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Etiquette Guide

YOUR CELEBRATION INVITATIONS

Your invitation sets the tone for your event. Not only does it say a lot about your personal style, but it also guides your guests as to what to expect from your event, and even what to wear.

Wording Etiquette

Whether its style is formal and elegant or contemporary and casual, etiquette makes it easy to choose gracious wording for your invitation.

Choose from the templates on this website to find the perfect text. If you do not find the exact wording you want, select an example that is close and change it to read exactly as you prefer. If you are feeling creative, write your own.

Having trouble choosing between crisp block lettering and calligraphy-style script? Select a combination of typestyles to highlight your names within your wording for a unique look. Or use the same typestyle in varying sizes to highlight names, date, and location. 

Remember, it is your celebration. Customize your invitation to reflect your personality and spirit.

Formal Events

Always spell out full names, dates, times and addresses.  Nicknames or abbreviations should be avoided when possible except for Mr., Mrs., Jr., etc.  You may use an initial if you do not know the full name or if the person never uses his given name.  Cities, states, and numbered streets are written out in full. In regard to addresses, the only optional abbreviations are for Saint (St.) or Mount (Mt.), which can be written either way.

General wording dos and don’ts:

  • No periods (.) at the end of a line
  • First letter of each line is not capitalized unless it is a proper noun (for example, “Sunday, the fifth of October” is correct,  or, “on Sunday, the fifth of October” is correct
  • Time and date are written out (half after five o’clock, September first, two thousand and three; two thousand three is also correct and more formal)
  • Only events taking place in houses of worship would have the phrase  “the honour of your presence” used on the invitations.  Otherwise, it’s appropriate to use “request the pleasure of your company”

Casual Events

Although all the basic information that you communicate to your guests remains the same, an invitation that includes a personalized verse, favorite sonnet, or informal introduction gives your invitations a contemporary flair. You may also use the first person and leave off “Mr.” and “Mrs.”

Addressing

Social and Professional Titles

Your guests' names should be written in full on outer envelopes -- no nicknames or initials. Use the appropriate social titles as well, such as addressing married couples as "Mr. and Mrs." It gets a little tricky when husband, wife, or both have different professional titles. If the husband is a doctor, for example, the titles will appear as "Doctor and Mrs."; if the wife is a doctor, her full name would come first, as in "Doctor Sally Carter and Mr. John Carter.

Addresses

Spell out all words in an address on your envelopes. Write “Street” rather than “St.”, for example, and “Saint Paul, Minnesota” rather than “St. Paul, MN”. House numbers smaller than twenty should also be spelled out, as should all words in the return address. The preferred place for printing the return address is on the envelope's back flap.

Outer and Inner Envelopes

The outer envelope includes all of the information the postal service needs for delivery. The inner envelope should have the names of the invited guests in the household (including children, whose names do not appear on the outer envelope).

Married Couples

Formal A formal envelope incorporates social titles and the husband's first name on the outer envelope, and only the titles and last name on the inner one. All the words—including the state and the house number, if it is less than twenty—are written out.

Informal To some couples, omitting wives' first names feels too old-fashioned; including the first names of both husband and wife after their titles is appropriate. The house number, even though it is less than twenty, can be written as a numeral for a less formal feeling. And in keeping with a more personal style, the couple are addressed by their first names on the inner envelope.

Different Last Names When a husband and wife have different last names, the wife's name is traditionally written first. Connecting the couple's names by the word "and" implies marriage. For an unmarried couple that lives together, names should be written on separate lines without the word "and." On the inner envelope, both are addressed by their titles and respective last names.

Same sex couple who have exchanged vows Ms. Joan McAllen  Ms. Teresa McAllen.  List Joan first, as “J” comes before “T” alphabetically.  If you do not want to use titles or put the two on separate lines, use Joan and Teresa McAllen

Families and Single Guests

With Children, Formal The outer envelope is identical to that of a couple without children – its writing, which is for the purposes of the post office, should be as simple and clear as possible. On the inner envelope, the name and title of each invited guest in the household is written out. A boy under the age of 13 is "Master," not "Mr." Girls and young women under age 18 are called "Miss."

