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WRITE THIS WAY:

THE LOVE LORE GUIDE TO PERFECTLY WORDED BLISS

 

You said yes! Enough said, right? Well, buckle your garter belt. Because in the hustle and bustle of pre-marital planning, you’ve blithely overlooked the fact that wedding wording is, in fact, a fickle frenemy, wrought with enough nuances and niceties to tear the most well-meaning salutations asunder…but take heart, turtledove.  

While our forte lies in graphic design, not etiquette expertise, we’ll try to vanquish the vagueness surrounding what to say, how to say it, and why even go to the trouble. (Because love is blind, dear, not illiterate.) We’ll address the finer points of formality and the perils of punctuation, helping you artfully navigate those pesky matters of propriety.

In fact, you might consider these guidelines the shapewear of your wedding correspondence, smoothing over the iffy bits that you may not feel so confident about. Sure, they’re a bit constricting, but they certainly have their merits – creating a comely appearance and the overall impression that everything’s under control. And if all these rules and restrictions don’t happen to suit you, that’s okay, too. Feel free to go commando. It’s your right.

To think that a mere 100 years ago, flouting even the smallest of these conventions might very well have branded you a slattern. These days, we’re all just trying to get by, looking impossibly bangin’ for our big event, hoping that our crinoline isn’t riding up our skivvies again.

Now that all that’s settled, come delve into the antiquated set of mores you can more or less take or leave as you like. And let’s talk freely, one brazen hussy to the other...

 
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The Invitation Game

 
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Host Line

This line tells us who’s hosting the wedding. That’s your delicate way of saying, who’s bankrolling this bad boy? Once upon a time, the honor went to the bride’s parents, who paid for the bulk of the wedding, but with standards being what they are these days, it’s not uncommon for couples to foot the bill themselves or for the bride and groom’s parents to share the cost. This, and other factors like whether the host(s) are married, divorced or remarried, will play a role in the wording here. More on that later. 

View examples of invitation wording here.

 

 

 

 
 

Request Lines

Here’s where you lay-down the location of your ceremony. But it’s a little more cryptic than a simple “come on over.” Use the honour of your presence (uppity British spelling and all) to reference that the ceremony will be held in a house of worship. The pleasure of your company means that the nuptials will be taking place in a seething den of sin – that is to say, a secular location. If both sets of parents are hosting the wedding, the words at the marriage of their children will be added here as well.  

View examples of invitation wording here.

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Bride & Groom Lines   

As per protocol, and the dictates of diva code, the bride is always listed before the groom. If her parents are hosting, she’ll be regarded by her first and middle names only. The groom is referred to by his first, middle and last name. And if there are two brides, or no bride, in this scenario? You can present the lucky couple in alphabetical order based on last name.

View examples of invitation wording here.

 

 
 

Date & Time Lines

Using numerals to specify date and time? Where does the vulgarity end? In this portion of the invitation, everything is spelled out in full. Numbers, the device of gamblers and wanton hedonists everywhere, are obviously a no-no. The day of the week will typically precede the date, and only the day of the week and the month are capitalized. (Although, traditionally, the first letter of the year is capitalized, as well.) Time of day is all lowercase, and spelled out in full using o’clock or half after xxxxx o’clock. Evening is anytime from six o’clock after, while noon until half past five o’clock is considered the afternoon. For example, 

Saturday, the seventeenth of November
Two thousand twelve
at half past five o'clock in the afternoon

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Location Lines     

The name of your ceremony venue is presented here. Unless the event is held at a private residence or unlisted address, you’re good to go without a street address. If you do decide to take that route, the words street, avenue, road, and such should be written out in full, as well as the city and state. No abbreviations.

View examples of invitation wording here.

 

 
 

Reception Lines    

Now, for the raucous display of revelry that will follow the exchange of vows – your reception! Highly formal or traditional invites will include your reception information on a separate card. But in many cases, these details can be added to the invitation itself, provided there’s room. If your ceremony and reception are being held in the same place, the words afterward at the reception or reception immediately following can be used. If the reception is at a different location, the venue name will fall on a second line.

