A simple guide to the anatomy of a wedding invitation | Valuable information to help you decide what you need and what you don't

simple guide to wedding invitation parts | What to put in a wedding invitation

Have you ever opened a wedding invitation and thought What the heck is all of this stuff? Why are there so many pieces? How many forests were destroyed to print all of this junk? Maybe you're planning your own wedding and wondering what you should put in your invite. If so, this simple guide is just for you.

Last time I opened a wedding invitation, it looked like this:  
 

what are the parts of a wedding invitation

Jeez Louise, that's a lot of stuff. These are just some of the classic items typically found in a wedding invitation. In this post, you'll learn what each part is for so that you can decide what works for you. It's your wedding, girlfriend. You make the call. I'm just here to give you the knowledge to make it happen. 

#1 THE INVITATION

what to put in a wedding invitation

 

This is clearly the most essential piece. Every wedding invitation, whether it's an email or an elegantly designed stationery suite includes some basic information: 

  • Who: Who is getting married? Don't forget your own name, silly. 
  • What: A wedding! You're getting married, duh! 
  • When: The date and time of the ceremony. 
  • Where: The location of the ceremony.

There are about a million and five (yes, that's 1,000,005) ways to word your invitation. That's not a real statistic so please don't quote me on it. The point is that information in your wedding invitation can be expressed in an extremely formal or extremely casual way. I have another post about that coming soon to help you decide how to word your invites. For now, let's move on...

The bottom line: you need an invitation if you're a human and you're having a wedding. 

#2 GUEST INFORMATION CARD(S)

What information to include in your wedding invitation

This  could be one card, or several cards. It all depends on how complex your wedding is (and how much money is in your father's bank account. Kidding, kind of...) 

Listen, the best thing you can do for your guests is make sure they're well-informed about your day. Information cards typically contain information such as: 

  • Accommodations. If you have a lot of out-of-town guests, you might have reserved a block of rooms at a certain hotel. There may even be a guest discount for booking under some super secret code name. Guests like to know this stuff! Help them out! 
  • Registry. Some people tell you not to put your registry anywhere in the invitation at all. I think thats' crazy talk. Listen, I get the whole etiquette thing, but your guests are not psychic! (I think. I can't be sure.) These days, most people include the registry on an information card of some kind. It's helpful. And you might get more gifts you actually want, instead of 15 sets of silverware, which actually happened to me.) 
  • No registry. If you're not doing gifts, leave a note so that people know! Don't assume they know. Most people these days expect to bring a gift to a wedding. Also, if you're recommending charitable donations instead of gifts, let people know how they can make a donation to a charity of your choice in your name. 
  • Map or directions. Listen, this is important and helpful. Some wedding venues are absolutely confusing. If your guests need to park in a parking lot across the street from your location, let them know. If there is extremely limited parking available, first of all, shame on you. Second of all, please let them know they should carpool. Just because it seems obvious to you doesn't mean it's obvious to everyone! If you think people might be confused, explain the location details. (That includes things like "guests will need to pay $3 for parking per hour at the hotel lot." Honestly, what is wrong with you people?) 
  • What to wear. Don't be a bossy pants and tell everyone to wear yellow. Just be helpful. I'm saying if you're getting married on a quaint cobblestone path, leave a note for the ladies so they don't make the ankle-breaking mistake of wearing stilettos. If you're getting married outside in October, remind people it's okay to bring a coat in case of cold weather! If your reception location has no heating or air conditioning, tell your guests! If your affair is super casual, let the people know. If it's black tie, put a note in the guest information so your Uncle Randy doesn't wear his blue Crocs. Seriously. 
  • Outdoor weddings: alternate plans in case of rain. This one is a no-brainer. I hate to break it to you, but it does actually rain on outdoor weddings. (It happened to me. That's a story for another day.) 
  • Wedding website. If you're using one, put it on an information card.
  • The awkward "We're not inviting children" policy note. It's only awkward because I bet 15 relatives will freak out and ask you, "You don't mean our kids, right?" Traditionally, the way the address is written on the invitation indicates exactly who should be invited. Unfortunately, due to a significant decline in societal awareness of such intricacies, it might be helpful to put a note in your guest information somewhere. 
  • Reception details. Are you serving dinner, or dessert only? Will there be a serious gap between the ceremony and reception? Is there a cocktail hour? What time are the bride and groom leaving the reception? These are all details that can help provide clarity for your guests. These details especially help parents of small children. (I don't have children yet, but I hear you have to pack a minimum of 11 snacks per 30 minutes away from home and schedule a bathroom break or diaper change every 45 minutes, or whenever most inconvenient for Mom and Dad. It can be really stressful. Help them your parent friends plan ahead. They'll love you for it.) 

Now, take a deep breath. You don't actually need to put all of that in your invitation. Pick and choose the helpful bits that apply to your day. Lastly, remember that it doesn't need to all be on separate cards! Most of my clients have asked for at least one information card. Some weddings include several cards (especially destination weddings. Those are another level entirely.) 

