|Published: 26th October 2008 01:42|
There are some rights and wrongs when it comes to wedding stationery: here are some handy hints but, remember, it is your day so you can dare to be different.
- Invitations are traditionally sent out by the bride's parents - or whoever is hosting the wedding. Perhaps the bride and groom are hosting the wedding themselves, or the groom's parents, other relatives or friends - whoever it is, they should send the invitations.
- Ideally, invitations need to be sent out about 8 to 12 weeks before the wedding to give guests enough time to make travel and accommodation arrangements, if necessary; certainly, not later than six weeks.
- If your marriage is going to take place during the summer holidays or over Easter or Christmas, or if you're getting married abroad, you must let people know the date as soon as it's fixed, even if it's six months ahead. You could always send informal save-the-date letters, with formal invitations later.
- If you are inviting guests from overseas, let them know well ahead of time so they can arrange flights and accommodation. Consider sending their invitations about a month before inviting your local guests.
- You can, of course, invite people to an evening reception rather than to the wedding ceremony itself. Perhaps you want a small and personal gathering or perhaps your church or register office simply isn't big enough for everyone - whatever the reason, it's perfectly acceptable to invite people only to the reception. Just remember that your guests will want to know where you would like them to be, at what time, and what to expect when they get there.
- Try to let people know what sort of evening to expect - a light snack, a buffet supper or dinner at 8.00pm; evening dress ('black tie') or a more informal look. Will there be dancing and, if it's to be an all-night party, the guests will certainly need to know! A brief reference on the evening invitation to any of these features will be enough.
- The evening invitations should go out at the same time as the wedding invitations, firstly to give guests plenty of notice and also to avoid any confusion about who's being invited to which part of the celebrations.
You'll need to know who's accepting your invitation so you can plan catering and seating and also order the next batch of stationery. The traditional way of replying to an invitation is by hand-written letter but reply cards are increasingly popular: sending one with your invitation is the easy and efficient way of making sure your guests reply promptly. If you include a return-by date on the card, and stamp and address the return envelope, it will make it even easier for guests to reply.
Order of service
Whether it is a church or civil ceremony, an Order of Service card provides details of your ceremony. The best man should hand the cards out to each guest - perhaps sharing the job with the groom and the ushers. The Order of Service cards shouldn't be printed until all the details of the ceremony have been arranged.
Although not strictly necessary - more of a courtesy - menu cards for the reception can be ordered and printed as soon as details of the food and drinks have been arranged. People like to know what they are eating! These are best for a sit-down meal, with one card for each place setting, but they can also be used at a buffet with one card for each table.
Unless your reception is really informal, you'll need place cards to indicate to your guests where you would like them to sit.
- A formal sit-down reception traditionally has a top table at which the bride and groom, their parents, the best man and the chief bridesmaid sit. You could add to this list and include one or two extra-special guests.
- When it comes to seating the other guests, remember that most people will feel happy and relaxed if they can talk to someone they either know or have something in common with.
Thank you cards
- Don't forget to thank your guests for their presents and good wishes; this is an absolute must. You could make a phone call as your presents arrive as a holding measure, but you must eventually write to everyone.
- If you are sending pre-printed thank you cards, it is best to be methodical. As each present arrives, note the details then tick the names off the list as you send the cards. Of course you can add a hand-written personal note to the pre-printed text.
- If you are moving to a new home immediately after your wedding, you can include your new address on the card.
Wording your invitations
- You can, if you want, write something totally individual - it is your day, after all. However, there are a few conventions whether it is formal or informal, traditional or contemporary.
- If you're sticking to convention, the number one rule is that invitations are written in the third person, referring to the hosts of the reception. This usually means the bride's parents, so a traditional invitation would start: Mr and Mrs Bill Smith request the pleasure of the company of... Even if you use more contemporary wording, it's still the third person: Mr and Mrs Bill Smith would like you to join them...
- If there are joint hosts the invitation can come from both sets of parents. You could say: Mr and Mrs Bill Smith and Mr and Mrs David Jones request the pleasure of the company of...
- If the bride and groom are hosting the celebrations, the formal version would be: Miss Jane Smith and Mr William Davis request the pleasure of the company of... Less formal wording here could be: Jane Smith and William Davis like to invite you to their wedding...
- Even if things aren't quite as straightforward as this - perhaps the bride's parents are divorced, with one or both of them remarried - the convention is the same: the invitation comes from the host or hosts, in the third person.
- Remember to include all the relevant information on the invitation:
Names of the hosts
Names of the bride and groom
Venue of ceremony
Date and time of ceremony
Reception details, if appropriate
RSVP request and return address
- It's worth knowing that different nationalities may have specific points of etiquette when it comes to wedding invitations. If you think this might apply to you and your partner, ensure you check the details beforehand.
- Like the rest of your wedding stationery, the wording on the invitations should reflect the overall style of your special day. If it's a formal event, stick to the rules but, if you're flouting tradition left, right and centre, you can do your own thing!
When to compile your guest list
- Start drawing up your guest list as soon as possible as it can be a long and complicated job (and sometimes quite fractious), depending on the number of guests you're inviting, the type of ceremony and reception you want and, of course, your budget.