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Note About Capitalization    

Kindly remove your caps from any words other than proper nouns, days of the week, month and first letter of the year. Although not the traditional practice, you’ll often see the first letter of the reception line capitalized as well. But alas. What can be done? These are lawless times.

For example,
Saturday, the seventeenth of November
Two thousand twelve
at half after three

 

 

Indicating Attire

Oh, the what-to-wear conundrum. Sensible shoes, sturdily heeled and free of frivolities, are a given, but today’s invitees may expect more particulars. To shine some light on the subject, it’s acceptable to include a line at the bottom left or right corner of the invitation requesting a specific type of attire. Some examples:

Black tie
This means a tuxedo or dinner suit for men, formal gown for the ladies

Formal or Black tie optional
Suit and tie for men, fancy dress for women

Semi-formal
Suit and tie for men, cocktail dress for women

Cocktail attire
Suit with tie optional for men, cocktail dress for women

Garden party attire
Summer suit for men, summer dress for women

Resort casual or Beach chic
Collared shirt and slacks for men, summer dress with sandals for women

And before you even ask: Only the first letter of the attire line may be capitalized.  

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Registry Sharing    

It’s the lipstick on the teeth of wedding correspondence. The details of a couple’s wedding registry should be regarded as a secret half-sibling, kept away from polite company with nary a mention on the invitation itself. That, dear heart, is what word-of-mouth and wedding websites are for. Or better still, the idle banter of the bridal shower!  

 

 
 

Putting It All Together  

A shoddily assembled invitation suite? Your guests’ delicate nerves couldn’t bear it. Here’s the proper order of things: Stack any additional paper collateral in order of size, placed on top of the invitation card. Position the reply card under the flap of the reply card envelope, with the printed side facing out. You can opt to tart things up with a ribbon or decorative band, but be forewarned that such extravagances are the devil’s playthings and apt to result in eternal damnation (just teasing, sugar). The choice is yours. Inner envelopes are traditionally used to contain the cards within the outer mailing envelope, and add that all-important extra layer of “Oooh, what’s this?” We’ll get into the envelopes more in our Sending Details below.

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Sending-Off in Style

With your wedding invitations all primed, primped and printed, it’s time to recruit some affordable unskilled labor to help usher them along their way. A bridesmaid or future mother-in- law will do…Or, if you absolutely insist on getting your hands dirty, here are a few things to keep in mind. You poor darling.

 
 
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When To Mail

You should generally plan to send your invitations six to eight weeks before the big day. Destination weddings require more planning on the part of the guest, so it’s recommended that you send invitations a bit earlier in that case, especially if a save the date wasn’t sent beforehand. Make sure to have your final send date in mind when placing your invitation order, allowing yourself plenty of time to assemble, seal and stamp the final product.

 

 

 

The Inner Envelope

One could argue that the two envelope system is a tad baroque, but there’s a good old-fashioned, conflict-avoiding reason to use it. When it comes to spelling out who may (and by exclusion, may not) be present for your blessed event, it’s the inside envelope that counts. This displays, in no uncertain terms, the title and last name of the specific invitees. If children are invited for some inexplicable reason, but will not receive a separate invitation, their names can be added here below the parents’ names.

Mr. and Mrs. Threepwood
Millicent Threepwood
Freddie Threepwood

You may use familiar names for close family on the inner envelope as well, such as Aunt
Marilyn and Uncle Joe.

While Love Lore doesn’t expressly offer the two envelope system, we can provide it upon request. Please email hello@lovelore.com for more information.   

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The Outer Envelope

The outer envelope is traditionally addressed using titles, first, (middle) and last names, never using a middle initial. (Shudder.) Instead, the middle name is written out in full or omitted altogether. Titles may be abbreviated on the outer envelope (Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.), while all other words such as “Avenue,” or “Street” are spelled out completely. State names may be written in full or using the two-letter postal abbreviation. Typically, an invitation to parents and children is addressed to only the parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Arthur Threepwood

If you aren’t using an inner envelope, children’s names may go beneath their parents’ on the outer envelope, like so:
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Arthur Threepwood
Millicent Threepwood
Freddie Threepwood

 

 

