While weddings are an emotionally joyous time, these events can also be something of a minefield when it comes to etiquette: the very nature of bringing together an eclectic group of friends and family means that it is almost guaranteed some personalities will clash. However, if a host is careful to follow wedding etiquette from start to finish, then even the most difficult guests will be unable to complain. Wedding etiquette begins with wedding invitations.
As far as guests are concerned, the invitation is their first impression about the entire wedding ceremony. Thus, invitations should always go out on stationary and be sent at least six to eight weeks prior to the ceremony, as this gives guests time to make sure their schedules are open for the event. Some couples like to send save-the-date cards further in advance to ensure smooth scheduling as well; these are best sent out eight to twelve weeks in advance.
The invitation should include the names of the bride and groom, the ceremony date and time, address of the venue, and information about how to RSVP. Request that guests RSVP three weeks prior to the event at the very latest, as the caterers will need to have final numbers to prepare for the reception. Speaking of food, the RSVP information should ask guests to specify meal preferences if necessary. Add the return address for all RSVP information on the back of the invitation envelope.
Registries, Guests, and Dress Code
The invitations for a wedding should also include a note about the dress code, as this could range anywhere from business casual to black tie. This particular detail may also depend somewhat on the venue for the reception, as some will be stricter about dress. Typically, invitations should not include information about registries, since this could be seen as requesting gifts and some consider this gauche. Rather, share information about wedding registries with the wedding party and allow them to spread this information around to all guests.
Dealing with plus-one invitations can be tricky. Typically, it is only obligatory to allow a plus-one if a guest is married or in a serious relationship. It is not considered poor etiquette to reject a guest's request that a plus-one be added to their invitation if this person is not actually in a serious relationship. Likewise, wedding invitations are not-transferable: if a certain couple is invited by name, a different plus-one should not be "swapped in." Finally, note that everyone invited to the ceremony is expected to be invited to the reception as well.
Wedding invitations can be an emotionally fraught affair, but following these basic guidelines of etiquette should make it less trying.