- Traditionally, the list is drawn up by the bride's parents, assuming they are hosting and, therefore, paying for the event, and the final say goes to them. However, today it is quite common for both sets of parents to work together on the list. This is especially important if the groom's parents are helping to bear the cost.
- It's best to start on the guest list at least six months before the wedding. Your invitations will need to be sent out perhaps three months before the wedding, so you'll have three months to think it through!
Who to invite?
- Is your wedding to be a small and intimate affair or a large gathering of the clan? What size is the ceremony venue? And what's the budget to be? All these factors will affect the number of people you invite.
- Most weddings are family occasions, and you'll probably want to start your list with the obvious people - parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Then there are the close friends and perhaps long-standing colleagues of the bride and groom, as well as close friends of the bride and groom's parents.
- Even if you know that someone will not be able to attend, it is considered courteous to send an invitation to that person - they'll really appreciate your consideration. Even though they are your attendants and others who are involved in the wedding itself, it is also proper to send invitations to the best man, the bride's attendants, the groom's parents and the church minister. However, this does not include the registrar in the case of civil ceremonies.
- In a perfect world, the guest list would be one third each from the bride's parents, the groom's parents, and the bride and groom but this may not be reality. Bear in mind, however, that whoever is hosting the wedding should really have the final say as far as the guest list is concerned. If you have to cut down on your guest list, ask yourself the basic question: will I mind, in 10 years' time, that this person wasn't at my wedding?
- You may find you have some people who cannot attend so a reserve list should be drawn up, just in case. Obviously, make sure you have enough invitations for these last-minute substitutes.
- You may decide that you do not wish to include children in the invitations. Whatever you decide, make it clear at the outset.
- If you decide to invite children, they should be included on the invitation. On the day itself, you can keep disruption to a minimum by seating children with their parents at the back of the church or marriage room so they can be taken out if they become noisy or restless. Consider hiring an entertainer or a crèche facility to keep them amused during the reception.
- If you decide not to invite children, make this plain on your invitations by listing only the names of the parents. Ssome parents may still ask if they can bring their children and you'll need a ready explanation that you can deliver without giving offence. Something along the lines of restrictions on numbers will be suitable, and most people will understand if children are not invited. Many parents might welcome the opportunity of a day out away from young children.
- If you do invite children, remember to increase the quantities of soft drinks and food suitable for younger tastes.
Inviting guests' partners you don't know
This can be complicated but, again, it is your choice. Today, long-term relationships are socially almost equal to marriages but, if it's a new or short-term relationship, you might feel the friendship doesn't really merit a place for the partner, especially if you are looking to keep the numbers down. Whatever you decide, make it clear on the invitation and invite the partner by name.
Who should send the invitations?
The rule here is that the host sends the invitations so, if the bride's parents are hosting and bearing the cost of the wedding, it's they who should send the invitations and receive the replies, even if there's a financial contribution from the groom's parents. On the other hand, if the bride and groom are hosting and paying for their own wedding, it's fine for them to send the invitations and receive the replies.
Addressing the envelopes
- How you address the envelopes containing the wedding invitations is a matter of personal choice and will probably depend on how traditional your celebrations are going to be.
- A formal approach demands a few points of etiquette. Firstly, in the case of a married couple, the envelope should be addressed only to the wife; convention assumes it's the wife who's in charge of social engagements. The formal mode of address for a married woman is to use her husband's first name, for instance Mrs Gregory Williams. If you don't know the wife (perhaps the invitation is to a male colleague and his wife) the envelope should be addressed to the husband. Abbreviations of names (Jim, Bill) or addresses (Rd, Ave) should be avoided.
- Other formal pointers include: men should be addressed as Esq (short for esquire,) widows should be addressed using the husband's first name, and a divorced woman still using her married name should be addressed as Mrs, with her own first name followed by her married name.
- An unmarried couple in an established relationship should be addressed as Miss (her own first name and surname) and (his first name and surname) Esq, while envelopes to same sex couples in an established relationship and living at the same address should include both partners, with the names in alphabetical order, for instance John Dent Esq and Colin Taylor Esq.
- A lot of these conventions are just that - conventions - and you can, of course, simply address the envelopes to people as you know them. Just remember to hand-write the envelopes: printed labels might seem easier and clearer, but they're pretty impersonal and might give guests the wrong impression.
Enclosing wedding information
- Your guests, especially those from a different part of the country or abroad, might need directions to the venue for the ceremony and then on to the reception. It's a good idea to show the ceremony venue in relation to the main approach roads into the area, and remember that some people appreciate written directions as well as a map. You may find the reception venue itself has a good set of directions so always ask.
- Some of your guests may need overnight accommodation, depending on the time of your wedding ceremony and reception and also of course on how far they're travelling. Sending details of local accommodation can be really helpful, particularly if you can include a range of prices. If you're holding your reception in a hotel it's worth asking if your guests can be given a reduction on the standard room rates.
- You can send this information when you send your invitations, but you might prefer to wait for replies so you can send details just to those who are accepting.