Wedding invitations can be one of the most intimidating aspects of planning a wedding. There are so many styles and options, but there are some etiquette faux pas everyone tries to avoid.
One thing to keep in mind when designing your invitations is to match the invite style to the formality of your wedding. This, along with the time of the ceremony and the venue, helps give your guests an idea of what to expect. You can also help your guests out by mentioning style of dress (formal, cocktail, casual, etc.) at the bottom of the invitation. Whatever style you're going for, there's some non-negotiable info you'll want to include.
An obvious requirement for a wedding invitation is the name of the couple. There are a few ways to list the names on the invitation. Traditionally, heterosexual invitations list the woman's name followed by the man's. In a same-sex relationship, it is common to list the names alphabetically. You can use your full legal name, first names only, or first and middle names. The latter is most common if you're going super-traditional and listing the parent's names in full.
It is common to include the names of the wedding's host on the invitation. For many people, that is both sets of parents. There is no hard and fast rule here, and you are free to list other relatives or leave these names off entirely. The usual wording for this traditional option: [Hosts] Request the Pleasure of Your Company at the union of [couple].
You need to let everyone know where you are getting married. For the invitation, just the name of the venue is fine — this keeps things clean and simple. You can include a direction card in the envelope as well, to help guests find the venue. Include any special information, such as the parking situation, on the direction card.
If the reception is somewhere different than the wedding venue, be sure to point this out on the invitation. You want to make sure all of your guests know exactly what is going on and where the activities are — not to mention when. Lost or late-arriving guests can put a damper on the festivities.
When writing out the time of the ceremony, write out the numbers and use the phrase "in the morning," "in the afternoon," or "in the evening," rather than a.m. or p.m. For example, you would write six o'clock in the evening rather than 6 p.m.
Make sure you include the date of the ceremony as well. Even if you have sent out save the date cards, the invitation should clearly state the date, as well as the day, of the ceremony. Again, write everything out rather than using numbers and abbreviations.
Typically the reception follows the wedding, but sometimes a morning or afternoon wedding is followed by a break before an evening reception. If you choose to do this, make it clear on the invitation, typically by including a separate card. For a reception that immediately follows the ceremony, include information such as what type of refreshments to expect.
A sit-down dinner often requires sending out menu choices that are returned with the RSVP. Having a separate card for this allows you to invite fewer people to dinner than you are to the reception and ceremony.
One of the more stressful parts of wedding planning is knowing how many people to expect. Including an RSVP card along with a postage-paid envelope greatly increases the likelihood of getting an accurate count, though these days more and more people are encouraging guests to respond electronically using a website designed to keep track for you. Consider offering your guests multiple ways to let you know.
If there is any special information that your guests should know, include it as part of the mailer. Don't print it directly on the invitation; if you're going through a full-service company for the invites, most companies have coordinating cardstock you can use. Include anything from information on hotel blocks to wedding-related activities you have planned.
Wedding websites are very common, but they shouldn't replace the invitation. Including the website address as part of your invitation ensures your guests have all the information they need for an enjoyable trip. You can include activities to do in the area, local restaurants, and other details that aren't essential but may come in handy for those visiting from out of town. You can also include a link to your wedding registry.
Most people will have some guests who aren't too internet-savvy, though, and you don't want to confuse matters for them.
Gift registry information does not belong on your invitation. Instead, you can make it available in a few different ways. In the past, most guests would contact a parent, close relative, or member of the bridal party for this information. Many people may still do that, though putting a link to the registry on your wedding website is the most common option these days.