etiquette

Ever run into an etiquette question you didn’t know how to “properly” address?  We have tried to help you by discussing many common situations below.  Included are helpful tips on items such as when to order your wedding invitations, what accessories to include in the invitation, and even how to address them.  We also touch on general wedding topics like Save the Dates and wedding showers.  You’ll also find questions like whether or not to include a picture of the baby on a baby announcement, and if it’s okay to send holiday cards to friends of different faiths – just a few of the many topics covered here. 

Etiquette questions can arise in any situation, and we would love to help you answer them, so please feel free to email any relevant etiquette questions we haven’t touched on here to: info@rosettapapers.com.


SELECTING AND ORDERING WEDDING INVITATIONS

ADDRESSING YOUR WEDDING INVITATIONS

GENERAL WEDDING ETIQUETTE

BABY ETIQUETTE

HOLIDAY ETIQUETTE

ETIQUETTE FOR OTHER OCCASIONS

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Selecting and ordering wedding invitations

How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Invitation

With so many invitations at your fingertips, the options may seem endless.  You can spend hours viewing invitations and still have no idea what you really want!  We recommend taking into consideration a few factors prior to beginning your search.

Personal style

This is probably the most important.  After all, the invitation should be a reflection of your taste.  Styles range from traditional to contemporary and everything in between.  A more formal invitation usually lends itself to a more formal affair, so keep that in mind as well.

Colors / Theme

One thing to consider here is the colors that you will be incorporating into the wedding.   If you have any idea of the color scheme for your wedding (for instance bridesmaid dresses, flower bouquets or centerpieces), it may influence your invitation or ink color selection.  Also, if you are planning a themed (or destination) wedding, you may want to consider having the invitation to reflect this.  There are many motifs that can be added to invitations that can add just the right touch to unify the affair.

Price of Invitations

Keep your budget in mind when browsing for invitations.   Prices can range anywhere from about $1 a piece to upwards of $50 a piece, depending on a number of factors including brand, ink, typeface, printing process, etc.  Hiring a calligrapher to address envelopes can add to costs as well.

Number of Invitations

When browsing for invitations, you should also have a general idea of how may invitations you will need.  This will help determine how much of your wedding budget should be allocated to invitations. As a reminder, the number of invitations is usually a fair amount less than the actual number of people invited.

A great way to get started is by browsing the Wedding section of RosettaPapers.com to get a feel for the styles that appeal to you. You can even save all of your favorites in your personal online customer account.  It is best to be prepared and allow yourself time in making these decisions.  So start early, collect all the information you need to make a decision, and last but certainly not least, have fun finding the perfect invitation!

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When to Order Your Invitations  

You’ll need to take into account time for three major steps to determine when you should be ordering your invitations – printing the invitations, addressing and assembling the invitations, and finally sending them out.  The best way to decide when you need to order your wedding invitations is by working back from the wedding date.

Let’s first touch on when to send out your invitations. If you’re having a destination wedding or marrying over the holidays, send out invites early (10 to 12 weeks before the wedding). For local weddings, the standard time frame is 6 to 8 weeks before.

On average, it will take approximately 2-3 weeks to address and assemble the invitations.  You may want to check with your calligrapher to make sure this allows him or her ample time to complete the work.  Also, some vendors will allow you to have the envelopes delivered before the actual invitations are printed.  This will help you or your calligrapher to get a head start on addressing if you are crunched for time.

Printing and shipping is another step to consider. Printed orders take 5-10 business days to process unless otherwise noted.  Once the order is processed, shipping time depends on your selection of shipping method.  The least costly shipping is Ground, with transit time of 3-7 business days after processing.  Overnight shipping can be chosen (although more costly) if you need a rush order. 

Add up the various steps, and a conservative estimate on when to order is approximately 2 ½ to 3 months for a local wedding, or 3 ½ to 4 months for a destination wedding.

