In our previous blog about Leo and I visiting Zoë at the office, I mentioned how we met a bride who was having some difficulties finalising her table plan and venue set up due to very late RSVPs from guests (some of whom had lost their invitations!) I decided at the time it would be a good idea to discuss some basic Wedding Etiquette to help marrying couples, and wedding guests, assist each other in the run up to the Big Day...
For anyone who has ever planned a wedding before, you will understand how stressful some aspects of the construction of your Big Day can be. For anyone who hasn’t yet started planning their wedding, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start, especially when it comes to stationery. It can take time to decide on a theme, which may then lead you to your perfect venue (or vice versa!), you may already have everything mentally planned out and have the perfect wedding visualised. There is no one right way to plan a wedding. But there are a few things that can help make things a little easier to manage.
I have compiled this handy guide to Wedding Invitation Etiquette to guide those of you planning a wedding, and for those of you who have been invited to one, to help ensure the smooth running of your Big Day. So much depends on the timely sending and receiving of invitations, from creating further stationery products, to caterers, transport and your bank balance! Last minute changes can be costly, so we hope this guide gives you all a good idea of the best way to proceed when you send – or receive – a wedding invitation.
SAVE THE DATE
When it comes to your stationery, should you choose to send them (and you probably should if you’re planning a wedding abroad, or have friends and family that can be hard to pin down), your save the dates are the first thing that needs to go out.
We recommend for weddings abroad that your guests should receive their save the dates at least 18 month’s prior, including some detail as to the planned location of the wedding. Ideally, you will have booked the venue prior to sending, so this information can be included to enable your guests to make an informed decision regarding their potential attendance. It's good practice to advise whether a particular airport is nearest, including that information can help your guests organise their flights without having to do the extra leg work and avoids potential confusion.
If you’re planning a wedding on home turf, save the dates should be sent approximately 12 months prior to the wedding and again should include some basic guidance as to the venue or location, information regarding the nearest train or coach station is also a great addition. Being able to book transportation early, if guests are travelling a long way, can help save some money on these costs.
If you’re planning a shotgun wedding, you’re best to skip straight to the invites and include as much information as possible for your guests regarding the location, transport, nearest accommodation, local taxi numbers are all extremely useful especially for anyone travelling from afar.
If your wedding is abroad, you should send your invites one year prior to your wedding date. In theory, this should allow your guests to book their transport and accommodation in plenty of time.
If you're not travelling overseas, six to eight months prior to the date is recommended for sending out invitations. Again, details of local transport and accommodation are very useful for guests who may be travelling from out of town. It’s not necessary to include this information on the main invitation, however, the more detail you include when your invites go out, the less chance you will have of being contacted to provide this information over and over again.
You could even create a website that displays all the information your guests may need, adding the website address to your invitations for ease of reference. If anyone then loses your invitation, you can then easily provide them with the web address!
If you have been blessed with an invitation to a beloved friend or family member’s wedding, whether you intend to attend the Big Day or not, it is essential that you RSVP as soon as possible. Of course, there are always potential delays, such as getting time off work or arranging transport, but the sooner you can confirm your intentions, the better.
It’s recommended that you reply to an invitation no later than three to four months prior to the date. Delays can have an enormous impact on the future planning and organising of the wedding, not to mention the couple’s stress levels! If the pair are unable to confirm exact numbers for their ceremony, wedding breakfast, or evening reception, this creates a huge problem for designers like Zoë. Exact numbers are needed to create order of service prints, details of guests are required in order to create the right table plans, place settings, personalised thank you cards etc.
Delays also present an enormous issue when organising, for example, what size coach or bus may be required to move guests from venue to venue, or how many meals to order, the size of the room or tables required for the wedding breakfast, the amount of food needed for the buffet, flowers, how may tables to set, how many centrepieces are needed, how many wedding favours to buy. The list goes on and on.
It is polite and respectful to respond to a wedding invitation as soon as possible – this helps alleviate a multitude of potential delays, and as a loving friend or family member, you can help the couple have an easier ride with their plans.
