The Rules for Drafting Formal Invitations

Invitation Check-List:

 The most formal invitations are those that have been hand-inscribed by calligraphers onto exquisite parchment, with perhaps additional embellishments rendered by an artist. But in the 21st century, such invitations are rarely seen on account of time, economy, and advancements in print technology that can nearly simulate original artwork.

So today, even the most exclusive formal invitations are produced by the modern-day machines of high-quality engravers and printers, usually with the design input from graphic artists. What is important is that the invitation to a wedding be as special and as remarkable as creativity and budget will allow, for a special invitation is one of the key components of a special wedding.But is it best to begin the creative process with classic guidelines at its foundation. Below are the true and tested guidelines for creating formal invitations:

-Formal invitations should be professionally engraved or thermographed (raised print) by a reputable stationer. Exquisite parchment or paper should be used.

-Formal invitations should be engraved or thermographed in black ink on white or ecru-colored paper. Responses to formal invitations, likewise, should be written in black ink.

-Formal invitations are worded in third-person (“person spoken about”) and responded to in third-person.

-Wedding ceremonies held in a church or other place of worship should read, “…request the honour of your presence….” Held elsewhere, the invitations should read, “…request the pleasure of your company….” Traditionally, the word “honor” is spelled “honour,” (in the old manner/the English spelling). Today, with the prominence of American English, “honor” is also correct—in America and the parts of the world that use American English.

-Punctuation is generally to be avoided on invitations. The natural pauses, which would normally be punctuated by commas, for example, are obtained by line-layout. Periods are to be avoided, except for in the few cases where abbreviations are permitted. (e.g., “Mr. and Mrs.”). Apostrophes may be used when they are part of the word or phrase. (For example, St. Patrick’s Cathedral; o’clock). Otherwise, apostrophes, as used to show possessive, should be avoided. (“the son of Mrs. Caroline Smith” is preferred to “Caroline Smith’s son”).  Commas must be used to separate city form state or country ( Brooklyn, New York; Paris, France); “Jr.” or “Sr.” from the name that precedes it (Mr. Frank Johnson, Jr., [though the word “junior” or “senior” may be spelled out, but only with a common “j” or common “s” ].

-Abbreviations should be avoided unless traditionally accepted or required. The general preference is for the entire word to be spelled out.

-The English equivalent of “Respondez s’il vous plait,” meaning, “Respond if you please,” and abbreviated R.S.V.P. or R.s.v.p., is:  “The favour of a reply is requested.”  The “old custom” requires the British English spelling of “favor” with a “u,” but with the rising popularity and acceptability of American English and its spelling, “favor” is today as acceptable as “favour.”  Either may be used on a formal invitation. It is placed to the lower left side of the invitation. Response instructions are provided along with the response request—except in the cases where a self-addressed, stamped envelope is included with the invitation. Some hostesses deplore the use  of response cards as presumptuous on the part of the sender since, they contend, such cards may suggest that recipients of the invitation may not know how to properly respond. Other hostesses regard response cards as a convenience to the recipients, who are likely to be busy people and would gladly welcome not having to write yet another letter.

-Accepted abbreviations:  Mr.; Mrs.; Dr. (if the name that follows is long, otherwise “Doctor”); R.S.V.P.; Jr.; II, III, IV, etc., following a surname (Roman numerals following a surname are not preceded by a comma); St. (for “Saint,” but not for “street”); postal codes should be written out in number form—Washington, District of Columbia, 20007. While the year is not included in an invitation, it is generally included on wedding announcements since they are oftentimes not mailed immediately after the wedding—though they should be.  August 8, 2012 would be written out as:


on Friday, the eight of August

Two thousand and twelve.

-Unacceptable abbreviations:  No. (for number); 7:00 P.M. should read “Seven o’clock, Post Meridiem”; Kansas City, MO should read “Kansas City, Missouri”


Abbreviations should not be used in addresses:


Correct Format:                                                          Incorrect Format:

 10 Lester Lane                                                            10 Lester Ln.

Apartment Number 112                                              Apt. No. 112

Kansas City, Missouri  55512                                     Kansas City, MO  55512




Ten Lester Lane

Apartment Number 112

Kansas City, Missouri 55512


-“Road,” “Street,” “Lane,” “Boulevard,” “Avenue,” etc., should be spelled out completely. The names of cities, districts, states, and countries should not be abbreviated. The general rule regarding street numbers is that they should be written out if they are short. “Ten” is preferable to “10” or “Fifteen” to “15.” But since many buildings bear numerals on their exteriors, the trend, and quite understandably, is to use numerals when numerals are short and they appear prominently on the building. Long numbers, however, are written in numeral form:  “1112 Northwoods Drive” would never be written out as “One thousand one hundred and twelve Northwoods Drive” —and for good reason!

-The address of a church is not included in an invitation if the church is a well-known landmark. Otherwise, it is included.


St. Patrick’s Cathedral                                           Chapel of the Immaculate Conception

Fifteen River Road




-Words are not capitalized unless they normally are:  days of the week, months of the year, personal names, titles, names of places, etc.

-The date of the wedding is written out:  For example, “Saturday, the twelfth of June” or “Saturday, June twelfth,” but not “Saturday, June 12th. “ (The year is generally not included in invitations since it would be obvious. It is not, however, incorrect to include the year).

-Time is written out:  “at four o’clock, Post Meridian,” not “at 4:00 P.M.” (“Post Meridian” or “Ante Meridian” would only be used if whether the event is at night or day would not be clear; consequently, that designation is rarely seen. After all, it would be unlikely for a wedding ceremony to commence at 4:00 in the morning, even in the 21st century!). Most weddings occur on the hour or on the half hour. A wedding on the half hour would be written as “at half after four o’clock” or “half past four o’clock” rather than “at four thirty o’clock.” On the rare occasion that a wedding event would occur on the quarter hour, the invitation would read, for example, “…at quarter before four o’clock….” or “…at quarter after [or past] four o’clock….”

-Traditional Rule:  When addressing an invitation, the names of married couples are written on the same line; whereas the names of unmarried couples are written on separate lines.   Modern Rule:  The names of couples are written on the same line, regardless of marital status.

-Initials in names may be used if the person is known by the initials (e.g. “Mr. O.J. Simpson” or “Ms. K.D. Lang”) or if the initials are always used but the host does not know the actual corresponding name or if the name, if fully written out, would be too long.

-It is improper to print “No children, please” or “Adults only” or “Adult reception” on an invitation. The manner in which the mailing and invitation envelopes of a wedding invitation are addressed should clearly state who is and who is not invited to the wedding. Names specifically inscribed—or not inscribed—on the invitation envelope should indicate the intended message.

-All things being equal, the name of a male invitee precedes that of his female counterpart when addressing formal invitations. “Mr.” precedes “Mrs.” for example. But the name of a female with a professional title such as “Dr.” or a title of respect such as “The Reverend” or “The Honorable” would precede her male counterpart whose name is preceded by the honorific title of “Mr.”



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