All Your Wedding Invitation Etiquette Questions, Answered

wedding invitation etiquette

Sending out invitations to any party sets the tone for the event long before your guests ever step foot in the door. And when it comes to your impending nuptials, the ante is majorly upped—so you need to become familiar with some wedding invitation etiquette (and let’s be real: It’s changed a bit since your parents’ time). Since we’re 99% positive you have at least 20 different invite designs already pinned, there’s no need for us to go into detail about the style you should go for (although it’s great if it ties into your wedding theme or color palette a bit).

The whirlwind of questions tends to revolve around when to send out the invitations, RSVP deadlines, save-the-dates, dress codes, and plus-ones (yes, those pesky things). Since you’ve got plenty of other things to focus on, we decided to answer all your wedding invitation etiquette questions once and for all. You can send us a thank-you note later.

How early should we send out our invitations?

Typically, if you’re having a wedding nearby, you should send invites out six to eight weeks before the wedding. The flip side is if you’re having a destination wedding in which travel would have to be booked. In that case, give guests around three months so they can plan—and budget—accordingly. You can also choose to send out save-the-dates anywhere between six to eight months before your big day so guests can hold the date on their calendars.

What should we make our RSVP deadline?

You’re going to need to give your caterer a final headcount a few weeks or so prior to the reception, so plan your RSVP date based on that. Since there are always forgetful guests, give yourself a week or so of buffer time before you and your designated crew have to make phone calls. By the way, don’t feel bad asking friends to help out when it comes to reaching out to guests—you’ll be busy enough by this time.

Where does the return address go?

With formal invites, the return address should go on the back flap of your envelope. If your parents or someone other than you are accepting the RSVPs, then it should be their address (not yours). Also, don’t forget to have that same address already printed on the front of the RSVP envelope, and include a stamp so it can be popped in the mail.

How do we inform guests of our dress code?

As we mentioned, the invitation style should already give some details about how formal your affair will be. However, there is nothing wrong with including a simple line like “black tie” or “cocktail attire” to steer guests in the right direction. It’s also worth noting whether a ceremony will be on the beach or outside so your family and friends can plan footwear and outerwear accordingly (sunblock, too!).

How do we indicate we're having an adults-only wedding?

I attended a wedding where a few babies cried through half of the ceremony, which is why some people (understandably) choose to have adults-only affairs. If that’s the case, you would simply address the invitation to the parents. If someone RSVPs with extra names, you can call them and simply say it’s an adults-only event. PS: It can be a nice gesture to hire a babysitter if there are a lot of children on either side of the family (or both).

Do we include our registry details?

This is a definite no because this is basically saying "buy us gifts." You can make a wedding website and include it on the bottom corner or on a separate insert. Your website should link to your registry wherever you happen to have it (although we happen to love Zola). Or you can go the old-fashioned route and have your bridal party and friends spread the word about where you’ve registered.

Who do we give a plus-one?

Ah, and now we get to the dreaded “and guest” situation on the invite. The rule of thumb is that if a guest is dating someone seriously—as in they live together, they’re engaged, or you’ve met them several times—then you technically should give them a plus-one (this is obviously at your discretion, however). I’ve heard mixed reviews about giving members of your bridal party dates that are single at the moment—but let me chime in here as I’ve been a single bridesmaid three times this year. If you can afford to offer your friend a plus-one, please do so to avoid the awkward “I’m alone on the dance floor” moments. If you aren’t able to do so, have an in-person chat or phone call to explain the situation and go from there (after all, this person is doling out hundreds to thousands of dollars to be a part of your special day, and you don’t want them to feel uncomfortable). Side note: If guests call to request a date, you can say no, just be sure to have a singles table if you say you’re going to.

What do you think about this wedding invitation etiquette? Is there anything we missed? Sound off in the comments.

Related Stories