Ultimate Guide to the Wedding Invitation Suite
Unless you're sending email invitations or relying on word of mouth to inform guests of your wedding, you'll need to order paper wedding invitations. At a minimum, you will need a wedding invitation card, an envelope to mail it in, and a postage stamp.
But your wedding invitation set (or suite) can include much more than that - RSVP cards, Reception Cards, Directions Cards, and more. It can be confusing to navigate the waters for the new and inexperienced. For example, do you really need RSVP cards? Should you include stamps for guests' RSVPs? What about a separate card for your Reception? How can you cut corners on costs?
The answers to these questions depend on your budget, how formal you want to be, and other particulars of your wedding. Here, we explore alternatives for higher and lower budgets (with plenty of budget-conscious tips!), and break it down to find out which pieces are necessary, which are customary and which are just optional extras.
Wedding Invitations, Envelopes and Postage Stamps
The Wedding Invitation
Wedding invitations are, of course, the single most necessary piece of the suite. They contain all the information guests need to know about your wedding - who's getting married (duh!), and what the date, time, and location of the ceremony is. Invitations also often indicate who is hosting the wedding - e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Foster invite you to the marriage of their daughter, Helen, to Mark Henderson". If you're not including a separate reception card, the invitation should also state whether a reception will follow the ceremony, and if so where it will be (if it is a different venue from the reception).
Wedding Invitations are also a fantastic opportunity to set the tone for your wedding - they give guests a head's up of what kind of wedding to expect, whether it's formal and conservative, or totally vintage and offbeat.
- Cheapest: Digital printing on basic paper
- Upgrades: Upgrade to finer / heavier paper, or use a fancy, formal-looking printing technique like letterpress or engraving.
- Expensive: Purchase high quality invitations from an upscale designer
Technically, envelopes can be skipped if you're sending your wedding invitations out as postcards - but this is very uncommon, and most brides would find it too casual. So we're including envelopes in the "Necessary" Group. You can choose plain white envelopes, or get printed envelopes that match your invitation design. Commonly, two envelopes are used: a nice, inner envelope for the invitation, and a more hardy, less formal envelope for mailing.
Whether you can use address labels is a bit of an etiquette controvery - but we say, as long as they look nice and especially if they coordinate with your wedding design, it's totally fine to save time by using labels!
- Cheapest: Skip the inner envelope, use plain white envelopes for mailing and hand write addresses
- Envelope Upgrades: Use printed envelopes for a more formal feel
- Adddress Upgrades: Get addresses printed on the envelopes, or use address labels
- Expensive: Hire a calligrapher to write the addresses
The Postage Stamp
If you're like most people, you don't use postage stamps much anymore - you might not even have any in the house! For this reason, stamps for wedding invitations are often an afterthought. But they're actually a great opportunity to make your envelopes stand out and show off your swag! You can choose official post office stamps - they do have a few cute love-themed ones - or you can go with antique stamps for a vintage feel.
A relatively new choice from the past several years is custom printed stamps - you can coordinate the design to your wedding invitation, or use an engagement photo!
- Cheapest: Basic post office stamps
- Upgrades: Take the time and a little extra expense to find a bunch of vintage postage stamps
- More expensive: Order custom stamps to match your invitations or use your engagement photo
The RSVP Card
Ironically, RSVP cards were traditionally not required, as guests were expected to hand write responses to the wedding invitation. However, it's since become the standard practice to include an RSVP card with the wedding invitations - since you're more likely to get responses! RSVPs usually have a line for guests to write their names, and ask guests to mark whether they will be attending - and if so, how many will be attending. If you wish to politely indicate to guests that children are not invited, you can have them mark whether they have a "plus one". Similarly, if you wish to indicate that only this guest is invited, don't include an option for number attending or a plus one.
Increasingly, couples, especially those with green-conscious weddings, are opting not to send RSVP cards and instead ask guests to RSVP online or by phone. However, older guests, or very etiquette conscious guests, might feel confused about how to RSVP, or worse, offended if you don't include one. One way around this is to only send RSVP cards to those you feel might be slighted not to receive one, and ask everyone else to RSVP online.
If you do ask guests to RSVP online or by phone, you can include this request either on the invitation itself (for example, on the back of the invite), or on a small separate card listing the wedding website or phone number.
The Envelope and Stamp
It's customary to include both an RSVP envelope and RSVP stamp for your guests. This is both polite and practical - you're making it more convenient for your guests, and at the same time making it more likely they won't put their RSVP card in a to-do pile and forget about it!
- RSVP Postcards are less expensive than cards, and as a bonus you won't need to buy envelopes, and you'll have a lower postage rate as well!
- Ask guests to RSVP online (include the information either on the invitation or a separate card) or by phone - but still consider sending RSVP cards to older guests and etiquette sticklers
- The same paper and envelope upgrades are available as for the wedding invitations
Miscellaneous Enclosure Cards
The Reception Card
You only need a reception card if the reception venue is different from the ceremony venue. However, this is becoming increasingly common - and hence, so are reception cards. Nevertheless, many couples save the expense of buying an extra card by simply including the reception information on their main wedding invitation.
Additionally, if you're only inviting a portion of your guests to your ceremony, a reception card can double as a reception-only invitation.
The Directions / Map Card
Directions cards are particularly useful for out of town guests, or for weddings in locations many guests will be unfamiliar with (such as country weddings). Directions cards are also a great opportunity to show off your design savvy with a hand-drawn map, typically made by the designer of your wedding invitation. Once again though, you can simply include the direction information on the back of your wedding invitation.
The Accommodations Card
Accommodations cards are only necessary if you have a large contingent of out-of-town guests, or if you're having a destination wedding. In both cases, if you've blocked out a number of rooms in any hotel(s), you'll want to communicate that information to your guests - either via a separate enclosure card, the back of the invitation or on your wedding website.
The Wedding Website Card
Wedding website cards are increasing in popularity with wedding websites - you spent all that time making your website perfect, and you want your guests to know about it! Wedding website cards are great as a catch-all for other enclosure cards - you can tell guests to visit your website to RSVP and find further information about directions, hotels and so on. Including your wedding website card is also a good opportunity to share your gift registry with guests (which can be on your wedding website) without ever mentioning the word "gift" in your formal stationery.
Other Enclosure Cards
Enclosure cards can be used for any information you want to share with your guests - for example, if you're having a destination wedding, you might want to include a card containing flight information. Or, if you want to specify an attire such as "Black Tie", you can enclose a small attire card. You can also include invitations to other wedding events such as the rehearsal dinner, for those who are invited.
- Some etiquette sticklers might disagree with us, but we say if you're on a budget, then any information that can go on an enclosure card (such as directions or hotel information) can also go on the back of your wedding invitation
- You can include either a wedding website card, or have your website listed on the invitation, and then put all miscellaneous information on your website.