Guest Post | Invitation Etiquette

BashSo you’re engaged! You’ve set your date, booked your venue, set up meetings with your vendors and started planning the details of your wedding day. Good going! Now you need to let your guests know about your wedding day. This can be a rather daunting task with almost everyone having an opinion on the “right way” to put your invitation together, what should and shouldn’t be included and when they should be sent. So the lovely Liesel & Gitta from Bash Paperie are here to help you out with tips on wedding invitation etiquette.


Save the Date

A save-the-date, while completely optional, is a great way to let your guests know the date of your wedding in advance. With friends and family being spread all over the world, it’s great to give them as much time as possible to book flights and make sure that they are there to celebrate with you.  If you do decide on a save-the-date, then aim to send it at least 6-9 months before your wedding day.

In the early stages of your wedding planning, you’re probably still deciding on your final guest list so make sure that whoever you send a save-the-date to will definitely be getting an invitation to the main event. We suggest only sending a save-the-date to family, special friends and overseas guests who you’d really like to be part of your wedding day.  Also remember that traditionally, anyone who is invited to your engagement party should be invite to your wedding so keep this in mind when you’re celebrating that sparkly ring.

Because save-the-dates are relatively new to the wedding planning scene, there are no set rules on what they should look like. An emailer is perfectly acceptable but it’s also nice to print a few copies to send to your older and more traditional guests – or risk spending 10 hours on the phone to Granny Jean while she waits for her dial up internet to connect. Try to keep them in line with your vision for your wedding day so a traditional print for a more formal wedding or a photo or magnets for a more relaxed day. However you decided to send these, remember to include“formal invitation to follow” so that your guests don’t start asking for more details before you have finalized your plans.



We love beautiful wedding invitations because they are the first glimpse your guests will get of your wedding day. They build the excitement and, of course, are pretty essential in getting your guests to the right place, at the right time to see you start your lives together.  The most important part of your wedding invitation is the actual information about your wedding day – Who, What, Where and When. It may seem obvious but we know of a couple who sent out their invitations without the date appearing anywhere on them because everyone who checked the final artwork knew the wedding date and it was completely overlooked. So – as a side note – be sure to get someone who doesn’t know any of your wedding details to check your invitations before they are printed to avoid mistakes.

We are seeing more and more couples sending their invitations by email as they try to cut wedding costs.  Again, we’d suggest printing a few copies for your older guests who may not have email addresses, for your parents and one as a keepsake for yourself.  We love to use Paperless Post ( to send email invitations. It lets you upload your own design or choose from their huge collection of invitations, send out in a batch to all your guests and manage your RSVPs.

Photo: Brightgirl Photography

Sending your Invitations and RSVP’s

You should plan to send your wedding invitations 8-10 weeks before your wedding day. If you didn’t send a save the date then consider sending them a bit earlier than this, especially if you have overseas guests.  Set your RSVP date for 3-4 weeks before your wedding so that you can get your final numbers in time for your venue, caterer and wedding day stationery.  Your vendors will all have their own deadlines for this information so be sure to check with them before sending out your invitations. It’ll also give you enough time to follow up with guests who haven’t replied. A little tip here is to get your maid-of-honour or mom to follow up with tardy guests after your RSVP date. Then you won’t have to stress about the follow up and you are allowing your guests who are too embarrassed to decline an easy way out.

We love RSVP cards. They are so traditional and a great way to get snail mail in the post.  Unfortunately, the South African Postal Service is pretty unreliable and we don’t see a lot of couples using them anymore. If, like us, you love the idea of a RSVP card be sure to include an email option for guests to RSVP too as well – just in case their RSVP card doesn’t get to you in time or at all. It’s also a nice touch to include the postage stamp on the card so that your guests just have to pop them into the postbox.

Photo: Christy Hosking Photography


When it comes to the wording of your invitation, traditionally, both parents of the bride and groom should be included on your invitation. If the bride’s family is paying for the wedding then her parents’ names will be first on the invitation, followed by the bride and groom’s names and the groom’s parents names below.  If both sets of parents are contributing to your wedding, or if you are paying for your wedding yourselves, it is always polite and respectful to still include your parents on your invitation in some way. You can either include their full names or simply say “together with their parents”.  For divorce or remarried parents, its gets a little more complicated and we would suggest sitting down with your parents and asking how they would like their names included.



