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Anatomy of an Invitation

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2008

Brides are often intimidated by the etiquette of invitation wording; in fact, the rules are fairly straightforward, and these days they are often made to be broken.

In most cases, there's more than one option, although your choice of language as well as typeface, layout, and color palette provide subtle clues about what your wedding will be like -- and who you are as a couple.

Host Lines

Historically, the bride's parents had top billing, and they still should for formal affairs, but naming both sets of parents as hosts is a gracious option no matter who foots the bill. Some couples issue their own invitations, or do so together with their parents. Some examples follow.

Bride's Parents Hosting

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw

Divorced Parents Hosting, Mother Has Remarried

Mr. and Mrs. John Carruthers
Mr. Richard Bradshaw ... at the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw
(note that mother's name appears first; father's name appears first only if mother will not be contributing to the costs of the wedding)

Divorced Parents Hosting, Father Has Remarried but Mother Has Not

Mrs. Catherine Bradshaw
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw ... at the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw

Divorced Parents Hosting, Both Parents Have Remarried

Mr. and Mrs. John Carruthers
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw

Bride's Divorced Mother Is Hosting

Mrs. Catherine Bradshaw

Bride's Divorced Parents, Not Remarried, Hosting

Mrs. Catherine Bradshaw
Mr. Richard Bradshaw request the honour...

Bride's Mother and Stepfather Hosting (Father Has No Part in Bride's Life)

Mr. and Mrs. John Carruthers request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw

Bride's Mother and Stepfather Hosting

Mr. and Mrs. John Carruthers request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of her daughter [or, Mrs. Carruthers's daughter] Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw

Both Bride's and Groom's Parents Hosting

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw and Mr. and Mrs. Roderick Clarke (follow similar naming conventions as above if the groom's parents have divorced and/or remarried)

Bride's Parents Hosting, Honoring Groom's Parents

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw to Angus Piers Clarke, son of Mr. and Mrs. Roderick Clarke (follow similar naming conventions as above if the groom's parents have divorced and/or remarried; see below for naming convention if one of his parents is deceased)

Bride and Groom Hosting

Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw and Angus Piers Clarke or, more formally Miss Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw and Mr. Angus Piers Clarke

Bride's Living Parent Is Hosting

Mr. [Mrs.] Richard Bradshaw

Honoring Deceased Parents -- Bride

The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of Richard Bradshaw and the late Catherine Bradshaw, to Angus Piers Clarke. Or: The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of Richard and the late Catherine Bradshaw. Or: The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of Catherine Bradshaw and her late husband, Richard. Or: The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of the late Mr. Richard Bradshaw and his wife, Catherine.

If Both Parents Are Deceased

The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw. Or: The honour of your presence is requested at the marriage of Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw, daughter of the late Richard and Catherine Bradshaw.

All Parties Hosting

Together with their parents, Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw and Angus Piers Clarke

Father Is a Doctor

Doctor and Mrs. Richard Bradshaw

Mother Is a Doctor

Doctor Catherine Bradshaw and Mr. Richard Bradshaw

Both Parents Are Doctors

The Doctors Bradshaw, or Doctor Richard Bradshaw and Doctor Catherine Bradshaw (doctor may be abbreviated for space).

Groom's Parents Are Hosting

Mr. and Mrs. Roderick Clarke request the honour of your presence at the marriage of Miss Elizabeth Anne Bradshaw to their son Angus Piers Clarke.

Bride's Parents Are Hosting (Mother Uses Maiden Name)

Mr. Richard Bradshaw and Ms. Catherine Keys (note that their names are on a single line)

Request Lines

Honour of your presence: Honour spelled British-style with a U indicates a ceremony in a house of worship.
The pleasure of your company: indicates the ceremony is taking place outside a place of worship.

When both sets of the couple's parents are hosting, this line would specify "at the marriage of their children."

Bride and Groom Lines

The name of the bride always precedes the groom's name. Formal invitations issued by the bride's parents refer to her by her first and middle names, the groom by his full name and title; if the couple is hosting by themselves, their titles are optional.

Date and Time Lines

For formal events, everything is written out in full (no numerals). The year is optional (the assumption being your wedding is on the nearest such date). Time of day is spelled out using "o'clock" or "half after ___ o'clock." The use of a.m. or p.m. is optional. For casual weddings, numerals are fine.

Location Lines

The street address is not usually needed unless omitting it would lead to confusion or your wedding is taking place at the host's home. The city and state are written out in full.

Reception Lines

Very formal invitations include this information on a separate card. Otherwise, it can be printed on the invitation if there is room; if the ceremony and reception will take place at the same location, you may print "and afterward at the reception" or "reception immediately following." When the reception is elsewhere, the location goes on a different line. Include the time if not immediately following the ceremony.

RSVP Lines

Many couples choose to include a separate response card for guests to fill out and return in the mail. Traditionally, the request appears in the lower left-hand corner of the invitation with an address, implying guests should send a reply on their personal stationery.

Resources

See the invitation photo gallery for examples of wording and style coming together.