The Five Basic Parts of a Traditional Wedding Invitation

Outer Envelope

Since your invitation sets the tone for your wedding, Rosetta Papers recommends you handwrite or employ a calligrapher to write each guest’s formal name and address on the outside of these envelopes. We recommend printing the return address (include apartment or unit number where applicable) centered on the back flap of the envelope, printed in the same color ink used on the invitation. To add an elegant touch, you may include only your return address without your name.

Inner Envelope

The inner envelope does not have an address, and is used to clarify who is specifically invited to the wedding. Some weddings are adult only, so one way to clearly communicate that fact to proud parents is to write “Mr. & Mrs. John Doe” on this envelope with no mention of the children.  If the children are indeed invited, their individual names should follow those of their parents. Similarly, if you have a single friend who always brings a date to weddings and is welcome to do so, you would put “Mr. John Doe & Guest.” The inner envelope should not be sealed.

Invitation

The invitation and all of its pieces go inside the inner envelope, which is left folded but unsealed inside the outer envelope. The invitation is the biggest piece (and the most important), so it goes in first and all other pieces are either folded inside the invitation (if it is a fold-over card) or placed on top of the invitation (if it is a single card.)

Reply or response card

Years ago, writing “R.s.v.p.” as a left footnote on the invitation or the reception card resulted in your guests’ prompt response, using their own stationery.  However, in today’s fast-paced environment, this formality is becoming less well-known.  Party planning budgets require exact numbers. It is now more common (and much more effective) to include response cards with invitations.  Response cards ensure a thorough response from your guest list, as they provide a convenient fill-in-the-blank format together with a self-addressed envelope, which the host has pre-stamped.  It is VERY important that through the response card you will be able to determine several important pieces of information from the guest, such as name, number of attendees, and possibly meal choice.

Reception Card

Traditionally, reception cards are included when the reception site is somewhere other than the ceremony site.

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Wedding Invitation Accessories

There are many accessories that can be included with the wedding invitation or in other mailings.  Please see a list of all available options below-listed in alphabetical order.

Accommodation cards

Your guests will appreciate the convenience of a preprinted card that lists recommended hotels in your area, along with the phone numbers.

At home cards

A handy way to inform every one of your new address and when you expect to begin residing there.

Direction Card

Preprinted enclosure cards providing directions to the ceremony and the reception site can be exceptionally helpful for your guests, especially those coming from out of town. Direction cards may also be enhanced with maps.  Please see Map Cards.

Engagement announcements

These are the formal announcements of your engagement.

Gift Received Card

Preprinted cards acknowledging that a gift was received may be sent ahead of (never instead of) personally written thank you notes.  This allows the newlyweds to wait until after their honeymoon to thank their guests more personally.

Informal / Thank You Cards

This is the personalized stationery on which to write individual thank you notes to guests.  In more traditional times, a bride would write her thank you notes on her own stationery (without her husband’s first name).  However, as times evolve, most couples prefer to include both names on their stationery.

Map Card

Maps often enhance directions.  Some establishments provide maps which can be reproduced, providing the artwork is clean, scannable, black and white print.  These can either be a separate card or printed on the back of a direction card.

Menu Cards

At the reception, guests are provided with a menu card describing the dishes you have selected.

Pew cards or within the ribbon cards

It is a tradition to designate special seating for select guests.  The guests receiving these cards present them to the ushers, who will escort them to this special seating (usually in the front) that is sectioned off by a ribbon.

Place Cards

If you are planning assigned seating within the tables, these inform your guests of their assigned seats.

Programs

Guests appreciate an outline to follow along with at the ceremony, and it will be saved as a memento of the event.  Many printers have programs that match the designs of their invitations. This can add unity to the ceremony.

Save the Date Cards

These preprinted notes are sent at least three months (but preferably six months to a year) before the wedding date and are invaluable if you plan to invite long-distance guests or if your wedding is planned for a popular vacation place or time.

