Depending on how you look at it, the second envelope is either a nice tradition or a waste of paper.

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Like wearing a color other than white, brides are challenging tradition in every aspect of the wedding, including the all-important invitation. The latest tradition today's couples are questioning? Why both an outer and inner envelope is necessary for each invitation. Depending on your stance on paper goods, you may view the second envelope as either a nice tradition or a waste of paper. Here's what you need to know before deciding whether or not to double up your own invite.

The inner envelope's main purpose is to keep the invitation in pristine condition.

Occasionally an invitation's outer envelope will get torn, soiled, or mangled at the post office or get chewed by a frisky puppy. Using an inner envelope prevents the invite from looking like it went through hard times before reaching its intended guest.

The double-envelope tradition is rooted in dirt.

Literally! A century or two ago, mail service was carried out in a completely different way than it is today. Mail carriers traveled around on horseback, not in trucks, and the chances that someone's wedding invitation would arrive at their destination dusty, wet, or damaged was highly likely. To ensure it looked presentable, the outer envelope was removed by a butler, maid, or someone else in the household before being presented to the potential guest.

There's no right or wrong way to go.

If you like the tradition, go for doubles, but if you worry that an extra envelope is a strike against the environment, just use the outer one. There's no rule that says you need both inner and outer envelopes, and most guests won't realize you are or are not following tradition.

If you decide to do doubles...

Even when kids are invited, the outer envelope should be addressed only to their parents. The names of children under 18 years old should appear on the inner envelope on the line beneath Mom and Dad's. Start with the oldest child, followed by his or her siblings in order of diminishing age; for anyone 18 or older in a household, send a separate invitation. Put the inner envelope, which you don't seal, inside of the outer envelope, with the guest's name facing out.

If you decide to do solos...

Put the outer envelope to work by listing the names of every person invited to the wedding. (See order above.) Avoid writing "and Family," which is too vague and could mean extra guests showing up at the wedding whom you weren't expecting or can't afford.


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