The traditional way of addressing your wedding invitations is to address all guests by the honorifics – Mr, Mrs, Dr, Miss, Prof – that they go by and their surname.  We suggest sticking to this format if you are having a black tie or formal wedding or for older generation guests who may be offended by non-traditional addressing of invitations. Having said that, there are no real hard and fast rules to addressing your invitations.  For invitations that will be posted to your guests, be sure that all names and surnames are spelled correctly and that you have the correct address and postal code for each person.  If you are hand delivering your invitations, then just the names of the guests will do.  We love when couples add personal touches when addressing their invitations – like using their guests nicknames – not only because it gives us a good laugh to see “Smelly Smith and Piggo De Beer” on your guest list – but because you can tell that these are guests who are really invested in the couple lives.

Photo: Brightgirl Photography

Children & Partners

If children and partners are by invitation only, be sure to include this clearly on the invitation.  When addressing your invitations, you should include the names of the children on the envelope or you can say “The Smith Family”. Most guests understand that they can’t just bring along a “plus one” so don’t feel obliged to ask your single friends to bring a partner.  For your guests who will be coming alone, be sure to seat them at a table with other single guests so that they can mingle and not feel awkward on their own.  Where you are happy for a guest to bring a partner, you can simply put “and partner” on their envelope.

*Hooray side note: Take a look at our post on a Single Girls Guide to Surviving Weddings and our advice section on Regret no Kids


Dress Code

Be sure to let your guests know what the dress code for your wedding will be.

  • Black Tie – Full suit for the guys and evening dresses for the ladies.
  • Smart Casual – Suits or Chinos and a jacket for the guys and smart dresses or pants for ladies.
  • Casual – Anything goes.
  • Themed – Lets just leave it at that

*Hooray sidenote: you can see our post on Dress Etiquette here – Nailing the Dress Code*

There is, unfortunately, no way to stop a guest from wearing jeans to a black tie wedding or to stop ladies from wearing white. We’ve had a bride ask how to say “if you wear white my sister will kill you” in a nice way on her invitation. You may think it’ll will ruin your wedding day if someone doesn’t dress accordingly but honestly you probably won’t even notice on the day so try not to stress too much about it.

Photo: Jacki Bruniquel Photography


Should you put your gift registry details on your invitations? This is something we get asked a lot.  There are some people who say that it is rude to include it on your invitation because it makes guests feel like they have to buy you a gift. The trouble is that if you don’t include these details the chances are that either you or your parents will get calls asking about a registry anyway.  It has become tradition, more or less, these days to include your gift registry on your invitation. We do suggest not including it on the main page of your invitation but rather on the back or on a separate card that slips in with your invitation pack. If you’re asking for cash don’t include your banking details on your invitation – let’s not ruin a beautiful invitation with a branch code. Most guests will ask you or your parents or family members for banking details if they want to give a cash gift.


Wedding Website

A wedding website is a great place to add extra information that you can’t fit onto your invitation card and to get your guests excited and involved in your wedding day from early on. It’s also a place to put your gift registry details, banking details if you’d prefer not to have these on your actual invitation.  If you decide on a wedding website then be sure to put the web address on your invitations, usually with the RSVP details.

Photo: Christy Hosking Photography

A message from the Bash girls

Your invitations are the start of a beautiful and exciting time and, with so many gorgeous printing techniques, designs and paper options it’s important to stay true to who you are as a couple. We suggest finding a few designs online (Pinterest is a great place for inspiration) which really speak to you, and then ask your designer to capture and translate these into something unique. Think of your invitations as the wrapping on a gift, your wedding “packaging”. They are the first thing your friends and family will see and will set the tone for what’s to come on your big day. We are always so excited to deliver a box of carefully crafted, beautiful invitations, so if you need ideas, designs or just have questions you need answered please get in touch.

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