How to Word Your Wedding Invitations for Different Kinds of Parental Situations

If your parents are divorced or remarried or someone has passed away, you'll need these tips

Updated 02/28/17

Photo by Rebecca Yale Photography

The way you word your wedding invitations provides all sorts of clues to your guests, from who is hosting to how formal the event will be. Modern etiquette lets couples mix up the wording a little bit, but there are still tricky situations that have to be navigated carefully. When your parents are divorced or remarried, or if someone has passed away, that means you’ll need to choose wording that’s not quite standard. Our experts are here to help walk you through it.

If your parents are divorced, including their names on the wedding invitations is fairly simple. List each parent’s name on a separate line, with the mother’s name appearing first—and skipping the “and” between their names. If your mother isn’t remarried, her title should be “Ms.,” followed by her full name (including whichever last name she is using, whether it’s her maiden name or her married name).

If either of your parents is remarried, you’ll still list each of them on a separate line, with your mother listed first, along with their spouse. For each couple, follow the etiquette regarding how to refer to married couples (especially if one holds a professional title, like "Dr."). This same etiquette should be followed if you plan to name the groom’s parents beneath the groom’s name on the invitation (“Son of Ms. Eileen Brown...”).

In the case of a deceased parent, the etiquette is a little trickier, as technically a deceased person cannot serve as a host or hostess. However, if you want to honor him or her on the invitation, there’s a way to do it. Instead of sending an invitation where the parents of the bride are inviting guests to attend their daughter’s wedding (“Mr. and Mrs. Zachary Smith invite you to the wedding of...”), you should put the bride’s name on the first line, followed by “Daughter of Mr. Zachary Smith and the late Jillian Smith.” The same format should be used if the deceased is a parent of the groom. Should you choose not to include a deceased parent on the invitation, use only the name of the living parent. There are plenty of other ways to honor loved ones throughout the wedding!

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