Invitation Etiquette

Invitation Etiquette

  1. Although you think someone might not make it, either because they are in poor health or due to distance, they might appreciate an invitation and the fact that you cared enough to invite them. A word of caution. As invitations usually carry an obligation to send a gift, it might look like you’re inviting them, despite knowing they can’t travel, only to receive a gift. In such a case, it might be a good idea to restrict invitations to those who are very close friends/relatives and will be hurt if they were not invited. And to let the rest in this category not feel totally excluded through a wedding announcement that carries no obligation of a gift.
  2. Anyone you invite to the bridal shower, should be invited to your wedding.
  3. It is nice to send invitations to your wedding party and the celebrant performing your church/religious ceremony.
  4. It is advisable to invite partners of guests in long standing relationships, especially if you are close to them. If a guest has just formed a new relationship though, you are not obliged to invite their partner, unless the guest is a very close friend and you would feel uncomfortable not to invite his/her newly acquired partner. The decision is yours.
  5. Whether or not to invite children will be determined by your venue and your budget. Also, if you are close to many of your friend’s kids and have a large number of nieces and nephews or your cousins have kids who you are familiar with, you might like to include children.

If you are inviting children, a few tips…

  1. At the ceremony, you could instruct ushers to seat guests with children towards the back, so that there is minimum disruption to the ceremony and so the guest can quickly exit along with the child if he/she gets too rowdy, without causing too much distraction or disturbance to the proceedings.
  2. If you’re looking to save on the catering, you could request kiddie’s meals and negotiate a special rate for it.
  3. You might like to hire a children’s entertainer to keep them occupied.
  4. Alternatively you may hire a child minder to keep an eye on the children.
  5. You could provide activity packs to keep the children creatively occupied.

Why you might choose not to invite children /how to go about conveying the same

  1. Venues do not ordinarily differentiate between children and adults in terms of numbers and catering could prove a costly affair if your caterer refuses to compromise.
  2. If you invite certain children but not others, it would cause hurt feelings. Applying a blanket rule and not inviting any kids at all might be the best approach. Once you decide this, it is best to make no exception to this rule.
  3. Adults may have a better time on their own without the kids running riot.

How to specify that children aren’t included

Clearly mention, by way of your addressing, both the invitation as well as the envelopes, that kids are excluded, for instance, Mr. & Mrs. Steve Jones. In case you get the feeling guests may not get the message, or at least certain guests may not, you could convey your ‘adults only’ rule to close relatives and friends and have them spread the word around. Remember however, that it is inappropriate to write ‘No children’ on your invitations. If specifically asked, it is best to have a standard response ready, along the lines of number constraints or limited capacity of the venue, etc.

Sending out the invitations

Traditionally, it is the bride’s parents who host the wedding and ordinarily they are responsible for sending out the invitations, receiving replies, etc. If the bride and groom are footing the bill for the entire wedding, they might take on the responsibility of sending out the invitations. Once everybody’s individual list is ready, it is time to compile all the lists and have a master list handy. An organized guest list can be extremely helpful for the following…

  • To keep track of the head count
  • To address invitations
  • To keep track of details such as out of town guests, those needing directions etc.

You might like to divide your final guest list into several columns that include…

  1. Contact Information – The guest’s full name, address, telephone number and possibly e-mail address too, if available, to update them on any sudden or last minute plans.
  2. RSVPs – Next to the guest’s name, for entries regarding replies received and the number of guests expected to attend from the family is invaluable for a definite idea of the head count.
  3. Gift – To keep track of gifts received prior to, or during, the wedding.
  4. Thank-you To record when and if a thank-you has been sent.
  5. Out-of-town guests – To mark reminders regarding accommodation to be taken care of and whether or not the guest has been intimated about the same.

When to send invitations

It is a good idea to send invitations about two months prior to your wedding date in ordinary circumstances, but if your wedding falls during the holiday season, as early as possible, about 3-4 months in advance might be a good idea, as your guests might want to plan their holidays accordingly. If you delay, they might have already made alternate arrangements or bookings for a holiday and will have to decline your invitation, which would result in disappointment on both sides.

Along with your invitations, you might like to request/ give guests additional information along the following lines…

  1. RSVPs regarding their attendance/availability.
  2. Directions/ maps to the ceremony site/ venue of the reception.
  3. Whether it is going to be an outdoor ceremony/reception, so they can plan their outfits accordingly.
  4. Accommodation information or a list of hotels in different budgets, for out of town guests.

Accommodation for out of towners

While the couple is not obliged to make accommodation arrangements for out of town guests, it is considered courteous to do so, or at least to make some suggestions for the same, especially as they are unfamiliar with the place.

If you are expecting a large number of out of town guests, you may be able to negotiate a good rate at a certain hotel or reserve a block of rooms.

If many of your relatives are willing to put up guests at their homes, it might be a good idea to arrive at the best match possible. For instance, an elderly couple might prefer putting up a senior guest/guests, while younger couples or those with younger/teenage children might be a better option for hosting those in the younger age group or a couple who are bringing their kids along.

In the event an out of town guest is being hosted by a relative/friend, provide them with the name, address, phone number and directions of their host, as well as request your guest to convey complete information to the host, on probable arrival and departure dates and closely coordinate with the host once the same is confirmed.

It might be a good idea to convey your gratitude to the host/hostess for thoughtfully hosting your out of town guest, with a thank-you note and a small token of your appreciation.

