Invitation Advisor: Wedding Invitation Wording – What’s In A Name?

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Shakespeare thing will make sense eventually, I swear

Today I’m going to talk about something that can be a source of unexpected drama when it comes to wedding invitations: names. Your names, your parents names, step-parents names, family names – you name it (ok, yeah…that one was bad, I admit it).

Last week we talked about the host line on a wedding invitation, as well as a little blurb on that important line that actually extends the invitation to your guest (ie. traditionally “the honour of your presence is requested” or “the pleasure of your company is requested”).

We did talk about names to some degree last week – proper titles (in fact we’ve got a whole post on this too!), whose name should be included, how to list names etc. Today we’re picking up where that leaves off and talking about names specifically.

In the words of William Shakespeare (from the play my high school English teacher called “full of smut”, Romeo and Juliet), “What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet.” Billy Shakes does have a point here, how important is a name really?


When it comes to wedding invitations, you may be surprised.

First, let’s start with *your* names (yes, you – brides and grooms) – here’s some important thing to consider when figuring out how you want to word your invitation:

How formal your invite/event is will likely dictate how many of your names you may want to include. Having a casual wedding with a small guest list? “John and Jane are getting hitched – come celebrate with us” would probably suffice. But if you’re having a grand formal affair, you probably want to use your full names, including middle names – more along the lines of “The honour of your presence is requested at the wedding of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt to Jane Ann Katz”.

As we discussed last week, this is important because who is hosting does have bearing (at least traditionally) on how your names would appear on the invitation. If your parents are hosting their names should appear on the invitation, which means that technically your last name does not need to appear (since it’s already there, and you would hope that your friends and family know who belongs to who). So, in most cases this means that you would use both your first and middle name in that situation. If instead you are hosting yourselves, you have the choice of including your last names or not. Again, a smaller affair and you can probably get away with last names – a larger guest list and it’s probably safer to include your full names, so everyone is clear on exactly who is getting hitched.

What do your friends and family actually call you? Is it different from your real name, or full name? That’s definitely a consideration when it comes to invites. Let’s say that our good friend John Jacob has been called by his middle name his whole life (for whatever reason, and there are many) – while it might be tempting considering his extra-long moniker to leave our his middle name, that would be foolish. Why? The last thing you want is your guests to receive an invitation and wonder who the heck it’s from! What if you go by a name that isn’t part of your actual name, for whatever reason. A little bit more tricky, but often you’ll see this listed in quotation marks, like Rocco “Bob” Spano – again, if no one knows your real name is Rocco, it’s important to include the name that everyone is familiar with on the invitation. And what if you are having a super-formal wedding but hate your middle name and will cry every time you see the invitation if “Sheila” is on there? Relax…do what makes you comfortable. Hate your middle name? Don’t include it – easy peasy.

This may strike you as strange, but as a custom designer I deal with it all the time. Certain invitation designs can not be created or do not look good with certain names (usually a result of the length); so, especially if you are working with a designer, they may suggest that you add in your middle names, or take away your last names or adjust them in some way if possible, to allow for more design options or to make your chosen design look better. As an example, our friends John and Jane up there in our first example would be a designer’s nightmare, since his name is at least three times as long as hers! If you can be flexible about it, that’s great, but again – you need to be happy and comfortable with the way your names appear. After all, it is *your* wedding!

Some other things to keep in mind?

– The bride’s name traditionally goes first (yes ladies, its true!) in the western world; however, in some cultures the groom’s name is listed first. What should you do if you’re unsure which format to use – go with what feels right…or, choose a custom design that balances things out, like placing both on one line. For same-sex couples, the general rule is that names should go in alphabetical order; however, this is also affected by factors like hosting. For example, if John Adams and Jacob Zane are getting married and the Zane family is paying – Jacob’s name should be listed first, under his parents.

– If you have ethnic names but go by anglicized versions, which should you use? Truthfully, whatever makes you most comfortable, but remember that if the ethnic and English versions aren’t similar, you may need to include both to ensure that there is no confusion amongst your guests.

– Check spelling before you submit your wording and proofread carefully. I’ve heard numerous stories of bride’s spelling their fiancé’s name wrong and not realizing ’till after the invites were printed.

– Check with your parents! They aren’t just necessarily picky about their own names; in fact, they may have views on yours as well. You should at least hear them out, even if they *really* want you to use “Sheila” on your invite. You owe them that much, right?

Speaking of parents, not only do you need to deal with your own names on the invite, but you may need to deal with your parents (and multiple sets of parents at that).

Do me (and yourselves) a big favour and swear the following:

If our parents’ names are to be listed on our wedding invitation we solemnly vow to ask them directly exactly how they want their names to appear and how to spell them if we are at all unsure.

Seriously, make sure you know this information, or run the risk of some major family drama. And there is already enough opportunity for that, right?

And with that admonishment, we wrap things up for the Invitation Advisor this week.

Next week, it’s a subject wrought with controversy: How to write the date and time on your invitation.

Really, don’t miss it! 😉

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