Table Cards

If you are planning assigned tables at your reception, these inform your guests of their assigned tables.

Wedding announcements

Preprinted notes formally announcing the wedding to family, friends and business associates who were not invited.  Please note that they are to be mailed the day after the wedding takes place (never before), but it is acceptable to mail them anytime up to a year afterwards.

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How Many Wedding Invitations to Order

Now that you have gone through the agonizing process of finalizing your invitee list, it’s time to order your invitations!  Here are some guidelines on how many to order.

Our experience suggests that it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to ordering extra invitations.  A general rule of thumb is to get approximately 20% more than your exact needs. Having to reorder later can get pricey, and ordering extra invitations (AND envelopes) leaves room for addressing errors, last minute additions, and spare copies for family scrapbooks.

Married couples and families only need one invitation, but a child over eighteen living at home gets his or her own (or should at least be included as a separate name on the outer envelope).  Also, if the bride or groom has several friends living together, traditionally they would each receive a separate invitation.

 

Addressing your wedding invitations

A traditional wedding invitation typically has an outer envelope as well as an inner envelope.  The outer envelope should include standard mailing information including the recipient’s mailing address, a return address, and the appropriate postage.  The text on the inner envelope, however, may only include the names of the invited guests – less information is necessary, as it is not used for postage purposes. 

Many brides and grooms these days are opting for one envelope instead of the traditional two for their wedding invitations.  Make sure to read the product description of the invitation you choose carefully, as this is where we note how many and what type of envelopes are included in the order.

Labels are not recommended for wedding invitations.  It is highly recommended that wedding invitations be handwritten, preferably by a calligrapher or someone with neat handwriting!  Also, it is definitely acceptable to abbreviate street addresses, states, etc.  Writing out everything might actually delay the delivery of the invitations to your guests (the post office prefers abbreviations).

A quick note about the return address – this address is where guests who are either unable to attend or prefer not to lug gifts to the ceremony or reception will be sending their gifts.  The return address is typically the wedding host’s address, so make sure they are prepared to receive and hold the gifts for you.

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Preparing and Mailing Your Wedding Invitations

Wedding invitations should be mailed approximately 6-8 weeks prior to the event (10-12 weeks for a destination or holiday wedding). In addition to addressing the envelopes, some calligraphers, for a nominal fee, will stuff, seal, and stamp the invitations, which is a simple way to save some time.

Often a number of pieces will be included in your wedding invitation, and there are some general guidelines about how to stuff the envelopes in a logical and orderly fashion.  If you have two envelopes, all pieces are included in the inner envelope with the words facing up as they are stuffed.  If you are using a single envelope, the order and placement is the same. The items are just placed directly into the outer (single) envelope.  The item that goes in first, or on the bottom, of the assembly should be the largest piece, usually the invitation.  Reception cards and all other enclosures are then placed on top with the response card tucked under the flap of its stamped envelope. Finally, place the inner envelope inside the outer envelope with the guests’ names again facing up as they are stuffed, making their names the first thing seen when opening the invitation.

If you are concerned about the post office running your invitations through stamping or other automated printing machines that may cause smears or crinkle your design (for example, one that adds bar codes), you can ask the post office to hand cancel each one of your delicately-crafted invites to keep them in mint condition.

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General Wedding Etiquette

Save the Date Cards

Save the Date cards are preprinted notes sent at least three months (but preferably six months to a year) before the wedding date informing your guests of the preliminary details of your wedding.  The Save the Date should include at the very least, the name of the bride and groom and the wedding’s date and city (or resort).  Additional information could include details like suggested hotels (room blocks if applicable) or even a link to the couple’s wedding website (becoming more and more common).

Save the Dates are typically sent out only to long-distance invitees for local weddings, or to all guests for destination weddings or weddings over the holidays. Save the Dates give guests traveling for your wedding plenty of time to make arrangements, and therefore increase the chance they will be able to celebrate your wonderful occasion with you!

