How to Write a Formal Invitation


Sending a formal invitation - whether on paper or electronically - is one of the most important steps in planning a formal event. It sets the general tone for the event and lets your guests know what to expect. Choosing the appropriate invitation wording for your event and then properly addressing the invitation can make your invitations look great and impress your guests.

Part 1
Using Proper Wording for Formal Invitations

Using Proper Wording for Formal Invitations on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Regardless of the type of event you’re inviting your guests to, you should use a formal writing style on a formal invitation. This means spelling out dates and other words that are usually abbreviated.[1] For example, you should write “Saturday, the nineteenth of November” instead of “Saturday, November 19th.” You should also write “253212 Boston Street” instead of “253212 Boston St.”

Using Proper Wording for Formal Invitations on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Don’t use the shortened versions of guests’ names. Write “Stephanie Smith” instead of “Steph Smith" and always use last names.

Using Proper Wording for Formal Invitations on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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One of the most important parts of the formal invitation is the inclusion of the event's host(s). Listing the hosts tells your guests who is inviting them to the event. How you write the hosts' names and the order in which you should list them varies depending on who is hosting. These rules are particularly important if you are writing a formal wedding invitation.[2] For example, you should start a dinner invitation by saying "Sam and Ellen Smith invite you to a dinner celebrating the graduation of their daughter Leslie from graduate school."

Part 2
Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Who is hosting the wedding – usually defined by who is paying for the wedding – will affect the order of names listed on the invitation. The bride's parents always go on the first line, followed by the groom's on the third line. "And" should get its own line in between The bride's name should always come before the groom's. If you are writing an invitation for a same-sex wedding, you can list the parents’ names in whatever order makes sense to you. This might be alphabetical order or you might just want to flip a coin to see who goes first.[3]

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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There are a lot of rules regarding how you should write out the hosts' names, depending on who the hosts are. Generally, the hosts related to the bride go first, followed by the groom's relatives. If the parents of the bride or groom are still married write “Mr. and Mrs." followed by the bride's father's name. So Tiffany Smith's parents should be written as "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith” or “Mr. and Mrs. James Carter” on the first line of the invitation. The groom's parents should be written the same way, on the third line (with "and" on its own on the second line). If both families – including the bride and groom – are hosting, you should write “Together with their families," on the first line, then the name of the bride, "and," and the name of the groom on the second, third, and fourth lines respectively. If the bride’s parents are divorced and remarried but hosting together, you should write list the mother's new name first, followed by the father's name. So for example, you might write “Mr. and Mrs. Jill Willby and Mr. and Mrs. Greg Smith." Again, each couple gets their own line with “and” on the second line. If someone other than parents or stepparents are hosting, write the host(s) name(s) and their relationship to the bride or groom. So, for example, if the bride’s brother is hosting, you should write “Mr. Stanley Smith requests the honor of your presence of the marriage of his sister Stephanie Smith.”

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Once you’ve established the hosts of the event (in the right order), you need to actually invite the guest(s) to the wedding. Regardless of who hosts, the next line after the hosts’ names should be either “requests the honor of your presence” or “requests the pleasure of your company.” That should be followed by either “at the marriage of” if someone other than the bride(s) and/or groom(s) are hosting or “at their marriage” if the bride(s) and/or groom(s) are hosting as well. For example, you might say “ [Hosts' names] request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Tiffany Smith to Adam Jones” (if the bride’s parents are hosting) or “[Hosts' names] request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of Tiffany Smith to their son Adam Jones” (if the groom’s parents are hosting.[4]

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Once you’ve established who’s hosting and invited your guest(s) to the event, include the rest of the information for the wedding. In order, you should list the date, time, and venue of the wedding, each on their own line.

