Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Hello, summer brides!  Spring is upon us and I imagine many of you are finalizing your invitations this month.  The wording of a formal wedding invitation is a well-established practice, modified ever so slightly to acknowledge the identity of one's hosts.  Read on for a comprehensive guideline to invitation etiquette! 

Here is the formal text of a wedding invitation:

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wordsworth Smith
request the honour of your presence

at the marriage of their daughter

Eleanor Parker

to

Mr. Joseph Helmsley Browne, IV

Saturday, the twenty-seventh of July

Two thousand and thirteen

at six o'clock in the evening

New York Public Library

New York City

If the ceremony and reception are to take place at the same place, a bride may write "Dinner and dancing to follow" as the last line of the invitation.  In which case, no reception card is to be included in the invitation suite.  If the ceremony is to take place at a church, and the reception is to follow elsewhere, the invitation should recite the name of the church only and should include a separate reception card stating the time and place of the reception.  "In the evening" is only used after 6:00 pm.  After six o'clock, the implication is that the attire is formal.  It is only a recent custom to include the phrase "black tie" on an invitation, although it's somewhat necessary if that's your intention.  Also, the date is never capitalized.  The day of the week and the month are always capitalized.

The sample above assumes that only the brides parents are hosting the event, and that they are married.

If the brides parents are divorced:

Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Smith
Mr. Henry Wordsworth Smith
request the honour of your presence...

Mrs. Elizabeth Margaret Smith, once married, is always entitled to use her Mrs. status, even after her divorce and before she is remarried.  Many women don't necessarily identify with this practice and would prefer to be referred to as Ms. after a divorce.  Speak with the hostess to learn her preference.  It is a steadfast rule of etiquette that the comfort of all parties is far more important than the rules themselves.  It is 'correct' for her to use her maiden name, her name from her former marriage or a name from a new marriage. 

If the bride is a step-daughter of one parent:

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wordsworth Smith
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of her daughter

or

"at the marriage of his daughter"

If the bride and groom are the hosts:

The honour of your presence
is requested at the marriage of
Miss Eleanor Parker Smith

to

Mr. Joseph Helmsley Browne, IV

or

Together with their families,
Eleanor Parker Smith
and
Joseph Helmsley Browne, IV
invite you to celebrate their marriage

Here are the rules on reciting a couple's name (which is applicable both to the host and hostess as listed on an invitation and when addressing the envelopes of wedding guests):

Married : Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wordsworth Smith
He is a doctor: Doctor and Mrs. Henry Wordsworth Smith
She is a doctor: Dr. Eleanor Margaret Smith and Mr. Henry Wordsworth Smith
He & she are doctors: Dr. Eleanor Margaret Smith and Dr. Henry Wordsworth Smith
He is a minister: The Reverend and Mrs. Henry Wordsworth Smith
She is a minister: The Reverend Eleanor Margaret Smith and Mr. Henry Wordsworth Smith
He is a judge: The Honorable Henry Wordsworth Smith and Mrs. Smith
She is a judge: The Honorable Eleanor Margaret Smith and Mr. Henry Wordsworth Smith
Lawyers: Esq. is not used in social correspondence.

Also note that a man is only referred to as 'Jr.' until his father passes away (unless his father is a well-known figure, in which case he often keeps it).

More invitation questions?  Send them to hello@anniedean.com or through the correspondence page!

x.

 

PS - The image today is of our winter wedding invitation and rehearsal dinner invitation by Mr. Boddington's Studio, who are experts when it comes to invitation etiquette.  The former was hosted by my married parents and the latter by Peter's divorced parents.  We opted for Ms. but used Peter's mother's married name (i.e., her name!).  Our silver tray needs a polish - more on that next week!