“A,” “B,” “C,” etc. Guest Lists

Dear Miss SOS:

Our reception room has a head count limit of 100 and while my fiancé’s mother is aware of the maximum number of people who can attend (theoretically his family gets 50 and mine gets 50), she has given me a guest list with 99 people on it! It’s divided into an A list, a B list (whose invitations, by her request, must all be received at the same time), and a C list.

While she is certain a number of people from each of her lists will not attend because the wedding is on the other side of the continent, she expects them all to receive invitations at some point and for me to send out additional invitations, even if replies from those supposedly not attending haven’t been received.

Perhaps contrary to etiquette we are including rsvp cards in the invitations and she has also requested that we send out different “rsvp by” dates for each list. Not only is this prohibitively expensive for my parents (who are hosting the wedding), but I don’t feel comfortable sending out invitations to more people than the room can accommodate simply because she is “sure” they won’t attend. I also fear that if so many people won’t be attending, we will run out of invitations before her family’s spots are filled and I will be pressured to get more.

I just want to be responsible without offending anyone. Can you please advise?

Miss SOS commends you in understanding that one does not issue more invitations than one can accommodate. Your future mother-in-law may make decisions as to whom to invite on the Groom’s side but she cannot invent the answer for them as well. Miss SOS shudders to think of a greater offense than inviting a guest and then having that invitation withdrawn due to a “mis-guess” or a guest’s delay in responding.

Discuss the invitation list with your fiancé’s mother one more time. Advise her that all invitations to guests on the “A” list will be mailed eight weeks prior to your wedding. Invitations to guests on the “B” list will be sent no later than four weeks prior to, and then only upon availability of seating/space accommodations. The same “rsvp by” date remains.

Any guest that is on a “C” list, or “D – Z” for that matter, should receive a wedding announcement.

Enclosure Cards

Dear Miss SOS:

We wish to pay for our guest’s parking valet where our daughter’s wedding reception will be held. We cannot buy the parking tickets in advance. How can we indicate to our guests that they are to inform the parking attendant that they are attending the wedding reception? Is there an enclosure card we could design and if so, what should it say?

An enclosure card would be an entirely proper way to state, “Special parking facilities will be available. Please show this card at the entrance.”

French Words in Invitations

Dear Miss SOS:

RSVP. What do each of these letters mean? Thanks.

RSVP are the initials for the French words “Respondez s’il vous plait” which means, “Reply, if you please”.

Dear Miss SOS:

A very long time ago I received a wedding invitation that had two or three words in French at the bottom of the invitation. I had to look them up – cannot remember them now – but they meant “no gifts please”. Or, something very close to that. Do you know what they are? Thank you.

No matter how altruistic your motives may be, it is improper to refer to gifts on an invitation, whether it is stating that you want gifts or don’t want gifts. It doesn’t make any difference what language it’s worded in, whether English or French or Pig Latin, it is still incorrect. Instead, verbally circulate word that you are serious about not receiving presents. If pressured into naming at least “one thing” that you desire, Miss SOS recommends that you gently suggest that any money that would be spent on a gift be redirected by contributing it to a charitable organization.

That being said, the French words you are seeking are “pas de cadeaux.”

Including Children

Dear Miss SOS:

I’ve got a question for you I’m hoping you can answer. How are children to be referenced on a wedding invitation envelope? Should it be “Mr. and Mrs. David Jones and Family”?

It is not considered in the best of taste to have the words “and Family” on an invitation. Children’s names should not be listed on the outer envelope at all but on the inner envelope on the line below their parent’s names. If no inner envelope is used and the children are invited, only then are their names written on the outer envelope, again on the line below their parent’s names.

Children over thirteen should receive separate invitations if possible and by all means after they are eighteen even if they still live at home. Young sisters and brothers may be sent a joint invitation to “The Misses” or “The Messrs.” If there are both boys and girls, the address may read:

The Mssrs. Jones
The Misses Jones

Dear Miss SOS:

Why is it that some people don’t want children at their wedding?