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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If the wedding ceremony will be followed by a reception that everyone is invited to, you can add that information to the invitation itself. If not everyone is invited, you can write the reception information on a separate card to be included with the invitation. If you include the reception information on the invitation itself, it should come last on the invitation and include the time and place. So, for example, you could say “Reception to follow at 5 pm at The Country Club 3000 Country Club Lane Minneapolis, Minnesota.” “Reception to follow” and “at 5 pm” should get their own lines, as should the street address, venue name, and venue city. If you include a separate reception card, write it as you would on the bottom of the invitation.[5]

Making Adjustments for a Formal Wedding Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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If you want your guests to respond whether they’ll be coming or not (and most hosts do because venues will require a final guest count), include information on how they should do that. This usually means including an RSVP card that lists the response date, along with a pre-addressed and stamped envelope. Leave space for their name and how many guests they’re bringing.[6] For example, a standard RSVP card will say “M.______________ __ will attend __ will not attend.” The “M.” at the beginning allows them to write “Ms.,” “Mr.,” “Mr. and Ms.,” or “Mr. and Mrs.” and lets you know how many people are attending. If you are asking your guests to make a meal selection, this should be listed on the RSVP card as well. List their meal options and leave a space underneath each for the names of the guests requesting that particular meal.

Part 3
Using the Proper Form for Non-Wedding Events

Using the Proper Form for Non-Wedding Events on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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When inviting guests to a formal dinner, be sure to word it so they are invited “at a dinner” or “to a dinner,” never “for dinner.” Your invitation should read “We request the pleasure of your company at a dinner” or “You are cordially invited to a dinner” before listing what the dinner is for. You may or may not have hosts to lists for a formal dinner, but if you do, their names should go at the top of the invitation.

Using the Proper Form for Non-Wedding Events on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Writing an invitation to an anniversary celebration is similar to writing one for a wedding. You should include the hosts’ names, the date, and the venue, but you should also note that it is an anniversary celebration. For example, you could write “Dan and Carol Smith are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Their children invite you to join them for a reception at The Country Club.” If you do not wish guests to bring gifts for the couple, you can simply note “No gifts please” at the bottom of the invitation.

Using the Proper Form for Non-Wedding Events on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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These types of invitations are usually less formal than wedding invitations. You may or may not list a host, but you should include the name of the bride and/or couple and the information regarding the shower. The spacing of a shower invitation should follow the spacing of a wedding invitation. For example, you could write “You are cordially invited to a bridal shower in honor of Tiffany Smith on November 5th at 6 pm. The Country Club Minneapolis, Minnesota.”

Using the Proper Form for Non-Wedding Events on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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The RSVP etiquette for events other than weddings varies widely. You should ask your guests to let you know if they're attending or not, but it's up to you how you'd like them to respond. Formal dinner invitations should include an RSVP card similar to the kind you would send for wedding, but anniversary parties and bridal or baby showers can simply ask guests to call the host with their response.

Part 4
Addressing the Invitation

Addressing the Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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If you are inviting a married couple, tradition dictates that you write “Mr. and Mrs.” followed by the husband’s name. However, if the couple does not have the same last name, you should include both of their names. If you are addressing an invitation to a married same-sex couple, you should include both of their names as well.[7] For example, you could write “Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Smith,” “Mr. Stanley Smith and Mrs. Emma Stone,” or “Mrs. Julia Gould and Mrs. Elizabeth Gould.”

Addressing the Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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If any of your guests have distinguished titles - like “Dr." - you should be sure to use them. If one member of a couple has a distinguished title, use that title and then "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Ms." for the other member of the couple.[8] For example, you could write “Dr. Stephanie and Mr. James Smith” if they have the same last name, “Dr. Stephanie Jones and Mr. James Smith” if they have different last names or “Dr. Stephanie Jones and Dr. James Smith” if they have different last names but both have distinguished titles.

Addressing the Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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Unless they live with their parents, any adult over the age of 18 should receive their own invitation. You can use “Ms.” or “Mr.” in the addresses if they are single.[9]

Addressing the Invitation on How to Write a Formal Invitation

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If you wish to invite an entire family to your event, whether the children are over 18 or not, you can simply write “The Smith Family” and include their address. This lets the recipient know that everyone in the household is invited.[10]