How to Handle the Guest List

Ok, so you have 200 slots and about 500 people you wish you could invite. There are people who you are obligated to invite (oh family) and there are some of those obligatory invites who you’re sure won’t be able to come. Like you’re PRETTY sure that Uncle Billy won’t be able to make it because he hasn’t traveled beyond the grocery store in the past 5 years. But what if he CAN make it? What if he decides to make the trip? How on earth will that work with numbers on the guest list?!

Photo of Guest Seating Decor from The Wedding Lens

First: Breathe. Remember that your wedding day is about a celebrating your relationship with your friends and family.

Second: Start listing. List everyone. All 300 people. Everyone you might possibly want to invite or wish you could invite — even though there’s the possibility that you won’t be able to in the grand scheme of things.

Third: Of those people on the list, make a separate list of the absolutely 100% non-negotiable people who you WANT to be at your wedding to celebrate. This includes: Your best friend, your second best friend, and your college roommates. This does not include: Your parents’ friends who you feel obligated to invite. Got it?

Fouth: Check the numbers. Say now you have 150 of the 200 people you can invite. That leaves you 80 people left to invite. Huh? 80? But Natasha, you say, 200 – 150 = 50! Ah yes. BUT statistically a guest list of 200 people or LESS, there will be 15-20% of folks who do not come. With a guest list of 200 people or MORE, 20-25% won’t come.

Now, I have to forwarn. Not everyone is going to RSVP in a timely manner and some of those 15-20% or 20-25% won’t drop out til the last minute. But I assure you that you can safely invite 15% more than your highest number and you will be a-okay.

So this gives you a little more room to play with. You’ll have 80 people you can fill in with obligatory invites — be it your Uncle or your parents friends who have known you since you were born — and (gasp) anyone else you can/want to invite.

Fifth: If you are just stuck with those extra 80 people and how to handle them. I really recommend using a ranking system. That sounds awful, of course, to rank your friends and family. But it will make you feel better. ‘Cause if Uncle Billy really doesn’t come, then maybe you CAN invite your old buddy who you haven’t seen in five years. Maybe.

If you use a tier/ranking system, use an EARLY RSVP date so you have time to fill in the people who say no and you can (with tact) follow up with those you have not heard from so you can fill in their spots. And if you do the tiers, DO NOT print the RSVP deadline on the invitation. Do not. Otherwise either you have to print a whole new set for the new invitees OR you look like… someone who totally forgot to invite the guest until the last minute. Nice.

Here are some tips on how to cut down the guest list and how to handle the guest list when you’re not paying for the wedding (in other words — when other people are adding to YOUR guest list) and more guidance on wedding invitations (including how to tell people they can’t bring a date and/or their kids)

And here, my friends, is how to address these invitations!

Hope that helps! If you have any questions, just email me at natasha@theweddinglens.com and I’ll help ya out. 🙂

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Roundup: All Things About Wedding Invitations!

Recently I have had a few posts about how to write invitations and how to address them. It occurs to me that over all this time, we have LOTS of information on wedding invitations. And here, my dear friends, is the roundup:

When to Send Save-the-Dates and Invitations

Green Wedding Tips: Invitations!

What Goes Inside a Wedding Invitation

How to Word Your Wedding Invitation

Invitations & Bringing a Date to the Wedding

How to Tell Guests That There’s No Plus One

How to Tell Guests That Kids Can’t Come

Do you have to invite someone because you were invited?

How to Address Your Wedding Invitations!

Did I miss anything? Need to know more about wedding invitations? Let me know! Email me at natasha@theweddinglens.com.

Happy inviting!

~ Natasha

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

How to Word Your Wedding Invitation

When you’re writing your wedding invitations, sometimes the wording can be the hardest part! Here I’ll break down the invitation into parts so we can put it together. Everything that I’m posting is the traditional etiquette. The modern rules are more lenient – and pretty much you can do whatever you’re comfortable with! I will cover the modern ideas on invitations in another blog post.

 General Wording Etiquette

  • No punctuation, except after titles (Mr., Mrs., Ms., and Dr.)
  • Capitalize the beginning of the sentence, proper names, and titles – and nothing else.
  • The number of the date is spelled out; it follows the day and precedes the month (eg. Sunday, the fifth of June).
  • Spell out the year (eg. Two thousand and ten)
  • Spell out the times and refer to the clock (eg. Half after four instead of 4:30 p.m.; Four o’clock in the afternoon instead of 4:00 p.m.; Eight o’clock in the evening instead of 8:00 p.m.)
  • Use third person instead of first person (eg. “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” instead of “we”).

 Sample

Just to give you an idea of what the final product will look like, here’s a sample. I’ll take each line separately:

Line 1: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Line 2: request the pleasure of your company

Line 3: at the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer, to Mr. Michael Johnson

Line 4: on Saturday, the fourteenth of September, two thousand and ten at four o’clock in the afternoon

Pine Street Lane Park, 123 Pine Street, Los Angeles, California

Reception to follow.

 Line one: Who hosts?

