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Wedding Invitation Etiquette – Questions and Answers

In Australia, we tend to be a rather informal and laidback lot, but it can be a different matter when it comes to weddings! Whether you are having a small intimate affair or a splashy formal do, there’s a lot to think about and plan for.

The situation also calls for a little etiquette that you might not be very familiar with. Let’s take a look at the etiquette surrounding wedding invitations, including who to invite, when to send invitations, and other tricky matters.

Who should be invited?

This can be a sensitive issue! Many a wedding has resulted in some people having their noses out of joint because they assumed they would be invited to the wedding or reception and they haven’t been.

It’s important to be clear about the number of guests you want right from the start. The number is likely to be restricted by a variety of factors, including your budget, and the size of the reception and wedding venues. It can be difficult to whittle down the list of prospective guests, but here are a few tips on choosing who (and who not) to invite:

  • Family relatives – it’s generally expected that you invite close family members, such as parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and possibly first cousins. As you move further out the family tree, you may find you cannot invite every relative, especially if you or your fiancé have very large extended families.
  • Friends – as for relatives, you may have to restrict your guest list to closest friends only.
  • Co-workers – you are not obliged to invite people from work, but if you do, it might be prudent to send their invitations in the mail, and also to not talk too openly about the wedding in the office if you feel it might lead to some hurt feelings for the uninvited!

If you are really not sure who to invite, consider writing out three lists – one for definite invites, one for maybes, and one for the no-no’s. This should help you arrive at the final number more easily. Once you are clear about numbers and the guest list, it makes it easier to explain to others why you cannot invite them on this occasion.

As a gracious host you could also consider holding a less formal party or gathering for the people who are not invited to the reception. For example, if you are having an evening reception, you could put on an afternoon tea for people who have come to the ceremony but who are not attending the formal dinner.

When should the invitations be sent?

Generally speaking, you should send your invitations at least eight weeks prior to the date. The RSVP date should be at least three weeks before the event, so you have enough time to make the final arrangements.

Remember that if you will be inviting people from interstate or overseas, you might need to let them know the date sooner, so they have enough time to make travel plans.

Should you arrange accommodation for out-of-town guests?

There are no rules for this, but it is good to bear in mind that out-of-town guests may be going to considerable expense to come to your big day. If your wedding venue in Victoria for example offers accommodation, you might book for them and be able to obtain a better rate.

Should you have a gift registry?

Although guests are not obliged to bring a gift, most people do want to give the wedding couple something, and a gift registry can be a good idea to avoid unwanted items.

Be subtle about it though – don’t give out a wish list, but you can include the web address of the registry on the invitation. Make sure to include a wide range of gift values to allow for all budgets.

What about children?

There is no obligation to invite children, so it probably depends on the situation. A formal sit-down dinner may not be suitable for very young children, so you may want to impose an age-limit and make it clear on the invitations.

If you don’t mind toddlers running around the dance floor, by all means invite them. And don’t forget that little ones can add fun to a wedding – especially once the music and the dancing starts!

What about estranged couples?

Now here’s a possible dilemma! If you know some separated or divorced couples who are not on good terms, and you are friends with both parties, you should feel free to invite them both. If you know there is animosity between them, though, you may need to make it clear that they need to leave this behind. The fact is, if they both truly care for you, they won’t want to spoil your day.

Can guests bring their own guests?

If you allow singles to bring a guest, you might end up with perfect strangers at your wedding. So if numbers are restricted, it’s best to stick to ‘significant others’ only.

To deal with this, wedding guide Bride-to-Be suggests putting the invited guest and significant other’s name on the RSVP card with an option to tick if attending, rather than leaving it blank for them to fill their own name or names.

Hopefully by following this invitation etiquette guide, along with a decent dose of kind consideration and good management, this part of your wedding planning should be relatively trouble free!