How to word your wedding invitation
Did you know that traditionally, wedding invitations were always worded to come from the bride's parents?
That's because traditionally the bride's parents were the hosts of the wedding meaning that they were footing the bill for the vast majority - if not all - of it.
Of course, times have changed.
More often than not, couples live together before committing to marriage and the bride's parents no longer pay for everything as a matter of course. Many weddings are funded by joint efforts from multiple sources with the couple usually being the ones to contribute the most.
As such, many wedding invitations now come from the couple themselves. However, it is always worth discussing this subject with parents before having your invites printed as some can be staunch traditionalists. Whilst it's your wedding and you should have it your way, any unnecessary bad feeling or stress can be eliminated early on with a friendly chat.
The anatomy of a wedding invitation
Because there are so many different situations and there is not one hard and fast rule for how your wedding invitation should be worded, we have dissected the anatomy of a wedding invitation, line by line.
Your wedding invite will be the very first introduction to your Big Day and as such, it sets the tone for what to expect. If your main focus is a traditional day, you will most likely want to keep the wording as formal as possible. However, if you're aiming for a more laid back affair, you may want to be a bit more relaxed with your wording.
Wedding invitations can contain up to 11 lines of text as shown by the picture below. We've dissected the options for each line to make it easy for you to build your own invitation text.
Line 1: The Hosts
The first line of your invitation will indicate who the hosts are. The hosts are generally the people who are providing the largest financial contribution. To avoid any hard feelings further down the line, it's best to discuss this initially with your parents, if appropriate.
Examples of this include:
Bride's parents (married) as hosts (traditional):
Martin & Liz (first names only - informal)
Martin & Elizabeth Baker (first and last names - more formal)
Mr & Mrs M. Baker (titles and surname - most formal)
Bride's parents (no longer married) as hosts:
Martin Baker & Elizabeth Baker (when the surname is still shared)
Martin Baker & Elizabeth Pratt (when the surnames are different)
Couple as hosts (most common):
Mark and Joanna (first names only - fairly informal)
Mark Stratfull & Joanna Baker (first and last names - more formal)
Mark James Stratfull & Joanna Elizabeth Baker (full names - most formal)
Couple as hosts with acknowledgment of financial contributions of other family members:
Together with their parents,
Mark and Joanna
~ or ~
Together with their families,
Mark and Joanna
Both sets of parents as hosts
(note that the bride's parents would usually be listed first)
(Both couples married)
Mr & Mrs M. Baker and Mr & Mrs S. Stratfull
~ or ~
Martin & Elizabeth Baker and Stevan & Beverley Stratfull
(Where one set of parents is divorced)
Mr & Mrs M. Baker and Mr S. Stratfull & Mrs B. Else
Martin & Elizabeth Baker and Stevan Stratfull & Beverley Else
(If divorced parents still share the same surname, they should listed separately and the surname should be repeated;
Stevan Stratfull & Beverley Stratfull)
Line 2: The Invite
This is the part that tells the guest that they are invited.
Depending on how formal you want to be, there are various options.
The popular choices are:
Formal - Religious Ceremony
Request the honour of the presence of
("the honour of the presence" should only be used for religious ceremonies)
Formal - Civil Ceremony
(or evening invitation of a religious ceremony)
Request the pleasure of the company of
Would love to invite
Would like to invite
Line 3: Guest's Name
This is the time to specify who is invited. We are always happy to print your guest names for you, free of charge! However, a blank line can be inserted so that you can handwrite them. We would definitely advise you be specific on who is invited by naming each person, rather than leaving it as a generic 'you are invited'. Why do we advise that? So that you avoid unexpected guests! To delve deeper into this subject, check out our blog post "You're Invited - Or Are You?!"
Line 4: The Event
This is the part where you specify what the guest is being invited to. This will differ if it is a full day invite or an evening invite and the wording changes slightly depending on who are the hosts. Examples include:
Parents of the Bride as Hosts (day invite)
to celebrate the marriage of their daughter
Parents of the Bride as Hosts (eve invite)
at an evening reception to celebrate the marriage of their daughter
Couple as Hosts (day invite)
to celebrate their marriage
to celebrate with them on their wedding day
Couple as Hosts (eve invite)
at an evening reception to celebrate their marriage
Line 5: The Couple's Names
This line will not be required if the hosts are the couple themselves. However, if anyone other than the couple is hosting the wedding, then this is the time to display the names of the happy couple.