The host of the wedding is usually the primary financial contributor to the wedding, but this is not always the case. Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts. So line one would say Mr. and Mrs. Bride’s Father’s Name (eg. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith).

 Line two: How to invite?

The second line can be done a number of ways depending on the place of the ceremony and your personal taste.

 If the wedding is held in a religious place of worship, use “request the honor of your presence.” If the wedding takes place elsewhere, use “request the pleasure of your company” or “request the honor of your company.”

 The most formal traditional invitations do not use “your” in the wording, but leave a blank space to handwrite the name of the guest. For example, “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honor of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Murray’s presence. . . .” This is rarely done now, however.

 Line three: Who is getting married?

Obviously this should be the easiest part, but there are still a few ways to do this. Since it’s the bride’s parents who are hosting and inviting, the wording would be: “in the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer Anne, to Mr. Michael Johnson.”

 Line four and onward: When and where? What else?

Time goes first, then location. Then you can add in a line about the reception – but a reception card will be separate.

 So, bringing it all together:

Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

request the pleasure of your company

at the marriage of their daughter, Jennifer, to Mr. Michael Johnson

on Saturday, the fourteenth of September, two thousand and ten

at four o’clock in the afternoon

Pine Street Lane Park, 123 Pine Street, Los Angeles, California

 Reception to follow.

 What about the reception information?

The reception information will be on a separate card. The only information that you need on the invitation is that a reception will follow.

 If you do not want children in attendance, instead of writing “Reception to follow,” specify “Adult reception to follow.” 

 Again, these are the traditions, not necessarily applicable to your particular situation.

~ Natasha

How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha

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

 

Photo from The Wedding Lens!

My fiance and I were trying to figure out a guest list for our wedding, but the numbers are out of control! We are the last of most of our friends to get married and we’ve gone to a ton of weddings (both together and separately). Some of the people we keep in touch with and we consider them to be true friends, who would obviously be invited to our wedding. But there are a few people whose weddings I went to year ago and I haven’t talked to the people since. Is it wrong for me to leave them off our list? We would love to invite everyone, but obviously we can’t do that! We’re just trying to figure out where we can cut some people, without being rude.

Well, I would guess that a lot of couples have this problem. You were invited to their wedding, but now you haven’t talked in years – still have to invite them to yours? I think the answer, like most answers, is that “it depends” and “use your best judgment.” Things to think about:

Size of the wedding. Was their wedding enormous? Is yours going to be? The larger your wedding is, the more awkward it is that you didn’t invite them — at least if you ever run into them again! 

 If you can’t invite someone who you do genuinely want to stay friends with (and they invited you), consider having a conversation. Most people who have planned their own wedding know the difficulties of developing a guest list and are likely to be sympathetic.

How much you’ve grown apart. Is this someone who you talk to once a year? Or, like, never?

How much you really want/don’t want them there. Some people who you’ve grown apart from, you may want to reconnect via your wedding invitation. It’s an easy way to get back in touch, but it is not obligatory! You can always get back in touch on another, non-wedding day.

Make sense? Good luck! Have a wedding question? Email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com. Remember, regardless of the size of your wedding, take pictures!

~ Natasha

Green Wedding Tips: Invitations!

One of the up & coming trends is the “being green” on your wedding day. Because of this, I have decided it would be great to do a series of green wedding tips that focuses on each part of the planning process. Sounds good, right? So here are your green invitation tips!

Photo from Twisted Limb!

  • Use recycled paper for your invitations. By using recycled paper, you can save a lot of paper and a lot of trees, especially considering how many pieces of paper get mailed out (directions, return envelopes, etc… ). Twisted Limb Paperworks makes fantastic, beautiful handmade & 100% recycled invitations. Plus they’re great folks to work with! AND Wedding Paper Divas also assured me that all of their stationary is now recycled!
  • Use electronic communication for invitations, updates, and replies. Save money and trees by announcing, inviting, and updating people online or via email. You can also ask people to reply online or via email. For example, Paperless Post is a fantastic company that has great paperless invitations, complete with envelopes and beautiful designs! They work with anyone worldwide. They’re customized & personalized (and Paperless Post even lets you monitor recipients replies!) And if you’re in NZ (or dont mind paying in NZ dollars) check out Paperless Wedding – another great company! They also have beautiful designs & great customer service.
  • Consider treeless paper. Make your invitations from bamboo, hemp or kenaf. Smock prints on bamboo & they have some really classy invitations shown on their site.
  • Don’t use toxic ink. When printing your invitations, make sure the ink you use, is not toxic. Many inks are, so this is something you can easily ask about (or purchase if you’re printing your own). Just be sure to ask!

Check out our other green wedding tips for more great ideas!

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: How Should I Respond to the Wedding Invitation?

 

Photo from The Wedding Lens

 

I have a question regarding “plus ones”. I received a RSVP card that allows space for only the invited (“M____ accepts/declines”). However, when I looked at their wedding website, it noted that we are free to bring a guest. I feel awkward asking her directly because I will only be able to attend if I am allowed to bring my boyfriend (we had already reserved that weekend months in advance to spend together since we rarely get to see each other).