The Return Address

The return address is printed on the outer envelope flap and is based on who’s issuing the invitations, meaning, who’s hosting the wedding. In some cases, this will be the bride’s parents. However, if the couple would like their wedding gifts sent directly to them, (and what beastly modern materialists wouldn’t?) it’s acceptable for the bride to use her own address. Keep in mind that RSVPs will usually be sent to the return address on the outer envelope. If replies should go to a different address, you may list it below the RSVP line on the invitation, or print it on the reply card envelope. The name(s) of the sender are not traditionally included on the return address. Only the street address, city, state and zip code are used. (Air of mystery, much?) Both the city and state should be spelled-out in full, without postal abbreviation.

 

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A Few Points of Order Before You Begin

  • Order extra envelopes (inner and outer) to account for any unfortunate episodes.
  • Give yourself ample time to address, assemble and mail all invitations.
  • Before you buy stamps, take a fully assembled invitation to the Post Office to have it weighed. Extra enclosures will likely call for higher postage.
  • See if your Post Office has wedding-themed stamps in-stock. These will cover the cost of most invitations with enclosures. Allow enough time to find them at another branch or order them online if they aren’t available.
  • Assemble a separate sample invitation for out-of- town guests if you’ll be including maps or other additional inserts which may require more postage.
  • Ask the Post Office if they can hand-stamp your envelopes for you. This delivers a cleaner postmark than envelopes run through an automatic sorter.
  • Clean the assembly area and wash your hands before you begin. And for the love of caramel-drizzled soymilk mocha lattes (hold the foam) – mind the beverages.
 

 

The Delicate Art of Stuffing

Like slipping into that saucy little flannel peignoir you’ve been saving for your special night, the shrouding of your invitation suite is all about setting the mood. Here’s how you get it just right:

When using two envelopes: Insert the invitation folded edge first (left edge first for a single-card invitation), so that the printed side of the invitation is visible when the envelope flap is opened.

When there are enclosures: Place additional materials (reply card and envelope, map, etc.) on top of the printed side of the invitation, with their printed sides up, in order of size with the smallest on top. Once more, when the flap is opened, the printed side should be visible.

If the invitation is folded, insertions are stacked in order of size, with the smallest item on top, only within the fold. If you are using tissues, these are placed on top of the invitation and below any enclosures. If the invitation is folded, they’re inserted into the fold.

The inner envelope is then placed unsealed in the outer envelope, so when the outer envelope flap is lifted, the names of the guests are visible.

Finally, check that the names on the inner and outer envelopes match up before you seal. Because we all know there is nothing less beguiling than an honest mistake…

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Address to Impress

Whomever you have the pleasure of addressing, there’s a stringent rule for every scenario to keep you on your toes. What mirth! Let’s get into it, shall we?

 
 

FORMS OF ADDRESS  

Ms. or Miss? Tomato, tomahto, right? (Deep breath.) We’ll give you a minute to ponder that assumption…and respectfully refer you to our comprehensive Forms of Address Guide below.

TO A MARRIED COUPLE  

Always address both members of a married couple, even though you may know only one, or that only one will attend. It’s best to list the person you are closest to first, or order them alphabetically if you’re equally acquainted with both.  

Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Threepwood
Mr. Clarence Threepwood and Mr. Louis Remington
Mx. Madeline Bassett and Mrs. Georgina Threepwood

TO AN UNMARRIED COUPLE LIVING TOGETHER

Established couples who are unmarried but live at the same residence should be addressed on a single line:
Ms. Madeline Bassett and Mr. Bertram Wooster

However, in some circles, it’s perfectly acceptable to stack the names. Again, it’s best to list the person you are closest to first, or order them alphabetically:
Ms. Madeline Bassett
Mr. Bertram Wooster

ADDING “AND GUEST”

Well, well, well. The stuffy two envelope system spares us all a shameful indiscretion once more. Just think of the uproar that would ensue should you defile your outer envelope with a Mr. Roderick Spode and Guest?  Modest souls would tremble. People would talk.

