Wedding Invitations & Etiquette

Wedding Invitations & Etiquette


The topic of wedding invitations and etiquette is discussed by Maureen Woodman, wedding planner at The Essex Room.

John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher. I’m here today with Maureen Woodman, a wedding planner for on and off-site catered events at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about “Wedding Invitations.” Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me today.

John Maher: Sure. So Maureen, what’s the timeline for sending out save the date cards and invitations and reminders? How early is too early to send those out?

Maureen Woodman: I find that one of the most important things that would help you here is how long you plan to have this engagement. So, I would say right now that engagements are running about a year, 12 months.

So, that’s going to set your timeline, where if you had a two-year engagement, or if you got to have a wedding that you try to put together in four months, let’s say. So, that’s going to definitely set you up for where you have to go.

But if we want to go with a timeline that’s correct, I think probably 10 months out would be wise for the save the date. And the reason is, originally, save the dates were put out when people were trying to have to take hotel accommodations into effect.

So, the save the date would go out. It’s Mister and Mrs. so-and-so are getting married November 15th in Boston. These are the hotels that we recommend, details to follow, some blah-blah-blah.

Then, they would know that they had to call the hotel and book or block some rooms because there was going to be a destination involved. But over the last two years, I’ve seen a huge difference now where everybody is sending the save the date – save the date magnets, save the date postcards, save the date email blast.

I think it’s more because engagement parties went away. I don’t know why engagement parties have gone away. I got married over 30 years ago, and everybody had an engagement party. It was just a quick – you got your ring, and everybody came together. And I don’t even know, back then, if we even had our wedding date. But it was something that you did right away. You would take engagement photos with the studio down the street. Again, people are taking their own selfies and putting them on Facebook.

John Maher: Right.

Maureen Woodman: A lot of the kids are going to the computer and using Vistaprint. They put up the picture. They make the magnet. You get it, you throw it on your refrigerator, you save the date. So, it’s not necessarily about the destination hotel anymore. It’s about, “Hey! We’re getting married. And we want you to know it’s coming.” So, it’s a different thing.

John Maher: Does that mean that once you send out that save the date, does that give you a little bit more time before you get out the formal invitation because people got it on their calendars already? Or does it not really matter?

Maureen Woodman: No. No. Invitations for weddings have not changed. I think you can go right back to Emily Post. I think you can pull that book out. You can go get it in the library. You can find it on the internet. You can ask Emily Post, “When is it proper to send an invitation?”

An invitation should be in the mail eight weeks — six to eight weeks, but eight weeks is really traditional — from the date that you’re going to get married. There should be a three-week back out of response. So that means three weeks before the wedding is when you want to get your final in on that.

That gives them five weeks to answer you in a timely manner. So no, that hasn’t changed. So, if you’re getting married November 1st, you want those invitations in the mail September 1st, eight weeks. With the three-week back, you would probably put the 15th, or actually, you’d probably have — October 7th would be the RSVP feedback. That gives you 10 days to figure out who’s coming and who’s not, and who you have to get in touch with.

And then, you’re going to have to answer your vendor, your caterer, or your venue with your final guest count two weeks out. So, that has not changed. That is exact. That shouldn’t change. You should have yourself organized, or it will come back to haunt you.

John Maher: Right. Do people send reminders as well after the invitation is sent out? Is that not really something that people do?

Maureen Woodman: No. They do not. I think that if somebody takes the time to invite you to their wedding…weddings are very expensive. Even invitations are very expensive right now. If you do not have the respect to answer that invitation, I think it’s absolutely unacceptable.

John Maher: So, is it okay to send an engagement announcement out? After you get engaged, maybe you’re excited about this, and you want to just let people know, “Hey! We got engaged.” But maybe you don’t even have a date for the wedding yet. And you certainly don’t have the guest list of who you’re going to invite yet, but you just want to let people know that you’re engaged. Is it okay to send those out? Or is that basically saying, “Hey! You’re going to be invited to the wedding,” if you’d sent something like that out?

Maureen Woodman: I do not think that it’s wise to send something out to a list that’s not a qualified list that’s going to be invited to your wedding, or your bridal shower, or whatever other things that come along.

The reason is it could cause hurtful feelings down the road that were unintentional on your part. You were trying to do it to celebrate your relationship with your future groom. But then, you might book your venue. Afterwards, you realize you don’t have enough money to invite them. And that person was assuming that they were going to be invited. And then, for some reason, you couldn’t have them, most likely affordability. And they felt hurt by that, so no. I do not think that it would be correct to do that.

