How to Address Wedding Invitations

A reader recently asked me about how to address his wedding invitations. He and his fiance are not formal by nature, so while I would have said “just address it any old way” I thought it might call for a blog post!

photo from The Wedding Lens

When you’re starting to write out your invitations, there is an “etiquette” of sorts to addressing the envelopes. Obviously, address the invitation to who you want to come! That means, if someone’s kid isn’t invited, don’t put the kid’s name on the invitation!

Now, there’s an outer envelope that’s more formal than an inner envelope. The chart below should help clarify what I mean. The tradition is to handwrite the envelopes, despite what you would think! Nowadays, I would recommend using a printer; it’s faster and easier to handle.

The general rule is to address by alphabetical order when there are no titles involved and there are different last names. For children, list them in the order of oldest to youngest.

You can write “and Guest” on the inner envelope to invite your single friends who can bring a date of his or her choice.

For relatives, the outer envelope should be formal, but the inside envelope should be what you call them. For example, write “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” on the outer envelope and “Uncle John and Aunt Jenny” on the inner envelope.

  Outer Envelope Inner Envelope
Single Man Mr. Michael Smith Mr. Smith
Single Woman Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson Miss/Ms. Johnson
Divorced Woman, using married name Mrs. Jennifer Smith Mrs. Smith
Divorced Woman, using Maiden name Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson Miss/Ms. Johnson
Married Couple Mr. and Mrs. Michael Smith Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Married Couple, Wife with Maiden Name Mr. Michael Smith and Mrs. Jennifer Johnson Mr. Smith and Mrs. Johnson
Married Couple, Wife is a Doctor with Maiden Name Dr. Jennifer Johnson and Mr. Michael Smith Dr. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Married Couple, Wife has a title, Same last name The Honorable Jennifer Smith and Mr. Michael Smith Judge and Mr. Smith
Married Couple, Husband is a Doctor Dr. Michael and Mrs. Smith Dr. and Mrs. Smith
Married Couple, 2 Doctors with Same last name The Doctors Smith OR Drs. Michael and Jennifer Smith The Doctors Smith
Married Couple, 2 Doctors with different last names Dr. Jennifer Johnson and Dr. Michael Smith Dr. Johnson and Dr. Smith
Gay Married Couple with same last name The Messrs. John and David Smith The Messrs. Smith
Gay Married Couple with different last names Mr. John Smith and Mr. David Johnson Mr. Smith and Mr. Johnson
Lesbian Married Couple with same last name The Mesdames Jennifer and Judy Johnson The Mesdames Johnson
Lesbian Married Couple with different last names Mrs. Jennifer Johnson and Mrs. Judy Smith Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Smith
Unmarried couple who lives together Miss/Ms. Jennifer Johnson and Mr. John Smith Miss/Ms. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Unmarried couple who doesn’t live together Ms. Johnson (closest friend of the two) Ms. Johnson and Mr. Smith
Family with Children Mr. and Mrs. John Smith Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Walter, Winifred, and Wendy

For people with titles, here’s another chart:

Elected officials (Governor, Mayor, Senator, Etc.) The Honorable Jennifer Johnson and Mr. John Smith  ORGovernor/Senator/Mayor Jennifer Johnson and Mr. Smith The Honorable and Mr. SmithGovernor/Senator/Mayor and Mr. Smith
Judge The Honorable Jennifer Johnson and Mr.  John Smith Judge Johnson and Mr. Smith
Priest Father John Smith Father Smith
Rabbi Rabbi and Mrs. John Smithkowitz Rabbi and Mrs. Smithkowitz

That should about cover it. Have somone I haven’t covered? Just ask!

~ Natasha

Creative Save-the-Dates!

A few days ago, one of the morning shows featured a Save-The-Date video that had “gone viral.” How funny to see your Save-The-Date on tv, when it’s supposed to only save-the-date for your friends and family! Anyway, it was such a clever video, it got me thinking about all the creative ways you can let people know that they should save that date for your wedding!

