Wedding invitations, like weddings themselves, come in two basic varieties: formal and informal. A formal, traditional invitation is engraved or printed in black ink on high-quality white or ivory paper. The size of the paper is either 5-by-7, folded in half before being put in an envelope, or 4-by-5, inserted into an envelope without folding.
The wording of a formal wedding invitation is written in the third person, and the date and time are written out in full. A typical example might read:
Mr. and Mrs. Harry Jacobs
request the honor of your presence
at the marriage of their daughter
Mr. Carl Everhart
Saturday, the eleventh of February
at ten o'clock
St. Jude's Church
Concord, New Hampshire
Traditionally, the invitation is covered with a piece of tissue paper and enclosed with the reception invitation (and a response card and its envelope, if needed) in an inner envelope. The names of those invited, including a couple's children if they are also invited, are written out in full on the inner envelope. This inner envelope is then enclosed in an outer envelope that bears the handwritten names of all invited and their address, without abbreviations. Modern custom allows the bride's parents to forgo using an inner envelope completely when sending out invitations.
Other enclosures that may be sent with the wedding invitation include cards designating reserved pews, "At-Home" cards that announce when the bride and groom will return from their honeymoon and where they will reside, and maps or other travel information.
Nontraditional, informal invitations can be designed and printed or handwritten in whatever style or form the bride and groom desire. They should, however, be in good taste and in synch with the style of the wedding.
Wedding announcements usually are sent to people who would like to know about the wedding but who would not be expected to attend. They use the same paper and printing as the invitations. The wording is also similar, although the parents of both the bride and the groom are often mentioned and the words announce the marriage of replace request the honor of your presence at the marriage of . Wedding announcements are sent out the day of, or shortly after, the wedding.
Response to a wedding invitation is dictated by the type of invitation. A formal invitation traditionally is answered with a third-person, handwritten note that might read:
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Sloane
accept with pleasure (or regret they will be unable to attend)
Mr. and Mrs. Everhart's kind invitation for Saturday,
the eleventh of February.
If a response card is enclosed, it may simply be filled out and returned. If the invitation is less formal, a handwritten response in more standard, informal English is correct.