Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cracking the Code

Speaking of grammar, the first place wedding guests get a taste of your grammar and etiquette is on the invitation. Nowadays, it is more than acceptable to make your own “tradition” by changing invitation wording to fit the formality and personality of the event. But it is helpful to know the traditional rules, so that you can make a conscious decision about whether you should deviate from them. Whatever language you choose, you're sending your guests a message. Be conscious of it.

In the modern world of divorced and remarried parents, there are a number of excellent sources out there that help you decide if and how to include parents on the invitation. More on that part of the invitation later.

The most fascinating part of a traditional invitation is that the wording is code for the wedding specifics. For example, when the hosts of the invitation request the guests’ attendance, the language they use tells the guest where exactly the wedding will be held. If the invitation requests “the honour of your presence,” the use of the British spelling of honour (with a “u”) indicates a ceremony in a house of worship. “The pleasure of your company,” on the other hand, indicates that the ceremony is taking place outside a place of worship.

The bride and groom are traditionally (dare I say always?) listed in that order – the bride’s name precedes the groom’s. According to Martha Stewart, formal invitations issued by the bride’s parents refer to her by her first and middle names and to the groom by his full name and title. If the couple is hosting by themselves, their titles are optional.

This is one place where the Mister and I plan to deviate from convention. Because my parents are divorced and remarried, and all four of my parents are hosting the wedding, we plan to put my full name (first, middle, and last) on the invitation. That way no one wonders whether it is Miss Stepfather’sLastName getting married, rather than Miss Father’sLastName getting married. The Mister has two middle names, so we’re including both of those, but we plan to omit his title (Mister, obviously!) to make the invitation uncluttered and to give our names and status equal importance.

As for the date and time of the event, all numbers are written out in full for formal weddings (meaning no numerals). The year is optional, because your guests will assume that your wedding is on the nearest such date. The time of day is likewise spelled out. If the wedding is on the hour, formal invitations use “o’clock”; if on the half-hour, they use “half after ___ o’clock,” not “half past ___ o’clock.” For casual weddings, numerals are fine.

The street address of the ceremony location is usually unnecessary unless omitting it would lead to confusion or your wedding is taking place at the host's home. The city and state are written out in full. Very formal invitations include reception information on a separate card. Otherwise, it can be printed on the invitation if there is room; if the ceremony and reception will take place at the same location, you may print "and afterward at the reception" or "reception immediately following." When the reception is elsewhere, the location goes on a different line. Include the time if not immediately following the ceremony.

Here again, the Mister and I have decided to depart from tradition. We want our invitations to indicate the formality of the event without killing hundreds of trees. Thus, we’ve elected to use a one-page invitation that includes the reception information. We’ve also decided to omit the tissue paper and inner envelope for environmental reasons.

While many couples choose to include a separate response card for guests to fill out and return in the mail, the traditional format was to request an r.s.v.p. in the lower left-hand corner of the invitation, implying that guests should send a reply on their personal stationery. Here again, we opt for a balance of formality and environmentalism. We want to make it easy for guests to respond to our invitations, but we don’t want to waste paper on extra envelopes, so we’re using an r.s.v.p. postcard. This also saves on postage, but the main reason is those lovely trees.
Again, the point of all this custom is not to set forth stone-set rules that all couples must follow. It’s to advise couples what they’re telling guests between the lines, no matter what words they choose.

Main source for information: Martha Stewart Weddings

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