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Wedding Etiquette Wednesday: Calligraphy Questions!

May 2, 2012

Your invitations have been ordered and you are ready to address them, but have you thought about hiring a calligrapher? Calligraphy provides a way to add a personal touch that reflects the overall tone of your event. We highly recommend selecting a calligrapher because it offers your guests a first glimpse into what is to come!

We have interviewed one of our favorite calligraphers, Carrie with Calligraphy by Carrie, to answer some very important questions!

-What specific form should the guests addresses be in for you to easily read?
“Type your entries pretty much as they would appear on the envelopes themselves in an easy‐to‐read font (12‐point or larger). Put 5‐10 spaces between each address, using only one or two columns per page. Arrange longer lists (over, say, 100 entries) in alphabetical order. This will save you time down the road when you need to make changes or updates.”


-What is proper etiquette for writing social and professional titles?
“Formal invitation etiquette calls for FULL names, including titles and middle names.
Right: Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Smith, junior
Wrong: Mr. and Mrs. Billy Smith, Jr.
Even Worse: Billy & Sue Smith
Always spell out “and”; don’t use the ampersand (“&”). Always spell out “Doctor,” “Reverend,” “Colonel,” “Lieutenant,” etc. Designations such as “junior” and “senior” are separated by a comma and are not capitalized.  A comma does not separate designations such as “II” and “III”: “Mr. and Mrs. John Adam Smith III”.
If you do not have a traditional invitation (for example: engraved, black ink, ivory stock with traditional wording), then you have much more freedom with the “rules”. Brides with non-traditional invitations can drop titles altogether (“Sarah and David Murray”) – even on the outer envelopes!)

-How should inner envelopes be addressed?
“A typical inner envelope should read: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. You should not use first or middle names on inner envelopes. Do not include designations such as “junior” or “IV” on inner envelopes. For those entries on your address list that do not include children or an unspecified guest, you do not need to indicate what goes on the inner envelope on your typed guest list. This information will be obvious to your calligrapher. Again, brides with non-traditional invitations can certainly be less formal on their inner envelopes (if they have them).”


-How do you indicate the inclusion of children on your typed guest list?
“Here’s a typical entry on your typed list for a married couple whose children are invited:
Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Smith
124 Saint Mary’s Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316
Inner: Michael, Hannah and Mary


-How are children’s names shown on the actual inner envelope?
“Children’s names do not appear on the outer envelope, just the inner. Children’s names should be presented on one line, separated by commas, in birth order (oldest to youngest). For two children, no commas—just separated by “and.” No full names here! Not only is it not necessary to include the middle and last names of children on the inner envelopes, it is considered incorrect. On an outer envelope addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Smith” (as shown above), the inner envelope should be addressed like this:
Mr. and Mrs. Smith
Michael, Hannah and Mary
Many contemporary invitations do not have inner envelopes, only outer envelopes. In this case, the children’s names would be included on the outer envelope, on a separate line following the parents’ names. So a typical entry on your typed address list would look like this:
Mr. and Mrs. William Robert Smith
Michael, Hannah and Mary
124 Saint Mary’s Street
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316


-What about the inner envelopes for couples with different last names?
“Here’s how the inner envelope will read:
Ms. Smith and Mr. Williams
On inner envelopes, couples with different last names (married or not) are presented on a single line separated by the word “and.” Once again, no first or middle names—and no designations such as “junior.”

-When should I mail out my invitations?
“Six to eight weeks used to be the rule‐of‐thumb – and is still considered proper. However, the majority of my clients send out their invitations
around 8‐10 weeks in advance. If you have a lot of out‐of‐state guests, then definitely opt for eight weeks in advance. If you’re having a smaller wedding with mostly in‐state guests, then six weeks is definitely sufficient. I’ve known some brides to mail out their invitations 12 weeks (or more in some cases!) in advance. This is too much notice, in my opinion. Some recipients may set aside the invitation because it is so far in the future and literally forget about it!”

Tip!- Aesthetics are as important as etiquette. If bending a rule (say, abbreviating a word like “NE”- instead of spelling out “Northeast”) helps an address appear more balanced on an envelope, then I say go for the formatting that looks the most appealing to the eye. We want guests to feel special when they see a beautifully addressed invitation- and sometimes the most beautiful formatting bends the rules.

We hope that Carrie has answered many of your calligraphy questions! Please come back for more Wedding Etiquette Wednesday!

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