There’s an order to these things, dear pet. When indicating that an invitee may bring a guest, the outer envelope should be addressed to just the invitee, Mr. Roderick Spode. The inner envelope will read: Mr. Roderick Spode and Guest. If only one envelope is being used, include a short personal note with your invitation letting your loved one know that they’re welcome to bring a guest. Later, you can send that person an invitation if time permits and the information is available.

 
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Forms of address

By now, you may already have selected a preferred epithet for that rapscallion brother of yours, and his indecent companion du jour, but polite society has other, less colorful, ideas. Here’s our Complete Companion Guide to addressing each guest in a respectable way. Because one must take the high road, especially when dealing with turds.  

ADDRESSING Someone who is gender neutral

Mx. Georgiana Threepwood
*
While Mx. is most widely used and we'll be using it throughout the rest of this guide, ask your guests what their preference is as new honorifics are being created and people have different preferences.

ADDRESSING A WOMAN

Maiden Name
Ms. Honoria Glossop
Miss Honoria Glossop*
* “Miss” is usually reserved for girls under 18.

Married, Keeping Maiden Name
Ms. Honoria Glossop

Married, Uses Husband’s Name
Mrs. Clarence Threepwood
Mrs. Georgiana Threepwood*
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood

*You read that right. This form of address is acceptable today.

Separated, Not Divorced
Mrs. Clarence Threepwood
Mrs. Georgiana Threepwood
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood

Divorced
Mrs. Georgiana Threepwood
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood
Ms. Georgiana Phipps

Widowed
Mrs. Clarence Threepwood*
Mrs. Georgiana Threepwood
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood

*If you don’t know the widow’s preference, this is the traditional form.  

ADDRESSING A COUPLE

Same-Sex
Mrs. Georgina Threepwood and Mrs. Madeline Bassett
Mr. Clarence Threepwood and Mr. Daniel Phipps
The Messrs. Daniel and Clarence Threepwood
The Mesdames Georgina and Madeline Threepwood-Bassett

One or both are gender neutral
Mx. Madeline Bassett and Mrs. Georgina Threepwood
Mx. Daniel Phipps and Mx. Clarence Threepwood
Mr. Daniel Phipps and Mx. Georgina Threepwood

Married, She Uses Her Husband’s Name Socially
Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Threepwood*

* In invitations of yore, a woman’s name always preceded a man’s on the envelope address, and his first and last names were written together, as in: Georgiana and Clarence Threepwood. These days, the order of the names – brace yourself – does not matter. Except, as we have mentioned, when one member of the couple outranks the other. In this case, the person of higher rank is always listed first. A pecking order is no matter to be trifled with.

Married, But She Prefers Ms.
Mr. Clarence Threepwood and Ms. Georgiana Threepwood*
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood and Mr. Clarence Threepwood*
*Be careful not to attach a “Ms.” to the husband’s name. Mr. and Ms. Clarence Threepwood is incorrect.

Married, Informal Address
Georgiana and Clarence Threepwood
Clarence and Georgiana Threepwood

Married, She Uses Her Maiden Name

Mr. Clarence Threepwood and Ms. Georgiana Phipps
Ms. Georgiana Phipps and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

And if the names will not fit on one line:
Mr. Clarence Threepwood
and Ms. Georgiana Phipps*
*Names may be listed in any order. Go nuts!

Unmarried, Living Together
Mr. Bertram Wooster & Ms. Madeline Bassett*
* Use one line.

Professional Titles

Wife is a Judge
The Honorable Georgiana Threepwood and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

And if you can’t fit both names onto one line:

The Honorable Georgiana Threepwood
and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

Professional or Educational Degree
Dr. Georgiana Threepwood and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

Both Are Doctors (PhD or Medical) and Use The Same Last Name:
The Doctors Threepwood (omit first names)
Drs. Georgiana and Clarence Threepwood
Drs. Clarence and Georgiana Threepwood
Dr. Clarence Threepwood and Dr. Georgiana Threepwood
Dr. Georgiana Threepwood and Dr. Clarence Threepwood

She or They Is a Doctor (PhD or Medical) Who Uses Partner's Last Name:
Dr. Georgiana and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

