Everyone has the same high hopes for their wedding: you want to walk down the aisle in front of your proud parents and forgotten-about family members, repair any family divisions, celebrate the wonder that is true love, and kickstart your happily ever after by drinking middle-of-the-range wine with your best friends as your caterers hand out overly complicated canapes and a tribute band plays a bunch of Stevie Wonder’s early works. That’s the dream right there.
But before you reach this point, there is a whole bunch of planning to be done, and we’re not just talking about the bigger decisions either; we’re talking about all those fiddly little details you wished were more straightforward than they actually are. Yes, we’re talking about you Madame Invitation Suite.
In theory, you’d go online, perform a brief Google search and start buying every pretty note card you come across, and that would be that. Unfortunately, though, this approach would spell disaster, not least because you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by the endless options. Instead, we recommend you use your wedding style, your budget, and your time constraints to guide you through this lovely but daunting labyrinth.
To get you started, there are a couple of golden rules that are worth keeping to:
Establish a thread of consistency that can be applied to each element, which is easily done by using the same colours, theme, and motif.
(If possible) order all of your stationery from the same vendor at the same time. It’s the only way to keep your stress levels to a minimum.
Anyway, now that we’ve covered this, here is everything you need to know about creating the perfect invitation suite for your wedding:
1. The Invitation Itself
Of all the little bits and bobs that make up your wedding stationery, the invitation is the dazzling centrepiece. It’s the showstopper. It’s the prima donna. The moment that will last the longest, as it sits proudly on each of your guests’ mantelpieces. As such, the invitation you choose needs to reflect the style of your wedding, whether that is a black tie affair or a countryside knee’s up.
To help you understand this area a bit more, the invitation tends to have the following plethora of pieces:
Unsealed inner envelope.
Reception card (that’s if the party-part of your wedding is happening at a different venue to your ceremony).
Response card (with self-addressed envelope; stamp already licked and stuck on).
Printed map with directions.
Accommodation card (for out-of-town guests).
The Classic Approach: Traditionally, wedding invitations were always made from heavy stock, white or ecru cotton paper. Sometimes they were made from linen, but it was usually cotton. Either way, the ink they were engraved with was black or charcoal, and there was always a fold of tissue to protect the wording.
The Modern Way: The traditional invite is fast becoming a thing of the past as couples opt for a bit more personality. We’re talking about unusual sizes, braver colours, and unique textures, not to mention them being decorated with motifs, family crests, monograms and specially designed graphics.
Time To Order: The earlier you can order your invites, the more time you’ll get to check them, re-check them, and then check them once more, which is why we recommend you order them at least three months before your wedding. That should be ample time to make any tweaks and get the addressing conveyor belt underway. As for sending them out, the ideal amount of warning is eight weeks before you walk down the aisle; six weeks being the bare minimum.
2. The Reply Card
To clear up any confusion (bride-to-be-brain is definitely a thing), these cards need to be sent out with your invites, along with a self-addressed envelope and a first-class stamp. If you forget to do this, it won’t be the end of the world, but it will cause some serious chaos and your cheeks may turn a darker shade of pink.
The Classic Approach: For those having a traditional or formal wedding, your reply card should give the recipient a choice of boxes to tick (a variant of ‘attending’ or ‘missing out’), as well as space for them to confirm how many will be attending and an RSVP date. Once again, if you want to avoid chaos erupting, the latter is absolutely essential.
The Modern Way: Weddings have changed a huge amount over the years and that’s seen the reply card adapt more than anything else. A big reason for this is dietary requirements. More and more people have unique eating needs (vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, pescetarian etc.), which is why most reply cards now include the menu. This lets your guests go through the options and then check off which one they want to enjoy on the day (or just use as a wine-steadier).
Another big trend that has taken the wedding world by storm is the weekend wedding. If you’re having one of these, you need to detail the list of activities you’re planning so that your guests can confirm which events they can make. It could be a tennis tournament, hiring boats on the Norfolk broads, camping on a beach, anything.
3. The Reception Card
If you’ve not heard of these yet, they’re used to tell your guests where the wine-merry and music-filled party-part of your big day will take place. That means, much like your reply cards, they need to be sent out with your wedding invitations.
The Classic Approach: Every wedding invitation needs a small card where you invite your guests to join you - the newlyweds - and your families in celebrating the first day of your happily ever after. As for the details, the date, place and time are all you need.