Save the Date with a personalized photo! This photo is from The Wedding Lens!

Remember: always include your names, the date, and the location on the STD. If possible, include your wedding website on there too so couples can be updated as needed.

1. Video: As I mentioned above, try sending out a video that you make at home. The one I saw on the morning show went WAY farther than you need to, so don’t use that as an example. (The STD was done was a movie trailer!) Consider just having you & your significant other talking in the camera. Or hold up signs. Or show photos of your favorite spots and include a shot of a card with the STD information on it.

2. One site suggests doing something creative (like using Scrabble letters to spell out the STD information) and then take a photo. Use that as a card that you can mail out.

3. Postcards! There are two ways to do this. a) One way is that you can create your own postcard. Use a photo of yourselves and insert the STD information. Or just provide the STD information. b) The second way is to use regular postcards (perhaps of the location of your wedding?) and write the STD information as the message on the back of the postcard.

4. Take photobooth photos together, while holding the Save the Date information. Then you can either affix it to a postcard, create a postcard from the photos, OR just scan it if you want to send digital STDs.

5. Go digital! In our continuing effort to encourate people to be more eco-friendly with wedding planning, try sending electronic Save-The-Dates! You can do any of the things above and email them. It even saves you postage!

Looking for more information on STDs? Check out our posts on How to Address Save the Dates, When to Send Save-The-Dates and Invitations, More Save the Date Ideas!

Do you have any creative Save-The-Date ideas you would like to share?

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: Should I invite someone because she invited me? Part II

Photo from The Wedding Lens

We received another question that builds upon one of the previous question/answers that I recently wrote. I think it’s an interesting topic because it comes up in almost every wedding planning situation. So here we go:

I read your recent blog post called “Should I invite someone because she invited me?” But it doesn’t really answer my question. Your answer focuses on weddings that happened years ago, but what if the wedding you were invited to was really recent? My fiance and I were invited to a wedding very recently and we decided not to go. We like the person, but my fiance has only seen his friend twice in the past ten years. He was surprised we were invited at all. We would rather not have to invite this friend and his now wife because we barely know them now, though we don’t want to lose them as friends either. Help!!!!

Wow, you’re right! I didn’t really answer that question directly in my post about whether you should invite someone because they invited you, but I started out with some of the things you should consider when figuring out the guest list.  I still think the “use your best judgment” is the most sound advice, though I recognize that doesn’t give you much to go on!

Again, you should consider 1) the size of the wedding (both yours & theirs); 2) the closeness of friendship; 3) the desire to have them present.

It sounds like in your case it’s not that you DON’T want them there per se, but you have other people who you are close to. And it sounds like you decided not to attend their wedding because of how you’ve already grown apart — especially if your fiance was so surprised he was invited at all. After all, talking only a few times over the course of 10 years is a pretty good indication that you’re not that close anymore. I think that your fiance’s friends would be hard pressed to be “offended” if they’re not invited.

Consider putting these people on your B list as an alternative solution. You have your primary list of folks you want to attend and if enough of them don’t attend, put couples like this on the B list. (Or even a C list, if you want!) That way you haven’t completely eliminated them from consideration until the very end of the process. It gives you time to keep mulling it over.

Here’s another blog post on how to develop a guest list – hopefully that will answer any other questions!

Good luck! And if you have other questions, please email me at! (Or check out our link to submit wedding questions)

~ Natasha

How to Tell Your Guests that You Don’t Want Kids to Attend

Long long ago, I wrote a blog post about whether or not to have children at a wedding. There are lots of pros and cons, but if you’ve already decided you dont want kids in attendance, how should you tell your guests?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

There are a few steps to take along the way to make sure that you tell your guests gently (but firmly!) that you do not want kids at the wedding. You can try all of these, or some of these, depending on what you feel comfortable doing.

