You might say that, by and large, the time-honored tradition of wearing your mother’s wedding gown on your wedding day is a custom whose time has passed. Even beyond the issues of gown preservation and alterations, these days it’s not always easy to deprive an eager bride of what has become a veritable rite of passage: shopping for the wedding dress of your dreams.
But there is a way to honor your mother without compromising your personal sense of style, and that is to re-create the invitation she chose for her wedding. According to Margaret Jones of Scriptura, it’s something more and more brides are doing today.
“Here in the South, there is a very strong sense of heritage,” says Jones, noting that this year especially there has been a renewed interest in returning to tradition.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a lot of creative exploration and avant-garde designs, but now the pendulum seems to be swinging back,” says Jones. “People tire of things after a while. We always want to move on to the next thing, even if the next thing is an old thing. The classics never go out of style.”
So, exactly what does a traditional or classic wedding invitation look like? In general, it’s black lettering engraved on heavy ecru paper with a tissue layover inside an inner envelope mailed inside an outer envelope. The outer envelope will also include a response card with its own addressed, pre-stamped envelope and, usually, a reception card. Each separate component of the invitation should be printed in the same type style and on the same kind of paper.
The outer envelope should include full names and titles: Mr. and Mrs. John Robert Smith. The inner envelope would read: Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
“For abbreviated titles, purists use only Mr., Mrs. and Miss,” says Jones. “Ms. is still not in the etiquette books, and Doctor is usually spelled out.”
On the invitation itself, the time and date should be spelled out, but numerals may be used for street addresses. The acceptable reference to a half-hour is “half after.”
Although some aspects of a traditionally worded invitation may seem to be merely an exercise in formality for formality’s sake‚ the advantage of adhering to the rules is actually as much about practicality as it is about tradition. There is a kind of road map inside a properly worded invitation, telling the guests everything they need to know about your wedding. Aside from the names, date, time and location, the invitation gives clues about the formality of the occasion, whether the ceremony will be religious or civil, if the bride’s parents are divorced, if the groom is Jewish, etc.
To pick up on these clues, however, guests must know how to correctly read a wedding invitation. For example, the phrase “request the honor of your presence” denotes a religious ceremony, while the phrase “request the pleasure of your company” means the bride and groom will be married in a civil ceremony.
As a rule, wedding invitations should be mailed six weeks prior to the wedding date. But for a destination wedding or any wedding with a significant number of out-of-town guests, many couples want give their friends and family a few months’ notice to arrange for travel and accommodations.
“Save-the-date cards are a relatively new phenomenon,” says Jones. “Some purists consider them completely extraneous or frivolous, but I think they create momentum for the event.” They can also help the bride set the mood and tone of her wedding.
Although they are beginning to emerge in the etiquette books, there are still no hard-and-fast rules that dictate what the card should look like. For the bride who has chosen a traditional wedding invitation, designing a save-the-date card may provide a welcome opportunity to express her creativity and individuality without breaking with tradition.
A save-the-date card is also a good place to include a map with directions to the wedding and/or reception, an enclosure you would not find in a strictly traditional wedding invitation. But in those instances when a map enclosure must be mailed with the invitation itself, Jones strongly advises her clients to have the maps professionally printed on paper identical to the rest of the invitation and enclosures.
Whether or not the bride’s thank-you notes will also tie in with the invitation is a matter of choice. Going the traditional, matching route does imbue a sense of cohesion and harmony. But a thank-you note with a little color or embellishment allows the bride to express her personality as she expresses her thanks. In this case, there is only one rule that applies: Whatever makes the bride happy. •