People Over Paper: Stationery Etiquette for Modern Times
We’ve all been there. You’ve locked in the specifics of your ceremony and reception, and you’re ready to share all of these details with your guests via your invitation suite. You start putting together your guest list and gathering what you need to include on your invitation and insert card.
But how do you address envelopes for married couples with different last names?
What about the wording for the invitation if the groom’s parents are paying for most of wedding, and they’re divorced?
You find yourself scouring wedding forums and etiquette guides to try to find the "right answer" that suits your situation and feels like the right level of formality, but something isn't quite right. It's everyone's greatest fear to find themselves in the middle of a wedding that doesn't feel like theirs, and your stationery - your first moment of communicating with your guests - can set the perfect tone or run things off track.
The best experiences are authentic ones. So, do what feels right for you - and sometimes that means traditional etiquette be damned. Here's how.
What To Include
Include what you think you’ll be asked about the most. The goal of your invitation suite, first and foremost, should be to inform your guests! If you know transportation will be a struggle from your hotel to your venue and already have arranged a solution, address this on an insert. If many of your guests are traveling far and will be looking for things to do, think about including a custom map of places that have defined your life together in your city.
The last thing you want is a deluge of texts and emails asking you where you’re registered because you thought it would be too tacky to include on your details insert. Gift registries (and increasingly, monetary registries) are expected. Just be sure to word it in a way that doesn’t make it seem like you’re expecting or demanding gifts.
Books could (and have!) been written about how to properly word your invitation given the ten thousand scenarios out there. The traditional days of the bride’s parents putting on and paying for most of the wedding are fewer and farther between - reality in 2017 is often more complex than that. Increasingly, many family members on both sides will contribute something to the wedding, whether it be a straight monetary gift toward the expenses, or paying for a specific vendor or service. In this case, I’m partial toward starting your invitation with “together with their families.” With more of us getting married a bit later in life, often the couple will pay for most or all of the wedding themselves! And if that’s the case for you, it’s often OK to not even include a line about your parents or families.
How your addresses should be formatted very much depends upon the level of formality you want to keep. For my own wedding, we bucked tradition entirely and did large lettering with first names only. Our wedding was a casual weekend on a bay-side property, and we wanted to convey a come-as-you-are attitude. It worked perfectly for what we needed, and allowed our envelopes to be a little more stylized. If your wedding is black tie, this can be conveyed from the get-go with inner and outer envelopes, with formal addressing. Think of your envelope as the way your event is first announced in your guests’ hands - don’t use formal calligraphy on inner and outer envelopes for a casual backyard wedding.
The standard rule is that wedding invitations should be sent out six to eight weeks in advance of the wedding. This hails from a time when weddings were a mostly local affair, though! While some of your closer friends and family will book travel based on a save-the-date or talking to you directly, many of your guests are unlikely to solidify their plans until they receive the real invitation with more specific details. So if a lot of people are traveling to your wedding, send the invitations out three to four months in advance to give your guests plenty of time to make their travel plans. No one is going to forget about your wedding because you sent them a little early, but they may be unable to make it if you send them too late!
Choose People Over Paper
At the end of the day, think about what works best for you, your families, and your friends. If you find yourself with a situation that falls outside of traditional guidelines, play around with different wording until you find what feels right to you. Better yet, consult a professional - this is what we’re here for! As a veteran stationery designer, I’ve seen it all and have developed tried-and-true wording that better suits the messy realities of life for many couples. At the end of the day, traditional etiquette rules are a great starting point, but if following tradition means somebody’s feelings may be hurt, it’s more than OK to make your own rules. Trust your inner compass - you’ll end up with a stationery suite that truly represents and reflects you as a couple, and sets the stage for an unforgettable day.