The First Impression
The first impression your guests will have of your wedding is when they open the heavy, starched envelope containing your invitation. They will immediately form an impression of the ceremony to come, so selecting the invitation–the paper, the style, the wording–is an important first step in your wedding plans.
Experienced stationers are your best advisors on wedding invitations and their knowledge is available at no charge when you purchase your invitations in their store. Stationers can also provide helpful hints on when to order and mail the invitations, how to determine proper postage budgeting and a myriad of other details.
Take time to select your invitations. Feel the paper samples. What impression do they give? Understated elegance? Fun? Whimsical? Romantic?
The Envelope Please…
Wedding invitations do much more than simply request the presence of the addressee. The stationery is typically comprised of several components, each with a different purpose. There is the ceremony card, the reception card (if applicable), the response card with its stamped return envelope, the map (if one is to be included) and the inner and outer envelopes.
Formal invitations are typically engraved on the first page of a double sheet of heavy paper, folded once or on card stock. The paper color is typically ivory or white with black ink, although charcoal gray ink is also acceptable. Paper size is either 5-1/2 x 7-1/2 (folded once, as described) for the embassy size, or 4-1/2 x 6-1/4 (also folded once) for the classic size. The paper is usually devoid of design: the rare exception when the bride’s father’s family has a coat of arms. One subtle way to distinguish your invitations is to select an unusual paper stock such as rice, linen or parchment and textures such as weave and moiré. You can even choose an unusual handmade paper with pressed flower petals or small leaves.
The three basic printing techniques are engraving, embossing and thermograph. Engraving, used for very formal invitations, lettering is brought into relief by impressing from behind. More costly than other options, this process can take up to eight weeks. Embossing raises the lettering, artwork and borders from the surface without the use of ink. Thermograph, a very popular and cost effective technique, resembles engraving on the front, but without the tell-tale impressions engraving leaves on the back of the paper.
Order your invitations three to six months prior to the wedding date, allowing ample time for reading and correcting the proofs, printing, addressing and mailing. Order enough invitations for each couple, family, or individual on your final list, each attendant and their guests, and the clergy. Then add at least 25 percent to the total number.
Unless your budget is unlimited, you probably won’t be able to have absolutely everyone you’d like to invite however, you do want to have as many as you can. Start by making an “A” list, composed of family and friends you must invite, and a “B” list of those you would like to invite, but whose absence you can accept. Usually about 25 percent of invitees will be unable to attend, giving you some leeway. When you receive a regret from someone on the A list, send an invitation to someone on the B list.
It’s acceptable to send invitations as late as two weeks prior to the wedding, but it’s best to send the last ones no later than three weeks in advance. This will help you handle any oversights and allow you to invite people from your B list as you receive regrets. If you’re pressed for time, have the stationer give you the envelopes early for addressing, and request an extra 50 or so of these to account for inevitable mistakes. Response cards help keep track of the number of expected guests for the reception. These cards, included with the invitations, insure prompt confirmation or regrets. Be sure to include the matching postage-paid return envelope. If you don’t send a response card,
the letters RSVP at the bottom left corner of the reception card will show that you expect confirmation or regret.
A formal wedding invitation includes an inner and an outer envelope. The inner envelope holds the invitation itself and the enclosure(s), with the ceremony invitation on the bottom, the reception card in the middle, then the response card and the map, if any, on top. If your invitations are folded twice, the enclosures are inserted in the second fold. All of these items are then inserted into the inner envelope face up with the folded edge down. The inner envelope is addressed to the person, couple or family, using neither first names nor street address, just “Mr. and Mrs. Green.” However, if children are included in the invitation, write their first names on a second line, “Michael and Erinn.” Insert the addressed and stuffed inner envelope into the outer envelope with the addressee’s name facing the back flap so it will be visible upon opening.
The outer envelope should have a return address engraved or printed on the back flap. Address the front of the envelope according to the following guidelines. To indicate both parties of a married couple, use “Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Green.” If every member of a family is invited, write “Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Green and Family.” If only the older children are included, their names are written below the parents’: “Miss Erinn Green.” When addressing an unmarried couple living together, use each of their full names: “Mr. Reginald Howard and Miss Angelica Thomson.”
Street names, cities and states should be written out completely without abbreviations. When addressing envelopes by hand, use blue, blue-black, black or charcoal-gray ink. You may consider hiring a professional hand-calligrapher or paying for computer-generated calligraphy for your envelopes.
Invitations should be mailed four to six weeks before the wedding, three weeks before at the latest. Mail them earlier if many of your guests are traveling a considerable distance or if the wedding is on a holiday to allow time for travel arrangements. Weigh the complete invitation to ensure correct postage, and confirm whether the envelope is considered standard or oversized by the United States Post Office.
Please check out our list of recommended vendors below:
Bella Cosa Invitations
MonCher Designs Wedding Stationary
Oh So Swank!
Not Just Paper
- How to Address your Wedding Invitation Envelopes (di-viaggio.com)
- envelope envy (guyandhisgirl.com)
- The Custom Envelope Conundrum (return2writing.com)