I think that you could go on your Twitter account and your Facebook and say, “Hey! We got engaged! Woo-hoo!” And then your friends just friend in. I don’t think there’s an obligation attached to social media as there is with a formal, anything in the mail.

John Maher: Right, because when you get something in the mail like that, like an engagement announcement, whether it’s a save the date card or not, people are assuming that it’s like, “Hey! Get ready. We’re getting married. You’re going to be coming.”

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely.

John Maher: So, it’s not a good idea to do that if you don’t have that list together.

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely. You never want to hurt someone. And I don’t think it’s ever the intention of the bride and groom to do that. But for some reason, a lot of people really want to be invited to your wedding. Believe it or not, everyone really loves to go to weddings. They love them.

John Maher: Right. So, to the wedding invitation itself, what information should every wedding invitation contain?

Maureen Woodman: So, the most important thing on the wedding invitation would be the time of the ceremony, the time of the reception or reception to follow, if it’s at a different location. Directions are very important. I think address is very important.

Again, in this day and age of GPS, it’s also the GPS address. And if anyone knows you put things in GPS and they don’t show up — I would call the venue. I would call the church. I would call the off-site ceremony location that you have. And I would ask them, “Could you please give me the correct GPS address?”

John Maher: They’ll probably know that.

Maureen Woodman: They will know that.

John Maher: Yes, because they’ve tested it out themselves. They’ve gone online, or they’ve used their own GPSes, or whatever, to figure out what’s the closest address that all these different GPS units know in order to get to this venue.

Maureen Woodman: Absolutely. And then, of course, on your respond card, you’re going to have a menu choice. You’re going to have your name. You’re probably going to make sure, if you can afford it, that you stamp the respond card for them. And on your respond card, you have a timely date that you want them to respond to you.

John Maher: Okay. Do couples still use a wedding invitation vendor for purchasing their wedding invitations? Are there other options like online invitation printing and things like that?

Maureen Woodman: Again, in this day and age of online, there are so many incredible things out there right now, whether you go on Pinterest, and you shop through Etsy to find someone online, or you still go back…I just heard yesterday, there’s a great store in Marblehead called “Scribe.” That’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful paper stores, on the North Shore. There’s also the Paper Store which is the Hallmark store. And the only one now doing invitations is Reading where the other stores were doing them, but now all the invitations went there. There’s a great client of ours called “Over the Rainbow,” who’s a very small boutique invitation. She’s in Beverly. She still has the old-fashioned books, where you go in and you choose them.

John Maher: So that is still available?

Maureen Woodman: That is still available. It’s more money. It’s usually less expensive if you go online and try to order them. But if you’re someone who really needs to touch and feel — Invitations again, back in the day, were about the weight of the paper, the card stock, the kind of tissue that went on there, whether you had raised lettering or lettering that was engraved, if you had gold leaf. Right now, something that’s very popular is word press. It’s very expensive, where they actually stamp in.

John Maher: It’s like an embossed thing.

Maureen Woodman: Very, very beautiful. Lining the envelopes, your stamps — The sky’s the limit, but if you’re going to spend up to $10 or $20 in invitation to do this, wouldn’t you want to touch it, see it, edit it? Or are you okay looking at it on a computer screen?

Myself, I have to see it. That’s just who I am. But I know in this day and age of computer, everyone buys everything without seeing it. It gets dropped off at your house, and everyone’s happy.

So, it’s just a matter of the actual proof in front of you because you can always just hit PRINT on your computer. And then, print it on regular paper in your printer. But that’s not what you’re going to have when you actually see the real paper, the card stock, the ink color.

John Maher: Right, right. So, you mentioned the printing and embossing, and things like that. What are the other types of invitation designs that seem to be popular this year?

Maureen Woodman: So, I think…this year, we had a lot of weddings. My daughters are 28 and 30 years old. So, all their friends are getting married. They’re in that age group. And of course, my husband and I are parents of all their friends. So, we were invited to a lot of weddings.

So, we had about 15 weddings in the house this year. And I saved a bucket of all the stuff. And I actually brought it down to our venue for us to show girls, if they’re trying to get an idea. I was amazed at the wide variety of what came from the save the date to the invitation to the actual thank you note.

What is out there? Most girls seem to be using what I call a one-card, so no longer a card that you open up, even though the inside was blank in the invitation was printed. And they were always in a cream or a white tone.