Because they have yet to learn that they will have more problems with the adult guests at their wedding than with children.

Dear Miss SOS:

I don’t want any children at my wedding. How do I write an invitation saying that I do not want children at the wedding or do I have to do it verbally? Write soon. Thank you.

Etiquette has not, nor ever will, evolve into issuing reverse or negative invitations. Miss SOS is dismayed when she sees invitations stating “no children allowed” or “adults only”. She can only wonder if people would feel equally comfortable issuing or receiving wedding invitations that say “no handicapped allowed” or “Caucasians only”. Hopefully, Miss SOS has made her point.

Address the invitations to the individuals invited. If they respond that they are bringing additional guests, i.e. their children, Miss SOS suggests rather than saying that you don’t want children at this joyous family event, that you phrase your comments along the lines of “We’re not having children at our wedding. I’m sure your little one would behave adorably but not every child is as wonderful as yours.”

Though Miss SOS will refrain on commenting on your belief that children should be excluded at the union of two families, it has been her experience that it is the older guests that are more likely to behave inappropriately.

Including Ex’s

Dear Miss SOS:

May I invite my ex-spouse or ex-in-laws to my wedding?

Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to invite ex-spouses or ex-in-laws to your wedding ceremony and reception. However, Miss SOS recognizes that there are situations where the ex’s have remained good friends and supportive of each other over the years. If this is the situation, you may consider inviting them – providing your fiancée agrees and does not feel uncomfortable having them present.


Appropriate use of postage stamps

Dear Miss SOS:

This is a small question but my mother and I have been arguing a minor battle on this one. I want the postage stamps on my wedding invitations to reflect my theme and have found one that I like, although it’s a bit cute and comical. My mother says that I have to use one that has a heart, dove, or the word love printed on the stamp because etiquette requires it. Personally, I don’t like the look and want to purchase the other ones I do like. My mother and I have agreed to defer to you. Is my mother right? Do I have to buy the postage stamps with hearts or doves on them? Even though I don’t want to?

(Sigh…) Miss SOS wishes people would stop using the implied threat of “etiquette requires that you are to …” when the subject involves personal choices.

Etiquette does not involve itself as to what the image on the postage stamp looks like. It is totally irrelevant. You may even use a postage meter if you prefer. Etiquette only requires that the postage be sufficient so that the invitation does not arrive “postage due”.

Since this issue seems to be creating some dissension in your family, Miss SOS suggests a compromise. Have the wedding invitation sent out with the postage stamp your mom likes and have the RSVP envelope stamped with the one you like, or vice-versa. This should satisfy both of your preferences.


Dear Miss SOS:

I am a young lady (graduating this year from college) that is starting to receive wedding invitations from my friends. Some of the weddings I can attend, others I can’t. I come from a home environment that didn’t teach or instill rules of etiquette. I don’t wish to make any mistakes. What information can you give me when I receive an invitation?

Miss SOS is pleased to share with you what you knows. Invitations are not like Evites – you can’t forward them to your friends. Covet your invite because you were chosen, not mass emailed to. The invitation tells you exactly how many people you can bring in addition to yourself, so pay attention!

