The Wedding Series – The Formal Invitation – Part 1

 The Honour Of Your Presence Is Requested…

By the time your attention turns to selecting your invitation you should have your wedding planning well under control. You’ve decided on the kind of wedding you want, selected your venue, set the date, finalized your master guest list and mailed your save-the-date cards (if necessary). You’ve coordinated all the elements of your wedding to reflect your style and your invitation should be a beautiful reflection and preview of the festivities to come.

Invitations, like the weddings they represent, can range from very formal to casual and everything in between. All should capture the couple’s style and characterize the level of formality of the wedding, be attractive and in good taste.

History Of The Formal Wedding Invitation

During the Middle Ages (circa 5th – 13th centuries) weddings were usually announced by the town crier and everyone within earshot was considered to be invited. Then came the invention of Gutenberg’s moveable-type printing press, but its quality was not quite good enough for the stylish invitations that the nobility favored, so they employed the talents of the monks who could write the invitations in beautiful calligraphy — thus one wedding invitation custom was born. But, this type of written invitation was not available to the masses due to the prevalence of illiteracy and poverty. In 1642, metal-plate engraving was invented and provided the emerging middle class an affordable and beautiful means of printing wedding invitations. Thus, the custom of the engraved wedding invitation began.

Examples Of Traditional Formal Invitation Wording

The formal wording with which many of us are so familiar came about through economic practicality. Having to pay for expensive calligraphy or engraving prompted a message that came right to the point in as few words as possible. This technique can be compared to writing a news article and using the who-what-when-where-why formula, and later computer systems in which each keystroke took up valuable space. And even today we sometimes have a finite number of characters we can use to get our points across, such as in Twitter.

Following are examples of wording for a few versions of traditional invitation wording:

When the bride’s parents host:

Mr. and Mrs. William Smith
Request The Pleasure Of Your Company
At The Marriage Of Their Daughter
Mr. John Adams
Thursday, The Twenty-Fifth Of October
Seventeen Hundred Sixty-Four
At Three O’clock
Smith Family Home
Weymouth, Massachusetts
Reception To Follow


When the wedding couple host:

Miss Elizabeth Bennet
Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy
Together With Their [Parents] [Families]
Request The Pleasure Of Your Company
At Their Marriage
Saturday, The Twenty-First of June
Eighteen Hundred
At Half After Four O’clock
Pemberley House
Lambton, England, UK
Reception To Follow

The Favor Of A Reply Is Requested

If the ceremony and reception will be at different locations:

The Pleasure Of Your Company Is Requested
At The Marriage Of
Miss Lois Lane
Mr. Clark Kent
Saturday, The Fifteenth of June
At Eleven O’clock
The Rooftop Of The Daily Planet
Metropolis, Illinois
And Afterward At The Reception
Metropolis Country Club
1254 Country Club Road



The invitation may be for the ceremony only and a separate reception card may be enclosed for, as follows:

Immediately Following The Ceremony
Metropolis Country Club
1254 Country Club Road


The Reply Card

Historically, recipients of a handwritten, engraved or printed formal invitation would reply on their own stationery with the default wording, such as, “Mr. Thomas Jefferson [accepts with pleasure] [regrets he is unable to accept] the kind invitation of Mr. and Mrs. William Smith to attend of marriage of their daughter, Abigail, to Mr. John Adams for Saturday, the twenty-fifth of October.”

Etiquette evolved to include the self-addressed, stamped reply card, as illustrated by the graphic at the beginning of this entry. If you choose this style, or as a guest you receive this reply card, the “M” indicates where you are to write the names of those attending or not attending, and the line below, “will_____attend” should be completed by leaving the line blank if attending and write in the word “not” if regretting. The drawback with this type of reply card is there is no place to indicate if one or more can attend and/or one or more cannot attend. If there is a split, the guest(s) must indicate the number attending and the number regretting in the blank area.

Other reply cards leave space for a personal note, especially if the invitation includes several people, such as the mother, father and two teenagers or children, and not all can attend. My personal format preference is as follows:

The Favor Of A Reply Is Requested
By The First of October

[Space for handwritten note.]

2 Accept(s) With Pleasure
2 Decline (s) With Regret

The Multi-Tasking Reply Card: When there are several pieces of information needed, a larger reply card should be enclosed that looks something like this (along with the reply by the invitees):

The Favor Of A Reply Is Requested By The First Of October

_____________Mr. and Mrs. John Doe________________  __2__ Accept(s) ____ Decline(s)

Reception _Mr._ Beef Tenderloin Merlot _Mrs. Vegetarian Harvest Galette  ___ Red Snapper Livornese

John and I are so looking forward to the wedding! We are eager to see Lela again and met Peter. And although we won’t arrive in time for the Welcome Party we will attend the Sunday Send-Off Brunch. We can’t wait.


And Please Join Our Additional Celebrations

Friday Welcome Party  _____ Accept(s) __2__ Decline(s)

Sunday Send-Off Brunch __2__ Accept(s) _____ Decline(s)


The reply card should be the same style as the invitation, on the same kind of card stock and same type face, etc.

Additional Notes:

  • Formal invitations are engraved or printed on good, heavy white or ecru paper stock.
  • Only when the wedding takes place in a house of worship is the phrase, “Request(s) The Honor (or Honour) Of Your Presence” used; when the ceremony takes place in nonreligious venue, even when a member of the clergy officiates, the phrase, “Request(s) The Pleasure Of Your Company is used).
  • Be consistent with spelling; use honor/favor or honour/favour, and so on.
  • Social titles may be abbreviated (Ms., Mrs., Mr.); all other titles are written in full (Doctor, Lieutenant, etc.).
  • Use full names written out, no abbreviations; middle names may be omitted to save space.
  • Either “RSVP” or “The Favor Of A Reply Is Requested” may be used, and is located at the bottom left rather than centered.
  • Jewish, Roman Catholic, military and other cultural, religious or ethnic weddings customarily require specific wording.
  • Sometimes only immediate family and close friends are invited to the ceremony and additional guests are invited to attend the reception. In that case, two separate invitations should be issued, one for both the ceremony and reception and one just for the reception. The wording can be in the same style, with appropriate changes, i.e, “wedding” versus “wedding reception,” etc.

Join me next week as we continue to explore the aspects of the formal wedding invitation!

 Until next time,






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