What's in a Wedding Invitation?

that which we call an RSVP

By any other name would still take as long to receive.

See what I did there?

"Etiquette is not a rigid code of manners. It is simply how persons' lives touch one another."


The invitation wording outlined in this post is abridged from Emily Post's 1970 Wedding Etiquette guide, where many of today's wedding etiquette originates. I've included modernized language to account for Post's lack of inclusivity, as well as today's COVID-19 conundrum and invitation protocol.

What, you mean you've not researched classic party etiquette dating back to 19th century Americana in preparation for your big day?

One thing I've heard from custom and semi custom clients alike, is that wording an invitation can be intimidating. So, I've put together this reference guide to answer your questions. Read on for the history of modern print methods, the cultural significance of your wedding day, seven questions you need to ask before deciding on wording, modern updates, and a word bank with some of those invitation words. You know, the ones you absolutely cannot spell without Googling? I got you.

You might be wondering, what's with the formalities? I certainly was, when I dove into invitation design without regard for the unwritten historic preservation responsibility. When I first started out years ago, I noticed a common revision coming in from my wedding clients. I pitch an invitation, my client approves, and shortly thereafter I receive an email saying:

"Hey Andrea, I just showed these invitations to my mom. She loves the design, but she says we need to make some changes to the wording. Apparently my parents want their names on the invitation? Anyway, she sent me this: 'Mr. and Mrs. ___ along with Mr. and Mrs. ___ invite you to the wedding of their children'. . ."

Eventually, I looked into the Why's of wedding stationery, as well as what I'm responsible for as your stationer. Buckle in for a quick history lesson.

We'll start with the historical context of invitations. So much to unpack here. *puts on reading glasses*

Invitations weren't really a "thing" in what is now America until the 1600's. In ye olden days, a communal celebration was announced by the town crier. Whoever heard about it was able to attend. Commoners were largely illiterate, and only the noblest could afford handcrafted invitations. Along came the printing press in ~1440 Germany, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the Gutenberg press. The printing press had a massive impact on global literacy over the following 5 centuries. By 1636, Mrs. Glover set up America's first press at the Massachusetts Colony's new college, Harvard. The printing press took what was once intended for only the mega wealthy and made it available to the middle class. And boy, did we the people run with it.

The early U.S. postal service was established by Benjamin Franklin in 1775 when he appointed the first Postmaster General. By the 19th century, lithographic and offset printing were the norm. And thanks to the industrial revolution, by the 20th century everyone and their mother was printing wedding invitations through local press operators. Typically only one ink color was used, and to prevent smudging, a layer of tissue was laid overtop. Digital printing wasn't made possible until recently, in 1983. Digital is now the fastest and most cost effective type of invitation printing. These days, there is no limit to how many colors can be printed.

This is why modern wedding invitations are often still printed on letterpress: it's a nod to the past. Other common print methods still preserved today include embossing, engraving, hot foiling, and vellum or tissue overlays. Hats off to the special artisans out there running antique presses today, preserving the craft. So rad.

Take a look at this invitation to the 1906 wedding of Theodore Roosevelt's daughter, Alice. to Nich Longworth. If you're going for timeless, this is it. Look at that calligraphy! And the White House emboss! Ooh la la! Some 800+ people attended this wedding, meaning one lucky calligrapher hand addressed 500+ invitations, along with coordinating outer and inner envelopes.

History lesson over! There will be a vocal quiz at the end of this post. I'm kidding. Tuck those dates away in your mind for your next trivia night.

I also want to touch on the cultural significance of your marriage. No wedding is the same: Indian black-tie optional, Kentucky horse farm, Hawaii destination, Jewish garden party . . . each of these events has a unique atmosphere. Your invitations should communicate the vibe clearly to your guests. Now is the time to get creative! What elements of your union do you want to represent? We can bring in textures, vintage stamps, and motif patterns to create a totally unique suite that feels like you.

It's likely that your older guests have a basic understanding of this old school etiquette. Preserving the format of the past is a sign of respect in many ways. For many of us, throwing a wedding celebration is a family affair. Paying honor to those who are pitching in goes a long way! This can be done outside of just listing names on your invitation. Bringing in family heirlooms to your suite is a wonderful way to say thank you.

Invitation: who's hosting?

This is where we honor those who are paying for your wedding, and also unite the couples as a family. We can include one or both sets of parents if they are hosting, or you can share the hosting title with your families if it's a group effort, or we can simply honor the two of you.

Like this:

if both parents are paying

Mx. and Mx. First Name and First Name Last Name

along with Mx. and Mx. First Name and Last Name

(invite you to the wedding of their children)

if one parent is paying

Ms. and Ms. First Name and First Name Last Name

(invite you to the wedding of their child

child of Mx. and Ms. First Name Last Name)

*child = son, daughter, or simply child

if it's a group effort

Together with their families/