Nothing sends couples into an utter panic like the thought of ruining their wedding invitations. Decisions about the theme, color, aesthetic, and budget can be tricky and time-consuming, but knowing what belongs on formal wedding invitations—and what doesn’t—can be trickier. Though the concept of wedding invitations dates back hundreds of years, the wording “rules” of today aren’t that complicated.
Whether you’re planning to have a wedding that’s traditional and religious, traditional and secular, or casual and informal, we’ve gathered our best wording tips—with wedding invitation wording samples—to acquaint you with the basics well before you press that Order button.
Anatomy of a Wedding Invitation: Top to Bottom
List the names of those hosting—or paying for—your wedding. Usually, the host line is the bride’s or groom’s parents.
If the bride’s parents are hosting, the bride might be written as her first and middle name with her last name omitted—unless it’s different from her parents’—with the groom’s full name.
Are both sets of parents hosting? The wedding invitation will usually include their names before the bride and groom—on separate lines.
[bride’s parents] Kimberly & Jordan Fisher
[groom’s parents] and Rose & Eric Smith
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their children
If you’d like to honor a deceased parent on your wedding invitation, it’s simply a matter of rearranging your wording:
Catherine Brown, daughter of Mr. Roger Brown and the late Emilia Brown
Otherwise, if you’re hosting your own wedding, you can omit any verbiage about your parents.
The request line is where you formally invite your guests to the wedding. After all, that’s why we’re here!
If your ceremony is formal and occurring at a place of worship, it’s customary to state request the honor of your presence.
Having a casual affair? You can frame it as request the pleasure of your company or invite you to celebrate the marriage of their children, or variations of these lines depending on your and your spouse’s voice or personality.
Above all else: Be yourself, establish your tone at the onset, and create consistency.
The Action or Event
Think of this as the reason for inviting your guests to the affair. What, exactly, are you inviting them to?
Depending on the formality of your wedding, tone, and who is hosting, add a line to briefly describe the occasion such as:
at the marriage of their daughter (with the bride’s parents hosting)
at the marriage of their children (with both sets of parents hosting)
or at the celebration of their union (if you’re hosting)
The Name of the Bride and Groom
Traditionally, the bride’s full name is always featured first on the invitation, with the groom’s full name closely following.
For same-sex couples, names are usually listed in alphabetical order by the last name—or in the order you choose.
If these “rules” are too rigid, not to worry. Just think about what sounds best, and what works for you, as a couple. This means if you feel like adding your first names only, embrace it—so long as you’re planning to have an informal or casual wedding.
Otherwise, you may leave some guests scratching their heads when they realize you’re planning to have a religious ceremony and you’ve listed only your first names on the invitation.
Bottom line: Set the tone and ensure it matches your personality and where you plan to hold the wedding.
For more traditional weddings, spell out the entire date instead of using numerals because it feels more formal. The first line lists the day of the week and the date spelled out, and the second line lists the year spelled out, with the word and omitted in the year.
However, with “modern” wedding designs becoming more popular, some couples choose to use numerals in the date. Of course, you can also do this if your wedding is informal.
[formal] Saturday, the fifteenth of August, two thousand twenty
[informal] Saturday, August 15, 2020
Your wedding time should also be spelled out completely and not contain any capitalized letters for formal affairs. Use o’clock or half past to indicate the starting time, and note that generally “evening” typically begins at 5 p.m.
But, as usual, feel free to use numerals and informal language if that feels right to you and makes sense with the mood of your wedding.
[formal] at half past 3 in the afternoon
[informal] at 3 p.m.
Whether you’re having a formal or informal celebration, location wording “rules” apply the same across the board.
All you’ll need is the ceremony venue on one line and the city and state—spelled out completely—on a separate line.
An address isn’t necessary unless your wedding is taking place at a private residence or a location that isn’t easily found.
Forest House Lodge
Include a reception line if the reception venue—where the eating, dancing, and socializing will take place—is at a different location from the ceremony.
If so, list the venue on the next line and only include a time, also on its own line, if the festivities are not immediately following the ceremony.
[reception at the same location] Dinner and dancing to follow
[reception at a different location] Reception to follow at Gramercy Gardens Hotel
When in doubt, aim for clarity and simplicity.
The Wedding Website
Do you have a wedding website you want to share with guests? Though it’s not typical for couples to add their website URL on their printed wedding invitations, it’s not a hard and fast “rule” either.
However, if you’re having a formal wedding, it’s best to leave the URL off the invitation—for the sake of tradition, clarity, and keeping your details streamlined.
So what’re your other options? You can include the URL on a reception card, activities card, or an additional information card—mailed along with the invitation—as many questions will likely involve post-wedding ceremony activities. After all, ceremonies usually last 20 to 30 minutes while receptions can last for hours into the evening and morning, so it makes sense to assume that guests will have more questions about the latter.
If you don’t have a wedding website, consider creating one. It’s an easy way to direct guests to more information about the dress code, directions, lodging, and whether children or +1s are invited—and they can keep up-to-date on all your wedding details in one place if anything changes.
With a wedding website through Joy, you can also enable guests to RSVP online instead of forcing them to mail their RSVP cards (Because who has time for that?).
Wedding invitation wrap-up: clarity and consistency
Remember that with more formal weddings—religious or secular—invitation etiquette “rules” are a bit more rigid. With less-than-formal affairs, however, note that you have more flexibility with your voice—though you should still include the basics we’ve described here.
Once you’ve locked down your wedding invitation wording, style, and aesthetic, and ensured it matches your chosen formality, the fun can begin. At the end of the day, what counts is that your invitations are clear from a logistical standpoint (i.e. date and time), reflect the style of your wedding ceremony and reception, and are true to you as a couple.