14 Apr 2022

How to design your wedding invitations

The end of pandemic restrictions has unleashed a great wave of socialising – parties, dinners, celebrations and, inevitably, weddings. Many couples were forced to defer long-planned weddings because of legal limitations and are now eagerly anticipating their big day.

So now is the time to think about wedding invitations, which are usually sent out at least 12 weeks before the wedding date.  These are all-important because they perform a number of functions. Most obviously, they alert your guests to the date, or at least remind them (you will probably have already sent save the date cards). They also inform guests of the location and time, and their RSVPs will form the basis of your numbers calculations and wedding planning. More subtly, they will give your guests an idea about the nature and style of the day and – along with additional information sent out with the invitation – will help your guests to make informed decisions about what to wear, wedding gifts, overnight accommodation and so on.

Choosing the Style

Some basic factors will dictate the look and feel of the invitation: size and shape, colour, material and typeface. Finishing touches may include a lined envelope and ribbons, and possibly an additional ‘device’ – for example a personalised monogram.

The style and formality of the invitation should reflect that of the wedding. The smartest and most traditional (and expensive) invitations are engraved. An elaborate copperplate typeface will reinforce the traditional style. A more classical serif typeface (such as Baskerville or Garamond) or a modern sans serif typeface (such as Futura or Helvetica) will each signal degrees of departure from strictly traditional form.

Flat printing and thermography are alternatives; if opting for thermography a matt ink surface is a better replica of engraving. Artistic, original invitations, which may be letterpress printed or handmade, are also popular for wedding invitations. You may wish to introduce a theme to reflect the general look and feel of the wedding. Invitations can include photographs or illustrations, or blind embossing. They may also be printed on unusual materials, such as vinyl, perspex or fabric.

A calligrapher may be hired to address the invitations and envelopes. A more practical option may be to enlist the help of a friend or family member who has attractive handwriting.

The Traditional Route

A traditional wedding invitation is made of card and measures 8 x 6 inches (20.3 x 15.2cm) folded in half with the text on the first (outer) page. This would usually be in black copperplate script, on a cream or white matt background. The name of the guest is handwritten in ink in the top left-hand corner. 

On formal invitations, guests should be addressed by their full title, for example, Mr and Mrs Aaron Williams, Miss Eleanor Copcutt, the Lady Alice Torstenson (for less formal invitations it is acceptable to use only first names). 

The traditional format for a wedding invitation where both parents are married is as follows:

Mr and Mrs John Standish request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Caroline to Mr Christopher John Herbert At St Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge On Saturday 24th September 2022 at 3 o’clock and afterwards at The Hyde Park Hotel, London SW1

Ringing the Changes

There is nothing to say that more contemporary styles and wording cannot be used – there are no set rules and no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ styles.

It is also important to bear in mind that many families, and weddings, will not fit into the traditional format above. The bride and groom may be hosting themselves, rather than their parents; stepfathers and stepmothers may be hosts; divorced parents may also be hosting, singly or together. All these variations, and several more, can be accommodated and should not be a cause of anxiety. (See our detailed guidance https://debretts.com/etiquette/wedding/engagements-invitations-2/)

Further Information

A separate sheet giving practical information can be included with the invitation; it is fine to print these at home, as long as a good printer and quality paper are used. The following information typically appears within these enclosures:

  • Directions to both the church/venue and reception, plus a map and details of local train stations and airports. Never assume that guests know their way around.
  • Accommodation details – local hotels and B&Bs covering all price ranges – plus local taxi firms. Where the evening reception is to be held in a hotel, reduced rates should have been negotiated.
  • If no reference is made to dress code on a formal invitation, then morning attire should be worn. Black tie or suits should be specifically mentioned.
  • Policy on children.
  • Details of where the wedding list, if you are opting for one, is held, with website, address and phone number (while traditionalists still maintain that reference to the wedding list should not be included with the invitation, it is almost universal practice to enclose such information). Any other wedding gift requests should be noted here.
  • A request to inform the host of special dietary requirements or allergies when accepting the invitation.
  • The time the events will draw to a close – traditionally referred to as ‘carriages’.
  • Contact number of the host(s) in case of questions.
  • The final date by which guests should reply, usually two months before the day.

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