  • Your name “and family” means you and your kids/spouse.
  • Your name “and guest” means you and ONE guest.
  • Your name only means you are lucky to have gotten an invite to begin with.
  • Don’t RSVP your children unless they are explicitly invited. Hire a sitter instead.
  • Don’t assume you can bring your baby because the couple doesn’t have to buy a dinner plate. Some weddings are purposely designated adult only.
  • You must always send an RSVP, even if you aren’t attending. RSVP’s are not just for affirmative responses, and if you don’t send an RSVP the bride and groom have no idea if you are going to just show up.
  • When sending an RSVP, follow the bride and groom’s process. Don’t email them if they’ve included a response card in your invitation – it just adds extra stress for them to keep track of multiple communication channels.
  • RSVP’s must be mailed ahead and reach their destination by the deadline. Having them postmarked by the deadline is not good enough.
  • RSVP’s must actually give the correct number of attendees. Do your best to give an accurate figure at the time of RSVP.
  • If your plans change, let the bride and groom know ASAP.
  • Don’t ask your mutual friends if they’ve received an invite. Choosing who to invite to your wedding is a difficult task, and people get cut for cost reasons. If you do ask a mutual friend and they were not invited, you will put stress on the relationship between the bride/groom and the mutual friend. So just don’t ask.
  • Invitation time is the best time to notify the bride and groom of any dietary restrictions you or your guests may have. Note that Miss SOS wrote “dietary restrictions,” not “food preferences”.
  • Don’t add extra tasks for the bride and groom unless necessary!

Dear Miss SOS:

I am the mother of young woman who has been asked to be a bridesmaid at one of her sorority’s sister’s wedding. The wedding is only a week away and I have not yet received my invitation. Should I call the bride’s mother and RSVP anyway to let her know that I will be attending?

In two words, absolutely not. Only invited guests may respond to an invitation. It is not required that parents of a member of the bride’s wedding party be invited to the ceremony or reception, unless the wedding party member is the flower girl or ring bearer. Only then are the parents to be included in the guest list.

Dear Miss SOS:

For reasons I won’t go into, I’ve been invited to a wedding where people I don’t wish to see will be present. The Bride knew my feelings on this matter prior to sending out the invitations and yet still included these people on her list. I thought to call the Bride and tell her my opinion of her actions. I still plan on attending but don’t know the proper way to act in front of these people when our paths cross. What advice can you give me?

No guest may dictate to a host or hostess who they may or may not invite to an event. The only call Miss SOS will permit you to make to the Bride telling her of your “opinion of her actions” is the one thanking her graciously for her invitation to this joyous occasion and that you look forward to attending.

The proper way to act is to smile charmingly, even to those you don’t wish to mingle with, as you enjoy the festivities with the other guests present.

Dear Miss SOS:

Help! I have a limited budget for my wedding. Shoestring would be more the word. People invited to the wedding are responding that they’re bringing their children, their out-of-town guests, or others who weren’t on the guest list. How do I tell them that they can’t bring them? Should I explain how tight my budget is and how I can’t afford it? I don’t want to hurt their feelings and really feel in a bind, both financially and emotionally.

Miss SOS is always dismayed when guests take it upon themselves that they are the host of an event, inviting or including additional people to an affair.

The best approach is to contact the individuals personally who have taken on such a role, phrasing your comments along the lines of, “Due to limitations we are unable to accommodate everybody that we would love to be there, including your children/out-of-town guests. However, we do look forward to seeing you and your adorable munchkins (or meeting your houseguests) when we return from our honeymoon.”

Notice that you did not identify what those limitations might be. It is not considered a guest’s concern nor should they be burdened with such information.

Dear Miss SOS:

My miniature poodle goes with me everywhere as my beloved companion. Everyone I know knows this. I just received an invitation to a wedding. Is it OK if I bring my darling “Mitzie”?

Only invited guests may accept or decline an invitation. Unless Mitzie’s name was included on the wedding invitation, Miss SOS refuses to even consider having you RSVP for two.

Dear Miss SOS:

I wrote you a while back asking for your advice. I had received a wedding invitation addressed to my husband and myself and my husband couldn’t go. I could attend and wanted to know if I could invite a friend to take the place of my husband. The friend I wanted to invite knew the bride – so it’s not like it was a stranger – and the bride was expecting two people anyway. You told me that I couldn’t invite someone else to take my husband’s place and to attend the wedding solo.

Well, I’ve talked to a number of my friends and they all disagree with you – for the reasons I’ve mentioned. They said if it was them, they would bring a friend along anyway. With so many agreeing with me, why does etiquette take the position it would it be wrong? Or do you wish to change your answer?

