Photo credit: Christina Ramey

“With thee I wed…”

With luck, you’re marrying the perfect person — and with planning, you’re sending the perfect wedding invitation to the event.

Planning? For a wedding invitation? You bet.

Weddings are, rightfully, a big deal. So it’s no surprise that some modern twists have some wondering what details to include in the invitation. Should a gay couple do anything different for their wedding invitation? What about interfaith weddings? Destination weddings?

While a wedding invitation will always be a matter of personal taste, here are some elements you may want to include. Remember that there is common convention in wedding invitation wording, for example. Knowing the rules is the best way to break them.

Pushing the Envelope

First, look at what you plan to say and why. Yes, this comes down to communication, not cards. Focus on the communication first.

For example, traditional invitations begin with the parents of the bride:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Sallie Rose Smith.

If the father is deceased, the mother is still referred to as “Mrs.”

If the parents are divorced, their names are stacked, like this:

Mr. Smith
Mrs. Martin

Request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Sallie Rose Smith.

Okay, great. How conventional.

Let’s say Sallie’s parents divorced when she was young. Her mother has remarried Charles Martin. Her father lives with his partner Ronald Jones. Forcing these four parents into some antiquated card convention is unfair to the contribution all four have brought to Sallie’s life. Why follow convention? Why not address the invitation as:

Mr. and Mrs. Martin
Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones
Request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter, Sallie Rose Smith.

“Kin” is all a matter of perspective. Your family may contain  unconventional configurations through marriage, remarriage, committed partnership, and other situations. Occasionally there are people who are not-so-commonly-included-but-still-important-to-mention-or-at-least-invite. Or, at the very least, these people complicate invitations.

For example, my friend Heather’s wedding. (True story, but her name is not Heather!). Heather’s mother was married and divorced three times. Her mother’s second marriage didn’t last long but resulted in a new sibling. It also brought new step-siblings into the mix, too. After the divorce Heather didn’t see the step-siblings, now ex-step-siblings, for several years.

Can you guess where this is headed? I’ll tell you. Heather married the man who was briefly her step-brother — and invited their shared half sibling to the wedding! Talk about a complicated invitation! At minimum, it must have included her biological parents, all three of her mother’s ex-husbands, and his father’s subsequent partner. To hear her tell it, the wedding was just fine and everyone behaved — but I’ve got to wonder if I would’ve have attended if I had been invited!

With that kind of drama your interfaith wedding looks rather easy to word on the invitation, doesn’t it?

Here is an example of invitation wording for a Catholic marrying a Jew. Hint: Simply use the word “marriage” instead of “joining union in the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony”, or similar religious description of marriage. By using the more secular term “marriage”, i.e., the ceremony/act of getting married, you will be just fine.

For instance:

Together with Their Families

Ms. Mary Margaret Fields


Mr. Joshua Silverstein

Request the Honor of Your Presence

at Their Marriage

What about an unconventional venue? Crossword writer Matt Gaffney married in a four-letter, five-star Mexican restaurant. If you plan for an unconventional location, it’s worth explaining to guests the dress code and anticipated atmosphere to make them most comfortable.

For instance:

Ms. Amy Brownfield
Mr. Christopher Davis

Request Your Attendance
Among Family and Friends
at Flying Tamale Mexican Restaurant

123 South Austin Road

to Share Margaritas and Exchange Wedding Vows

August 23, 2013 starting at 8pm.

Your Presence is Present Enough.
Casual Attire and Tex-Mex Cravings Recommended.

Similarly, an interfaith marriage may require an outline of expectations for guests. Will there be two ceremonies? Would it be helpful to understand custom X or tradition Y about attending either or both ceremonies? Be clear, and your guests will thank you.

In short, throw out anything that doesn’t work for the two of you. Clearly communicate with all parties with love and respect, and don’t worry if there is a “right” way to do it. (Just be sure to hit spell-check.)

[Photo credit: Erik Abderhalden.]

Stuffing the Envelope

There are plenty of opportunities to stuff that wedding invitation envelope to the brim. To make up for all that paper, maybe you should request guests plant a tree in your honor instead of gifts. (Or at least choose recycled paper.)

For instance:

Reception cards — Basically, these allow you to invite two sets of people: one to the wedding itself and everyone else to the after-party. (Yay, after-party!)

Response cards — These ask, “Are you coming or what, people? Chicken or fish?”

Directions/maps — Can be a nice, personalized gesture in a GPS world. Maps are ripe for cute commentary (“Here’s where we first kissed!”). Whatever is on the map, make sure it includes an actual street address for the ceremony!

Accommodation cards — These are important for destination weddings. Use them to make sure guests find your favorite on-location places for sightseeing, eating, or avoiding others. Just kidding on that last one. Okay, maybe not.

Website for more info — This is the place where it’s acceptable to say, “No kids, really, we mean it!” — but in a nice way.

Whatever you do: Make sure you haven’t sacrificed any important information in favor of design. Including an excessive number of engagement photos distracts from the details. Keep your invitations straightforward, informative, and most of all, reflective of you!

Katie McCaskey is a freelance journalist writing for Vistaprint, a leading provider of custom invitations for weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions. Katie lives in Staunton, Virginia, with her husband.