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Invitations 101

It's happening! YAY! Now, in case you're thinking about invitations...

Invitations set the tone for the big day. Whether you're super formal or ultra-casual, your guests will get an idea of what to expect based on your invitation’s wording and design.

A piece that’s added to the mix is called an enclosure, aka an ”insert.” Examples of enclosures include Response cards, Reception (or private Ceremony) cards, Directions cards, Travel and Accommodations cards, and Activities cards.

When do I mail Invitations?

6-8 weeks ahead or 10-12 weeks ahead for destination weddings.

Do I need to include a Reply Card?

You don’t need to include a reply card if you indicate RSVP information on the invitation. For instance, you could ask guests to reply via email or telephone on the invite itself. Some guests print additional cards with more details, including a site or email address for rsvp'ing.

Should I include registry information with the invitation?

We don’t recommend it, as it creates the expectation of a gift.

Should I include venue address(es) on the invitation?

If you're not providing directions or a map, then it's a good idea, but it's not necessary if it's a well-known location or a major establishment.

Should I indicate attire?

Most guests think wedding attire means suits for guys and nice dresses or separates for ladies. If your event calls for something else (Eg. Everyone in white), or you wish to be specific about the dress code (Black Tie, White Tie etc.), then yes, indicating attire on the invitation is a good idea!

Be careful about using the word "Casual." It may mean khakis without ties for you, but could be interpreted as dark jeans and "good" t-shirts for others. Unless your celebration is really laid-back, and jeans, shorts, and t-shirts are welcome, avoid using the term "Casual." Even "Business Casual" varies from state to state and means different things on the East and West coasts.

A and B Lists

What's this? Your budget or venue may restrict the number of guests you can invite. Let's say the maximum capacity at your restaurant is 125, but your "wish" list is 150 strong. Group A consists of 125 people, and Group B consists of the 25 guests who won't fit in the room.

In this case, you could mail the first flight of invites 8-12 weeks in advance, with a reply by date of 6 weeks in advance. As Group A guests decline, you could send out Group B invites, either one by one, or all at once, no later than 6 weeks ahead. Group B could have a reply deadline that’s 2 weeks away from the big day. Having separate reply by dates is a good idea, to encourage Group A to respond by 6 weeks out.

To minimize the possibility of Group B discovering they are on a 2nd list, try to mail Group A and B around 2 weeks apart, at 8 and 6 weeks. This is realistic if you can count on a significant portion of guests responding right away.

Also, if there are some guests on the B-list who are close friends with guests on the A-list, you may want to cluster the mailing into groups of friends.

Keep in mind that feelings may be hurt if guests learn they are on a "B-list." They may view themselves as "2nd tier" guests, so be careful not to send out invites too close to the wedding date. Not only does this leave little time for guests to make arrangements, it can also make guests feel as though they're an after-thought.

Many find A & B lists offensive, while others don't have a problem with them. It really depends on you, your guests, and your relationships with them. Many people understand that you don't have an unlimited budget.

Reply Cards


If you don't prompt guests to write their names, be prepared for reply cards to come back blank (seriously!) Many variations work: Name(s), Names, Name, Your Name(s), Your Name, M__________ . FYI, "M" stands for the first letter of the guest's title, which will be filled in Eg. Mr., Miss, Ms. etc.

Some couples number the back of the RSVP card according to a numbered guest list/spreadsheet. This is quite a bit of extra work, but if you want to omit a prompt for names, or prefer to be extra careful, this is the way to go.

Reply By Date

2 weeks (or more) before the big day, so you can prepare your seating arrangements and give a head-count to vendors. Ask your caterer and venue when they need to know.


Guests indicate their preferred entrée if you’re giving choices. Caterers usually have vegetarian and children’s options, but if they accommodate restricted diets, consider asking guests about special meal requirements or allergies.

Shuttle Bus

Guests may reserve a seat if you’re organizing shuttle service.


If you’re inviting all your guests to activities such as “Golf on Friday Afternoon,” ask about attendance at these events, too. 

Reception or Ceremony Cards

Reception Cards

Some couples print a separate card for the reception when it’s held at another site. However, many people include both the ceremony and reception details on the invitation.

Ceremony Cards

When the ceremony is a private affair for a handful of guests (Eg. A tea ceremony at your parents' home), your main invitation is to the Reception, and you would enclose a ceremony card for those invited to the small ceremony. Some etiquette experts maintain that a separate invitation be issued for each event. 

We can also print two versions of the invite (and reply card) at no additional cost; One version would be an invitation to the wedding and reception, and another version would be an invite to the reception only.

Information Cards

The following details are sometimes combined onto one large sheet or divided among several cards. The info could also be on a website. It’s not essential to cover everything listed below, but it’s considerate to give travel and lodging information. Here are some ideas to consider.


Websites are helpful because you can provide detailed information, link to resources, and give updates if things change.


In addition to driving directions and maps, you can include details about parking, subway/public transit, or shuttle bus info with meeting points and departure times.

Route Interruptions

It’s a good idea to research festivals and events, like half-marathons and road-races, as they could affect traffic near your venue on the big day. Also, look into highway/road service and temporary street/freeway closings relevant to your routes.


There may be shortcuts or referrals you can share with guests, such as the best regional airport, ferry terminal, or train station to use to get to town.


Suggest a few hotels at various price points. Mention the reservation name and the booking deadline for your group rate if you secure a discount.

Activities and Events

If you’re organizing a weekend filled with activities like Friday Afternoon Golf or Sunday Farewell Brunch, write descriptions and include the venue, time, and cost to participate, if you’re not hosting. If you need headcounts, indicate where guests may rsvp Eg. On the reply card, via email, or on your website.

Things to See and Do

This is especially considerate when folks are flying in for a long weekend. It's nice to recommend local attractions, interesting neighborhoods, and places to eat. Mentioning your favorite haunts makes it more personal, too. Also, parents with children appreciate family-friendly suggestions.

Weather and Attire

If people from out of town don’t know what to expect, mention the weather conditions and clothes to bring. Eg. Please pack an umbrella and raincoat as it’s always pouring in January!

Child Care

If you’re arranging babysitting, mention the location along with start/end times. You could also recommend local child care providers if you are not offering nanny services.

Save the Dates

What is a Save the Date?

A Save the Date is a wedding announcement with details (who, when, where) so that guests may make arrangements in advance. Practically speaking, it’s an early invitation, so you if you send someone a Save the Date, be sure to send an invitation as well.

What do I write?

Your names, wedding date, location, and “invitation to follow.” Many couples add a web site, and some include travel and lodging info, things to do, and other helpful tips at this point as well. Be as casual or as formal as you wish, but please note it’s inappropriate to include registry information.

If mailing, don’t forget to write the names of children or significant others on the envelope so folks know exactly who’s invited.

When do I mail Save the Dates?

6-8 months ahead or 10-12 months in advance for destination weddings.

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