  1. Before you send the save the dates, spread the word through your family, wedding party, and friends.
  2. Address the STD and the invitation ONLY to those you want to attend.
  3. Include the words “Adult reception” in the invitation. Such as “Adult reception to follow” at the bottom of the invitation. (Do NOT write “no children” – that is considered anti-etiquette.)
  4. In the RSVP, include “X number of seats have been reserved for you” or put in the names of the guests who are RSVPing on that card.
  5. Provide babysitter information to out ot town guests so that they can come and not have to worry about who to call and how to take care of the kids.

Be prepared that some people may RSVP for the children and you might have to call them to let them know that it is a no children event!

Obviously this can be a touchy situation, so just handle it with grace and try to understand where parents are coming from. Good luck!

~ Natasha

What Time Does the Wedding Start? How to Get People to Arrive on Time

You got a wedding invitation (or you’re creating one) and it says it begins at 6pm. So does that mean it starts AT 6pm or that you should be there at 6pm and it starts at 6:30pm?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

If you want people to show up on time, you should be clear about what that means.

  • You can write “prompt” on the invitation to emphasize that this isn’t an arrival time, but that things will be moving right along.
  • You can put an insert into your invitation that says something to the effect that if you arrive after a certain time, you will not be able to be seated until after the processional.
  • Another idea is to arrange for transportation for your guests. For example, if your guests are staying primarily at one hotel, arrange for a shuttle to pick them up at a certain time.
  • One site advises that if you want people to be there by the time you start, then write 6pm, but start at 6:30pm. If you do decide to start a lot later than the “start time,” make sure you have something for the guests — such as cold water or lemonade  (especially if it’s hot), so that they dont feel like they’re waiting for hours and are irritated.

 What you should NOT do is start early. I have a friend who went to a wedding recently and the invitation didn’t say prompt, but the wedding ceremony actually started about 10 minutes before the invitation time — dont do that! She felt awful that she arrived on time and had to wait for the bride to finish walking down the aisle before she could walk in. It was awkward.

What will you do?

~ Natasha

Wedding Etiquette: Last minute cancellations & invites

I received another wedding question:

If people bail late, how do you fill their spots? or should you? We are getting married next week and we had to turn in our final catering numbers last week. Now we’ve found out that there are 3 people who may have to cancel! Since we’ve already for them, we’d like to fill their spots. But then of course the people we’ll be inviting will know they didn’t make the A list or even the B list. Etiquette?

In researching this, there seems to be a resounding: don’t fill spots last minute.

However! I have a different philosophy on this that might work for some people. If you are inviting people who you like and who know that they weren’t invited to your wedding, I think they would be flattered to be invited — even if last minute. (Though I also know a few people who would be really hurt that they were invited last minute, so go figure.) I think you do this with candor: 

“Hey, you know we were really having a hard time fitting in as many people as we wanted to during this whole wedding planning process.  It actually turns out that we have room for a few more people and we would LOVE it if you would join us.” 

Either they say yes or no and are offended or not. I tend to think that you cant be offended by candor & honesty. And really? If they’re THAT offended that you wanted them there at the last minute, I wonder if they’re really destined to be your friends.

Good luck! And I’m certain someone disagrees …. comment below!

~ Natasha

Want ALL of your friends’ and family members’ photos of your wedding day? Check out our free wedding albums!

When To Send Save-The-Dates & Invitations

A friend recently received an invitation to a wedding that’s taking place in about 6 weeks. He had forgotten about the save-the-date since it was sent out over a year prior.  Yikes! But it prompted him to ask when these things should be sent out! And here we are…

There are different takes on when to send what — and a lot of it has to do with how much time you have between your engagement and the wedding. For example, if you only have 6 months, then your time frame might be different than if you’re engaged for two years before getting married.


The STD is intended to give your guests enough time to ask for time off work, make any travel arrangements, and (perhaps) budget for their expenses. Obviously if you’re doing a destination wedding, then you should send out the STDs earlier than otherwise.

