While it may seem like an afterthought amidst wedding planning, your wedding stationery really deserves some attention. In particular, your wedding invitation envelope. It delivers the first impression of your wedding’s (or wedding renewal's) style and personality to your guests. Whether subdued or statement-making, it’s a prelude to the invitation and the event itself. So without further ado, let’s celebrate this paper enclosure with everything you ever wanted to know about wedding invitation envelopes.
If you’re designing custom wedding invitations, it all starts with the envelope! Wedding invitations should be designed from the outside in. Mailing envelopes come in standard sizes, and these sizes can even vary by manufacturer. So it’s best to select your wedding invitation envelope first, choose a coordinating paper, then move on to design, ink colors, and other fun stuff.
In olden times and Jane Austen novels, invitations were handwritten and delivered by a messenger on foot or horseback. The outer envelope would protect the contents from the elements. Upon delivery, the outer envelope was removed and the inner envelope was hand delivered on a silver tray (or something fancy like that) to the recipient. In modern times, you can use inner and outer envelopes to address the invitation to specific people. But you can also use a band of paper with the guests’ names written on it, or write their names directly on the single outer envelope. Double envelopes are becoming less popular because they’re not always necessary and are an additional expense.
Whether you have one or multiple envelopes, keep yourself sane and your guest list completely organized by utilizing Zola’s free Guest List Tool—you can upload your own spreadsheet, email guests directly so they can add their own addresses, even import the contact info from your phone to get your entire guest list loaded quickly and easily into the super handy, totally mobile-friendly tool. Then manage those RSVPs as they roll in in real time! Extra bonus: if you used a free wedding website from Zola, the RSVP feature on your site will sync up automatically with your guest list’s RSVP tracker.
Your return address (or the address of whomever is doing the inviting) typically goes on the back flap of the wedding invitation envelope. Have it printed on your envelopes when you print your invitations, or invest in a custom rubber stamp. This way, if any invitations go astray they’ll hopefully come back to you.
Envelope addressing etiquette is just as important as your invitation wording, with just as many rules. When it comes to guest addressing, there are a handful of different categories to abide by, each with their own do's and don'ts. To make writing these out easier on you, we suggest sectioning off your guest list into the following categories, then going one-by-one with each's etiquette in mind. Doing so will ensure that you address everyone correctly and make recipient addressing an overall easier task.
When addressing married couples with the same last name, use the standard "Mr." and "Mrs." titles. Traditionally, addressing different-sex couples would mean spelling out the man's first and last name (e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez"). However, more modern etiquette suggests using the first and last name of both guests (e.g. "Mr. Gabriel Sanchez and Mrs. Sofia Sanchez"). For a less formal approach that's more often seen on inner envelopes, you can also address married couples by last name only (e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez" or "Mr. Sanchez and Mrs. Sanchez"). Avoid using first names only unless it's on inner envelopes and you've already addressed the couple fully on the outer envelope.
Invitation suite etiquette suggests that, in the case of a married couple with different last names, you first address the person you're closest with. Use both first and last names for each individual addressed to display good etiquette and avoid any confusion as to who's invited (e.g. "Mrs. Emma Mackenzie and Mrs. Amelia Davis"). That being said, if you're equally close to both people, address them in alphabetical order by last name (e.g. "Mrs. Amelia Davis and Mrs. Emma Mackenzie"). Avoid using first or last names only (e.g. "Mrs. Mackenzie and Mrs. Davis" or "Emma and Amelia") unless it's on the inner envelope and you've already addressed the couple fully on the outer envelope.
In the same way that both names are addressed for married couples, both names should be listed for unmarried couples. The difference being, each name is placed on its own line. Also like married couples, the first person addressed should be the one you're closest with. Unless you're equally acquainted, in which case names should be listed in alphabetical order by last name. Use both first and last names for each individual addressed to display good etiquette and avoid any confusion as to who's invited (e.g. "Mr. Alex Garcia, line break, Mr. Thomas Miller").