These are very colorful, rounded edge, with all different kinds of fonts, so the name of the bride and groom may be very large and bolded, and then the location of the wedding may be in a very small font, in a lighter color. And then, the venue, again would be bolded but in a different font. All of them were probably the same size. They probably range about 8 inches long and maybe 4 inches — 3 or 4 inches wide. And they were one-sided.

Then, we had the RSVP card. Some of them, very traditional. Some of them, postcard, so that the girl would get a less expensive — you just checked it off, and It went in the mail as a postcard. So, if she was environmentally friendly, she may have tried to save on paper.

John Maher: Because that way, it doesn’t need a separate envelope.

Maureen Woodman: It didn’t need a separate envelope, less money to mail. I think, it’s a postcard, that’s $0.26 and a mail is $0.44 or $0.48 right now. So, that was interesting. The other thing that I noticed, a lot of them had attachable paper.

So, they had a card. And then, they had a pretty paper on top with a ribbon holding the paper. And then, the invitation was on top. And then, the card was behind it, so more of a dimensional piece, which I thought was fascinating.

Not many of them were cream or ivory or pink [chuckles]. Actually, none of them. They were red. They were royal blue. They had anchors. They had flowers on them. They were completely, really none — what you would think is a traditional invitation.

John Maher: Would you say that that’s a way that you can really make your invitation unique, and maybe even start to get across the idea that your wedding is going to be very unique and different as well? And maybe you can incorporate some of the things that the couple likes? Or maybe the fact that “Oh, we’re getting married in the fall.” So, it’s all fall colors and has leaves on it. Are those ways that you can make your wedding invitation unique?

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I think that it may come off as less traditional or less formal. But I think honestly, the ones that we had at our house were very beautiful. And they did do that. They reflected, whether it was a theme or the couple. And they had a very — more of a fun feeling. The other thing that’s different, the most traditional line is always “Mister and Mrs. so and so, request the honor of your presence at my daughter’s wedding.” That is all gone [laughs].

John Maher: Yes. Is it more now the bride and groom?

Maureen Woodman: Yes. “Please come and celebrate our commitment.” “Please come and celebrate with Maureen and Doug.” “Please come –” Yes. No more of the formal request, “The honor of your presence.”

John Maher: Does that have anything to do with who’s paying for the wedding? Or does that not really enter into it?

Maureen Woodman: Again, Emily Post, back in the day, whoever sent that invitation now and whoever requested the honor, their name would be there, and that was what you assumed, that those were the people paying for the wedding.

And yes. I think now that, if the bride and groom are paying for the wedding, they are not including their mother and father on there, or they go the other way. They include their mother and father, their stepparents, or the groom’s mother and father as well are on there, which I think is nice to include all the important people because, if you don’t know the other half of the wedding, it helps you by walking in saying, “Oh! Her parents’ names are Suzie and Bob.”

So, I see it on the invitation. So, when I get there, it won’t be awkward when I introduce myself. So, I remember what their name is. So, that I know I’m their guest. And I know their name walking in. I like that, if I know the bride and groom’s name, the parents of the bride’s name, and then the parents of the groom’s name. I think it’s nice you know who’s hosting the party that you’ve gone invited to.

John Maher: Right, right. It was always traditional to have somebody do calligraphy on the envelope when they addressed it. Do people still do that? Do you need to hire somebody special to do calligraphy?

Maureen Woodman: Yes. I think that a formal wedding invitation coming through the mail, you really look at it if you see that handwritten calligraphy. Again, it’s about a dollar an envelope, $1.25 to do that. So, it’s an additional cost.

Now, you may be able to just put your wedding list in an Excel spreadsheet, throw your labels in the label maker, and off you go, and put them down. But then, all of a sudden, I think your invitation might look like a bulk mail.

And I don’t know if that’s what you want to do. But again, everything is changing in this day and age. But I still say that if a calligraphy invitation comes along in your mail, you take the time to look at it, where if a label comes along, you just open it.

John Maher: So, you might have better luck in getting people to respond to your wedding invitation maybe a little bit quicker, if you put that extra effort into some nice calligraphy and make it stand out.

Maureen Woodman: Yes. It’s just one more step to formality. I’m sure it will be gone [laughs] sooner than later, but it is lovely that someone did that. And again, it’s all going back to you. You were chosen as a guest and someone took the time to do all these things for you. So, please take the time to respond for them.

John Maher: That’s great advice, Maureen. Thanks very much for speaking with me today.

Maureen Woodman: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me.

John Maher: For more information, you can visit The Essex Room website at or call 978-768-7335.

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