Michelle Secondi of 417 Press is a wonderfully creative, hilarious and talented graphic designer and letterpress printer. She’s also been helping brides create beautiful, customized wedding invitations for over 12 years. She was kind enough to share some the advice she’s gather over the years so you can nail your wedding invitation by both creating something that really reflects you and getting the etiquette right.
In a hurried world where information is usually coming at us from a flat screen, receiving a beautifully printed invitation in the mail is a real treat. It is the first glimpse your guests will have of your special day and it sets the tone for the event itself.
While wedding invitation styles have greatly evolved of late, invitation etiquette is timeless.
Here are some tips I share with the brides I work with to help them create an invitation that is personalized and polite, plus some tricks to ease the process during a busy time in a young couple’s life.
An (Almost) Pain-Free Guest List
I suggest that you write down the names of all the guests you wish to invite, even if you don’t have their mailing address yet.
To determine the number of invitations you need, all persons living in the same household receive one invitation. In some instances, you may wish to send a separate invitation to grown children that are still living with their parents if they have a significant other.
For unmarried guests in a serious relationship, be sure to include the name of their plus-one.
If a friend/relative/associate isn’t married or in a serious relationship, you may include “and guest”, but it’s perfectly fine to invite them solo.
Tip: Once you have determined the number of invitations required, add another 10 to account for guests you forgot, invitations that were lost in the mail and invitations you may wish to keep as mementos.
Create a Timeline So Everything Runs Smoothly
Wedding invitations are typically mailed six to eight weeks before the wedding.
Working backwards, add to your mailing date time for:
-Ordering/creating your invitations
-Printing (anywhere from two weeks to two months)
-Shipping (if applicable)
Keep in mind that custom invitations can take up to six weeks to design, so make sure to ask your designer what their turnaround times are.
If you are having a destination wedding or many out-of-town guests, consider sending a Save the Date six to eight months in advance.
Find the Perfect Invitation to Reflect Your Wedding
With all the styles and printing options available, there truly is something for every budget.
At a minimum you will need:
-The invitation itself
-A reply card & envelope or a reply postcard
-The invitation envelope
Other enclosures might include accommodations or directions cards.
Want to take it a step further? Think about envelope liners, wraparound bands, ribbon and such. None are essential but it can be a nice touch.
This is also the time you want to consider:
-Thank you cards
-Ceremony and/or reception pieces such as programs, place cards and menus
This may be a little overwhelming but I like to remind brides to think of their wedding stationery as an outfit; it doesn’t need to be matchy-matchy, but should share elements that make everything look put-together when assembled.
DIY Tip: Always, always, always source your envelopes first and then size your invitation to match. Card stock can easily be cut to fit any envelope, but there are limited envelope sizes available.
Money saving tip: Think about envelope size! A small difference in the size of an envelope can mean a big pricing in postage costs. For example, square invitations are considered oversize and cost more in postage.
Invitations Should Reflect You & Your Wedding
Your invitations should reflect your personality and the formality of your wedding. An oversize ecru invitation with engraved black script is best suited for a black tie evening wedding, whereas an invitation for a morning garden wedding might take it’s cues from floral patterns and colours.
Get the Writing Right
Design not withstanding, the language of your invitation should still adhere to traditional etiquette.
The essential elements are as follows:
Nowadays, this may be parents of the bride, parents of the bride and groom, or the couple themselves (sometimes together with our families). Either way, it should be clear who is hosting the event.
There is more room for creativity here, but it is worth noting that use of the word honour, as in “the honour of your presence” is reserved for ceremonies held in a place of worship.
Bride and Groom Line(s)
Listing the bride’s name first is still strictly adhered to, but don’t feel obliged to list middle names. Depending on the style of the invitation it is okay to have the names listed on one line rather than the more traditional two lines. Linking the names using either “to” or “and” are both acceptable, and ampersands (&) are also more common today.
Date, Time and Location Lines
For formal invitations, write out the date, time and location in full. Contemporary invitations may use something like Saturday, August 23, 2016, but never Saturday, August 23rd, 2016, which would be an incorrect use of ordinals.
Each of these lines read like a poem, so avoid repeating prepositions like “at” for the location lines, for example “at Saint Mary’s Church”. Save the postal code for other, less formal stationery such as a directions card.
The most formal invitations have a separate reception card, but it’s perfectly acceptable and most common to add a line stating that a reception will follow.
The invitation style and ceremony time usually indicate the dress code, but if you desire black tie, then certainly include this detail at the bottom.
The M Line used to be the standard in reply cards, but a simple line – or even a blank space for guests to write a little note – is cleaner and more contemporary.
Tip: It’s always helpful to include a reply by date that is three weeks before the wedding so that you can give your vendors a final head count.
Next week in Part 2 we’ll look at faux pas to avoid, addresses and creating a great first impression.
Thanks Michelle for all your advice!
Michelle Secondi is a Montreal-based graphic designer and letterpress printer. She has been designing wedding and event invitations, social stationery and corporate collateral for over 12 years and her work has been featured in Mariage Québec, Reçevoir and Canadian House & Home.
For more on Michelle personally and how she achieves work-life balance please see her interview here.