Engagement Parties

There are only two major requirements to consider when determining the timing of an engagement party.  First, the couple must be officially engaged, and second, both the bride- and groom-to-be must be present.  Other than those two factors, the main concern regarding timing is that sooner is probably better than later.
Engagement parties nowadays do not follow a specific format.  Some are large, formal affairs, while others are small and relaxed.  Official invitations are not necessarily a must, especially for casual parties.  Some couples even choose not to have engagement parties, instead choosing to announce their engagement in other ways (ie. in the local newspaper).

There are, however, several guidelines to consider when thinking about an engagement party.  Most engagement parties are traditionally hosted by the bride’s parents, although it is becoming more common for the groom’s parents, other family members, and/or friends of the bride and groom to host.  The couple should not expect gifts from most attendees at the party, as engagement gifts are typically only received from close friends and family.  These gifts are usually given to the couple prior to the party or sent directly to the bride’s home, as not to make the other guests uneasy.  Last, but certainly not least, the guests invited to your engagement party should also be on the guest list for the wedding (unless the wedding is a very small family-only affair or intimate destination wedding).

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Bridal Showers

The purpose of a bridal shower is to help the new couple stock items for their new home.  Because gifts are such a central part of bridal showers, immediate family members of the bride are traditionally not supposed to throw a shower as it may be deemed self-serving, instead allowing bridesmaids to host (unless of course no one else can throw a shower, at which point the bride’s mother or sisters may absolutely do so).  Having said that, there are not many strict guidelines about who may or may not host bridal showers or how many showers can be thrown for a couple, so essentially anyone who would like to is welcome to. 

General bridal shower etiquette states that both the mothers of the bride and groom (and step-mothers when applicable), as well as sisters of the bride and groom should generally be invited to all bridal showers. The hosts and bride should work together to determine the remainder of the invite list. Couples showers are becoming increasingly more common; just keep in mind this will in all likelihood double the guest list.  As with an engagement party, the guests invited to your bridal showers should also be on the guest list for the wedding. 

Bridal showers are generally held at any time from approximately 1-3 months in advance of the wedding, and can be as large, small, formal, or informal as the hosts and bride would like.  Hosts do not have to limit shower locations to restaurants.  Hosting at someone’s home is perfectly fine.  Also, it is quite common for games and themes to be incorporated into bridal showers as well.
One bridal shower invitation should be sent per guest, preferably 1-2 months prior to the shower, and each should be hand addressed using the guest’s formal name.  Contact information (phone number and/or email address) should be included for RSVP and general questions.  Registry information may be included as well.

Rehearsal Dinner

The rehearsal dinner is an event typically held the evening before the wedding ceremony.  The rehearsal dinner does not necessarily have to immediately follow a formal ceremony rehearsal, although most wedding officiants do prefer to have at least the bride, groom, immediate family, and wedding party complete a walk through of the ceremony to familiarize them with what will happen the following day.  After the rehearsal is complete, this group traditionally gathers for a celebratory dinner hosted by the groom’s parents. 

There aren’t too many rules when it comes to the guest list for a rehearsal dinner; it’s completely your call!  If you would like a small event, just include the group from the actual ceremony rehearsal (make sure to include the officiant).  It’s also common to make this a larger affair by including all out of town guests.  Either way, the atmosphere should be a relaxed one, so the rehearsal dinner is a perfect chance for the two families to spend some quality “getting-to-know-each-other” time ahead of the wedding ceremony.

The formality of the rehearsal dinner is also completely up to you.  Examples of fun, casual rehearsal dinners could include reserving a room at your favorite Mexican restaurant, or even having a Texas-style barbeque at someone’s house.  More elegant affairs, like ones held at private clubs, are certainly common as well.  One thing to keep in mind when planning a more formal rehearsal dinner is to make sure it does not overshadow the wedding itself.

