Must-Have Elements for Your Wedding Invitation

Discover how to choose a memorable wedding-invitation suite and what to include.

Discover what you should include in your wedding invitation suite, as well as fun additions to further infuse your personality into your paper goods!

Photo: Adam Barnes

Starting the process of selecting a wedding-invitation suite can be an overwhelming experience. With so many great designers and different card options out there, how is a bride to choose what amounts to the very first glimpse guests will get of her wedding style? It helps to understand which components of a suite are required, which are optional, and which are purely for fun so you can make an informed decision.

Wedding Invitation Must-Haves

There are three key pieces that are absolutely necessary to include in your suite: the invitation card; the response set; and an outer envelope in which to house it all.

The Invitation

The main invitation lists all the pertinent information for your event, including your full names, the date, and the location, as well as who is hosting your wedding celebration. Invitations will typically be printed using letterpress (where the wording is pressed into the paper using a metal plate); digital or offset printing (which is flush with the paper); or thermography (raised printing). The most traditional of brides might elect to have their invitation suite engraved.

Response Cards

The response set is usually composed of an RSVP card with a return envelope, but many couples are now electing to use a postcard in lieu of the traditional card/envelope set. This can save you costs in paper, printing, and postage; however, keep in mind that postcards may come back slightly damaged in the mail.

Outer Envelope

The outer envelope simply needs the guest’s address on the front, and a return address either on the envelope’s back flap, or creatively included on the front of the envelope. (Discover tips for wedding invitation wording and etiquette.)

Optional Additions

A variety of features are available as add-ons to the basic invitation set, and while they may not be required, they can be extremely useful. View some of the popular optional additions, below.

Inner Envelope

One of the most enduring is the inner envelope, which was originally included to house the entire invitation suite and protect it from damage that the outer envelope may have been exposed to during mailing. Now, many elect to forgo the inner envelope due to cost or the desire to conserve paper. Typically, if you are inviting a guest’s children to your wedding, you note their names on the inner envelope only, rather than including them on the outer envelope. If you do not purchase inner envelopes, it is perfectly acceptable to include children on the outer envelope.

Reception Card

A reception card is great to include if your event is to be held at a location other than where the ceremony will take place. This card provides the address for the reception location, as well as the time when the event is to begin.

Map, Direction Card & Itinerary

A map and/or a card with driving directions is also a thoughtful addition if your event spans multiple locations, and a printed selection of activities or schedule of events is a popular option for destination weddings (or even a local event with a lot of out-of-own guests). Both can be condensed creatively into small booklets by your designer and sent out with the invitations.

Items to Keep Everything Together

There are even options for holding all your inserts together, a choice that is nearly imperative if you’ve added a lot of cards. My personal favorites are a custom pocket-folder or a wrap-around belly band or silk ribbon to keep all the cards in a neat pile. The inserts can all be conveniently pulled from the envelope and kept together for future reference. The belly band can also serve the same function as the inner envelope, with names written on the paper for a personalized touch.

Keep in mind that while costs do depend on the individual designer, the costs for these additional pieces can add $1-15 and up per invitation set for a custom-printed pocket-folder.

The Fun Stuff

My favorite part of creating invitations is infusing the couples’ personal style into every suite I develop through customization.

Colors, Motifs & Maps

Maybe it’s incorporating their favorite colors or a motif with personal significance into the stationery design, or possibly it’s including private jokes into their hand-drawn maps. Once they’re completed, it’s really simple to take some of the map components and incorporate them into other areas of the wedding. Things like table numbers and place cards can be designed to coordinate with the invitations and maps by sharing the same custom monogram or detail.

Often, we'll submit artwork to the lighting vendors or cake designers to include these details into other aspects of the wedding, aside from just the paper. I’ll quite frequently introduce different motifs so that the set goes together flawlessly but doesn’t exactly match the entire way through. This can often be achieved by using one or two different papers tied together with similar ink colors, or by using the same paper but a different ink color on each card.

Paper Selections

Playing with your paper selections is another way to introduce some fun into your suite. Handmade papers in different textures, colors, and thicknesses are all available to add a unique touch to your suite. I also like to experiment with light inks on dark papers, such as ivory on charcoal grey, or silver on black. You can even opt not to print your invites on paper at all: I love using beautiful letterpress printing on wood veneers using soy ink. A glamorous couple may elect to include Lucite wedding details and have their invite etched on acrylic while an edgy couple may use mirrored glass. Typically, these options can add from $5-20 per each invitation set, though pricing does vary by the designer.

Whether you decide to stick to the fundamentals, dress up the basics with a few extra elements, or design a completely original suite that reflects your personality, your stationer should be able to guide you through all of your options. Consider some of the fun alternatives, and decide which elements will create the best representation of your wedding style.

Opening photo by Adam Barnes; Floral & Event Design by Amaryllis Floral & Event Design; From Real Wedding: Rustic-Inspired Waterfront Wedding in Small Town Maryland