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,
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SELECTING AND ORDERING WEDDING INVITATIONS
ADDRESSING YOUR WEDDING INVITATIONS
GENERAL WEDDING 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.
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
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
The Five Basic Parts of a Traditional Wedding Invitation
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
At the reception, guests are provided with a menu card describing the dishes you
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.
If you are planning assigned seating within the tables, these inform your guests
of their assigned seats.
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.
If you are planning assigned tables at your reception, these inform your guests
of their assigned tables.
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!
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
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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.
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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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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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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