For a brief moment Miss SOS thought she heard the faint echo of a small child imploring “everybody else does it, why can’t I?” Perhaps she was mistaken.

Regardless of the behavior of your friends (to which Miss SOS will refrain commenting upon at this time), an invitation to a wedding is not to be compared to a set of theater tickets. In other words, it is not transferable.

Miss SOS shudders as she visualizes the scenario that would evolve based on your line of reasoning. Neither you nor your husband could attend a wedding but you would pass the invitation on to someone else. After all, the Bride was expecting two people anyway and why should she care if those two people are family or friends or complete strangers? Maybe you could auction the invitation off to the highest bidder or reward a colleague for a job well done. If the Bride even slightly knows the person on a passing basis, so much the better, is that right?

Simply stated, you are not in control of the guest list nor is it your party. The wedding invitation you received was addressed to you and your husband, not to you and a guest of your choosing. Your response is Mrs. Jane Darling accepts with pleasure while Mr. James Darling regretfully declines.


Invitations – Addressing

Dear Miss SOS:

My husband and I received an invitation to a family member’s wedding. The invitation is addressed to him and his ex-wife. They have been divorced twenty years and we’ve been married for fifteen years. Although I don’t know this part of the family very well, we have met several times. I called my sister-in-law who told me that their invitation was addressed to her husband and me. How do we let that bride know that she goofed on the names and also on who’s married to who? They are not local so I will not have the opportunity to see her prior to the wedding.

Miss SOS is confident that the Bride’s faux pax was not intentional – indeed, why would she wish to upset her new extended side of the family? Good manners require that it is important not to take offense when no offense was intended.

On your response card you may make the gentle correction that Judy and Jim Hecht will (or will not) be attending. If you have already RSVP’d, you should write a brief but friendly note that you just now noticed the inadvertent error and wished to bring the correction of your name to the Bride’s attention.

There is no need to mention that the previous name used was that of an ex-wife. Nor should you mention the mistake on your sister-in-law’s invitation as your sister-in-law should write a short note on her own behalf.

Dear Miss SOS:

We wish to send a wedding invitation to our minister who will be officiating our wedding. However our minister is a woman. What is the proper way to address the invitation to her and her husband?

The proper form is “The Reverend Cathy and Mr. Shane Sanderson”.


Invitations – Belated Receptions

Miss SOS:

My fiancé and I are having a very small wedding. We have limitations in our budget and would rather throw a bigger party later, when we have more options to do so. We want to send out a letter with the invitation to guests not invited letting them know that we are getting married and we plan to celebrate with them later on down the road, at a date not yet specified.

I am having trouble wording this because if I go the route of using wedding announcements, people will think that they are invited to the wedding rather than realizing that this is a pre-wedding announcement. How can I let them know that we are getting married now but we will invite them to a party after the wedding day?

Miss SOS isn’t surprised that you are encountering difficulties in wording an invitation to a guest while simultaneously letting them know that they are not really invited. The simple answer is, you don’t. Not only would it be considered rude and insulting, it also gives the appearance that the only thing you’re really interested in is receiving a gift.

There is no such thing as a Pre-Wedding Announcement. Save-the-Date cards may be sent to those guests who will be invited to your wedding (some great examples may be found on “For Your Special Day – Beautiful Invitations”.

Regardless if you send out Save-the-Date cards or not, you issue invitations to those you desire to be in attendance at this joyous event in your life – and Miss SOS stresses, only them.