The bottom line: you need this if you want to help provide clarity for guests about how they need to prepare for your big day and what to expect on the wedding day. You are stealing their Saturday, after all. 

#3 RSVP

What goes in a wedding invitation

This is a note guests return to you in order to let you know if they can make it or not. There are a few different types: 

  • Note card + envelope. This is the most expensive option to mail (because it counts as a letter instead of a post card.) It's also the most elegant.
  • Post card. This is probably the most popular option, because it's a more affordable way to get the information you need in a still totally classy fashion. 
  • Online RSVP. Wedding websites are quickly becoming pretty fantastic. These days, your guests can RSVP online and even let you know of other important information, such as food allergies or special diet requests. This is definitely a viable option for brides who need to cut corners here and there. All that money spent on postage and printing quickly adds up! This is one way to save a little extra. 

RVSPs can contain:

  • Your mailing address pre-printed on the card. Guests should be able to simply drop your card in the mail. Along the same lines...
  • A stamp. Don't ask your guests to pay or find a stamp! You won't get many replies. If you haven't mailed many items before, please realize that post card stamps cost less than a letter stamp. If you're not sure what you need, ask your friendly United States Postal Service employee for help! 
  • A place for the names of the guests who are responding. It's really useless to get 300 RSVPs if you don't know who is coming to your wedding! 
  • A "check yes/no" box. Also known as "Happily accept(s)!" or "Regretfully decline(s)." It's helpful to know which guests aren't coming, so you can safely eliminate them from the "maybe but I'm not sure" list of people who might show up. 
  • Number of guests attending. Not totally necessary. If "The Robbins family" replies yes, you can probably assume all members are coming. But if there are 12 Robbins family members and only 9 are going to make it, that's helpful to know. Personally, I think a good head count is helpful. 
  • Dinner requests. If you're serving a beef or chicken or vegetarian option, you need to ask guests what they'll be eating. I have to say that, or your caterer might come after me. It will save you both a big headache if you know what to order for each guest. 
  • Extras: these days, some RSVPs contain room for extras like a song request for the DJ, or a special note to the bride and groom. Those are up to you! 

The bottom line: you definitely need this if you want to know how many guests will attend your wedding, but you can totally go digital instead of mailing an RSVP

#4 THE INNER ENVELOPE and #5 THE OUTER ENVELOPE

Deciding what goes in  a wedding invitation

 

This is a history lesson for those who have wondered why wedding invitations sometimes include two envelopes. In the past, part of the purpose was to keep the beautiful invitations perfect and clean, because mail carried in an actual carriage (Ye Olde Fashioned Way) could get dirty. So partly, for looks. But there is also another purpose. The outer envelope traditionally is addressed to the adults (ex: Mr. and Mrs. Jay Pritchett.) Meanwhile, the inner envelope would indicate specifically which members of the Pritchett family might be invited. For example: Jay and Gloria Pritchett | Manny and Joe. This would indicate that the children are invited to the wedding. If the inner envelope only states Jay and Gloria Pritchett, this is a polite way of indicating that the children are not invited. Lastly, if you are inviting an unmarried friend, the inner envelope is typically used to indicate whether or not this unmarried friend should bring a date or not. (Mr. Manny Pritchett would indicate that a guest is not welcome. Mr. Manny Pritchett and guest would indicate that you have reserved a seat for a date also.)

*Thank you to those who noticed my Modern Family reference in this paragraph. I only get local TV channels, people. I don't do Netflix. I don't know what the kids are watching these days.

The bottom line: You need two envelopes if you want a polite way of indicating which children and "plus ones" are welcome or unwelcome. Or, if you are sending your mail by pigeon carrier. 

#6 THE ENVELOPE LINER

(*See the previous photo of the envelopes for an example!) An envelope liner is purely for decorative purposes. Usually the liner is not, in fact, brown paper (as pictured above.) They may contain a graphic or pattern that matches the rest of the invitation suite and the mood of the wedding day. One current trend is to include an original illustration of the location of the wedding. The liner is purely for adding an "Oooh" effect when your guests open your invitation. Click here to see a few examples of floral themed liners from Grayberry Design

The bottom line: you need this if you have a little extra cash to spare on super-gorgeous special extras and you really want to wow your guests. 

#7 THE BELLY BAND 

what is a belly band for wedding invitations

A belly band is just a piece of ribbon, lace, fabric, or paper used to hold your invitation together when guests remove it from the envelope. Belly bands, like liners, are purely for adding a "wow" experience to your invitation. Some liners are stamped or sealed with wax, custom monograms, small illustrations and other artistic elements. Click here to see a gorgeous floral belly band by Ruby and Willow in New Zealand

The bottom line: you need this if you have a little extra cash to spare on super-gorgeous special extras and you really want to wow your guests.

 

AND... THAT'S A WRAP

So there you have it. The typical components of the American wedding invitation. There are definitely many decisions to make about what to put in your invitation. That's why professionals like me are here to help guide you through the process! If you want to get in touch with me or learn about my custom wedding invitation process, click here. And if you're forging the waters on your own, feel free to leave a question in the comments and I will do my best to help you!