One site recommends sending the STDs out 4 months before the wedding. That seems a little quick for your guests to plan — though understandable if you are planning to get married quickly.

It’s more ideal if you send the STDs 6 months to 1 year before the wedding so people can plan to be there.

With that in mind, send them as soon as you know the date & location of the wedding. And be sure you send them to the people you KNOW you are inviting! After all, etiquette requires that all people who receive an STD also receive an invitation.

Tip: Once you pick the date, send an email or call the people you really want there so that they have the most notice to plan to be there. It will give you leeway to send the STDs a little later — or to avoid sending them out at all.


The timing for when to send invitations is important because you need to know who is coming! Generally, your venue and catering companies will need to know — and you will need to finish placecards, seating arrangements, etc. 

Because of this, the general rule seems to be that you should send invitations two months before the wedding. Some sites say 6-8 weeks. But that should be your general time frame.

Then you can get responses back about 4 weeks before the wedding — so you can finish up the last bits of planning.  And, just in case you dont hear back from everyone, you have time to track them down & get their responses.

Printing STDs and Invitations

If you choose to print STDs and invitations (as opposed to using an online method), keep in mind how long printing will take. The most formal of invitations will take about 2 months to print, so keep that in mind!

If you’re looking for help on what STDs should say OR some creative ways to do STDs (that don’t require 2 months of printing), look HERE!

And if you’re looking for help on how your invitation should look, you can see real invitation photos here.

Sample Timeframe 

8-14 months before wedding: order STDs (if doing formal printed ones; other forms of STDs – like magnets – might take less time to print)

6-12 months before wedding: send out STDs

4 months before wedding: order invitations

2 months before wedding: send out invitations

1 month before wedding: receive RSVPs

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Listing the Guests

Do you want a small wedding? A huge wedding? How many people will you have? And where does the list end?  Obviously guestlists can be a contentious subject!

A friend got engaged and listed her status on one of the popular social networking sites.  Within minutes, a friend from high school who she hadn’t been in touch with for YEARS, emailed her and said “Congratulations! Can I come to the wedding?”  I recommended that she write back “No” if only because I thought that was incredibly rude! How could you assume you would be or should be invited?!

Apparently, people requesting or assuming they are invited to weddings is a very common occurrence. (And I’m guessing those people have not read my previous blog on assuming you’re not invited!)

So what can you do to cut the list down a little bit? 

First, don’t allow your close friends to bring a random date.  Obviously married folks should be allowed to bring spouses.  And it’s up to the bride and groom about how to handle long-term significant others.  But your close friends who are not in a serious relationship probably don’t need a random date. Why? Because your close friends can hang out with your other close friends!

Before I met my boyfriend, I was invited to a number of weddings alone and they were a LOT of fun. All my close friends were there — some with boyfriends/girlfriends and some alone too. It was great and a date would have only been one more person there. He wouldn’t have made the night any better!

Sure it’s not a lot of people, but it’s something! (And when you’re allowing or not allowing a guest, remember how to address the envelopes!)

Second, keep in mind that 10-20% of guests decline the invites. Ususally.

Third, you can cut the people who you haven’t talked to in years.  I know you were invited to their wedding once-upon-a-time, but if you haven’t talked to them in the past year, then don’t feel guilty about not inviting them.

Fourth, don’t invite kids. I know! But there are pros and cons to this suggestion.

Fifth, don’t invite co-workers.  This depends on how close you are to your co-workers, but a lot of times this becomes a slippery slope and suddenly you feel obliged to invite a LOT more people from work.  Cut it at the source!

Another suggestion: Create a list of absolutely non-negotiable must-be-there people. Then you can work backwards from there… You don’t need to invite people who, 10 years from now, you’ll say “wait, why did we invite them?”

Remember, it’s your wedding and your guestlist!

~ Natasha