Jason Fletcher, owner of Avant-Garde Impressions on the North Side, and Beth Breese, store manager at On Paper in the Short North, highlight three factors that can affect your invitation's wording.

This story first appeared in the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Columbus Weddings, published in June 2018.

Even in the digital age, invitation wording is fraught with obscure etiquette standards. It can be difficult to discern the best way to honor all relevant parties in a way that befits your own wishes and style.

Jason Fletcher, owner of Avant-Garde Impressions on the North Side, and Beth Breese, store manager at On Paper in the Short North, highlight three factors that can affect wording: time and formality of the ceremony, whether the ceremony is religious or secular, and who’s hosting (read: paying for) the event. Read on for their takes on which traditions are evolving—and which have endured.

Spell it out: Formal invitations write out the time, date and year with words rather than numerals. “On mostly informal invitations, we’re seeing a lot more of that trendy look, like a large date in center with the time on one side and day on other side,” notes Fletcher.

On time: Your time should be listed as “o’clock” or “half past,” says Breese, and forget about using “a.m.” or “p.m.” According to tradition, “Anything before noon is noted on the invitation as ‘in the morning,’ anything before 5 p.m. is ‘in the afternoon,’ and anything after that is ‘in the evening,’” says Fletcher.

Dress it up: Fletcher explains that the dress code can be listed in either bottom corner. An optional add, it is included most often for formal events like black-tie.

Honour and pleasure: Fletcher notes that for weddings held in a house of worship or a very formal venue, invitations “request the honour of your presence.” (And yes, that “u” is necessary.) In most other cases, couples “request the pleasure of your company.”

In good faith: Breese notes that certain faith-based ceremonies follow specific, traditional wording. “If a Catholic couple is having a full nuptial Mass at their ceremony, one would say ‘the honour of your presence is requested at the nuptial Mass uniting [names of the couple], in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony,’ she explains. For traditional Jewish weddings, “you definitely want the groom’s parents mentioned beneath his name—‘son of [parents’ names]’—because it’s the idea that two families are coming together,” Breese adds. “The bride’s parents get top billing, but it’s really important in most cases that the groom’s parents are included on wedding invitations of Jewish couples.”

Pay to play: Traditionally, a bride’s parents pay for the wedding and are therefore listed at the top of the page as the ones extending the invitation. If both couples’ families split the bill evenly, the groom’s parents would follow the bride’s at the top. But, Fletcher notes, “things are changing ... a lot of the parents aren’t paying for the wedding. In those cases, couples put ‘together with their families’ or they just go right into it. I don’t think it’s bad etiquette, especially if the parents aren’t hosting the wedding.” For same-sex couples, Breese recommends listing the families in alphabetical order, though there’s no singular convention.

Present tense: “We advise against mentioning the registry in terms of the invite suite,” Breese says. “Instead, save that for your wedding website, or let your bridal party field those questions.”

All grown up: Breese and Fletcher agree that an adults-only wedding should not be mentioned on the invitation itself. “If someone’s really concerned about that, I like to recommend an inner and outer envelope set that allows people to be super-specific about who is invited. If their kids aren’t named on [the envelopes], it should be understood that they aren’t invited. If it has to be done, the language we prefer is ‘respectfully, ours is an adults-only celebration/event,’” Breese says. Fletcher prefers, “We kindly request the evening be an adults-only event.”

Breese stresses that while conversation around etiquette can be stressful, such guidelines are actually designed to help both hosts and guests feel at ease. “Etiquette is actually meant to keep everyone comfortable; it’s not meant to trip anyone up,” she explains. “There are rules, but more as a starting point. If those rules are going to make someone important to the couple uncomfortable, we need to revisit how we’re going to word things.”