Wedding invitation etiquette is tough to sort out. Between figuring out when to send your save-the-dates, what actually goes into an invitation suite, and how to word your invite, the stationery protocol is probably the most baffling wedding rule of them all. To help nail down the perfect semantics, we consulted with wedding etiquette expert Shanna Zuelch. From who to list as a host to how to include the dress code, we've tackled every tough wording decision.
Meet the Expert
Shanna Zuelch is a wedding etiquette expert and stationery specialist at Invitations by Dawn.
If Both Sets of Parents Are Paying
In the case of both the bride's and groom's parents paying for the wedding, stick to tradition: "In this situation, you would rely on tradition, and traditionally the bride's parents are the hosts of the wedding and listed first on the invitation," says Zuelch.
If the Couple Is Paying
If the couple is paying for the wedding with no help from either set of parents, here's how the information should be presented:
Lindsay Sarah Twedell
Tyler Matthew Nelson
invite you to share in the joy
when they exchange marriage vows...
If Divorced Parents or Extended Families Are Paying
As for divorced parents, or contributions from extended families, it might be best to stick to the couple's names and write "with their families." Use the below format to address both of these issues:
Together with their families
Miss Andrea Jane Brigante
Mr. Robert Holden White
request the honor of your presence
at their marriage
However, if you want to mention parents' names, list the mother, her new spouse first, and then the father, then the groom's parents, and so on. See below for an example:
With joyful hearts,
Mr. and Mrs. John Perry
Mr. and Mrs. James Carlson
Mr. and Mrs. Matthew McGrath
invite you to the marriage ceremony uniting their children...
"The names listed on your wedding invitation are the hosts and therefore have contributed the largest amounts of money," Zuelch adds. "If there are other family members who have made smaller contributions, we recommend recognizing them in another way. The wedding program is a great place to note their support."
If Children Aren't Invited
To tactfully note that children aren't invited, use the wedding invitation envelopes to your advantage: "The inner envelope is where you will list each guest specifically," Zuelch says. "If you only list the parents' names, only the parents are invited. If you list the names of parents and children, then the whole family is invited."
"If your invitation doesn't include an inner envelope, you can use the outer envelopes for this purpose by writing Mr. and Mrs. John Carlson or Mr. and Mrs. John Carlson and Family," adds Zuelch. "You'll find some couples choose to put 'Adult Only Reception' on the reception card, but this is not recommended."
The two most common and formal ways of saying "You're invited" are "Request the honor of your presence" and "Request the pleasure of your company: "If you're looking for something a little different, we suggest 'With joyful hearts, we ask you to be present at the ceremony uniting...' or 'We invite you to witness the union of...'" advises Zuelch.
If It's a Casual Wedding
As for those throwing a more casual wedding, you might want to try something a little bit different: "A few of our more popular wording options are 'Come celebrate with us as we exchange marriage vows' and 'Invite you to share in the joy when they exchange marriage vows and begin their new life together,'" Zuelch adds. "We really like 'join as we pledge our love as one..." and "We invite you, our family and friends, to share in this celebration of love as we...'"