With Children, Informal Parents' first names are both used on a less traditional version of the outer envelope. For the inner one, the parents' and children's first names are written without titles.

Single Guests For a single woman, either "Ms."or "Miss" is appropriate; many people find the former preferable. The guest's name is the only one that appears on the outer envelope. On the inner envelope, however, write the guest's name followed by "and Guest." If you know whom he or she will be bringing, it's more personal to include that person's name, on a separate line.

Announcement Cards

Announcing Your Engagement

Many years ago, the mother of the bride-to-be sent out handwritten notes to notify family and friends of her daughter's betrothal. Today, engagement announcements are rare, but not unheard of. Many take the form of save-the-date cards; these cards serve the dual purpose of announcing the engagement and informing the recipient of when the wedding will be held. If a date hasn't been set, the couple can rely on other ways to make a prompt announcement.

The wording of engagement announcements, still usually sent by the parents of the bride, is simple: "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Murphy announce the engagement of their daughter Catherine Jane to Mr. Joseph Black." The card can also be sent by the couple, in which case the wording reads: "Ms. Catherine Murphy and Mr. Joseph Black are pleased to announce their engagement." Some couples include the city and state where they got engaged and the date.

Announcing Your Wedding

For people whom you are unable to invite to your wedding, you can send a printed note telling them of your marriage after it happens (the desire is to share your happy news; they are in no way obliged to buy a gift). You don't have to send announcements to those you invited but who didn't attend, since they received a wedding invitation. Although notifying the world about your completed vows can come to pass only after the wedding has taken place, you will need to plan for announcing your marriage well before.

Small weddings and elopements are the most common events for which printed wedding announcements are sent. The cards are usually mailed by a bridesmaid or other friend or family member the day after the ceremony to those not included on the guest list. These announcements are usually created in the same style as the wedding invitation (if one was sent out), so it's logical and less costly to have the announcements and the invitations printed at the same time.

Traditionally the bride's parents announce the event, though many couples want both sets of parents to share in the honor. Wording is straightforward: "Mr. and Mrs. James Williams and Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Solomon have the honor of announcing the marriage of their children Marianna Pauline Williams to Michael Daniel Solomon on Saturday, the twentieth of June, two thousand, Peoria, Illinois." Other couples prefer to announce the marriage themselves: "Ms. Eleanor White and Mr. Peter Edwards announce their marriage," with the rest of the text mirroring that above. Occasionally, couples prefer a third-person announcement, which may read: "Ms. Caroline Elizabeth Jacobs and Mr. Charles David Foster were married...”

Mailing

Save-the-Date Cards

Though not required, save-the-date cards are helpful, particularly if many guests will have to travel to the wedding, if it will take place during a busy holiday weekend, or if accommodations nearby are scarce. Send save-the-date cards four to six months before the wedding, or even earlier if extensive travel plans must be arranged.

Invitations

Addressing, stuffing, and posting your invitations takes advance planning and attention to detail. Get organized about a month before your desired send-out date. This should be six to eight weeks before the wedding, allowing your guests adequate time to respond and ensuring that you will get a reliable head count a week or two before the event.

Thank-You Notes

Buy thank-you cards early, so you have them on hand. When you open presents, immediately record who gave you what, either in a log or right on the gift cards. Ideally, you should acknowledge every present immediately; writing a note the day you receive it is best, but sending it within two weeks is also acceptable. Of course, the period surrounding your wedding is a busy time; if you fall behind, just make every effort to send a thank you as soon as you can – but no later than three months after the event.

You can take your invitations to the post office and request that they be hand-canceled. Machines print bar codes on the envelopes, but hand-canceling -- just marking each stamp -- keeps invitations neat and prevents damage that machines can cause.

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