Should I assume that plus ones are allowed based on the wedding site or should I rely on the RSVP card that did not include a space for “plus one”? If I do rely on the wedding site, how do I note that I’ll be bringing a guest on the RSVP card that doesn’t have a “plus one” space?

Interesting! So there are two parts to this: 1) Can you bring a date? and 2) How do you reply?

Can you bring a date?

First, the key to knowing whether or not a date is permitted is usually on the envelope. Usually the invitation is specifically addressed to the people invited: “Natasha and Guest” or “Natasha and Adam” or, simply “Natasha.” Based on those addresses, you can kind of tell who’s invited, right? Right.

That said, it sounds like this person may not have followed that “protocol” and elected to let guests know otherwise. If this is the case, just be sure that the website does say that all guests can bring a date. Remember, most couples are aware that people may respond “incorrectly” and they will nip that in the bud. For example, if you respond with “Me + Date” and Date isn’t invited, the couple will likely contact Me and let Me know that Date wasn’t part of the invite. Obviously that can be a bit awkward. So just double check the website again.

How should you reply?

Second, how to respond? Well, it sounds like a standard invitation, so dont worry! Most invitations only have room for one name, though you should be able to write both in. M___________ can probably fit a “Ms. Me Last Name & Mr. Guest Last Name if you write small enough. That’s what’s expected, so give it a shot.

Bear in mind, most couples also number their guest list and put that number on the invitation. Take a close look, you might find a number in the corner of the response card envelope or response card. Why do they do that? Because if you forget to write on it and accidentally send it back blank, they’ll still know who sent it! And, if you write illegibly, they’ll still know! Voila.

I think that should answer all the questions — hope it helps! Good luck!

Let me know if YOU have a wedding question: natasha@theweddinglens.com

~ Natasha

What to do About Menu Cards

There are many different takes on the proverbial “menu card.” Basically, you just want to let your guests know what they’re going to be eating — or what their choices are. Here’s the scoop on menu cards!

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

What is a menu card?

A menu card is a printed card or paper that has the menu printed on it. If there are selections, then the menu card would reflect that option. The idea is that your guests will get to know what they are going to be eating.

Do I need a menu card?

No! Of course you don’t NEED a menu card! If you have a sit-down dinner, then you may have asked guests to “order” in advance, so they already know what their main course is. And even if you haven’t, the wait-staff can inform the guests what they are eating as they’re served. If you have a buffet, then just make sure that either each dish is labeled or there is someone there who can tell people what each dish is.

If I do want menu cards, how many do I print?

Many times people print one or two cards per table. It will sit on the table near the table number and the guests can pass it around. Alternatively, some people like each individual to have their own menu card. Obviously this is a little more costly and a little less green, but guests can take it home and remember what a fabulous dinner they’ve had!

What if I have a buffet?

You can either have the buffet labeled, as I mentioned above OR you can still have menu cards! People can read it over while they’re waiting to get up for the buffet and they can decide what they will eat before standing in line.

What should they look like?

There are many different styles of the cards, but the key is to make sure that they say what you want them to say — and be as specific as you can. After all, if you’re going to tell your guests what they’ll be eating, you may as well be detailed about it! For example, “Rotisserie chicken, served with creamy mashed potatoes and fresh, local green beans OR Grilled local salmon with a savory teriyaki sauce, served with oven-roasted vegetables and green salad.” That gives your guests the picture of the meal and the option that they have. It reads much better than “chicken or salmon.” That said, if you prefer or don’t know – don’t worry about it!

I’ll be writing another blog post soon about the different styles of menu cards, so you can get a better idea of what you might be looking to do with them.

Did you have menu cards? What did they look like?

~ Natasha

What Goes inside a Wedding Invitation?

I just received a beautiful wedding invitation. But, of course, it doesn’t just include an invitation telling me where and when the wedding is. So what DOES go in a wedding invitation?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

First, the envelope addressing: Make sure you address it to who you want to go. Seems simple, but if you want your friend John to take his girlfriend, Jane, make sure you address it to both John and Jane. If you want Julia to bring someone, but you’re not sure who she’d like to bring, you should be sure to address it to Julia and Guest. Otherwise they won’t know and shouldn’t bring someone! (Remember my tips on invitations and guests!)

Second, the invitation: Include an invitation to the ceremony — date, time, and location. If there’s a reception following, say “reception to follow.”

Third, the reception card: If the reception is at a different location, add in another card that tells your guests where the reception is and what time it starts.

Fourth, the response card: This is the little card that you get back that lets you know whether your guests will be able to come! If you want (or your venue requires it) you can also put the menu options on the response card so you can tell your venue in advance how many of which dish you will need. You can also be creative with your response cards by sending, for example, blank cards that let your guests say what they wish. Be sure to include a deadline!

Fifth, optionals: If you want, you can include a map and directions of the locations. You can also put in ideas for accomodations (especially if you have a room block at a local hotel). And, of course, your website! The website can keep everyone up to date on everything.

Be sure that you do NOT include registry information, though you can put it on your website — so take that for what it’s worth. (No pun intended)

Did you include anything else with your invitations?

~ Natasha