Choosing wording for wedding invitations seems to be a task that stresses many people out. They are afraid of doing something “wrong” or not sounding formal enough or breaking some sort of antiquated etiquette rules. The fact is, times have changed immensely since “the rules” were made for this.
There is one right way to word your invitation. OK, if you only ask great Aunt Bertha you may get a different answer, but the truth is that in today’s world, there are all sorts of wording options that are acceptable, and you should pick one that sounds appropriate and feels right for you.
You must use your formal full names. Some people use their full names, some only use first and last names, some only use first names, and all of these are acceptable. Also, if your “real” name is not what you use in everyday life its perfectly acceptable to use the name you go by, especially for an informal wedding.
You must include your parent’s names. Historically it’s traditional for the people hosting the event (and by that I mean who is paying for this shindig) to be the ones “inviting” the guests to the wedding, such as “Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Brown request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter…” As more and more couples are paying for weddings themselves or the groom’s parents or other family members are chipping in as well, couples are using alternative wording. “We cordially invite you to be present on our wedding day…” is useful for the couple who is paying for their own wedding. One of my favorite wordings for situations where several family members need to be recognized is just a simple “Together with our families we invite you to share in our wedding day…” This can be useful when there are step-parents, children from previous marriages, or maybe you just don’t want everyone to know who is paying for what.
The groom’s parents names should be listed on the invitation. Again this goes back to who is paying. Since its traditional for the bride’s parents to pay, its also traditional to only list them on the invitation. However, in most cultures outside of the U.S., its customary to also list the groom’s parent’s names. If you are afraid of offending someone by not listing them, have that conversation with them before hand.
You must use very formal wording because its a wedding. If you are not formal people and are not having a formal wedding, then a formal sounding invitation would not make sense. Stick with something casual and concise, such as “We happily invite you to celebrate with us on our wedding day…” and leave out any mention of “honour” spelled with a “u”
There are just a few basic bits of info that you MUST include in your invitation in some shape or form.
1. The names of the bride and groom. Duh.
2. The date and time of the wedding. There is much debate about whether “Two thousand eleven” or “Two thousand and eleven” is the correct way to write the year. Basically British English tends to use the “and” while American English does not. Do your own research (you will find a million different answers on google), but keep its importance in perspective. Nobody is going to decline to come because you did or didn’t say “and”.
3. The location of the wedding. This includes the name of the establishment and the address. In cases where the location is a popular landmark on its own street (such as the Schermerhorn Symphony Center at One Symphony Place) its acceptable to leave out the street address and use the city and state only. If your invitations are a modern design and you are getting married in a city such as Chicago or New York City its also acceptable to leave off the state.
4. Reception information. If you are having a reception following your ceremony, you need to indicate that information either on the invitation itself or on an enclosure card. If the reception is in the same location as the ceremony there is no need for an additional card. If its in a different location the info can sometimes go on the invitation itself, but of course the formal way is to use a separate cards. You will also want to indicate what kind of reception it is so that people know what to expect (ie, will you be feeding them or should they eat before they come). Some useseful phrases are “Dinner and dancing to follow”, “Cocktail reception to follow”, “Dessert reception to follow”, and “Dinner reception to follow.”
The bottom line is that of all the things you will stress about with regard to your wedding, this should not be one of them. Your stationery retailer or designer is also a helpful resource in guiding you through writing your invitation wording, and you should not be embarrassed to ask questions.
Invitation by Southall Eden Paperie // Image by Jonathon Campbell Photography