Wording wedding invitations is one of those things that you never seem to allow enough time for, because you think it should be simple, but once you start you realise what a minefield it is! We’ve talked about wedding stationery suites before, of which Save the Dates are the first hint at the tone and style of your wedding. Because hopefully you’ve had a little more time to think about the style in the meantime, your invitations can be the cement which sets your guests’ idea of the coming celebration. So, that said, how many people have a “formal” destination wedding? Having a destination wedding in the first place is breaking a little with tradition- the destination bride and groom are thinking a little outside the box. So instead of concentrating exclusively on formal invitations, we’ll take you through what we are seeing couples do nowadays. We’ll give you a little background on what was traditionally done, so you can make your decision on how you would like to address and phrase your invitations, as nowadays pretty much anything goes in this area.

Wedding invitation wording etiquette

Image: Our Labor of Love; Stationery: Chic Designs via 100 Layer Cake

1. How to Address Your Guests: Titles

And it begins.. So, if one of the parties is a doctor, be sure to substitute Dr for Mr/Mrs, e.g Mr and Dr Lee (or Mr John and Dr Mary Lee) if they share the last name. Two married doctors with the same name may be addressed as “Doctors John and Mary Lee” or just “Doctors Lee”. If they don’t share a last name you’ll need to write out both of their full names. Usually divorced couples will get separate invitations, with new partners named alongside them if applicable. For gay or lesbian couples, you can either use their joint name if they are married, both of their full names, or hyphenate their last names. Use common sense- have you seen their names written before, if so, how did they address themselves? Is there anywhere you could find their names written together, e.g. online somewhere? Whether to use Ms or Mrs for women partners is another issue but again unless you are having a formal do I would leave these out entirely. Most people will not be offended if you are respectful. If in doubt (for example which name to put first if you are hyphenating names) just write both of their full names, or even better simply ask them!

2. Plus Ones etc

In general, the people to whom the invitation is addresses are the only ones who are invited. It is fine to include a “plus one” when you are inviting a single person who will bring a date. If you are inviting a family, you can address the invitation to “The Lee Family” for example, but think about what this entails before you do. Are there grandchildren in the Lee family- will the toddler of the oldest daughter who is living at home be invited too? This is where it can get complicated. Addressing invitations to parents only can be a good way to imply that you are having a no-children wedding. We normally wouldn’t advise couples to have a “party number” box option (where guests write in how many of the family will be attending) as keeping invitations strictly to the people who are addressed will allow you to keep better track of your numbers.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Image: Rensche Mari; Stationery: Chrystalace via Burnett’s Boards

3. Hosting

Nowadays, it is less common for the parents of the bride to host (pay for) the wedding as was traditionally the case. Most couples pay for the wedding themselves, sometimes with help from one or both sets of parents. Traditionally, the male spouse is mentioned first. It might be easier just to stick with this, you can also go one step further and use the male spouse’s first name as well (Mr and Mrs John Lee) but that’s up to you (I’ve never liked that tradition!) In formal invitations, if one set of parents was paying they would be mentioned at the start: “Mr and Mrs Lee request the honour of your presence..” If both sets of parents were co-hosting, then both would be mentioned at the start. Parents who were not hosting could still be mentioned after their son/daughter’s name. For example “Mr and Mrs Lee request the honour of your presence to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Sophie Lee to Darren Cullen son of Mr and Mrs Cullen..” If a couple is paying for their own wedding, most would put both their names at the start requesting the guest’s presence instead. If one of the parents are deceased, they can still be mentioned by putting “the late” in front of their name. If parents are divorced, include their names separately, for example ” Mr John Lee and Mrs Angela Lee” and if they have new partners include them by mentioning all four, using new married names if they apply. If the couple and both sets of parents are hosting, “together with their families/parents” could be used following the couple’s names… which sounds like a pretty good option I bet after reading the above, no?

4. How to Phrase the Invitation

Formal invitations use the following phrases in asking for your guests’ attendance: Religious: “request the honour of your presence” Catholic: “request the honour of your presence at the Nuptial mass uniting their daughter/son” (note the British spelling of “honour”too). Non-religious weddings would be phrased as: “request the pleasure of your company” which we still see used even in non-formal settings. Here are a few examples of formal wedding invitation wording.

Wedding invitation wording etiquette

Image: Caroline Joy Photography; Stationery: The Stationery Bakery via Ruffled 

5. Date and Time

Traditionally on formal invitations the date will be written out instead of number used, i.e. “The fourteenth of September two thousand thirteen at eleven o’clock in the morning.”  For less formal invitations there’s no need to write out the full date and time, it depends on your personal taste. Sometimes, if there is a strong chance of rain, a “Rain Card” will be included which states a different ceremony venue and address in this instance.

6. Reception

Phrases like “reception to follow at…”, “Please join us for dinner at…” “Dinner immediately to follow at…” were traditionally used in formal invitations, with some adding “in honour of the new Mr and Mrs…” after the reception place name. The reception venue address does not need to be included if it is well known to the guests, however it most often is added for convenience (without the zip code in formal invites).

Destination Wedding Invitation

Image: Brosnan Photographic; Stationery: In the Treehouse via Fly Away Bride

7. Directions and Accommodation

For a destination wedding, you will most likely have to consider your guests’ accommodation as well as their travel needs to the ceremony and reception and have a plan in place before you send out the invitations. This plan can be cemented when you have a more precise idea of numbers, but it is polite to research venues and include options on the accommodation card. These and any directions should be  kept separate from the main invitation page- they can be printed on the back of a double sided invitation, or on a separate page, mainly to keep things less confusing. Since it’s rare for a destination wedding to have a separate guest list for ceremony and reception, hopefully you won’t need to worry about different sets of instructions for these.


A card in a stamped addressed envelope was traditionally used, nowadays some prefer an email address or phone number, it’s up to you. Don’t forget to include the name of the guest on the RSVP card or have a numbering system so you know who it is from when it arrives back to you. Normally you would have an RSVP date of at least one month before the wedding, however with a destination wedding people will understand if you need to know several months in advance. For my wedding I’m actually asking people to let us know 3 months in advance, because our venue wants the numbers that soon! For non-arriving RSVPs when your respond-by date has passed, our advice is to give it another week. After that, follow up with an email or phone call.

Wedding Invitation Etiquette

Image: Brosnan Photographic; Stationery: Farrell and Chase via Fly Away Bride

9. First and Second Round Invitations

So you have a limited number of places. Why not send out a first round of invitations, see who gets back to you and then if some people can’t make it, send out your second round? Sounds simple right? One piece of important advice: don’t broadcast to your guests your wedding invitation decisions, especially if you are doing first and second rounds. This can cause disaster if people discover they weren’t in the first round, which is just never worth it.

We hope this was useful to you, and we’ll be doing more in this series in the coming weeks. Happy wording!

6 Responses

  1. Christian wedding invitations

    Great post Amy!!! . These ideas are really helpful for a couple who are getting married and searching for an impressive design for their wedding invitations. Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us.

  2. Wedding Invitation Cool Ideas

    Wedding invitations set the tone for your wedding and if you are planning a destination wedding where you want your guests to have a rather special experience, you want to give due attention to the wedding invitations. It is the first step toward that exceptional experience.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.