun with the dress code. We’ve seen everything from “Ranch Chic” to “Bohemian Black-tie.” If you want to suggest a color palette or go into more detail, use the wedding website to communicate this information.
Unique wedding invitations
If you’re ready to throw all the rules out the window there are wedding invitation designs that lend themselves to unique wording. Some highlight a photo, or create a bold graphic statement with the couple’s name or the wedding date, while others are more narrative. Let the design be your guide when crafting the wording for these types of invitations.
Addressing the invitations
You’re almost there, but don’t sleep on the wedding invitation envelopes. Think of the email you send as the outer envelope and the Paperless Post envelope as the inner envelope. The inner envelope clarifies who in the household is invited and may save you from answering questions from guests later on.
You only need to include the titles and last names on this envelope, since it’s already in the right hands. For close family, it’s also appropriate to use familiar names like Aunt and Uncle.
Who goes first? Traditionally a woman’s name preceded a man’s but these days any order is fine, except when one member’s title (Dr. or The Honorable) outranks the other, they would go first. A few examples that you may come across are:
Married couple with the same last name:
Mr. and Mrs. Villefort
Married couple with different last names:
Mr. Allan Woodcourt and Mrs. Ester Summerson
Umarried couple, living together:
Ms. Nicole Warren and Ms. Lola Brangwen
Unmarried couple, living separately:
send two separate invitations
Invite with a guest:
Samad Iqbal and Guest
Mr. and Mrs. Crane
Just the adults in a family:
Mr. and Mrs. Crane
Aunt Catherine and Uncle William
Now that you’re well-versed in wedding invitation wording, you’re ready to find the perfect suite for your ceremony. For expert tips on selecting a wedding venue, head to our interview with the team behind Mavinhouse Events. Incorporate lucky wedding traditions for your big day with our interview with former Martha Stewart Weddings editor Eleni Gage.