Toasts and anecdotes often play a central role during the rehearsal dinner.  It is quite common for a best man and/or maid of honor to emcee the event, but as the host, the groom’s father should always be given the first opportunity to speak.  After that, any of the wedding party and close family should be given the opportunity to do a little roasting and toasting!  Before the evening concludes, it is customary for the groom and/or bride to say a few words.  A very important tip – don’t forget to thank both sets of parents.  The bride and groom can also use this time to hand out any gifts to the wedding party (if they haven’t already done so) as a token of their appreciation.

If you are worried about the event running too long, the roasts and toasts can be started during dinner, not after.  Remember, the next day is a big one, and everyone needs a good night’s sleep!

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Baby Etiquette

Sending Birth Announcements

There is no rule that states you must send out baby announcements, but they are a convenient and fun way to let everyone know about your new bundle (or bundles!) of joy. It is recommended to send out birth announcements as close to the birth date of your child as possible, so we suggest finalizing your list of recipients and choosing your baby announcements, or at least narrowing your options, before the baby actually comes.  That way, when the baby is born, you just fill in the missing details in the announcement, and you can complete the order.

Ideally, birth announcements are mailed almost immediately after the baby is born.  Since this is not a perfect world, unless almost all the decisions and preparations have been made in advance of the baby’s arrival, the announcements probably won’t go out for a few weeks. Your friends and family should understand the cause of the delay!  Six months is the longest you should wait before sending out birth announcements.

Birth Announcements for Adopted Children

When you adopt, you have just as much reason if not more to celebrate and share the joyous news with family and friends.  Any of the birth announcements featured on RosettaPapers.com can also be used to announce the arrival of an adopted child.  Announcements for adopted children often include the “Arrival Date” of the child in addition to a birth date, and can also include a name change if that was part of the adoption process or even the country or part of the world that the child came from. 

Information to be included on a Birth Announcement

Every birth announcement includes the baby’s (or babies’) name and nickname, if applicable.  Most of them will also include the baby’s date of birth, weight, length, and parent’s names.  If you would like to add additional details, it is not uncommon to list the hospital and city where the baby was born, the time of birth, and/or the parent’s address. 

There are no rules saying you must include the baby’s birthweight on the announcement.  Most people are just curious.  If the baby was born premature or extremely large, there is no reason to draw attention to it.

Including a Photograph on the Birth Announcement

Adding a photograph of the new baby can be a nice touch on the birth announcement, but by no means is it necessary.  Babies photographed a few weeks old tend to have much more personality in their photos than newborns.  So, if you want to include a photo of the baby on your announcement, it might be better to wait a few weeks for a good one, rather than using one from the hospital.

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Should Baby Gifts be Expected

Definitely not!  Baby announcements are sent out as a way of sharing joy and exciting news.  Parents should not worry that recipients will view the baby announcements as a request for gifts.  Most recipients will acknowledge the announcement in some way, whether it be a note, phone call or gift.

Parent’s Names on Baby Announcements

Parent’s names are always included on baby announcements, even if the last names are different. Just list both names, for example, “Jesse Dickerman and Annie Stein are thrilled to announce...” at the top or bottom of the invitation, just as you would if your last names were the same.  It is suggested that the last name of the child be included on the announcement to avoid any confusion.

Baby Stationery, Thank You Notes, and Calling Cards

Personalized stationery and thank you notes for your baby can come in very handy when all the gifts start pouring in from friends and family.  Calling cards with your baby’s name on it are also very useful when giving gifts to other children from your child.

Holiday Etiquette

Who to Send Holiday cards to

There is no reason to limit the number of holiday cards you send out, especially since they are a way to reach out to family and friends that you do not keep in touch with regularly.  It is also a great way to let friends and family know that you are thinking of them during the holidays, even if you are not able to send a gift.  Family, friends, neighbors, and close business associates are all typical holiday card recipients.  For new couples starting to develop their holiday list, it is helpful to start with your wedding guest list and let it grow from there.
 