Both Are Doctors (PhD Or Medical), Uses Maiden Name:
Dr. Georgiana Phipps and Dr. Clarence Threepwood
Dr. Clarence Threepwood and Dr. Georgiana Phipps

She or They Is a Doctor (PhD Or Medical) Who Uses Her or Their Maiden Name:
Dr. Georgiana Phipps and Mr. Clarence Threepwood

Professional Designations—Use Only For Business Correspondence
Georgiana Threepwood, CPA*
Georgiana Threepwood, Esquire*

* Do not use Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Mx. when using a professional designation. Again, professional designations are not used socially. So for wedding invitations, just go with Mr., Ms., or Mrs., as in: Ms. Georgiana Threepwood

Attorney at Law
Ms. Georgiana Threepwood
Attorney at Law*

Mx. Georgiana Threepwood
Attorney at Law*

*This is an alternative to ‘Esquire’ for attorneys. Use Mr., Ms. or Mx. and use two lines with no indent.

 
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Big Day, Little Details

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Getting with the Program

You’ve mapped-out your ceremony down to the second. You choreographed entrances, exits, and dramatic readings googled just for the occasion. Your guests expect a guide to the spectacle that awaits. The program provides an idea of what’s going on, as well as acknowledges the important people in your ceremony. And what else, pray tell, will Aunt Dahlia use to fan herself when a raging case of the vapors sets in?

Mercifully, the etiquette here is much less stringent than your invitation wording. And you have the option to print it in a booklet or single-page format. (Now, we’re just throwing convention to the wind!) A booklet is best if you have a large wedding party, or want to include a hymn, special reading, or song lyrics in your program. It’s also the super-traditional thing to do.

With the exception of Catholic masses, Jewish ceremonies, and Indian or Persian ceremonies, a typical program will read something like this:

The Couple’s Names
The Date
The Ceremony Venue
City, State
Wedding Party

       Parents of the Bride
       Parents of the Groom
       Maid or Matron of Honor
       Best Man
       Bridesmaids
       Groomsmen
       Flower Girl
      Ring Bearer

Officiant or Celebrant
Wedding Ceremony

     The Seating of the Mothers
     Wedding Party Processional
     The Bridal Processional
     Readings
     Declaration of Intent

     Exchange of Vows
    Exchange of Rings
    Proclamation of Marriage
    Presentation of the Couple

Thank You and Acknowledgements

For traditional religious ceremonies, we recommend you consult your officiant on the exact wording of your program. Love Lore claims no liability for souls bound to the fiery blazes of the underworld.


 

Escort Cards vs. Place Cards

Just because your ceremony went off without a hitch (so to speak), doesn’t give you free reign to drop the ball in the festivities that follow.

Let’s instill some law and order in the post-nuptial pandemonium. This is where escort cards come in…Or are they place cards these days?... Or are they even really cards at all? Sigh. This is too much. How about we take a step back and examine each one more closely:

Escort Cards
Usually placed at the entrance of the reception, escort cards direct each guest to their assigned table with a line indicating “Table No.” next the name of the guest. Couples and families may be listed on the same card. Both forms are correct and equally common, however, listing couples together is the traditional approach. (It also keeps expenses in-check when your guest list is on the come-one-come-all side.) You may also opt for a single seating chart, instead.

Place Cards
These are set at each place setting of every table to direct guests where to sit. They don’t display the table number, but instead give the guest’s name, and may even indicate their entrée selection to assist the wait staff using an assigned color or symbol. Place cards are a traditional touch, but today, more couples are forgoing them altogether so that guests can sit wherever they’re most comfortable at their given table. Keep in mind that while Love Lore doesn’t expressly offer place cards, our escort cards can easily be modified to achieve the same purpose.  

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In Closing

Good gracious! You’re still here? We were sure we’d lost you a few pedantic paragraphs back, but kudos on completing your primary education in the elusive art of wedding wording. Now, feel free to resume your life of idle fancy, learning to play the dulcimer and painting innocuous botanical studies all the livelong day. It has been a privilege and a pleasure, but now we must take our leave. Wield what you have learned here well. We wish you and your betrothed a most austere, well-mannered life together. And bedlam in the sheets.