Your guide to etiquette for wedding invitations in an online world

Emily Post wrote the book on etiquette, but just like books, many of our everyday paper items are going digital … which may make it confusing when it comes to your wedding invitations. Can you send an Evite or Postable invitation for a wedding? And what about thank-you notes—have we reached the point of thank-you emails instead?

What exactly is proper etiquette when it comes to your wedding stationery?

“Technology has changed so much over the past five to 10 years that it has changed everyone's views on what's socially acceptable. But when it comes to a wedding, this is not just a summer barbecue,” says Ashley Stephan of Ashley Stephan Weddings & Events.

For the wedding invitation itself, etiquette still dictates that couples send a formal paper invitation.

Stephan also notes that a formal wedding invitation allows you to more easily detail exactly who is invited, based on how the envelope is addressed. When sending an online invitation, it can be more difficult to specify if the whole family is invited or whether the guest has a plus-one.

Paper invitations also set the tone for the event, says Michelle Lawrence, director of custom printing for On Paper. “It's the first piece of the wedding the guests will see.”

“That first impression from the invites, in many cases, helps give the guest an impression of what to expect in the feel of the wedding—from expected attire to the atmosphere to look forward to,” adds Jason Fletcher, owner of Avant-Garde Impressions.

The RSVP card, however, may be a piece of traditional stationery that a couple can nix in lieu of an online option, such as having guests RSVP through the wedding website. This can save on cost (remember, the couple is expected to pay for return postage on an RSVP), and the reduction in paper materials may appeal to an eco-conscious couple.

Fletcher notes that couples typically can expect an 85 to 90 percent RSVP rate with a standard card. “Those that choose the online option can usually expect that number to dwindle a bit, down to 70 to 75 percent, unless they add an extra push with emails or social media posts with a direct link to their response site,” he says.

“Just remember that some people may not check email that often or are not tech-savvy,” cautions Stephan. Plus, while having guests RSVP through a website does make it easy, she says it just doesn't have quite the excitement factor that comes with an RSVP card. “You look forward to checking the mail daily and reading personal notes that your guests include on their reply card,” she says.

Still, some couples choose to provide guests with both a reply card and the option to RSVP online, giving them the choice to reply in whichever way they are more comfortable, says Lawrence.

You do have a bit more wiggle room when it comes to invitations for the other aspects of the wedding, as couples are increasingly using online invitations for less-formal events such as showers, bachelorette parties or even the rehearsal dinner.

But while writing all those thank-you notes may feel overwhelming, you do still need to put pen to paper. “Thanking your guests should always be personal,” Fletcher says. “Nothing compares to the thought and time it takes to write a thank-you note,” adds Lawrence. “It shows your appreciation.” In short: Thank-you emails just won't cut it.

While online invitations or emails may seem like an easy alternative to wedding stationery, they have not received the Emily Post stamp of approval. When it comes to wedding invitations, proper etiquette still points to paper.