Mailing Holiday Cards

The best time to mail your holiday cards is from the day after Thanksgiving until a couple of days before Christmas. Once New Year’s has passed, it’s just too late. You should order your Holiday cards in October to allow yourself time to receive, address, stamp and mail the cards before the post office becomes too crazy. Once the cards are ordered, begin organizing your address list and updating old addresses.

Signing Holidays Cards

We highly recommend hand-signing your Holiday cards.  A personal note would be an added bonus, but not a necessity.  A card sent without some kind of hand-written note or signature lacks the personal touch of the Holiday season.

Mailing Holiday Cards to Friends of Different Faiths

There are two options when mailing holiday cards to friends of a different faith. You can either send out neutral holiday cards that don’t include any religious connotations or verses, or you can order two different sets of Holiday Cards, one that matches your faith, and another set that makes no mention of religion. Phrases such as Season’s Greetings, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year are generally safe for everyone

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Etiquette For Other Occasions

When to send out Invitations

There are two determining factors when deciding how far in advance to send out your invitations, and they both depend on the type of event you are hosting. The first one is:  How far away do all they guests live?  If you are inviting guests that will have to travel from out of town, it is better to send the invitations about six weeks in advance to allow arrangements to be made.  On the other hand, if you are hosting a Super Bowl party for your friends in the neighborhood, then only two to three weeks notice is necessary. The second issue is how formal the event is.  An event, such as a wedding, where arriving at a specific time and purchasing a gift is customary, requires a little more notice.  We would recommend six to eight weeks for more scheduled events and three to five weeks for more casual affairs like an open house or birthday party.  If you are having a dilemma about when to send out invitations, just think of how much lead time you would like to receive if you were a guest.

Who Receives Graduation, Engagement or Wedding Announcements

Announcements are a very helpful way of letting friends and family know about an event or celebration, even if you were not able to invite them to the actual affair.  It is very difficult to cut down the list sometimes, especially for events with limited capacity.  By sending announcements, you are still able to share the happy news without offending friends and family by making them feel left out. Remember, it is always better to err on the side of sending too many announcements rather than too few.

Proper format for Sympathy Acknowledgement Cards

After a family suffers a loss, personally acknowledging all the support, messages, food and favors offered by friends and relatives can be a daunting task.  In these situations, sending printed sympathy acknowledgement cards are acceptable.  Traditionally, they are handwritten, so a short personal note may be appreciated for close family and friends.

When there is More than One Host

For social invitations with more than one host, it is best to list them vertically in alphabetical order.  If one of the hosts is providing their home as the venue for the event, their name should be listed first.

If it is a corporate or business party with multiple hosts, the hosts should be listed in ranking order, with their titles following their names.  If all the hosts have equal positions, then it is best to list them across the invitation in alphabetical order.

Putting an End time on the Invitation

If you must end your party at a certain time, then it is very helpful (and definitely not rude) to include that information on your invitation.  It is better that your guests know in advance the length of the event so they may plan accordingly.

“RSVP” or “Regrets Only” on Your Invitations

We recommend using “RSVP” instead of “Regrets Only” on your invitations. Most people who are not going to come to the party would prefer not to announce it, and are probably the ones who will fail to RSVP anyway.  Plus, “Regrets Only” has a negative connotation that is better left off an invitation.

Not Having an RSVP line at all

It is becoming more and more common to send out invitations without an RSVP option.  Less people actually take the time to RSVP in the first place, so you end up guessing how many guests you will have.  To make a calculated guess on how many people will attend, take into account the weather and location.  We still recommend keeping an RSVP on your invitation to help take some of the guesswork out of throwing a party, and it does add a tone of formality to the event.

***Special thanks to Checkerboard for contributing information and text for the Etiquette portion of this site

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