The Modern Way: Given their role, there hasn’t been much change in the way reception cards are used. That said, newlyweds do enjoy playing around with the fonts and designs. If you want to keep things a splash traditional, then we recommend you use your motif or a monogram. Otherwise, you can have all the fun you like.
4. The Wedding Program
You may think the wedding program has a pretty singular role to play - providing your guests with a bunch of useful information - but it’s worth noting that these pieces of stationery have become some of the most celebrated wedding mementos, and that’s why you need to give them a healthy dollop of thought. If you’re wondering what sort of “useful information” we are alluding to, your program should boast little details about your ceremony, such as the date of your wedding, who is in your bridal party and what their relationship is to you or your soulmate, the order of events, which readings will be read, who will read them, and which hymns will get sung out of time and out of tune.
The Classic Approach: The traditional booklet is still the most popular option among happy couples. Typically, the front page will bear your names or initials, your motif, the date and the address of the ceremony venue. But that’s not all. These booklets are traditionally bound with a satin ribbon too, which is a stunning little detail to add.
The Modern Way: The possibilities are endless, as wedding parties have proved time and time again. We’ve seen couples use a single piece of heavy-stock paper with a vellum overlay, tied together with a satin ribbon, and we’ve seen couples embrace their inner-child by turning their programs into cootie-catchers. We’ve even seen some couples do away with paper programs entirely, swapping them for giant rustic blackboards instead. The options are as endless as the universe.
Time To Order: As we said at the start, it’s best to order everything together. This is especially true if you’re hoping for a formal or booklet-style wedding program. If not, you can leave these until six weeks before you tie the knot - four weeks max.
5. The Menu
If you’re all about saving a few pennies or doing your bit to protect Mother Nature, then there is nothing to say you have to print out a menu for each guest. The same applies if you want to surprise your guests with an impossibly delicious sit-down meal. That said, menus are becoming super-popular and wedding couples are using them to a) decorate the table places and b) give people something to chit-chat about while they wait for the food to be served.
The Classic Approach: Imagine the menu at a high-end restaurant. That’s the sort of thing you should be looking at for inspiration. A rectangular piece of thick card with each course detailed in the most mouth-watering way, along with the different drink options available. That’s the traditional way of doing it.
The Modern Way: Weddings have gotten a million times more personal over the years and the menu is testament to this. It’s where couples get to have some fun. You could make up cheesy-but-romantic names for each of your dishes, let your guests know why you chose a particular dish or detail the story behind your choices. Whatever you decide, it’s a great way to decorate each name place with a little dash of personality and fun.
Time To Order: The ideal time is six weeks before your big day. This will give you ample time to proof your menu and make any last-minute changes you want to indulge.
The Place Cards
Nothing is going to rattle your brain more than trying to piece together your table plan. You’ll go over it a dozen times, moving so and so here and swapping such and such with whojamaflip. Eventually, though, you’ll perfect it, and that’s where your place cards come in; they are there to inform each of your guests where to park their bottoms.
The Classic Approach: Simple and sublime, these small, tented cards are printed with each guest’s name on and then placed at the top of each place setting, just above the spoons.
The Modern Way: “A name printed on a tented card?” How boring.” That seems to be a thought shared by almost all modern couples as they explore different ways to tell their guests where to sit. Painted pebbles with each name hand-written on them, old luggage labels attached to a drinkable wedding favour, beach sea glass, little branches of driftwood, names on large leaves or even Edison-style light bulbs for each guest. Whatever will complement your wedding decor and make your table arrangements pop that little bit more.
The Thank You Card
Even in this day and age, nothing can replace a handwritten thank you note. It’s that small gesture that will go a million miles when saying how much you appreciated the gifts you received and the laughs you shared on your big day.
The Classic Approach: All you need is something simple, such as a card with the words “thank you” beautifully scrawled across the front, or your new married monogram, complete with your new address. That’s how the more traditional thank you card looks.
The Modern Way: Once again, this is your chance to have some fun. That could mean you send out a hilarious photo of the two of you pretending to have an argument on your honeymoon, a thank you card with the words “Mr & Mrs” written in bold brush strokes, postcards from your honeymoon destination, a photo of all the guests at your ceremony or your favourite book with a thank you note hidden somewhere inside. Whatever steals your heart.
Time To Send: As your mum probably said to you every birthday and Christmas when you were growing up: the sooner the better, with “immediately” being the aim of the game. But given this is entirely unlikely, just try and stick to the “one month after you leave for your honeymoon” rule. That should be fine.
Thanks for reading! For more wedding tips, please do follow us on Facebook and then tell all of your friends to do the same.