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Wedding Invitation Etiquette Tips and Faux Pas to Avoid

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #1 – How do you invite some guests with a plus one, but not everyone?

Plus One wedding invitation etiquette: Ms. Jane Smith and Guest (when addressed – see our article on addressing your invitations)

Most guests understand that if “and Guest” was not included on their invitation, they are invited without a plus one.

If you get your solo RSVP indicating they’ve taken liberties by adding a plus one, it’s generally best to give a quick call to gently let them know you’re having a small wedding and have taken great pains at inviting only your closest friends and family to celebrate your marriage. Some of your guests might feel uncomfortable to attend your wedding solo, but if you also explain that the majority of your single friends are not coming with a plus one that tends to help. On the other hand, if the majority of your guests will attend as couples, you may want to extend a couple plus ones so your single friends don’t feel totally left out.

What’s the rule for “plus ones”?

Plus One Rule: Someone who is married, living together or engaged, gets an automatic plus one. The significant other is part of the deal. So if you’re planning on inviting your boss, but you’ve never met your boss’ significant other, it would be rude to leave them out. After that, it becomes more up to the bride & groom. Some bride & grooms give plus ones to singles over the age of 18; anyone in a relationship; couples who are in a relationship, but not engaged/married; couples who have been together for one year plus.

However you choose to handle the plus one situation, the main thing is that you are consistent applying “plus ones” to all of your guests.

Your only exception would be within your bridal party. It’s a nice touch to extend a plus one to your single bridesmaids and groomsmen if they’d like to bring a date to your wedding.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #2 – How do I invite my friends with kids, but not their kids?

Again, who is invited is all in how you address the invitation/envelope. Inviting specific guests “Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith”, not “The Smith Family” will dictate that you’ve invited your friends sans kids. If you’re having a lot of family and the kids are your cousins/nieces/nephews or close friends with children, and you don’t want to exclude them, a popular option is hiring a babysitter for the reception. That way, especially if family/friends have come in from out of town, they can attend your wedding without worrying about childcare for the evening.

You weren’t planning on kids at the wedding but your friends have plus’d the kids on the RSVP. The best way to handle the situation is with a quick call and let them know you were planning a wedding sans children and you hope they can still attend.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #3 – How do I specify dress code on my wedding invitation?

Mention the dress code in the lower righthand corner of the invitation. Dress code phrases are typically “black tie”, “cocktail attire” or “casual attire”. If you don’t want to make it really “you have to dress the way I want you to” you can add the word “preferred”. “Black Tie Preferred” generally encourages tuxes and gowns, but if your guests feel more comfortable in a less than black tie, like a suit/dress, “preferred” tells them that’s OK.

Additionally, the design and printing of your wedding invitations will cue your guests as to how formal your wedding will be. If you send out ultra-formal letterpress/engraved wedding invitations, your guests will get a formal vibe. If you send out a non-traditionally shaped invite, with bright colors and a playful font, your guests will sense a less formal style to your wedding celebration.

Another great reason to have a wedding website is to include information like dress code. Jump to information that’s totally a good idea to have on your wedding website and if you really need one.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #4 – I don’t want to blow my budget on invites. What enclosures do I need?

Enclosures really depend on the circumstances. Your wedding invitation is the first impression of how your wedding will look/feel to your guests. The more formal the invitation, the more formal the wedding. Enclosures reinforce formality of your wedding.

You’ll need (at bare minimum) the exterior envelope and the actual invitation.

Unless you’re on a TIGHT timeframe or you just don’t believe in RSVPs, 98% of brides & grooms will include an RSVP card & return envelope. See more on RSVP-ing and the best way to get your guest count.

Don’t include any information your guest needs to keep on the RSVP card. Remember, they’ll be sending that back to the you/wedding hosts.

Direction cards, invitations to pre/post-wedding activities used to be included in your wedding invitation. Now that everyone has internet everywhere, a wedding website is super easy for brides & grooms to set up. Share public wedding info through your wedding website, rather than an enclosure. (The more enclosures can increase your mailing cost and will cost you more to print.)

Use a wedding website for things like directions, hotel accommodations for out of town guests, pre/post-wedding activities, etc. Include a wedding website card so it doesn’t get overlooked.

The more formal the wedding is, the more formal the wedding invitation and more enclosures. The more relaxed or casual your wedding plans, the more fun/relaxed your wedding invitations and you can get by with fewer enclosures.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #5 – I need my guest count! How do I ensure RSVPs in time?

First of all, in our age, some couples are including an RSVP link on their website. This is fine, as an alternate option for your digitally inclined friends, but you probably have some older guests who are not online. Additionlly, a guest will take a RSVP card more seriously than a link/RSVP via email/phone call.

Bottom line – a RSVP card gets attention, more than any other RSVP type. We strongly encourage RSVP cards if that is the only enclosure you put in your wedding invitation.

Now, how do you get your RSVPs back in time? Definitely include an RSVP date!

Wedding invitation etiquette – don’t forget: it’s pretty standard to include a stamp on your RSVP cards so your guests don’t have the hassle of hunting down their own postage when sending your RSVP back.

If you’re moving before your wedding, it is completely acceptable to have a different name and address on the RSVP other than the bride/groom’s home. A parent’s address or your maid/matron of honor’s address is usually a good alternate. Just make sure your mom/maid of honor knows you’re using their address for RSVPs!

