Paper etiquette: the rulebook of wedding invitations

Reading Time: 3 minutes

There is a right and a wrong way to do everything in life, and when it comes to weddings this mantra is as pertinent as ever. Once upon a time there were people who devoted their time to writing etiquette books, enlightening their fellow citizens on table manners, dinner parties and the correct use of social correspondence.

Nowadays, etiquette books are virtually extinct. In its place we have developed our own set of social rules. But in a world where social media is dominant and social rules seem to be changing daily, it can sometimes be difficult to know the right thing to do. Do we conform to the pressures of today and send out invitations by email, or do we stick with tradition and only use formal cards? Here we’ll break down the unspoken rules of sending out wedding invites – when to send them, what to include on them and when it’s ok to break some of these rules.

The first and most basic thing you need to know is that invitations have to be sent out a number of weeks in advance, but not too far in advance that they run the risk of being forgotten. It’s generally agreed upon that invitations should be finalized and sent out about 8 full weeks before your wedding, as this will give guests a chance to see if they can make it and respond (that is, if the wedding is local).

It will also allow for travel arrangements to be made for those guests living out of town. Fail to send them out within this timeframe and you may risk offending some of your guests (who isn’t familiar with the awkward ‘So-they-decided-to-invite-me-last-minute’ invitations?)- or worse, not allowing them enough time to arrange their schedules around your wedding.

As for what to include in the body of text in your invitation, the basics are pretty obvious. You need to let your guests know all the when’s and where’s. The complications arise when you have to figure out the wording, and how formal you want to be. One general rule that applies is that your invites should tie in nicely with how formal your wedding is going to be.

You don’t want to have a small backyard barbeque wedding and be sending out cream and gold embossed cards, complete with wording that befits a royal wedding. A practical idea is to save wedding invitations you receive in the weeks before finalizing your own invites and ‘borrow’ some of the wording if it strikes your fancy. Just make sure to substitute the bride and groom’s names or you could be left with a tricky situation.

An increasingly relevant question revolves around the appropriateness of the contentious email invitation.  The invention of the e-vite proves that invitations comprise of far more than the words printed on them. Paper invites are real; tangible. You can hold them, touch them, stick them on your fridge, and admire them. Email invites are on a screen. That whole sense of reality is divided between you and the screen of the device you’re viewing it on. Paper invites automatically express formality, while email invites tend to do the opposite. Paper invites are personally addressed to the receiver, either by the use of a label or by pen.

Email invites tend to make the receiver feel generic. But however you view it, there is no denying the one major thing email invites have going for them: the cost. For couples on a strict budget, email invites may be something to consider. After all, a good few hundred dollars is not something to be sneezed at.

So there we have it: an abridged guide to wedding invitation etiquette. When it comes down to deciding the if’s and but’s of your invites, take on board the advice that sits well with you, and leave behind the rest. Your wedding invites should be a direct reflection of you and your fiancé, so if formal and flowery language makes you feel like gagging, opt for something that feels just right, even if it may be going against mainstream. The 3 main invitation related factors you need to worry about are: getting all the details correct on the actual invite, sending them out on time, and receiving the replies back.

Don’t worry about the rest. You have a wedding to plan and there’s no backing out now!



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