Wedding Announcements have a perfectly lovely use. They are sent immediately following the ceremony (after you’ve said “I do”) informing individuals not invited to the wedding of this important milestone that occurred in your life. Miss SOS recommends viewing the wording for your wedding announcement and your belated wedding reception at “What to Know Before You Order Your Invitations” in addition to checking out her archives at “Weddings – Announcements” and “Invitations – Belated Receptions”.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancé and I are getting married in Hawaii. We are planning on a large garden reception for all our family, friends, and children two weeks later back home. My fiancé recently said he wouldn’t mind if family and friends wanted to vacation at the same time as our wedding day and come to our ceremony. I want our children from our previous marriages to be there and my mother said she would help with their care while we are honeymooning. My question is how do I go about all this? I was planning on having a wonderful large reception when we returned. I know many of our family couldn’t make it or wouldn’t be able to afford an expensive vacation. Also, I can’t afford to host a full wedding reception in Hawaii as well as the reception later. My fiancé wants to leave it open to whoever can make it but that just seems improper. I desperately need your help. How do I word this on the invitations? I thought I could invite everyone to both but I didn’t want a formal ceremony in Hawaii when many guests wouldn’t be able to make it. I have not sent out “Save the Date” cards yet but I will need to soon if I’m inviting people to Hawaii. We really need your help and any ideas on how to go about this. Thank you.

Miss SOS suggests you persevere with your original idea. It is not uncommon to have a small, intimate wedding followed by a large reception at a later date. An open invitation to “whoever can make it is fine” minimizes the importance and value placed on a guest’s attendance.

Ask your circle of immediate family and closest friends to your wedding in Hawaii by either calling them individually or sending them a special handwritten invitation. If written, the paper should be of the highest quality with blue-black or black ink used, structured as follows:

Dear Georgia Lee (no punctuation)
Jack and I are being married at St. John’s Chapel, Maui, Hawaii, on Friday, July the seventh, at two o’clock. We hope you and Bob will be able to come to the ceremony and afterward to our hotel suite.
Most sincerely (or Love, or Affectionately)
Mary Thompson (Mary)

For your belated reception, send all guests (including those invited to your Hawaiian wedding ceremony) an invitation. provides its wording on its Invitations page under Belated Wedding Receptions).

If you are considering sending wedding announcements, it must include the city, state, day, month and year of the ceremony. The form is the same as that for any other announcement.

Wedding announcements are mailed after the ceremony has taken place and not before. Invitations to a party or reception are mailed separately. They are never to be enclosed in the announcement envelope.


Invitations & Business Associates

Dear Miss SOS:

My colleagues at work are aware that I will be getting married. My guest list is already stretched. Do I have to invite them?

Unless your colleagues have evolved into being personal friends that you socialize with outside the office (lunch buddies don’t count), it is not necessary to invite them to attend the festivities. The exception would be your boss or assistant, whom you can invite without setting off a chain reaction. In the meantime, stop talking about your wedding plans to your co-workers.

Dear Miss SOS:

My daughter is getting married. Whom from my field of people that I know in my career should I invite?

Miss SOS hopes that you are not using your daughter’s wedding to entertain clients, prospects, or business colleagues. If you are, then you must include them all so that none feel slighted by not receiving an invitation. Miss SOS cautions you that in doing so you may diminish your daughter’s day by inviting a number of people that she does not know nor would she care to know. Instead, Miss SOS suggests that you invite only those business people that you consider to be personal friends.


Invitations – Changes to

Dear Miss SOS:

Help! My fiancé is being deployed and we want to get married before he leaves, changing the date of our wedding. Unfortunately the invitations have already been printed with the first date. I can’t afford to have them reprinted. What can I do?

When it is necessary to change the date of a wedding and the new date is decided upon after the invitations have been printed but before they’ve been mailed, it is not necessary for the Bride to order new invitations. Instead, she may do one of three things:

  • She may enclose a printed card, if there is time, saying, “The date of the wedding has been changed from June third to May twentieth.”
  • If the guest list is small, she may telephone the information or write a personal note.
  • If the date is so soon that there is no possibility of having cards printed, she may neatly cross out the old date and insert the new one by pen.


Invitations – Gay and Lesbian Couples

Dear Miss SOS:

What is the correct way to address gay couples on envelopes? In sending out my invites, there are a number of my acquaintances whom are gay and lesbians. One couple is married gay men. Another couple is married females where one woman has changed her last name to the other’s. And yet another female couple is married but have retained their maiden names. I checked Emily Post’s site and no luck. Can you help?