When inviting a family—both parents and children—only the parents should be addressed on the outer envelope (e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" or "Mr. Jonathan Smith and Mrs. Amanda Smith"). However, for a less formal tone, you can address the entire family by last name (e.g. "The Smith Family"). In either case, both the parents' names and children's names should be listed on the inner envelope, as to specify who's all invited. Children's names should be listed on the line below their parents', with names listed in order of oldest to youngest (e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Smith—line break—Piper and Bellamy").
Depending on the level of formality, doctors can be addressed by "Dr.," which is more casual, or "Doctor" which is more formal. When addressing an invitation to a doctor, the spouse with the professional title is listed first (e.g. "Dr. Rebecca Jones and Mr. Allen Jones"). That being said, if both spouses are doctors, follow the etiquette for married and unmarried couples with the same or different last names, addressing both individuals as "Dr./Doctor." If their last name is the same, you can also address them by their surname (e.g. "The Doctors Jones"). If not, list by acquaintanceship or alphabetically by last name (e.g. "Doctor Alison Hart and Doctor Drew Richardson").
The same etiquette applies to those with other distinguished titles, such as military personnel, reverends, etc. However, if both people have distinguished titles, it's seen as best to first address the person with the higher rank.
Like the choice between colored envelopes and white envelopes, envelope liners are completely decorative, but completely awesome if you can splurge for them. They’re a great way to tie the design of your paper suite together, or to add a pop of color to a simplistic design.
Did you know that you can find beautiful envelope liners right here at Zola? Once you pick the invites and paper designs that are right for you, add one of our many liner designs to your envelope drafts. It's the ultimate add-on for deluxe wedding envelopes.
If you love the look of fancy hand-lettering and have room in your budget, definitely get in touch with a calligrapher. The most formal approach is to hand-letter your envelopes because it adds a personal, special touch to the invitation. If you are printing addresses on self-adhesive labels or on the envelope itself, however, pick a font that coordinates with your invitation’s typography or blends well with your outer envelope. If you are the DIY type and want to try your hand at, well, handwriting your envelopes, make yourself a template and grab a light table.
Measure twice, cut once. Make sure you have the correct spellings of your guests’ names and addresses before you begin addressing.
Don’t forget about postage when calculating your budget for invitations. You’ll need postage not only for your invitations, but for the RSVP response envelopes, should you chose to include paper RSVP cards (rather than have guests reply RSVP online).
Keep in mind that heavier and non-traditional sizes require more postage. Before you buy the stamps and begin sticking, prepare an wedding invitation envelope exactly how you’d like it sent and bring it to the post office to determine necessary postage.
A non-traditional postage stamp is a fun detail and is especially doable when sending out a smaller number of invites. Go traditional by exploring USPS’s collection of love-themed stamps, or why not tell a bit about the couple’s story by having the stamps reflect their personalities?
Another resource: Zazzle has a wide collection of stamps, including those specifically for RSVP or save the dates, but you can also make your own. Ebay has tons of options available as well, but you might have to do a bunch of digging to find ones that work well for your invites. Although it’s a tad obvious, let’s state it anyway: make sure they’re unused!
After you mail something, the postal service puts the envelope through a machine where it sorts out the post and cancels the postage so it can’t be used again—that’s the city, date, and squiggly lines you’ve probably noticed appearing on top of the stamp in the left corner. Going through this machine, however, can tear, bend, and even mark up envelopes a little. It seems just silly to spend so much time and money on beautiful wedding invitations to have them arrive looking banged up. A way to alleviate this problem: ask the post office to hand-cancel your wedding invitations. They’ll cancel the envelopes with a round stamp over the postage, and your precious parcels will go through one less machine. This is great for those thick invites that have the most potential to get damaged in the mailing process.
For everyone who has horror stories about post office wait times (i.e., your classic first-world problem), be smart (and kind to your fellow mailers) and come in to get your invitations hand-canceled when the post office is slow.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, check out the Guest List Tool on Zola Wedding (or, if you’re old-school, get your Google docs on) to get organized. See if you can get your envelopes in hand before the rest of your invitation order so you can start on the addressing. And don’t freak out about addressing etiquette: our Guest List tool will formally lay out all of your envelope information per guest, which you can then export in the exact format you need. Then either hand that list over to your calligrapher, or set aside some time to do the task—put on an old favorite movie and get to work!