Also, the RSVP address is where guests who want to send their gift before the wedding will send your gifts.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #6 – Where is it OK to put registry info so I don’t get a ton phone calls/emails?

According to wedding invitation etiquette, it really is bad form to include registry in a wedding invitation; it is not bad form to include your registry info on your bridal shower invites since it’s kind of the point of your bridal shower.

The best place to include registry info so you’re not answering the same question over and over is on your wedding website.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #7 – What information can I share on our wedding website?

You only need what you want. If you know your guests won’t use your wedding website, you may want to skip it. But let’s be honest, if you aren’t using the internet at this point in time, you probably live in a cave.

The best part of a wedding website, is it will save you from answering the same questions for 100 guests!

Include information that you would share with every guest:

  • Registry Information
  • Hotel Accommodations for your out-of-town guests
  • Airport information (where your guests can fly in/out of easily, especially handy if your wedding is close to multiple airports)
  • Pre-wedding activities for all of your guests (NOT the rehearsal dinner! This should have an invitation for exclusive guests.)
  • Post-wedding activities (like the good bye breakfast/brunch)
  • Your wedding hashtag/wedding photo share app
  • Wedding Attire/Dress code
  • Ceremony and/or Reception address and/or directions to/from, a brief timeline of what major activities will be happening and when (Ceremony, Cocktail Hour, Reception)
  • Kids/Pets – invited or not invited
  • Things to do in the area/places to eat locally if your guests are in town before or after your wedding for a couple days
  • How/what you’re serving for dinner and/or beverages
  • Online RSVP
  • “The Story of Us” – share your story of your life together with your guests (if you want to)

WeddingWire.com, eWedding.com, theKnot.com all have free wedding websites for couples getting married. (But our last three couples have all used TheKnot.com’s free site. .. just sayin’.)

Here’s some wedding invitation etiquette for your wedding website:

  • Keep the website theme as close to your invitations/wedding theme as possible. You want the invitations/website/wedding day décor to stay in line with the look. If your invitation is super formal, but your wedding website is really casual, you’ll confuse your guests about how your wedding will be (formal v. casual)
  • Don’t list events that have a specific invite list, like your rehearsal dinner/family formal pictures if offsite. Wedding events that have an exclusive guest list should have an invitation/some sort of personal heads up. Events that all of your guest are invited to, like a good-bye brunch are great events to include on the wedding website, rather than a formal invitation if you’re more laidback.
  • Password protecting your wedding website to minimize wedding crashers is a good idea. With all your wedding info (times/locations/etc.) listed on your wedding website, a crasher will have all the info they need.
  • An online RSVP is nice, but what happens when your free site doesn’t correctly send your guests’ RSVP info? Guests take a formal RSVP that requires mailing more seriously, and more info can be put on your RSVP card (if needed) than in an online form.
  • Don’t forget to provide driving directions/flying info for guests who are coming in from out of town. Don’t assume GPS get you to where you need to go. I’ve had many trips that became a wild goose chase because of listening to my GPS. Solid directions keep guests from getting lost, especially when the wedding is off the beaten path.
  • Include a brief timeline. Your guests will appreciate knowing where things are and when to be there.
  • Is parking is an issue at your venue? Guest appreciate directions or some note about parking.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #8 – Should I send out Save the Date cards?

When is your wedding (during the year)? If your wedding is during a time of year where EVERYONE you know is going to a wedding 3 out of 4 weekends, a Save-the-Date is a great idea. Give advanced notice if you’re getting married during the holidays! When people are making holiday travel plans, you want them to pick your event and have plenty of time to plan their travel out and get the best flight prices.

It’s also really considerate for couples to reserve hotel rooms if they will have a lot of out of town guests. Make sure to include your hotel(s) info on your wedding website.

Send your Save the Dates about 6 months before your wedding. Longer (add 1-2 months) if you’re having a destination wedding. Some of us have to save up for that beach wedding trip!

Good Save the Dates include the wedding date, wedding city, and wedding website. This is especially important for your out-of-town guests who will need to figure out travel to attend!

Save the Date word of caution: you may want to send fewer Save the Dates rather than more. If you send out 250 Save the Dates, but then decide to host a smaller, intimate wedding of 100 or less, you’ll have a sticky situation to explain to 100+ people why they didn’t get a wedding invitation.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #9 – Should we invite guests to the ceremony, but not the reception?

Guests invited your engagement party or bridal shower, get invited to the ceremony AND the reception. By inviting your guests to the ceremony only, you’re effectively saying “we don’t want to pay for you to party with us.” It’s a bit rude and can look like a gift-grab. There are a number of alternate options/budget friendly options so you can have a larger reception if you’re on a budget.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette #10 – My friend broke up with her boyfriend. She wants a plus one now. Now what?

If you specifically invited both of them, it becomes your call if you want to change it to a plus one now. As the bride & groom, you have every right to say no to the guest change – named invitations are traditionally “non-transferable”. If you don’t want to extend a modified invitation to your friend, the best course is to explain that you’ve invited close friends/family to your wedding, and that you don’t know the proposed plus one. Not to worry! If you’ve invited your single friends without plus ones, let her know she won’t be the only one flying solo.