If two men are married but have different surnames, then the invitation would be addressed to each with their full name, i.e. Mr. John Smith and Mr. Ronald York. Should the gentlemen share the same surname, then the invitation would be addressed to “The Messrs. John and Ronald Smith”.

If two women are married but have different surnames, the same rule applies but with the title each woman prefers, i.e. Mrs., Miss, or Ms. Diane Gardner. If unknown, then the title would read “Ms.”. Should the ladies share the same surname, then the invitation would be addressed to “The Mesdames Diane and Heather Gardner”.


Including Guests

Dear Miss SOS:

Is it always necessary to invite a guest’s “significant other”?

Yes. You should always invite significant others of married guests, engaged guests, and couples who live together. This also holds true for people who are generally considered couples. You may send on invitation to couples who live together, listing their names alphabetically on the envelope. If an engaged couple or “steadies” live apart, send a separate invitation to each. You should never refer to a significant other on an invitation by “and guest”.

Dear Miss SOS:

My budget is extremely tight. Though I would love to be able to have all my single friends to bring a date, I can’t afford to include their escort. Is it OK to just address the invitation to them without adding the words “and guest”.

As long as your single guest is not engaged or living with a domestic partner, it is quite permissible to address the invitation to just the individual solo. If they ask if it is possible to bring a date, be candid and tell them that due to limitations, you are not able to accommodate their request. It is not necessary to share what those limitations may be, whether financial or space restrictions, etc.

On a side note, addressed invitations should never include the wording “and guest” as it indicates you are abdicating the guest list to them. If single friends are able to bring a escort, you are to ask who that individual would be and their address, sending an invitation to that person separately.

Dear Miss SOS:

I have a very limited budget to host my wedding reception. Do I have to invite everyone that was invited to my bridal shower? My mom says I have to otherwise it would be considered very rude. I say it’s my wedding and I can only afford a certain number. Who’s right?

What an interesting Bride you are. As Miss SOS understands it, only certain family members and friends are considered good enough to be your guests at your wedding reception but everyone was good enough to be on your bridal shower invite list. Listen to your mother dear, she knows best. In the meantime, Miss SOS suggests that you drop the Bridezella pose and immediately meet with your caterer to determine something that’s more affordable with the increased number of guests that will be attending.

Dear Miss SOS:

My fiancée and I, both from large families, are assembling our guest list for what we hope will be an intimate wedding of approximately 125 guests. The venue is outdoors so there is no limit on numbers other than our budget and our idea of what an intimate wedding will be.

We have made efforts to identify all significant others on our guest list so that we can invite them by name. For guests we’ve determined to be single, we will not be including a “+ Guest” on their invitation regardless if family or friends.

This decision has caused incredible stress. My stepmother is insulted that I would disrespect her by not allowing her sons to bring dates. Since neither of them could name who they would like to bring, we’d prefer that they not bring a date just for the sake of bringing a companion.

In an effort to keep our numbers down, we have cut friends of many years, colleagues from work, neighbors, etc. We would need to cut even more if all our guests bring dates. I’ve been accused of being cheap, ungrateful, disrespectful, insulting, judgmental and more.

I’ve asked close friends and read etiquette books and blogs but the only defense I’ve found is that “of course weddings are expensive and single guest should not expect to bring dates” or “weddings have complicated logistics and extra guests can throw those out of order”. Why is there no defense along the lines of “it is rude to bring a date to an intimate family event unless the relationship is serious” or “the intimacy of the event will be compromised if family members bring casual dates as guests”?

We want our guests to feel special and I think allowing casual dates will compromise that feeling. I have been to many weddings as a single man and never once thought to complain that I was not allowed to bring a guest, nor would I ever consider bringing a casual date to such an event.

