Invitation Etiquette: 3 Common Questions, Answered!

September 4, 2014images

1. How do you address invitations? Honorifics 101:

Addressing invitations can be confusing. Who’s name is placed first? How do you address families? Or people with distinguished titles? Bottom line, it depends on your personal style and the style of the wedding.

Here are a few examples when addressing your invitations:

For married couples:

Traditional: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Semi-traditional: Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith

Casual: John and Jane Smith

For those with credentials/distinguished titles:

Generally it is recommended to use credentials and titles based on knowledge of the individual, and again, the style of the wedding. You can follow the traditional and semi-traditional methods above. Below are some possible titles you may encounter. It is important to keep these in mind when appropriately addressing your invitations.

Doctor, Professor, Military Ranks, Religious Titles (Reverend), etc.



Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Matthew and Miss Emily Smith


Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith

Matthew and (Miss*) Emily Smith

*Miss optional


The Smith Family

For further ideas on addressing etiquette, check out this site:


2. How do you communicate to someone they can or cannot bring a guest or their children?

Addressing plays a significant role in whether or not someone is invited to bring a guest or their kids. With that said, things can get confusing on the RSVP. So depending on what you decide to do with your invitations, make sure it is either clearly communicated on the address portion of the invitation, or written on the RSVP. Here are examples of invitations welcoming someone to bring a guest or their children. For utmost clarity, list the guest or children invited. The outside envelope would be addressed:

Ms. Jane Smith and Guest

2345 University Avenue

Madison, WI 53726


Mr. John and Mrs. Jane Smith

Matthew, Miss Alice and Thomas Smith

2345 University Avenue

Madison, WI 53726

The RSVP then offers the opportunity for people to add their guest’s name or children’s names. For example:


Please kindly reply by May 25th

Guest Name(s): _________________________

 [ ] accepts with unbridled excitement!

[ ] CEREMONY(the celebration begins at six o’clock)

[ ] RECEPTION (hors d’oeuvres begin at six-Thirty)

 [ ] declines with sincere regret…

Thank you for your response!

However, if you are not collecting names (just numbers) you can include the number of guests expected on your RSVP. For example:


Please kindly reply by May 25th

[ ] accepts with unbridled excitement!

[ ] CEREMONY(the celebration begins at Six o’clock)

[ ] RECEPTION (hors d’oeuvres begin at six-Thirty)

[ ] declines with sincere regret…

Number of Guests: __

Thank you for your reply!

 Unfortunately, usually the challenge is not with inviting people, it is with gently communicating to guests they cannot bring a plus one or their children to the wedding. The simplest way is specifically addressing who is invited, and by word of mouth. Family and those in the wedding party can spread word that it is an adult-only wedding, or that space is limited.

Proper etiquette is to always invite a plus one for a guest who is in a committed relationship, such as a marriage, engagement or a long-term relationship. The lines are blurred when it is a new relationship. From an etiquette standpoint, you are not obligated to invite the plus one. But that is an individualized circumstance and depends on space availability and preference. The key is consistency. Tension would likely arise if you allowed one friend to bring a plus one, but did not extend the same invitation to another friend. And, if we were to get really technical, family is supposed to take priority over friends for a plus one or children. Always do what feels best for you as a couple, your family, and friends. No one wants drama on the big day!

Lastly, some people just need things spelled out. It is not considered impolite to write on the invitation, “We apologize, we are unable accommodate children for this event.” Or, “We ask that you just bring yourself to this event due to limited space, and we look forward to celebrating with you!” Making your guest list is one of the hardest tasks in wedding planning. The key to success is always being honest in communication, and consistent with everyone.

 3What do you do if someone adds a guest or children on the RSVP, but they are not invited?

 Sadly, this issue is not uncommon. Even if you make your expectations clear, you can still end up with some unexpected RSVPs. So what do you do? There are a few options. It is not considered inappropriate to call your guest and explain the situation. The bride or groom, family members, or people in the wedding party can take care of this dilemma. For example, “I am really sorry to tell you that we are not able to have your guest join us. Unfortunately, our space is limited. But we are excited to have you there, and thank you for understanding!” The same is true for children. It is considered proper etiquette to call and tell your guests that they cannot bring their kids, “This is an adult-only wedding, “ or “We are only inviting children from our immediate family.” Again, the key is honest communication and consistency.


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Mind Your Manners: A Bride’s Thank You Guide (1 of 2)

1. Sending thank you cards out to your family and friends in a timely manner shows your appreciation and gratitude towards your guests. Make a list of the gifts you receive, whom they’re from, and the date you receive them to stay organized. It is best to start writing thank you cards as soon as gifts start arriving. Follow this timeline for all of your wedding festivities:

  •  Engagement party and shower : 2-3 weeks of celebration
  • Gifts sent before the wedding : ASAP or before the wedding
  • Gifts received on wedding day : within 3 months
  • Gifts received after wedding day : 2-3 weeks

–       Tip – better late than never: Still send thank you notes out no matter how long the wait. Make sure to acknowledge the late date by writing something like this: “Many apologies for the tardiness of my note. In the excitement of the wedding, I somehow managed to separate your gift from your card.”

2. Can you use email? – Sorry ladies and gents, but handwritten notes only for such a special occasion.

3. The best thank you cards come from the heart. Set aside time with you and your partner to come up with thoughtful messages to each guest. Yes, this will be time consuming, but a genuine thank you is the least you can do for those who have spent their time and money on you!

Make sure you DO:

  • Mention the gift – This makes the note more personal and lets the gift-giver know you remember what he or she gave you.
  • Express your appreciation for the gift and how you will use it.
  • Thank the guest for attending the wedding. For out of town guests, make sure you acknowledge how far they traveled to attend.

–       Tip: If the gift-giver did not attend the wedding, express how you wish they could have been there. You can even extend an invitation to get together to catch up and show them wedding pictures.

  • Be sincere and gracious. Try to avoid cliché phrases like “Thank you for your generous gift” or “From the bottom of my heart.” Instead, mention a moment you shared with that person at the wedding to let her or she know you enjoyed their company.

Make sure you DON’T:

  • Mention if you returned a gift: Simply thank the guest for the gift.
  • Mention money amount or form (cash, check etc.) if you receive a monetary gift. Instead thank he or she for the generous gift and tell them how you plan to use it.
  • Misspell names. Double check their Facebook page if you have to!

Screen shot 2014-01-17 at 3.35.12 PM 4.    Use good stationary! – There are plenty of cute and unique cards on For an extra touch, personalize your cards with your names on the front.

5. Include Pictures! – Depending on when you receive your wedding photos from the photographer, you may include a picture from the big day. Although this is not necessary, it is nice to include.

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