Wedding Invitation Wording and Etiquette Guide

Your invitations set the first impression. In this guide, our experts lay out everything you need to know about proper wording for wedding invitations.

By The Zola Team

green invitation suite laying on beige table.
Photo by Zola

The First Look ✨

Your wedding invitations are an important piece of the planning puzzle. Not only are your invitations one of the first things your guests will see, touch, and feel when it comes to your wedding, but they do an important job of conveying critical information. For the sake of politeness and formality, as well as for clarity of your message, be sure to choose clear and appropriate wedding invitation wording.

Worried you’re not good with words, or you don’t know all the proper “rules” for wedding invitation wording? Follow our comprehensive guide, outlined below, to understand the ins and outs of wedding invitation wording and etiquette.

What to Include in Your Wedding Invitation

what-to-include-in-your-wedding-invitation

The wedding invitation sets the theme for your wedding. When guests see a rustic invitation with informal wording, it lets them know that the event will be casual. When they see a classic invitation with traditional wording, they will expect a formal event. Like your wedding, invitations can be as simple or as grandiose as you want as long as they accomplish the following jobs:

  • Tell guests the critical information about the wedding: who is getting married, the wedding date, and the wedding location.
  • Recognize the hosts of the wedding.
  • Convey the tone and formality of the wedding, including the dress code.
  • Indicate how guests should RSVP, if no response or other enclosure cards are included.
  • Recognize the couple’s parents, if they are not also the hosts. (Optional)

If you are writing your own invitations from scratch, follow these requirements line-by-line as you fill out this piece of your wedding stationery. Each section outlines what information should appear, and in what order, on a traditional wedding invite. Once you understand the various components of invitation wording, feel free to get creative with your own personal touches and style, using the language that feels right for you and your partner.

Host Line

Located at the very top of the invitation, the host line is where the name(s) of the event hosts appear. The hosts are typically the people who are paying for the wedding. Depending on who’s hosting, the wording will vary slightly: it could be one set of parents, both sets of parents, the couple and their parents together, or just the couple. Jump down to the Wedding Invitation Wording Etiquette section for guidance on how to format names in your invitation.

Host Line Etiquette

  • Capitalize proper names and titles.
  • Don’t use punctuation, except after courtesy titles.

Couple’s Names

Make sure you and your partner’s names are front and center. They may be placed high, low, or center depending on your invitation design, but make sure they are clearly legible. For heterosexual couples, the bride’s name traditionally comes before the groom’s. For same-sex couples, the wording of the host line may dictate who’s name comes first (i.e., if one set of parents is hosting, their names will come first and their child’s should follow). If you are hosting yourselves, then it’s up to you which name comes first.

Name Etiquette

  • Capitalize proper names and titles.
  • Don’t use punctuation, except after courtesy titles.
  • Avoid abbreviations; in general, spell everything out except courtesy titles.
  • Don’t spell out courtesy titles, except for “Doctor” in the case of medical doctors.
  • Consider using both partners’ full legal names. If you prefer to go by a nickname, use it on the save the date or other, less formal pieces of the invitation suite.
  • Drop the bride’s and/or groom’s middle names if they become too long to fit on one line.

Information

Don’t make your guests guess. Include everything they need to show up at the right place at the right time. The real meat of the invitations, the information section follows the couple’s names. It states the date of the wedding, where the ceremony and reception are taking place, and the start time. Include the address of the wedding venue(s), unless your invitation design doesn’t allow room. You can also include information on dress code and how guests should RSVP (a wedding website, an email, and/or phone number, and an RSVP deadline) if you forgo a response card.

Information Etiquette

  • Spell out the date and year for formal invitations so that guests do not transpose numbers.
  • Spell out time for formal invitations.
  • Don’t use a.m. or p.m. Instead use “in the morning”, “in the afternoon”, or “in the evening”.
  • Include the ceremony location, using the full address for out-of-town guests.

Reception Details line

The party line comes at the end of the invitation and notifies guests of what’s scheduled to follow the marriage ceremony. Let your guests know what type of wedding reception they should expect, whether it’s dinner and dancing, a light luncheon, or cocktails and canapes.

