Wedding Invitation Etiquette 101

You’ve found the perfect invitation. Now, what should it say?

0717wedding-invitation
Photo by Debra McClinton

If you'll be tying the knot in a less-than-traditional setting, the wording of the wedding invitation can be as creative as you want: Think meaningful quotations, song lyrics, or any other phrases that will give your guests a sense of the style of your wedding. Just don't forget to include the basics:
 

  • Your name and the name of your fiancé, including last names.
  • The date, location, and time of the wedding.
  • The location and time of the reception.
  • Reply information.

What if you're holding a church wedding but your parents are divorced? How do you handle stepparents? Read on for solutions to these and other invitation-etiquette quandaries. Can't find a solution to your specific question? Remember that the goal is to make people feel comfortable. When in doubt, it's always better to break the rules to spare feelings, keep the peace, or both.
 
 

Your parents are divorced but are still hosting the wedding together.

Solution: The proper way to word an invitation when the bride's parents are divorced is to list the names of the bride's parents at the top of the invitation. The bride's mother's name should be on the first line and her father's name should go on the line beneath it; do not separate the lines with "and." If the bride's mother has not remarried, use "Mrs." followed by her first name, maiden name, and married name.
 
 

Your divorced parents have remarried.

Solution: Traditionally, only the parents' names appear on the invitation. But if you would like to include your stepparents, it's perfectly acceptable to list them. Place your mother (and her husband, if she's remarried) first, and include your last name.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Edward William Burch
Mr. and Mrs. John Albert Smith
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Anna Grace Smith

 
 

One or both of your parents are deceased.

Solution: If one parent is still living, that parent should issue the invitation. If your mother has not remarried, you should place "Mrs." before her name.
 
If neither of your parents is alive, the invitation may be issued by you or other relatives, such as your grandparents (in which case you should handle it as you would divorced parents who have remarried), or you and your fiancé.
 
Miss Anna Grace Smith
and
Mr. James Robert McMillan
request the honor of your presence
at their marriage
 
 
 

You have been married before.

Solution: If your parents are issuing the invitation, include your married name:
 
Mr. and Mrs. John Albert Smith
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Anna Grace Robertson
 
 
Or you and your fiancé may issue it yourselves:
 
Anna Grace Robertson
and
James Robert McMillan
request the honor of your presence
at their marriage
 

You or one of your parents is a doctor.

Solution: It is perfectly acceptable for medical doctors to use their titles on wedding invitations; academic doctors should not use theirs. If your mother is a doctor but your father is not, place her name, preceded by "Doctor," on the invitation above your father's. If your father is a doctor, it should read "Doctor (or "Dr.") and Mrs. John Smith" on the same line. Using the word "and" in between the names indicates that they are still married.
 
 

Your mother uses her maiden name.

Solution: List your parents on separate lines, mom first, separated by the word "and" to indicate that they are still married.
 
 

The groom's parents are issuing the invitation.

Solution: List your fiancé's parents on the invitation as you would your parents, and include your last name.
 
Mr. and Mrs. Steven Charles McMillan
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of
Miss Anna Grace Smith
to their son
James Robert McMillan
 
 
 

You're paying for your own wedding.

Solution: If you have a good relationship with your parents, honor them by placing their names at the top of the invitation, especially if this is a first marriage and you are holding a traditional ceremony. If you prefer, or if the wedding is informal, most people will assume you're hosting the event if you issue your own invitation.
 
 

You don't want guests to bring children.

Solution: Not everyone knows that the only people invited to an event are the ones to which the invitation is addressed. If you have friends who feel their little ones are always included, a quick phone call to tell them that your reception isn't set up for children will get your point across―and it's nicer than printing "No children, please" on the invitation or the response card.
 
 

You would like guests to contribute to a charity rather than give gifts.

Solution: As altruistic as this request is, it still isn't considered appropriate to place a reference to gifts on a wedding invitation. Instead, let your wedding party help get the word out.