Wedding invitations are more than a jumble of swirly calligraphy, flowery language, and savage paper cuts waiting to slice you open. There’s a lot of information packed into a small space. With a few, elegant words and images, the invitations tell guests where to go, who to bring, how to dress and basically what to expect. They’re pretty bossy, in that regard. Here are some rules of (soon-to-be-bandaged) thumb to follow to make sure your invitations are handled just right.
Do: Tell the People What They Need to Know
You’re always free to be as creative as you want as long as you tell the people all of the crucial details. Invitations must include some basic facts: the time, the place, and, no joke, who’s getting married. They must serve a truly vital function: allowing people to RSVP to let you how many guests you need to accommodate and thus pay for.
Don’t: Stick to Tradition if You Don’t Want To
Connecticut-based wedding planner Amylu Meneses says couples are moving away from traditional weddings and having more fun the events and invitations. Her clients have ditched tuxedos for steampunk- and horror-themed events and invitations. “There’s a stereotype that’s still stuck in people’s heads that weddings are supposed to be black and white,” Meneses says. “But traditional weddings are kind of out the window.
Meneses notes that brides and grooms can find nuptial inspiration anywhere—even reality television. “One couple ordered invitations that looked like something from ‘Duck Dynasty,’” Meneses says. We even asked them, ‘Are you sure that this is the one you want.’ But they knew that their friends and family would understand it.” Note: be prepared for a whole bunch of people who won’t understand it!
Do: Choose an Invitation That Matches the Event
Besides conveying the basic facts and propping up the wedding invitation industry, invitations serve a less obvious but equally valuable function. They let people know what to expect at the wedding. “The wedding invitation is the first impression for the wedding,” Etiquette expert Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “If I get a very formal invitation, I think that it’ll be a formal wedding. If I get a less formal invitation, I think it’s going to be a less formal wedding.”
Whether you’re going traditional or getting loose with the whole getting married thing, the invitation should reflect the spirit of the event. Don’t send out frilly lace envelopes for a wedding where guests eat hot dogs off of paper plates. Make the mailer match the party, even if it’s a one of a kind party.
“One couple had a barbecue wedding and the invitation didn’t look like what you’d expect the standard wedding invitation to look like,” Meneses said. “It was on brown butcher paper with a picture of a hog on it.” One can only wonder what their napkin budget was?
Don’t: Wait Until the Last Minute
Regardless of how formal the ceremony is, the bride and groom need to get invitations out at least 6-8 weeks before of the wedding date to give their guests time to plan their travel. If it’s a destination wedding you might need to send them out even sooner.
But just getting the invitations ready to be sent can take more time, money and effort than you might expect. All told, you need to start on the invitations as far out as six months before the wedding. “Everything takes a long time to plan and order,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “It can take up to three months for printing them.” So get hustling.
Do: Double-Check Your Work and Postage
Everything needs to be spelled correctly. We can’t stress this more. “Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to look at them,” Napier-Fitzpatrick says. “Double check them and look for typos. Proof the spelling of everybody’s names so you don’t insult them. Order extra invitations especially if you’re writing the addresses on the envelope.”
Invitations involve more than just a card. There are usually four basic pieces: the envelope holding the card, the card itself, the RSVP card and the envelope holding the RSVP card. We checked the math and, yup, that adds up to two stamps per invite.
This is no ordinary piece of mail, it carries weight in every sense of the word. So once an invite is stuffed with all it’s important contents, have the envelope weighed (most likely at your local P.O.). That way you’ll know exactly how much postage will cost and, nerd alert, you’ll soon discover an entire world of really specific stamps that you had no idea ever existed. The idea here is to ensure that all your hard work (or budget) isn’t ruined by having the invitations returned for insufficient postage.
Don’t: Blow Your Budget on Invitations (Unless You’re Loaded)
Online invitation printing services like Minted streamline the process and cut down on costs. But invitations can be surprisingly expensive and time consuming—especially when couples opt for services like professional calligraphy or letterpressing. Meneses notes that one client spent $11,000 on invitations alone. That’s bonkers, so we’re just going to leave that right there. But for her personal wedding, the wedding planner cut costs by sending digital-only invitations. “We were on a very small budget,” Meneses says. “I felt that the friends and family I was inviting all use email or social media. So I chose not to use invitations, which could have cost me thousands of dollars.”
With email only invites, guests can easily access information about the wedding from their phone, which can be invaluable for people traveling to unfamiliar locations. The downside, Napier-Fitzgerald notes, is that people often like to keep invitations as mementos will be disappointed, especially the older folks.
Do: Choose Your Words Carefully
Whether you go digital or paper, you need to use precise language to inform guests of their role and obligations in the wedding. Invitations should only include positive information. Some might consider it poor taste to mention gifts on the invitations—even if you don’t want gifts. You can, however, subtly tell people whether they should bring a guest or if children are allowed. If you don’t want a single friend to bring a guest address it only to them. If you don’t want children, address it only to the parents.
Finally, be careful with using acronyms. Yes, you’ll save some space and ink using the initials for Save The Date, but you’ll find people are generally reluctant to talk about STDs. On the other hand, you might find a way to make that work for you.