Reception Details Line Etiquette

  • Include the reception location, if different than the ceremony, on a separate card for formal invitations.

Wedding Invitation Wording Etiquette

wedding-invitation-wording-etiquette

Wedding invitations, and how they are worded, are a topic that makes people nervous. What if you accidentally misspell a word, or leave out critical info? Or, worse yet, what if you don’t know the proper “rules” and end up committing a social faux pas? Never fear—we’ve put together a list of wedding invitation wording etiquette that will help you craft perfectly on-point invitations.

Note: We realize that every wedding is unique. You will have to decide as a couple what type of language feels right for your specific style. These etiquette “rules” are really more suggestions for the most traditional and formal invitation wording. If you are having an informal wedding, and/or prefer a more modern approach to your invitation design, then do whatever works for you and your style.

Hosted By One Set of Parents

hosted-by-one-set-of-parents

Traditionally, the bride's family hosted and paid for the wedding. While that is still common, the groom’s family or even other loved ones may host the event. In all of these cases, it is a nice gesture to include their names on the invitation.

  • Include your parents’ full names with middle names (for very formal invites).
  • Avoid using initials.
  • Write "and" to join the two names if the parents have different last names.

Formal Invitation

Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Lively
invite you to share in the joy
of marriage uniting their daughter
Blake Ellender
to
Ryan Rodney
Saturday, the ninth of September
two-thousand twelve
at noon
Boone Hall
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Dinner and merriment to follow

Casual Invitation

Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Simon Peter Blunt
invite you to the marriage of
Emily Olivia Leah
and
John Burke
July 10, 2010
at half past six in the evening
Via Regina Teodolinda, 35
Como, Italy
Food, wine, and merriment to follow

Hosted By Both Sets of Parents

hosted-by-both-sets-of-parents

Weddings are beautiful celebrations of unity and what better way to demonstrate that unification than both sets of parents hosting the big day. If you are fortunate to have both families host your wedding, configuring all of the names on the invitation may be tricky.

  • List the bride’s parents’ names first if you are a different-sex couple.
  • List parents’ names in alphabetical order if you are a same-sex couple.

Formal Invitation

Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Adams
and
Mr. and Mrs. David Beckham
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their children
Victoria Caroline
to
David Robert Joseph
Saturday, the fourth of July
Nineteen ninety-nine
at half past seven in the evening
Luttrellstown Castle
Clonsilla, Ireland
Reception to follow.

Casual Invitation

With great pleasure
Kimberly and Jonathan Biel
and Lynn Bomar Harless and Randall Timberlake
invite you to celebrate the marriage of their children
Jessica and Justin
October 19, 2012
at four o’clock in the afternoon
Borgo Egnazia Resort
72015 Savelletri di Fasano BR, Italy
Dress as you wish, dine as you like, dance as you please

Hosted By the Couple

hosted-by-the-couple

For modern couples, the tradition of parents hosting a wedding is often skipped. Whether the couple has unique ideas for their wedding, wants to keep it small, or don’t have parents with us anymore, hosting your own wedding is a wonderful thing.

  • To save space you can skip the host line or you can start the wording with a welcoming introduction.

Formal Invitation

Amal Alamuddin
and
George Timothy Clooney
request the pleasure of your company
at the celebration of their marriage
Saturday, 27 September 2014
at noon
Aman Canal Grande Hotel in Venice, Italy
Festivities to follow

Casual Invitation

Miss Beyonce Knowles
and
Shawn “Jay Z” Carter
are getting married
Friday, April 4th, 2018
at four o’clock in the afternoon
Join us for dinner and drinks

Hosted By Divorced Parents

hosted-by-divorced-parents

To include divorced parents on the invitation—either for the bride or the groom—include the mother’s name first followed by the father’s name on a separate line without an “and” separating them.

  • For divorced mothers who are not remarried, use the courtesy title “Ms.” followed by whichever last name she prefers (maiden or married).
  • To include stepparents on the invitation—for either the bride or the groom list the mother and stepfather’s names first, followed by the father and stepmother’s names.
  • List the mother first regardless if the father is remarried and the mother is not.
  • The bride should consider including her last name if multiple sets of parents, with different last names, come before her on the invitation.

