by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer
Etiquette and tradition play an important role in preparing wedding invitations. Narrowing the guest list and assembling current addresses is just the beginning.
Invitations should be selected as soon as the date is set and the guest list is completed. Usually couples select them at least three to six months in advance to allow plenty of time for ordering, proofreading the text and addressing the invitations or hiring a calligrapher. Invitations should be mailed no later than four to six weeks before the wedding and up to eight weeks ahead for summer or holiday weddings, due to busy schedules.
The items you order for your invitation set should include the invitation itself, as well as several enclosures. The invitation announces the wedding couple and their sponsors. Of course, it also lets your guests know the date, time and location of the ceremony.
Enclosures are the small cards included with the invitation. They provide more detailed information than is available on the invitation itself. In addition to reception and response cards, you may have other types of enclosures such as pew cards, maps or "within the ribbons" cards. "Within the ribbons" or pew cards are primarily used for very formal weddings only. Pew cards are included in the invitation of guests of distinction, such as close family members and special friends. These guests present their cards upon arrival at the ceremony to receive their "within the ribbons" front row seating.
Map cards should be included for all the out-of-town guests who may have trouble finding the ceremony or reception site.
Invitations normally come with two envelopes, an inner and an outer. However, the more contemporary, square sizes usually only come with single outer envelopes. The outer envelope serves as the mailing vehicle, while the inner envelope protects the invitation. For added elegance, the inner envelopes may be enhanced with colored linings. Most inner envelopes won't have a gummed flap.
When writing your invitations, here are some key points to remember. Traditional British spelling is often used for words such as "honour and favour." Each line of the address should be centered for a balanced look. Courtesy titles such as Mr., Miss, or Mrs. are always used. The title Ms. should be reserved exclusively for business correspondence and should not be used on a wedding invitations. Military titles are handled by rank. Always spell out full names, (not nicknames or abbreviations) and dates, times and addresses are also spelled out.
Depending upon the number of enclosures, the size and weight of your invitations, extra postage may be required. It's a good idea to take one of your invitation ensembles (pre-stuffed) to the post office, so it can be weighed for the exact postage.
Here are a few additional pointers. It's customary to send an invitation to your minister, priest, or rabbi and their spouse. All children over the age of eighteen should receive their own separate invitation. Plan to order an additional 25 invitations to allow for the unexpected.
If your wedding is very small or private, you may want to send announcements to those friends and relatives you were unable to invite to the ceremony. Typically, announcements are sent immediately following the wedding and include the time and location of the ceremony. An "at home card" may accompany the announcement to inform friends and family of your new address and phone number.
Finally, you'll probably need a final guest count by two weeks prior to the ceremony, so you can notify your caterer. Some people put a number on the back of each response card, to correspond with the guest name on their master list. That way if the guest forgets to put their name on the response card, you can match up the name with the number on the list.