Tuesday, October 30, 2001
Dear Mr. PostManners:
My financier ... er, I mean, my fiancé and I are having a frank and forthright discussion about the proper way to handle invitations to our forthcoming wedding. It's my second wedding, and his first. I say that it's fine to say, "John and James invite you to our wedding" when we're the ones both hosting and paying for the thing; he says that our parents should be on there somewhere. (I admit, the sheer heart attack value alone of putting my father's name on such an invitation would almost be worth it.) I say that it's entirely proper to say "and Guest" on the invitation and RSVP card; he says otherwise. I'd be perfectly happy handing out invitations to those we wish to invite who live close enough; he says that they MUST be mailed. I say that it's entirely proper to have a reception line at the church, but he says not. We're disagreeing about practically everything. Can you help?
Waiting to be Wedded
Well. To begin: using a wedding invitation to induce a heart attack is an unworthy goal. You should be ashamed of yourself. Ashamed, do you hear? (That said ... One can understand your view. But One never said that!)
You should NEVER put "and Guest" on an invitation to ... well, anything, really, but especially a wedding! For one thing, people are entirely too apt to somehow put a little S at the end of that "Guest", and suddenly, you're entertaining a football team in addition to everyone else. (Although it is quite thrilling watching One's Social Secretary herding all those big, burly people with his whip and paddle and getting them properly in line ... but One digresses.) The general concept is, if you don't know the Guest well enough to invite them personally, what on earth are they doing at your wedding? It is not only your day, but one to be shared with those you are close to. How close to them can you be if you don't know their names? (One's dear friend Gabriel is reading over One's shoulder and saying, "What on earth are you talking about? I married a whole militia! How could I know all their names?" One is ignoring him. After all, how often does a person marry an army?)
For wedding invitations, the general form when you are hosting yourself (which, technically, you cannot do, but never mind) is, "Miss Blissfully Happy and Mr Shell Shocked but Thrilled invite you to attend ... " Given your situation, of course, it will be more along the lines of "Mr Shell Shocked and Mr Even More Shell Shocked invite you to attend ...." (or whatever your specific wording is -- once upon a very long time ago, there was a specific format for such things, but One notes that these modern young people have changed things ever so much ... In any event, for second weddings [and up], it is traditional for those involved to give themselves away, invitationally speaking, rather than stating, "The parents of Mr Shell Shocked invite [or announce] ...").
For wedding announcements -- that is, you neither expect nor necessarily desire the recipient to attend -- you do not include the RSVP envelope and card, and the wording says something like "Mr Shell Shocked and Mr Even More Shell Shocked are pleased to announce their wedding on such and such a date at such and such a place ... and so forth." If there are those (relatives, usually, somehow) who must be notified, but whom you wish to be *certain* that some will not attend, the announcement is tactfully mailed the day before the wedding, so that it will not arrive in time. If said relative complains, the bride or groom merely says, "Oh, no! Perhaps it was lost in the mail. I'm ever so sorry!" Repeat as needed until said relative is sufficiently soothed. (If you are being very good, you don't even mention where you are registered. Given the opening line of your letter, one wonders ...)
As for the delivery method of the aforementioned invitations ... One notes that proper etiquette prefers mailing -- it is more formal, which is preferred for weddings. (Actually, very proper etiquette prefers them to be hand delivered on a silver salver by footmen. You wouldn't happen to have a footman or two, would you? Oh, well ...) On the other hand, hand delivery is more personal. Etiquette is generally somewhat forgiving either way. If you do hand them to a select few individuals, please make certain that they are never handed out in the presence of those whom one will NOT be inviting to the event. To do so is the adult equivalent of a playground taunt: nyah! it's my wedding and you're not invited! Of course, the other important consideration in these things is the date. If there is not sufficient lead time, handing invitations to everyone within reach may be the only plausible solution for the harried bride and groom. (Or grooms ... Wait, that wasn't entirely what One meant to say, was it? Oh, well, you know what One means.) One notes that etiquette is flexible enough to accommodate these situations, as once upon a time, it was not unusual for the bride to be marching down the aisle while in active labor. In fact, One notes that it's not all that unusual today. (Of course, this will not be your situation. One was just saying.)
Regarding a ... a card for the RSVP. Well. Properly speaking, in the Days of Auld, anyone you invited to a wedding would be drawn and quartered rather before they would do anything other than send a lovely handwritten message on their personal stationery, responding with appropriate enthusiasm or regrets. Alas, that day has gone. So. Today's Proper wedding etiquette demands --*demands*, do you hear One? -- that you include an RSVP card in your invitation! You place a small card and envelope (stamped, even) inside, pre-addressed back to yourself. (Ideally, pre-*printed* back to yourself, although that is not an etiquette requirement, as such; but how many times do you REALLY want to write your own address?) You will be delighted to know that, unlike many things that happen along the wedding path; the RSVP card has an impeccable logic behind it: if you give your invitees preprinted responses and preprinted and stamped return envelopes, they are slightly more likely to actually return it, thus enabling you to know who may be coming. (One emphasizes: *slightly* more likely. One hopes that you are planning to spend a week or two before the wedding calling those who haven't returned the card.)
If you are allowing your invitees to bring guests, you will be tempted to have response cards with a line underneath the name of the invitee, reading "and Guest" where the name of anyone they would like to bring may be written. RESIST THIS TEMPTATION! One cannot emphasize that enough! (See "Football team" above.) One has heard that some use the style, "Invitee and _____ [name of Guest]") and even those who provide a check box next to the "and guest"; since balancing the genders at the reception is no longer a concern, some feel that the guest's name is irrelevant. One shudders -- shudders, do you hear!? -- at the very thought. For one thing, One feels that this is short sighted; how can those holding the reception have place cards printed if they do not know the names of everyone who will be coming? Without place cards, how will all the guests be able to pretend to know each other's names when many of them will be complete strangers to one another? Really, the decline in modern weddings ... One is frequently quite appalled. But One digresses.) The RSVP card either has a blank space where the invitee writes their name, or, if you are thinking ahead, has the name pre-inscribed thereupon. (After all, the happy couple really do need to know who's responding, don't they?)
As for the reception ... Well. One must just gird one's loins and admit it. When One was a young etiquette maven, One ... One ... One made a ... a MISTAKE! (Oh, the shame, the horror ...) At one time, one advised a supplicant ... er, that is, a correspondent that it was entirely proper to have a reception line at a church. One was thoroughly toasted by one's fellow mavens at the following year's Association of Mavens of Etiquette annual meeting. One went back and did one's research (which One should have done first, of course), so let One put the record straight: at formal weddings, the receiving line is at the reception, and not at the church. You are not supposed to be technically able to invite people into God's house (a formal invitation requests that people attend the *reception*, with an insert card telling them where the ceremony is) which all may attend, and therefore you are not supposed to thank them for attending the wedding at god's house, either. (That said, many people getting married ignore that rule for the understandable reason that it's just far easier to handle it at that time, when everyone wants to congratulate everyone else anyway. But they shouldn't. And One was wrong wrong wrong, do you hear?)
One is SO embarrassed. One simply doesn't know what to do.
Perhaps One should do penance with One's social secretary ..... After all, he's already dressed for the occasion, and showing that lovely studded paddle to Gabriel ....
(although One cannot imagine why you would want to obtain advice elsewhere.)Emily Post Institute