Wedding Invitations: Making Sense of What's Inside
According to Crane’s Bluebook on wedding invitations, the elegance of the invitation comes from its “simplicity” - its only purpose is to inform guests of where and when your wedding will take place. But with so many guidelines and regulations for wording, spacing, enclosure cards, paper, typography, engraving vs. thermography, stuffing and addressing envelopes, etc., the wedding invitation is anything but simple. Because there’s so much ground to cover with regards to etiquette, we’re breaking up our entry on wedding invitations into a mini-series. Today we’ll kick off with a lesson on decoding what goes into the envelopes, and why.
Like Save the Date cards, wedding invitations will help set the tone for your wedding, and should compliment the event itself. They will subtly reveal how your guests should dress, and may even influence the type of gifts guests will give the couple. More formal invitations are best for church ceremonies, evening weddings, and black or white tie receptions. Invitations with more color and/or casual themes are best for beach weddings, garden party weddings, etc.
Invites are sent out six weeks before the wedding, but you should order them at least three months prior to allow time for engraving, addressing, and mailing. It’s even better to order them as soon as you know the time, date, locations for the ceremony and reception, and guest list.
So: what exactly goes inside of these envelopes once you know the venue, time, date and guest list? Start with the invitation itself – it is the largest of the cards and traditionally comes in three sizes – 6 3/8 X 8 7/8, 5 1/2 X 7 1/2, or 4 1/2 X 6 1/4. The invitation can be a single flat card, have one fold in the center, or be folded twice (into thirds), which is the most traditional format for wedding invitations.
We’ll write more later about what exactly gets printed on the invitations themselves – while there is some basic information that the invitations need to convey, the etiquette that dictates the wording is so extensive that it needs its own post in our mini-series. In the meantime let’s take a look at what comes next in the invitation envelope: enclosure cards.
There are many types of enclosure cards, and each one serves its own purpose. While you will definitely need to include at least one type of enclosure card, you most likely will not need to include all of them. But let’s review each one and why it’s used.
These cards are used when the ceremony and reception are at two different places – because they’re in two locations, they’re considered two separate events. The reception card, if you include one, is always placed on top of the invitation itself. Like the invitation, the reception card has its own specific wording, spacing, etc. (more on this later).
Reply Cards and Envelopes
At one time, reply cards would have been considered rude – the lady of the house was expected to hand write an R.S.V.P. to any invitation, and including a reply card would have been an insult to her knowledge of etiquette! But while R.S.V.P.ing has become an increasingly lost art (see our post on R.S.V.P.’s), reply cards have become necessary to provide the host or hostess with an accurate headcount. Nowadays each wedding invitation comes with a reply card with the invitee’s name(s), a to provide the name of a guest or date (if applicable), a place for the invitee’s response, and a request for a response before a specific date. The pre-stamped reply card envelope is then addressed to whomever will be receiving the reply cards and tallying the headcount.
These cards let out-of-town guests know where they may make reservations to stay for the wedding. While this information usually goes out with Save the Date cards, you will want to include accommodation cards in your invitations if you are not sending out Save the Dates.
Like a ticket, these cards need to be presented to allow admittance to the wedding. These are typically utilized for larger weddings or by well-known people in order to discourage “crashers.”
If the bride and groom are moving in together after the wedding, they may include a card providing their new address and a move-in date so that guests will know how to reach them at their new home.
Not all guests are necessarily invited to the ceremony – it may be a small, private event with a larger reception held afterwards. In this case guests are sent ceremony cards. These are the same size as reception cards and should be engraved to match.
Directions and Map Cards
These cards help provide guests with the direct route to your ceremony and/or reception, and should compliment the invitations in color, type, paper, etc. They are helpful for out-of-town guests, or if the reception or ceremony venues are difficult to find or far away from one another. Directions and map cards may instead go out with Save the Date cards.
If pews are assigned at the church, pew cards may be included in the invitation. Guests will present these cards at the ceremony and are then ushered to the appropriate pew.
These cards will inform guests if transportation is going to be provided to/from a specific meeting point to the ceremony and/0r reception. They typically read: “Transportation will be provided” and list a time and place fo where to meet.
Within Ribbons Cards
Pews that are reserved for specific guests are typically sectioned off with a white ribbon, and Within Ribbons cards are sent to guests who are assigned to these pews. Cards are presented at the ceremony, and guests are then ushered to the appropriate section.
Once you have decided what kinds of enclosure cards you’d like to include in your invitation, you’ll need to have them printed, stuffed and mailed. When stuffing envelopes, the invitations should be layered in size order with the invitation on the bottom, followed by the reception card and any other enclosure cards. Reply envelopes should be placed face town on top of the reception card, and the reply card should be placed face-up beneath the flap of the reply envelope.
Single fold invitations should be placed inside the envelope with the fold facing the bottom of the envelope and enclosure cards stacked on top. Double fold invitations should be placed with the bottom third of the invitation folded up, the enclosure cards placed inside, and the top half of the invitation folded over. The front of the inside envelope should face the back of the outside envelope.
We hope you have a better understanding of the cards inside a wedding invitation, their meaning, and what you’re supposed to do with them. You may also be able to make a more informed decision as to what kinds of cards you’ll need ton include in your own invitations. Stay tuned for our next installment in out wedding invitation mini-series where we’ll go over wording, language, and type. Until next time, take a look at the Vera Wang Blue Lace collection – the blue lace folder opens to reveal the printed invitation (shown at the beginning of this post), and the reception and response cards are engraved or thermographed in blue ink on oyster white cards to match.
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