The first time I opened a big, beautiful, formal wedding invitation, I asked myself that very same question. What the heck is all this? Why are there two envelopes? And why do I have to sift through ribbons, wax seals, information cards, and more before I even get to the actual invitation? You know, the whole dang reason the thing is sent in the first place.
In case some of you have asked yourselves the same questions, let’s break down the components of a wedding invitation suite and see what all the fuss is about!
It’s important to note that an invitation suite can be as simple or as extravagant as you like. There’s no “right” or “wrong” combination of elements (unless you forget the actual invitation…), and your suite should match the feel of your wedding and the vision you have. At the end of the day, it’s what makes the two of you happy that matters!
The Must Haves
Obviously, the most important part of the suite is the invitation itself. This is the main card that tells your invitees who is hosting the affair, the couples’ names, the ceremony location and date, and often includes dress code as well. If you plan to have the reception at a different location than the ceremony, that’s usually included on a separate card, but we’ll talk more on that later.
The actual design of the invitation can take many forms. Some choose a simple panel card, meaning a straight card with no folds, while others decide to incorporate the invitation card into a pocket folder or gate card (check out the pictures to see what we mean). You can use a pre-existing invitation template, have the whole thing custom designed and digitally printed, or you can choose to do full or spot calligraphy to add a luxurious touch to the invite (read more about how I can help with that *here*).
Next to the invitation itself, this is the second most crucial piece of the suite. Also know as an RSVP card (from the French répondez s’il vous plaît), this is how your invitees will tell you whether they can make it to the ceremony or not. Important elements to include on the reply card are the requested “reply by” date (I recommend setting this a week or two ahead of when you actually need it because you just know cousin Karen is a procrastinator who won’t drop it in the mailbox until the due date), meal selections if you’re going the plated route, information regarding attendance restrictions, a.k.a. adults only, kids welcome, pet friendly, etc.
Keep in mind that this little guy is headed back to you, so guests won’t be able to refer back to anything on it. If there’s something you want them to be able to come back to, like the wedding website, be sure to include it elsewhere.
Also, wedding guests are notorious for forgetting to write their names in the blank on the reply card and countless brides have lost sleep tracking down whose checkmark is whose, so check out this post with a sneaky tip that will save you hours of frustration!
Reply Card Envelope
Related to the reply card is its envelope. It’s customary to print your mailing address on the front and stick a stamp in the corner before they’re put in the suite so your guests have no reason to delay responding (looking at you, cousin Karen). You can also direct these to your wedding planner to keep track of instead!
Pro tip: have your printer print your return address for you. It costs a bit more, but it will be significantly cheaper than having a calligrapher hand write them for you and will save you piles of time if you’re planning to write them yourself. Trust me, you have enough to worry about already; let the pros at the print shop handle this one. This goes for the return address on your main outer envelope as well!
Outer & Inner Envelopes
The final essential part of the invitation suite is the outer envelope. This will have your return address on the back flap (see my tip above about printing these), your invitee’s address block on the front, hopefully in beautiful *handwritten calligraphy* ;), and a stamp since Uncle Sam doesn’t work for free. A fun trend in the wedding industry is the use of several vintage stamps in place of a single modern one. Be sure to talk with your printer or calligrapher if you plan to go this route so they can position the address block to accommodate the extra stamps.
A common, but not entirely necessary, element of a wedding suite is the inner envelope. The double layers means your guests will receive an unblemished, perfect inner envelope even if the post office roughs up the outer envelope a bit in transit, as they’ve been known to do. It’s also another place to reiterate your attendance restrictions: unlike the outer envelope that only includes the heads of the household, all members of the household who are invited should be listed on the inner envelope, including children. Meaning if you’re planning an adults-only affair, leave little Suzy and baby Jimmy’s names off the inner envelope.
That wraps up the absolutely necessary components of a wedding suite. But what about all those other bits and pieces? Belly bands and info cards and ribbons and the like? Keep reading to find out!
This is a fancy word that simply means “information cards.” You can use enclosure cards of various sizes to convey extra information to your guests, like a separate location for the reception, accommodation arrangements available for out-of-town guests, registry information, your wedding website, directions to the venue, and more. Really anything you need to tell your guests that isn’t in the invitation itself can go on these.
Another fun way to add something special to your invitation suite is to include a custom map. This is especially useful if you’re having a destination wedding and would like to give your guests a simplified lay of the land, or if your wedding is being hosted someplace special to the two of you and you’d like to be able to point out spots that have meaning to your relationship, like the place you met or the location of your first date.
There are so many decorative elements you can use to personalize your invitation suite and this is by no means an exhaustive lists. Consider these the tip of the iceberg and let your mind run wild!
Pocket and Gate Cards
We touched lightly on these in the invitation section, but they’re really more embellishments than anything else. Pocket cards have the advantage of keeping all your bits and pieces organized throughout the mailing process, plus they help your guests keep track of all the information in one location. Gate cards add a dramatic flair to the suite, as guests will need to “open the gates” to see the enclosed invitation.
These are thin strips of paper that wrap around all of your other elements and hold them together in the envelope. Alternately, you can use them to hold closed a pocket or gate card. Belly bands can be solid, patterned, or metallic, and they’re a great place to add a bit more calligraphy to your suite!
We all know what ribbons are, but they’re a fantastic, inexpensive way to add a special tough to your invites. You can find endless options for fabrics, colors, and patterns. You can even have ribbons custom dyed to match you colors!
These are thin, translucent sheets of paper that generally lay atop the main invitation card. Long ago, they had a function: keeping the invitation text from transferring to other papers in the suite. With modern printing, they’re purely aesthetic. That said, they do add a nice flair to the suite since your guests will have to peel them back to reveal the invitation card in full.
A long-time tradition in wedding invitation, many brides choose to seal the main outer envelope or one of the inner elements (like a gate card, a belly band, or a ribbon) with wax seals. You can seal them yourself with wax, or you can purchase pre-made seals with adhesive backs that look nearly identical.
These sheets tuck inside the outer envelope and add a beautiful artistic touch to otherwise boring, blank space inside your envelope. You can go subtle or crazy with these, using bright colors, bold patterns, or metallic elements!
So there you have it! The mysteries of the wedding invitation suite revealed. Hopefully this helped you sort through the options out there and allowed you to start to build a vision in your mind of what you want to see in your own invitation. Of course, if you have any questions or just want to chat, drop a comment below!
They can come from whomever is hosting and may or may not match the design of the other stationery. I always enjoy creating a rehearsal dinner invitation that complements the original design since these little details are what make your wedding special! If you are mailing a separate card, the rehearsal dinner invitation should be sent about 3-4 weeks before the event date.