The couple may provide a specific contact for enquiries – ensure you use this contact to ask questions or provide information, so the couple are not overwhelmed with requests.
If you have special dietary requirements, such as allergies or a vegetarian meal, it’s important that you also include this information as soon as it is requested. This way, caterers can ensure the meal you are served is appropriate for your needs.
If you or your family require suitable access, for example for a wheelchair, it would be ideal to provide this information too, so that provisions are made for the venues to be fully inclusive. Whilst the couple may be aware of your need for access or reasonable adjustment, the venue may not be completely suitable. Ensuring this is discussed well in advance will avoid any unexpected difficulties with access on the Big Day.
If you RSVP to attend, and later find out you are unable to do so, it would be considerate to inform the marrying pair (or their designated contact) in a timely manner. Of course, things do crop up unexpectedly, which can prevent you from attending. It’s happened to all of us at some point!
This is really important for guests who have children. If you do not wish for children to attend your wedding, it is absolutely crucial that you make this known from the start.
Some guests may want to know specifically why you are not including children, you are not required to provide this information (there are a plethora of reasons why it’s preferable for children not to attend – the venue or entertainment may not be appropriate, the wedding couple may not be able to afford to cater for children, or it may simply be a personal preference, some couples prefer that only child relatives attend...)
If you are inviting a family to attend your wedding, state clearly the names of the children on the invite, or “Name, name & family”. If you do not wish for the children to attend, invites should be made out to the guests, and a polite notice should be included, for example,
“We would love to have your little darlings attend, however due to limitations with the venue, we are not able to make provisions for children at our wedding.”
It’s better to go with positive phrases and language, to avoid offending your nearest and dearest who may be upset that their offspring are excluded from the celebrations. Using a phrase such as “adult only wedding” or “adult only reception” (or indeed “adult only ceremony and reception”) should make it politely clear that children are not to attend.
The betrothed couple should also be respectful of their guests and understand that some parents may not wish to attend the wedding without their children, especially those with very small children or babies, or may have trouble obtaining childcare. Of course, it may be upsetting if someone close to you is unable to attend for this reason, but please try not to take it personally.
Parents often have to make sacrifices for their children, and some couples may not be able to cater for everyone's individual circumstances, and as loving friends and family we ought to all be kind and compassionate, and understanding of each other’s preferences. So it works both ways!
AFTER THE WEDDING
“Thank you” cards should be sent no later than six months after the wedding. Guests prefer personalised notes, so before you tear haphazardly into that stack of carefully selected cards and gifts from your lovely guests, it may be a good idea to sit down with a pen and paper and make note of everyone who gave you a card and/or gift, and those who signed the guestbook, to thank your guests individually for their thoughtful and generous contributions.
It is also best practice to thank the venues, the wedding party, your “staff” and any helpers you meet along the way. Zoë has a lovely collection of thank you cards from some wonderful satisfied customers! Feedback is really important to companies, especially small businesses like ourselves who rely enormously on word-of-mouth recommendations and social media reviews. It really means a lot when customers take time to provide feedback and let us know how their Big Day unfolds (we openly admit it – we’re nosy!) which is one of the reasons we LOVE our Featured Bride Wedding of the Month special blogs! We get more insight into the way Zoë’s design work has contributed to your gorgeous weddings!
Some couples choose to have extra stationery printed and framed as keepsakes, which we think is a lovely idea. Make sure you tell us if you want to do this, so we can include the right number of prints in your order.
Planning a wedding can be very difficult, time consuming, and stressful, but it is also an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. If you and your guests help each other out, LMSB, and your other wedding suppliers, can also have an easier and more pleasant experience helping bring your wedding together.
We hope you found this blog helpful! We have more exciting LMSB news, and as it is now AUGUST we will have another bride starring in our Wedding of the Month feature blog very soon, which as always, we are super excited to share with you!
Lots of love,