If the bride's parents are hosts and their surname has been included, then you would not repeat the bride's surname in this section. You would, however, include the groom's surname.
A formal invitation includes first and middle names as a general rule.
For those who usually go by their shortened name, you should formally include your full name on your wedding invitation. This is a question we get asked a lot. For example, Jo's full name is Joanna but she is only ever called by her full name when in trouble with her mum! Everyone else calls her Jo. However, on her wedding invitations, she used 'Joanna' as it was a formal occasion.
The good news is though that there are no actual laws on this and if you really hate your full name and want to go by a name you are more commonly known as, then you are well within your rights to do so! You are unlikely to end up in invitation jail because you use 'Seb' instead of 'Sebastian'.
Line 6 & Line 7: The Date and Time
This part is vital! Specify the date - including the day - and the time. Depending on space, this information may be spread over one or two lines.
"Should we put the start time of the ceremony, or what time we would like guests to arrive?" is a common question, and the answer is that you should always state the start time of the ceremony. However, if you are worried about guests arriving late, then you could lead with the time you would like guests to arrive with a line underneath to say "ceremony to start promptly at 1.00pm", e.g.:
(ceremony to start promptly at 1.00pm)
This covers all bases and accounts for more organised guests who will see 12.30pm as the start time and arrive half an hour early at 12.00pm. It avoids them hanging around for an hour before the ceremony starts, but tells those who are less organised that you expect them to arrive earlier.
You would not state the start time of the evening reception on the day invite.
For evening invitations, you would put the time you would like guests to arrive from but it is not unusual to state the time of the first dance and the cutting of the cake to avoid guests missing the iconic parts of the reception.
Line 8: The Venue
For a full day invitation, this should be the ceremony venue and for an evening only invitation, this should be the reception venue.
The name of the venue should be stated and the full address should be displayed directly underneath.
If this is an evening invitation, this will be the last line aside from the R.S.V.P. section.
Line 9: What Happens Next
This line is not required for evening guests, but for those invited to the whole day, you should state what happens after the ceremony. The usual wording for this section is
"followed by a wedding breakfast and evening reception"
The wedding breakfast is the traditional name for a sit-down meal and doesn't mean sausage, bacon and eggs! It is called the wedding breakfast as it is your first meal as a married couple!
Less formal ways of stating what happens next include:
"followed by dinner, drinks and dancing"
"followed by love, laughter and happy ever after"
"followed by eating, drinking and dancing"
Line 10: The Reception Venue
This line is only required for full day invitations where the ceremony venue and the reception venue are different. If the reception is being held at the same venue as the ceremony, you would not repeat this information.
The exception to this rule is if you are holding the reception in a different part of the same venue. An example of this would be our wedding reception venue, Whittlebury Park. This stunning venue has four different areas where weddings are held; The Pavilion, The Orangery, The Atrium and the Hotel.
Ceremonies mainly take place in The Orangery, but the reception may be held in one of the other venues. In this case, you would list the ceremony venue first with the full address underneath, but list the name of the reception venue WITHOUT repeating the address. This tells guests that they will need to move locations, but the venue is the same.
at The Orangery
Whittlebury Park, Whittlebury, Northamptonshire, NN11 8WP
followed by a wedding breakfast and evening reception
at The Atrium
Line 11: R.S.V.P.
This should generally always be the last part of any invitation and tells the guests when and where you wish them to respond to. If space is limited and you are including a reply card then you could display this detail on the reply card only, but as a general rule, you should try and include it on your invitation as possible.
Always specify a date for guests to reply by. As a guideline, this should be roughly six weeks after you send your invitations out - irrespective of when you need to give your venue final numbers. Six weeks gives guests long enough to respond, but not enough time to forget and gives a sense of urgency to their response. For some other top tips on how to get your guests to reply promptly, see our blog post "Four Ways to Encourage a Prompt Reply From Your Guests".
Now we have given you a thorough breakdown of each section of a wedding invitation, we thought it may be useful to detail some different wording scenarios in their entirety. So, here it goes!