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Language Arts: Invitation wording for tricky situations

The following post is an excerpt from "Language Arts: Invitation wording for tricky situations." You can find the full article (and lots of other good stuff) here.

You are getting married. The date is set, the venue booked and the invitations selected. They'll be in the mail in no time--how long could composing an invitation take? If wedding forums and advice boards are an indication, many tortured and uncertain hours. There are no magic words that work for every wedding without offense to anyone. The more traditional your wedding and the bigger your budget, the easier the job may be. For the rest of us, getting the words right can morph into an impossible task.

Here are a few common stumbling blocks and solutions that might be of help. Feel free to add your own to the list in the comments. We'll get through this together.

Tact and downsized guest list: kids

Many couples prefer that children not attend their wedding and struggle to convey this in a way that does not offend their breeding friends. The phrase “Adults Only” gets your message across as politely as possible. Exclusions of any kind are socially risky, no matter how you word your request. But keep in mind that many parents will be only too happy to experience your wedding without schlepping around a toddler. They become heavy and cranky past their bedtime.

Private ceremony, public reception

Due to budget constraints, many couples are choosing to wed in small ceremonies before having a reception that includes a much larger circle of friends and family. One way to handle this scenario is to send out two sets of invitations; one for the ceremony itself and another for the reception. While the ceremony invitation can be traditionally worded, the reception invitation should be issued from the couple themselves and casual if desired. It is not necessary to issue a reception invitation to those who are attending the ceremony. Simply add “Reception to Follow” and any necessary details to the bottom of the wedding invitation.

Plus nones

Many people hesitate to attend a wedding alone, preferring instead to enlist a friend or date to attend with them. Unfortunately, this practice often causes an inconvenience to the bride and groom who may not have the space or the budget to accommodate more guests than planned. While it is considered bad form to resolutely say “No Plus-Ones” on the invitation, there are ways to convey the message to your guests.

Addressing the inner envelope to the invited guest only is one common way to discourage surprise attendees. This assumes a certain amount of perceptiveness and courtesy on the part of your guests, however. If requesting an RSVP, you could word it so that it is clear only a specific number of seats are available. For example: “In your honor, we have reserved one seat for you at the reception.”

There are some instances where you must allow the invited guest to bring someone along, or risk hurt feelings. When the guest is married, living with someone or is actively involved in a long-term relationship, the significant other should be invited as well, regardless of how you feel about them. Both names should appear on the inner envelope and seats should be reserved for each. Inviting guests by name (eliminating "and guest") is all you can really do to limit the number of strangers who show up.

Assumptions and your non-traditional affair

It is assumed that a formal reception will include some sort of meal. Food choices are generally indicated on the RSVP card. However, many couples choose some variation on this tradition. Wedding potlucks are becoming more popular, as are cake-only or appetizer-only receptions. Wording such as “Cake and Champagne Reception” or “Light Buffet Reception” can be placed at the bottom of the RSVP card or beneath the reception information on the invitation. Guests appreciate knowing what to expect, and taking the time to word your invitation thoughtfully can prevent any awkwardness, discomfort, or unpleasant surprises on the happy day.

Photos: Semantics print: Sharon Drummond

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