Please be honest with me and tell me if I’m being cheap, disrespectful, judgmental, etc. Are there any standard rules of etiquette that say what type of events to which one should feel comfortable bringing a date versus significant other?

The rules of etiquette are actually very simple – only invited guests may accept or decline an invitation and only the hosts of the event may determine the guest list, taking into consideration the desires and wishes of the honorees.

Miss SOS does not know, nor wishes to be informed, of the blogs and etiquette books that provided such incomplete information. Suffice to say that they were sadly lacking.

You might be surprised to learn that etiquette addressed the issue of wedding invitations quite some time ago. Generally there are two envelopes for each invitation, the outer envelope and the inner envelope. The outer envelope is addressed to the household unit, such as Mr. and Mrs. James Pritchard. The inner envelope is addressed to the members of the household that are actually invited. If the inner envelope has written on it “Mr. and Mrs. Pritchard” (or, if family, “Aunt Helen and Uncle Jim”) then those would be the only two that could accept or decline. If there is an outer envelope only, then it would read Mr. and Mrs. James Pritchard, and if their children were included, the words “and James, Jr. and Elizabeth.”

The words “and guest” should never appear on either the outer or inner envelope. The proper host and hostess do not relinquish control of the guest list but instead inquires in advance of the name and address of the invitee’s companion so that a separate invitation may be issued to that individual directly.

Should an invited guest improperly RSVP that they are bringing uninvited guests to accompany them, it is permissible to contact them saying, “As much as we’d love to accommodate everyone to our celebration, we are unable to do so. However we do look forward to meeting your companion/date/houseguest at a later time after our honeymoon.” No further explanation is necessary.

Miss SOS advises that you cease discussing your guest list, refuse to be drawn into debate with others by simply stating “I appreciate your viewpoint”, and instead issue the invitations to the family and friends you have chosen to include. Those who are single will enjoy the wonderful experience in meeting new people and reacquainting themselves with others at your wedding reception.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am sending a wedding invitation to a dear friend who lives with her significant other, a person I can barely tolerate. Do I have to include him on the invitation?

Yes. Significant others are always invited, along with engaged guests. One invitation suffices to couples who live together and separate invitations go out to engaged couples or “steadies” who live apart. In addressing the envelope, you are to refer to the significant other by name and not as “and guest”.

Dear Miss SOS:

I want to invite a man who is living with someone to my wedding. It’s OK that he brings her along. Can I address the invitation to Mr. John Smith and Guest?

Certainly, presuming that her surname is Guest. The invitation address then would read: Ms. Georgia Guest (on the first line) and Mr. John Smith (on the second line). If Guest isn’t her last name, then you’ll have to make the necessary inquiries.


Wedding Programs

Dear Miss SOS:

What do you call a poem written to celebrate a wedding?

A song or poem honoring the Bride and Groom is called an epithalamium.

Dear Miss SOS:

I am fed up trying to find out the answer to my question in etiquette books. Not one addresses the subject so I’m writing to you to find out if you know the answer. Not even my church can help. What is the correct layout of a wedding program? Are the roles of the wedding party printed on the left with the order of the service printed on the right? Or is it reversed? And where do we list the sponsors – i.e. family, that we’re thanking for their contribution in making this wedding possible?

Yes, Miss SOS knows the answer to your question but you aren’t going to like her response. There is a distinct reason why you won’t find a section on “Wedding Programs” in any reputable etiquette book. Can you guess what it is?

Wedding Programs are the love of stationery stores and the bane of etiquette advice columnists. A wedding ceremony is not a stage production, nor is it a play. Guests are not considered an audience. A receiving line is the proper way for guests to meet the members of the Bride’s wedding party. The wedding ceremony is a religious service uniting two people in holy wedlock, not a theatrical performance where Acts I, II, III and IV are identified. People are not sponsors, they are family and friends who have helped make this day possible. They are to be thanked in person, followed by a lovely handwritten note expressing your appreciation for all their time and effort.



