Invitation Etiquette

The actual style, material and design of your wedding invitation isn’t the only thing that sets the tone for your big day. The etiquette around your wording, how you send the invitation and when you send it – play a huge factor in setting the appropriate tone. The last thing you want to do is unwittingly offend your guests before they’ve even RSVP’d!

  1. When should we send out our wedding invitations?
    Traditionally in Canada – we send out wedding invitations 3 months prior to the wedding. In the United States, etiquette guides often recommend 6-8 weeks prior to the wedding, but we don’t consider this enough time. In Canada, we like to give our guests 6-8 weeks just to RSVP, and you will need at least 4 weeks to follow up with anyone who didn’t respond – as well as order your day-of stationery, make up your seating arrangements and provide your venue with final numbers. So ideally, it is best to send out your wedding invitations a minimum of 3 months prior to the event date.

  2. When should we make the deadline for RSVPs?
    Make your RSVP date 4-5 weeks before your wedding date -- this will allow enough time for you to get a final head count to the venue or caterer (which usually requires a minimum of 2 weeks’ notice of final numbers) and to finalize your seating chart and other day-of stationery items. If some guests still haven't responded by your deadline, give them a quick call and ask for their RSVPs (still via mail) so you have all their information. This is the reason we have the phone number column on our Guest Address Spreadsheet – so you gather all contact information at once instead of having to look this all up later on down the line!

  3. Where do we include information about our wedding website?
    Your wedding website should be included on your save-the-date. If you'd like (or if you don't have save-the-dates), you can include the web address in the formal invitations with an insert -- a small card that informs guests they can find more details online. This would usually be found on what we call the “Additional Information Card”.

  4. Can we include our registry info on our invitations or save-the-dates?
    Technically speaking, no. Including registry info on the wedding invitations or save-the-dates is still considered impolite because it can come off as though you're asking for gifts. The best way to get your registry information across to your guests is through your wedding website – if you have one. If you feel you must inform guests of the registry info – the safest route is to include the details on the bridal shower invitation, only if you’re not the one hosting it. If it’s a friend or family member – then basically, they’re the one telling your guests where to buy you gifts and it’s not coming directly from you.

  5. How do we say politely that children are not invited to the wedding?
    Address your invitations correctly -- to each guest by name. Do not use “& family” or “& guest” in cases where you think the guest may think they are allowed to bring a child with them. Guests should understand that the invite is meant for only those mentioned. You can also add on your RSVP card, a line for “Total Number Adults Attending: ___” which will give your guests one final hint that children are not invited. If you find that some reply with their children's names added, you are totally in the right to give them a call and explain that you are unable to accommodate children at your wedding.

  6. How do we let guests know our dress code?
    For a wedding invitation in Canada, we don’t generally include preferred attire. Your guest should know based on the style of invitation, and your venue – what is appropriate attire. If your invitation is a basic 1-layer printed design on simple cardstock with pictures of mason jars on it, and you’re getting married in a barn – your guests will know to dress “dress casual” and wear comfy shoes. If you are getting married at the fanciest venue in the city and you order a pocketfold invitation suite covered in embellishments – your guests will get the idea that you are hosting a black tie affair. IF you come from a family (and you know your family best!) who think tuxedo t-shirts are considered “dressy” – then you may want to include the dress code in the bottom right hand corner of the invitation, in smaller writing than the rest of the invitation. This information can also be added to the “additional information card” if you’d prefer it not to be right on the main invitation.

  7. How do I make sure that only who I want invited RSVPs to the wedding?
    Address your invitations correctly -- to each guest by name. Do not use “& family” or “& guest”. In cases where you don’t know the name of your guests’ “plus one”, find out. If you use “& guest” or “ + 1”, you are opening up the possibility for that person to bring a child (or old drinking buddy!), so use this addressing technique carefully. Should a guest include the name of someone who was not invited on the invitation, you are fully in the right to call that guest up and politely explain that you had only intended the invitation for ___ & ___ and that you are only able to accommodate a certain number of people.

NOTE: If you are unable to accommodate unexpected guests and your family is primarily South or East Asian, African – or from a Caribbean country – you may need to note “we have reserved ___ seats in your honour” (you fill in the blank). If you feel that there will be a very large number of people who don’t understand North American Invitation etiquette, or it is common in your family’s culture to not be so strict on the number of people invited, this tip can save you a lot of headaches when your RSVP date rolls around!

  1. Where do you put the return address on wedding invitations?
    The return address usually goes on the back flap of the mailer envelope – this is in case your invitation should be lost in the mail and need to be returned to sender. Your return address is also printed on the RSVP envelope – along with the appropriate amount of postage needed to return the envelope to you.

  2. I invited my friend and her boyfriend (by name on the invite) to the wedding, but they recently broke up. Now she wants to bring a friend I don't like -- can I tell her no?
    Because you worded the invitation correctly by having her boyfriend's name on the envelope (rather than “and guest"), you have every right to say no. As a rule, invitations are nontransferable when people are invited by name. Try explaining that you're not friendly with her proposed guest and you'd prefer that the wedding be limited to very good friends and family. If you invited all of your single friends sans dates, let her know she won't be the only one coming solo (in case that's her worry).

  3. “I don’t want to spend a lot of money on invitations because people are just going to end up throwing them away in the end.”
    Well, this may be true. We can’t deny that most people won’t hold on to your wedding invitation until their dying day. Though what we can tell you is that your invitation is a reflection of your wedding and is your guests’ first impression of things to come. If you received a homemade DIY invitation in the mail that was crooked, had glue showing off the sides and was made out of cheap materials with poor graphic design – would you think that this is a wedding worth investing in?

Your guest will not only decide whether or not to attend based on the invitation – but will also choose their outfit, whether they want to pay for travel and accommodations for it, if they will show up an hour early, on time or late - and how expensive a gift they will bring. The invitation has a huge impact on how your wedding day plays off, so choose an invitation designer who is knowledgeable in etiquette, who has plenty of experience in the industry and who has a proven track record of creating fantastic and memorable wedding invitations. Make sure you read all of the company’s reviews online and be well informed in the invitation process. When it comes to custom stationery – you get what you pay for!