The Invitations (and other wedding papers)

by Anna Jones

Emily McCarthy invitations. Photo by Kelli Boyd

The Details

You’re engaged! You’re thrilled. You’re in love. You’re ... overwhelmed. Whether you’ve dreamed of the big day your whole life or never thought about it until the moment you said yes, the actual process of planning your wedding is uncharted territory. Let this guide be your road map — and leave the details to us.
You know what they say about first impressions, so make it a good one. Wedding invitations are in a decision-making league of their own, and with endless papers, inks, envelopes, liners, ribbons, stamps and seals to choose from, it’s easy to feel in over your head.

“Your invitation is the first visual indicator of the type of wedding the guest is coming to,” says Emily McCarthy, owner and founder of Emily McCarthy Shoppe + Studio, a Savannah boutique that specializes in wedding invitations and personal branding. “Is it very formal? Is it casual? Is it whimsical? The wedding invitation answers that question.”

McCarthy starts the invitation process by determining the overall design and aesthetic for the wedding, usually through the bride’s Pinterest board or a mood board provided by the wedding planner. She recommends that brides stay away from overly trendy elements. Designs that incorporate classic creams and ivories (with a hint of color if the bride so desires) are more timeless.

“The invitation becomes a piece of artwork that represents a couple’s wedding day,” McCarthy says. “I have wedding invitations that belonged to my grandparents and great-grandparents. It’s a piece of history.”


While the save-the-date notice and the invitation should come from the same family of papers, the information they impart is vastly different. Generally, the save-the-date communicates the date and time of the wedding and any pertinent details about travel and accommodations. Save-the-dates often include links to the couple’s wedding website where guests will find all the details about the wedding weekend. Per McCarthy, save-the-dates should be ordered and sent six to eight months in advance of the event.

The invitation, which should be sent six to eight weeks in advance, serves as the official notice that the bride and groom request your presence at their wedding ceremony and reception. Formal verbiage announces who presents the bride to be married, if applicable, and lists time and place of the ceremony and reception. The invitation is also judge and jury on the wedding attire — so if you want your guests to wear black tie, now is the time to tell them.

RSVP cards with stamped return envelopes are typically included with the invitation, and if you’re asking guests to indicate which entrée they prefer at the reception, allow them space to indicate any special dietary restrictions
or allergies.


Taming the guest list can be a Herculean task, what with all of your family, friends and parents’ friends — not to mention the in-laws’ must-haves. McCarthy says to be choosy when it comes to work colleagues, as inviting the entire office could take up a valuable chunk of the list. Drawing the line between first and second cousins could be fruitful, too — but if you’re the first family wedding of your generation, this could get tricky.

Find some middle ground by thinking about the people who mean the most to you and your spouse, as individuals and as a couple. Celebrate your marriage surrounded by the people you love and who are as excited about this marriage as you are.


The language of the invitation may set the tone, but it’s the job of the calligraphy to add the personal touch of a handwritten note. Ashley Curry of Ashley Curry Calligraphy advises using fonts that are appropriate for the style of your event. If it’s a traditional black-tie affair, a more formal copperplate or Spenceri- an script should be used. For a casual event, a loose, light modern style is more appropriate.

If having your entire invitation written in calligraphy isn’t financially feasible, Curry recommends budgeting for hand-addressed envelopes.

“Your wedding is the most formal event you will ever host, so it should be your priority to make sure the envelopes are addressed by hand,” she says. “There is something so nice about getting a handwritten letter.”


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