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The Ins and Outs of Invitations

There are many details to prioritize when planning your wedding. Probably one of the most important is the selection of your wedding invitations. The invitation is the first impression your guests will have of your upcoming happiest of days. Your sense of style and the tone of your wedding are conveyed through this one little card.

As daunting as that sounds, the good news is that today's wedding invitations can be as creative as you want them to be. Have fun! Strict adherence to formal invitation style is a thing of the past. Couples, especially for encore weddings, are having a great time with invitation design. Using everything from their home computers and rubber stamps to local and Internet vendors, there is a wealth of options available.

The Gods Have Spoken

Experts such as Martha Stewart and Colin Cowie tout the advantages of individual style. In his recent book Colin Cowie Weddings, Cowie says of the invitation selection process, "I encourage innovation." He gives examples of clients who used organdy ribbon, unusual ink colors and handmade papers. Steward, in her book Weddings, remembers a friend who wrote her own message, bought wedding greeting cards and had them imprinted. She states, "Even the most traditional of nuptials may be announced with lighthearted stationary if it pleases the couple."

For those of you struggling with the idea of straying from tradition, the following information ought to ease your mind. Ever the arbiters of good taste, Tiffany & Co. loosened their stand on wedding invitations not long ago. For over 150 years, Tiffany has offered some of the finest invitations available. The store had only three designs to choose from, and all were considered the height of elegance and good taste. That tradition lasted until 1985, when they were forced to acknowledge a new age of wedding styles and situations and offer colored inks and paper.

Back in the Dark Ages

For many, many years, weddings were represented by one and only one kind of invitation: engraved invitations on ecru paper with black ink. The wording was impersonal and cold. Some speculate that this is because today's wedding invitation evolved from nothing more than a proclamation nailed to a tree in the town square.

Most wedding invitations are composed in the third person narrative style. This is most evident in what's referred to as the "host line." For example, "Mr. and Mrs. Van Reese request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Leanne…" Today, it is very common for the first person narrative style to be used, especially for couples who have been married before. These folks are more likely to be inviting guests themselves rather than the invitation coming from their parents. "Please join us as we celebrate our marriage…" This approach has a warm, informal tone that suits many couples today.

Watch your Phraseology

According to Emily Post's Complete Book of Wedding Etiquette, there are guidelines to consider for widows and divorcees getting remarried. For example, a young widow, using your married name and having the invitation come from your parents is still appropriate. If you are a young divorcee, you do not have to use your married name. You may revert to your middle and maiden name for the invitation.

As a mature widow or divorcee, Emily Post recommends the use of your married name, and the invitation should come from you personally. If your children are hosting the wedding, the invitation should come from them. For detailed wording examples, you may reference Emily Post's book or a similar wedding etiquette book.

No matter what the style of invitation you send, please note the following: Never mention your gift registry location in a wedding invitation. This is considered tacky, as if you are demanding a gift. Most friends and family will know to inquire.

Stationery Actions

Once you have worked out the tone of your invitation, it's time to explore the format. As mentioned before, the sky's the limit on wedding invitation design. Even so, there are pieces of the invitation that my need to be a part of your creation based on your budget, your style and other details.

Most wedding invitations, especially the traditional styles, are placed in two envelopes. The outer envelope is where the name and address of the invitee are written. The inner envelope is addressed with just the name and title of the invitee. Why two envelopes? Back in the days of messengers on horseback, the double envelope protected the message from the wear and tear of the journey. Similarly, the classy tissue enclosed with a wedding invitation had a humble beginning. When fountain pens and quills were used, the tissue was placed there to blot the ink and prevent smudging. Nowadays, it is viewed as an elegant touch. If you are trying to cut costs and time, the inner envelope and the tissue are not required to create a beautiful invitation.

Another piece of stationery you may need to consider is a reception card. If you are inviting a select few to the reception, you must enclose this card in their invitations only. If all of your guests are welcome at this celebration, the information can be printed on your wedding invitation with the words " Reception immediately following…"

Every book consulted in preparation for this article bemoaned the existence of the response card. Emily Post calls them "a necessary evil." Response cards came about when our society became lazy and discourteous. Let's face it, people do not respond to invitations promptly. Brides were having an awful time trying to get an attendee count. How many chicken breasts should the caterer stuff? How many white chairs should the wedding planner set up on the lawn? Hence, the development of a card that demands an answer from us. Unless you like guessing or have extremely polite friends, you will want to order these.

The last piece of required wedding stationery is the thank you card. Many stationers offer packages that include all of these elements. If you are not opting for the package deal, know that thank you cards do not have to match your invitations. The only stipulation when it comes to thank you cards is that you handwrite a gracious message in each one.

There are other pieces of wedding stationery that you may add. Everything from a rain card (plan B location in case of inclement weather), travel cards with transportation and parking information, pew cards for special seating in the church, a ceremony program and much, much more.

The subject of wedding stationery is a daunting one with so many styles, colors, papers, and sizes to think about and select. To make your wedding the smoothest and easiest to plan, log on to or where you'll find everything you need for invitations, tips, trends and etiquette matters. At these web sites, your budget is taken into consideration and you may choose from a wide range of quality products accordingly, such as Invitations by Dawn, Rexcraft, and Ann's Wedding Stationery.

To get an idea of all the possibilities out there, go to for a wealth of information, advice and wedding themes. This web site includes accessories such as notebooks, engraved wedding toasting glasses, personalized wedding seals and napkins. Read the frequently asked questions section and make your task of ordering for your wedding an adventure.

Invite the Pope and the President

Seriously -- I'm not joking! Send an invitation to the President of the United States and the First Lady. Address it to the White House in Washington, D.C., and you will receive a congratulatory message that is a wonderful keepsake. Similarly, if you are Catholic, the pope will send you a papal blessing. Ask your parish priest to assist you with this.

Putting Ink to Paper

There are two types of paper: Paper made from wood pulp and paper made from cotton fibers. Finer papers are made from cotton fibers (commonly referred to as rag paper). Both have different textures that may compliment your style.

The different printing methods allow for consideration of budget and style. The most expensive method is engraving. This is an old process using a metal plate. Thermography is the number one choice today. It imitates the look of engraving but is half as expensive. Offset printing is the least expensive method. The ink is not raised off the paper, and the style is less formal.

Tips for the Budget Conscious

Use thermography or offset printing.
Shop around. Use the Internet and ask friends for references.
Consider making your own invitations. Many craft stores sell kits, and gorgeous themed paper for computers is available in abundance. For computer literate brides, there is even a software package you can buy to assist you with designing and printing your own invitations and more. Go to to check it out.
Use standard size invitations. Anything oversized will cost a bundle to mail at the post office.
Order extra invitations. You never know what might come up, and it is very expensive to reorder a small amount.
Skip inner envelope and tissue linings.

The most important thing to remember is to make your wedding invitations special to you. Let it reflect your personality and impart the happiness you feel as well as the importance of this very special day. Good luck and have fun!