Expert-Approved Wedding Invitation Etiquette Tips

coral and orange and cream wedding invitation suite
Photo: Jose Villa

When it comes to wedding etiquette, few details are as nuanced (and confusing) as the invitations. From your main card's wording to how you address each guest on the envelope, there's a lot to consider—and several places where things can go wrong. To help you get the etiquette down pat, we asked an expert to share her top wedding invitation tips. After all, your wedding invitations are the first glimpse your guests get into your big day. Don't you want to start off on the right foot? Luckily, etiquette advisor Patricia Napier-Fitzpatrick, who is best known for dispensing protocol and manners-training services at The Etiquette School of New York, has all of the insider knowledge you need.

Planning your wedding should be a time of joy and excitement, and with these helpful tips, you'll have more time to spend counting down the days until your ceremony and less time worrying about an etiquette faux pas.

01 of 07

You Can Never Give Too Much Notice

green and white stationary save the dates with pink floral design
Ashley Bee

Save-the-dates typically go out three to four months prior to the wedding, but if guests are spread far and wide—or you're throwing a destination wedding—more time is better. No one will complain about having extra leeway to plan. Send invitations six to eight weeks beforehand, with an R.S.V.P. request of two to three weeks prior to the event so you can get a final head count. This suite, by Jen Simpson Design, has the details just right.

02 of 07

Be Creative (But Clear)

wedding invitation suite with watercolor illustration of hotel venue
Cavin Elizabeth Photography

From telegrams to invisible ink, couples are doing fun things with their save-the-dates and invitations. If you're getting innovative—like these invitations by by Hand-Painted Weddings—just make sure that all pertinent information is included.

For save-the-dates, the names of the couple getting married and the date should be most prominent, along with a note that invitations will follow. You don't have to name the venue, but if you have a website, save-the-dates are a great place to share the URL.

03 of 07

Keep It Simple

simple elegant wedding invitations in slate, black, and white
Carlos Hernández Photography

Wedding invitations should include the full names of the couple getting married, those of the hosts (if they're different), and the place and time of the ceremony—that's it. These invites, by Epoch Designs, do just that. Phrases like "no children" or "adults only" should not be included on the invitation card; who is invited will be implied by the names on the envelope. You should also leave off registry information—family and members of the wedding party can spread the word when asked about it, or you can provide it on your website.

04 of 07

Spell It Out

teal and coral elegant wedding invitations
Vicki Grafton

"Street," "Post Office Box," and "Apartment" should all be written in full, as seen in these gorgeous invites byIsidore Augustine. The same is true for city and state names and house numbers smaller than 20. "Mr. and Mrs." generally are abbreviated.

05 of 07

Play the Name Game

white and blue themed invitation suite
Charla Storey

Your guests' entire names should be written on the outer envelopes, as seen on these beautiful invitations by Brown Fox Creative. Address married couples as "Mr. and Mrs.," followed by the husband's first and last name. It's also fine to list both full names. When a woman keeps her maiden name, the names are written in alphabetical order: Ms. Susan Jones and Mr. John Smith. For an unmarried couple who live together, write the names on two lines.

06 of 07

Titles Do Matter

blue fall wedding invitation
Jeremiah and Rachel Photography

If the wife is a doctor, her full name comes first, as in "Doctor Aharon and Mr. Gary Lawrence." When the husband is a doctor, the titles appear as "Doctor and Mrs."; if both husband and wife are doctors, the envelope should say "Drs. Sharon and Gary Lawrence." A single woman (unless she's a doctor) should be addressed as "Ms." If she's under 21, use "Miss."

07 of 07

Be Gracious—In a Timely Fashion

thank you notes snapfish black gold
Courtesy of Snapfish

Thank-you notes should be treated with a sense of urgency. Send them within two weeks of receiving the present to express your true appreciation.

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