Guest etiquette

Guests also have to display certain common courtesies towards the bridal couple…

  1. Reply as soon as you know whether or not you will be able to attend the wedding, and more so if you are going to decline. This helps the bridal couple have a clearer picture of their numbers to plan the catering, etc. and also to invite another guest if they so choose.
  2. Respect the ceremony and refrain from talking or distracting others during the service.
  3. Whether or not you’re able to attend a wedding, being invited to one, means that you should send a gift. Wedding announcements, on the other hand, carry no gift obligation.
  4. The gift registry is a good place to look when thinking of what is appropriate to gift, though most couples are happy to accept cash.
  5. If it is possible, it may be a good idea to send the couple your gift directly, even if you are attending the wedding, especially if the gift is cumbersome. This has two advantages – it eliminates the possibility of theft/loss at the wedding and in the latter case, it minimizes the burden on the couple/family members when they have to transport the gift.
  6. Do remember that the invitation is extended specifically to the one(s) whose name(s) are on it. Don’t invite your own guests or assume your children are invited, if their names are not specifically mentioned on the invitation. Do not resort to underhand tactics like including your children’s names on the RSVPs, thus creating an awkward situation for the couple, whereby they have to call you or clarify that your children aren’t included. It is embarrassing for all concerned.

Inviting guests to your wedding



So you’re in the process of choosing your Long Island wedding venue. It’s the biggest job you have, yet there are still many decisions to make. The people you invite is one of the most important things to consider. The amount of people you invite will be determined by your budget, your venue, and really, who you actually want there vs. who you’re obligated to invite. The guest list is usually one of the most stressful aspects to planning your wedding. There can be a lot of friction and difficulty caused by deciding the guest list, so do your best to handle this with as much sensitivity and thought as possible.  Here are a few points to mull over when deciding the guest list.

Size of your wedding

This is the first thing to consider. When you picture your wedding, do you envision a huge event with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding? Or do you picture a more intimate setting with just you and a small guest list of just the special people in your life. Chances are, if this is the first wedding for both of your families, you have a pretty good idea already that this is going to be a larger scale wedding whether you like that or not. Make sure to set your budget and then figure out your guest list. If you do it in the opposite order, you are almost assured to go to over budget.

Remember, It’s your wedding!

Make the most of this opportunity. You are going to want to have the people who matter the most be there for your special day. Be prepared, your parents will want their friends to attend, maybe their boss, and other various people you don’t know at all. Make sure to remember that it is your wedding, so you have the right to share your reservations to your dad inviting his accountant or your mom inviting the organist from church. Keep in mind, your parents will have some “must have” guests. But there are some areas where you can take a stand. And if you are flexible with them, they’ll understand why you’re inviting someone who seems random to them. Check the budget, handle your parents with sensitivity, but always remember it’s your wedding.

Who is paying for your Long Island wedding?

This is a huge factor when determining the guest list. If your parents are paying for most or all of this, then chances are they will feel entitled to invite who they want. If you and your future spouse are paying, then you have complete say in who’s coming or not. If your parents are paying, then let them invite anyone they want. Unless you are having an intimate wedding. However, if they are paying for an intimate wedding, they should have good sense on who to invite and who to leave off the list.

Creating the guest list

As stated before, the Long Island wedding venue you choose, as well as your budget determines the size of your guestlist. You always want to plan for a few more, but don’t go overboard because all of a sudden you’ll outgrow your budget and your venue!  Here are some additional tips to follow when choosing your guest list.

  1. Generally the total number of guests you can have will be halved and the bride’s side accorded half the number and the groom’s the other half.
  2. If you and your spouse have a common circle of friends , you may want to give your parents a little more leeway with their invitees.
  3. Keep in mind none of this is set in stone. If the groom doesn’t have as many people to invite, it’s not necessary for him to start thinking up people to bring so that the parties are even. it makes more sense to let the bride invite more if she has more she’d like to be there. Or vice versa.
  4. The bride and groom should come up with their own lists separately, then meet up and go through the sifting process together.

You are probably going to go through several versions of your guest list until coming to the final list. More than anything it will help to determine the ball park number of guests you’ll be looking at. This will help you determine which Long Island wedding venue you will choose. Once you choose the best wedding venue on Long Island, you can focus in on the maximum number of guests.

Tips for drawing up a guest list

Make two columns, one for the name of the family, the other for the number expected. Thus you will have a row comprising entries such as –  Mr. & Mrs. Parker (and family) and the corresponding entry – 2 (or 4 as is the case). And so on. After due modifications and fine tuning, this list helps you arrive at two things simultaneously – the first column total will indicate the number of invitations you will require and the total of the second column will indicate your total number of guests.

  1. Start with the people closest to you i.e. your immediate family – parents, the couple’s own children (if any), siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents.
  2. Next is the extended family i.e. aunts, uncles, cousins, their children (if necessary)
  3. Then come the close family friends and the couple’s friends, both individual and common
  4. Finally come the couple’s colleagues/ co-workers, employers and the parent’s colleagues

If your’s is a very intimate wedding or you have a very large family (immediate and extended), you may want to stick exclusively to the first two categories. If you’re planning a larger wedding, feel ‘the more the merrier’ and you have the budget to accommodate it, then you will be able to go the whole hog.

It is also possible, especially if your wedding is on a weekday, that not all whom you invite will be able to attend, either due to work or other commitments. If they reply sufficiently in advance, letting you know, you could have a reserve invitation list handy. As long as you don’t leave it too late to mail, thereby drawing attention to the fact that they are a second choice, the recipients will be happy to oblige.

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