Formal Invitation

Mr. Angiolo Guiseppe and Ms. Elettra Rossellini
invite you to share in the joy
of marriage uniting their son
Roberto Rossellini
to
Ingrid Bergman
Saturday, the twenty-fourth of May
nineteen fifty
at noon
Hotel Boca Chica, Acapulco, Mexico
Dinner and merriment to follow

Casual Invitation

Ms. Pamela Jacobsen
Mr. and Mrs. Fred Jacobsen
invite you to share in their wedding festivities
at the marriage of their daughter
Jordan
to
Paige
Saturday, the tenth of April
two thousand and twenty one
at half past six in the evening
Hotel Chantelle
New York City, NY
Dress as you wish, dine as you like, dance as you please

Hosted By Parent, Including Deceased Parent

hosted-by-parent-and-deceased-parent

Weddings are emotional events especially when a parent isn't there to witness it. If you want to honor a deceased parent on your invitations include them in the host line or after the bride or groom's name.

  • Use the phrase “the late” preceding his or her name.

Formal Invitation

Mrs. and Mr. Michael Francis Middleton
request the honour of your company
at the marriage of their daughter
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton
to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Son of Charles, Prince of Wales and the late Diana, Princess of Wales
Friday, the twenty-ninth of April
two thousand and eleven
at eleven o’clock in the morning
at Westminster Abbey – 20, Deans Yard
London, England
Reception to follow

Casual Invitation

Together with their families
Malaak Compton
daughter of Gerald and Louisa Compton
and
Christopher Rock
son of the late Julius Rock and Rosalie Rock
invite you to share in their wedding festivities
November 23, 1996
at eight o’clock in the evening
The Estate at Florentine Gardens
97 Rivervale Road
River Vale, New Jersey
Dinner reception to follow

Hosted By Same-Sex Parents

hosted-by-same-sex-parents

If your parents identify as the same sex here are a few ways to best honor them on your invitation.

  • To include the names of two parents with different last names, use the courtesy title “Mr.” “Mrs.” or “Mx.” and list their names in alphabetical order by last name.
  • To include the names of two parents with the same last name, use the courtesy title “Mr.” “Mrs.” or “Mx.” and list their names in alphabetical order by first name.

Formal Invitation

Mr. Michael and Mr. Sean Flannigan
request the pleasure of your company
at the marriage of their daughter
Julie Marie
to
Stephen Anthony
Saturday, the tenth of April
two thousand and twenty one
at half past six in the evening
Hotel Chantelle
New York City, NY
Reception to follow

Casual Invitation

Ms. Jane and Ms. Courtney Lowe
invite you to attend the marriage
of their daughter
Madison
to
Colton
Saturday, April 10th, 2021
at half past six in the evening
Allan House
1104 San Antonio Street
New York City, NY
Party to follow

Enclosure Cards Wording

enclosure-cards-wording

Once you have your bases covered on your invitation, feel free to include enclosure cards to inform your guests about details. Your cards could include reception details, RSVP information, or anything else that wouldn’t fit on the invitation.

RSVP Cards

RSVP cards are great tools for getting an accurate headcount for your big day. Make sure to include a reply-by date that occurs at least three weeks before the wedding. This will allow you to give a final headcount to the caterer and fill out your seating chart. On the RSVP card include specific instructions about how they should respond. If you expect them to be mailed back to you, it is courteous to include a stamped envelope. If you would like guests to RSVP online, include the URL to the website on the card. If you have meal choices for your reception, the RSVP card is a great way to collect your guests’ preferences.

Change the Date Cards

Due to the ever-changing social distancing guidelines in response to COVID-19, changing a wedding date has become a reality for couples all over the world. If you had to make the difficult decision to postpone your wedding, include a change of date card with information about the new date and time along with social distancing details. These will help keep your guest informed during these confusing times.

Details Card

If you run out of space on your invitation but need to mention details about accommodations, directions, or attire, a details card is the perfect place for overflow. These are especially important if the reception is held at a different location than the ceremony.

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