It is not often that life permits an occasion of such great importance that formal invitations should be sent out. However, a wedding is the perfect (and proper) moment in time in which a celebration requires such formalities. Most brides have never had to send out formal invitations and have many questions about proper etiquette and protocol. These questions are quiet normal and I hope to answer some of them right away. Your wedding invitation will be the first contact you have with your wedding guests. Therefore, you want to put your best foot forward. This does not necessarily mean that you should spend a lot on invitations. However, you can find quality invitations without the big price tags. If your budget allows, you should splurge a little bit more on your invitations because they will become memorable keepsakes for all of your family and friends.
When choosing your invitations, you should try to find invitations that reflect the taste of the bride and groom and the atmosphere of the wedding ceremony. If you have decided on the ever increasingly popular idea of a theme wedding, many invitation publishers can offer invitations that go perfectly with your theme. A traditional wedding invitation packet should include:
-Invitations -Outer envelope with the return address of the host printed or embossed on the envelope flap -Inner Envelope, usually lined -RSVP card/envelope with the address of the person receiving the reply printed on the envelope face and it is pre-stamped by the host. -Reception card if the reception is at a different location from where the marriage ceremony will take place. -Map/Directions card/Accommodation cards are optional but should coordinate with the invitation if they are included with it. You may also include some pictures of cake and food. Just make sure the look great. One way to accomplish it is to present the food on something classy.
Most wedding invitation vendors sell each item above separately with the exception that most invitations are sold with unlined outer envelopes.
Once you have decided what will be included in your wedding invitation packet and you have decided on the invitation design, it is time to order your invitations. Proper etiquette says that you should order your invitations as soon as possible. This is with the understanding that your dates, times, and number of guests being invited are firm. Once you order your invitations, you should expect to wait anywhere from 4 days to 3 months for them to be produced. Your wait will depend on the number of guests and quantity of order. Also, you will want to leave enough time (about 1 month) to have your beautiful invitations addressed by a professional calligrapher.
If you are having trouble deciding exactly how many invitations you will need you can use this equations. Take the total number of people/families you plan to invite and divide that number by 65%. Remember that you do not have to send individual invitations to children, however, it is proper to send anyone over the age of 18 years their own invitation. It will be to your advantage when you order your invitations to order an additional set of 25. You will have no problem using them for guests you forgot to send invitations to and invitations that got lost in the mail. It is less expensive (about 75% less) to order these extras during your original purchase than to order more later.
Traditionally, invitations are sent by the parents of the bride and their address should be the return address listed on the outer envelopes of your invitations. Although, the costs of the ceremony are sometimes shared by the parents, bride, and groom, the bride's parents should send out the invitations in their name.
The cost of invitations varies from vendor to vendor. Most invitations start in the low hundreds and gradually make their way higher. Vendors want to sell in quantity and will sell items at a cheaper price the more you buy in bulk. The least expensive invitations are the ones you order online and do yourself on your own computer. However, you may be sacrificing quality and run the risk of looking cheap to your guests. Also, there is the potential for error when printing your own invitations where most vendors check and double check for errors before printing. Yet there is even more to worry about with the "do-it-yourself" invitations and that is the fact that you don't know how reliable the company your ordering your invitations from are and your invitations could arrive late or not at all.
Your invitations should be mailed at least six to eight weeks ahead of your wedding date. Before applying postage take one of your completed invitations to the post office and weigh it to determine the proper postage requirements. This will save you a lot of money on invitations that might just get returned to you for insufficient postage plus the fact that the insufficient postage stamp will ruin your outer envelope and you will have to buy new ones.
Finally, a few do nots and nevers concerning your wedding invitations. Never ever send your wedding invitations or thank you notes via email. This will seem very unclassy to your guests and can be considered an insult that you did not use the proper protocol to invite them or thank them with a handwritten note. Also, you should never include information concerning where you are registered for gifts on your invitations. An invitation is simply that and you should not presume a gift from any guest, only their presence. If you are avid about not receiving any gifts from your guest at all, you may add in a small font in the corner of your invitation the following: "Your presence is the only gift requested."
I hope I have answered at least some of your questions about wedding invitations and their proper etiquette and protocol.