Dear Miss SOS:

I am getting married in four months. Question. A distant cousin invited me to her wedding (which I’ll be attending). Am I obligated to invite her and her husband to my wedding?

No. Most people understand if you are having a small affair or keeping it to close family and friends to help cut costs. When you next see your cousin, share with her that due to limitations you are unable to invite her to your wedding, but you look forward to seeing her and her husband after your honeymoon, perhaps at a specially-arranged brunch.

Dear Miss SOS:

My daughter is engaged to a wonderful man named Joshua. Joshua’s parents divorced when he was a baby and he was raised by his mother and “stepdad”. I use the word “stepdad” loosely because his mother and his stepdad never married. Joshua wants both his fathers named on the invitation. How should the wording be phrased on the invite?

Regardless if the Groom’s mother and stepfather never married, in every way that counts the gentleman is a father to Joshua. To recognize his status in the upbringing of his son, the invitation would be worded…

Mr. and Mrs. Charles William Pearson
request the honour of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Rachel Lee
Joshua Sean Hendricks
son of
Mrs. Virginia Mary Hendricks and Mr. Robert Lionel Hatcher
Mr. David John Hendricks
Saturday, the tenth of December

Dear Miss SOS:

I have some first cousins I have never met. Is it OK to send them an invitation to come to my wedding? Should I include a personal note explaining how we’re related?

You will have to explain more than just how you’re related, Miss SOS is afraid. You are going to have to explain why you never thought of getting to know them personally before and how you plan to do so on your wedding day when presumably you’ll be attending to other matters.

Invitations – Save-the-Date

Dear Miss SOS:

I’m getting married and would like to send out “Save-the-Date” cards so that my family and friends block out my wedding day on their calendar before receiving the wedding invitation. What should I have included or know?

A wedding Save-the-Date card needs to include important details of your wedding. Details are to include the names of the engaged couple, the date of the wedding event, city and state/country of the wedding, venue, and the phrase “formal invitation to follow” (which ensure guests do not confuse the Save-the-Date card with your wedding invite.

If you are planning on hosting a large number of guests from out-of-town, or have decided to have a destination, including information on accommodations and transportation is appreciated. This could include convenient airports, transportation options from airports to lodging, lodging options, transportation from lodging to the wedding venue, phone numbers and web sites for relevant businesses.

Because there is not a longer tradition around them, the etiquette regarding Save-the-Date cards is flexible. Even in the case of a very traditional or formal wedding, a Save-the-Date card can be informal and casual if a couple wishes. Couples can choose to match the theme or color of their formal wedding invitations or be more creative. Popular Save-the-Date card and formats include photo cards featuring the engaged couple, postcards or even magnets (just make sure to include “contains magnet” on the envelope).

Invitations – Showers

Dear Miss SOS:

Prior to getting married, I will be the guest of honor at three bridal showers. Do I give the hostesses of each shower the same guest list of women to invite? Is it proper to ask the same people over and over again?

The only people that should be invited to each of your bridal showers are yours and your groom’s mothers and the attendants. They are not expected to bring a gift to each event – one will suffice. Provide your hostesses with separate lists of intimates, friends and family for each shower, along with each guest’s address to assist the hostess in mailing the invitations.

Stuffing Invitations—How to

Dear Miss SOS:

This may sound dumb, but in stuffing my invitations, response cards, envelopes, etc., how does it all go together?

It’s not a dumb question at all. Many Brides are unfamiliar with the proper format. First, lay the response card face up under the flap of the return envelope. Then place this and all other insertions, including the reception card and directions (if any) inside the invitation, separating the invitation from the inserts with a tissue (if provided). Lay the invitation face up inside of the inner envelope, which already has the guests’ names written on it. Last but not least, insert the inner envelope in the outer envelope so that the handwritten names face the back of the envelope.

It’s a good idea to weigh the entire invitation before purchasing stamps, as most invitations will need extra postage.