Invitation Advisor: By The Numbers – How To Write Dates And Times On Wedding Invitations

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Colours clock by Richard Shed

Back this week continuing our series on breaking down invitation wording and the etiquette behind it – and today, it’s by the numbers.

Well – dates and times at least!

Traditionally speaking, no numerals (numbers) would be present on an invitation at all. While certainly for very informal or modern weddings we do often now use numerals in place of words, most invitations these days still use very traditionally formatted versions of the date and time.

Which means that dates and times can be one of the trickiest parts of wedding invitation wording, because these days most people aren’t used to writing out formal dates and times – so format, capitalization and even spelling can be a challenge.

When’s the last time you wrote a friend an email and said, “Hey Bertha, can you meet me on Saturday, the twenty-seventh of March, two thousand thirteen at half past seven in the evening”? Probably never. In fact, those of us who aren’t old enough to have written cheques probably never spell out numbers higher than ten.

So, let’s look at how this info would traditionally appear on an invite:

the marriage of their children
John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
Jane Ann Katz 

Saturday, the twenty-ninth of December
two thousand twelve
at seven o’clock in the evening

Believe it or not, those three little lines are full of opportunities to mess things up (from a traditional etiquette, format and spelling point of view) and also some controversy thrown in for good measure. Who knew?

The Date:

Let’s start with the date, shall we?

Notice that only the day of the week (Saturday) and the month (December) are capitalized – never the day of the month. Seems pretty easy right? Maybe. How good are you at spelling ordinals (technically that’s what days of the month are ie. first, second etc.)? No sweat right – tenth, eleventh, twe…uh…twelveth? twelvth? twelfeth? twelfth? And don’t forget those hyphens if it has two words. Wait. Is seventeen one word? Or is it seven-teen? Exactly my point. You can always check out the table of ordinal numbers here if you’re unsure.

And by the way, I’ve read a few resources that will tell you to put a comma after the date on a wedding invitation. I’m here to tell you they are clearly smoking crack. Punctuation (just like abbreviations) is most unwelcome in wedding invitations, unless absolutely necessary.

Okay, so maybe the date isn’t so bad. But what about the year?

The Year:

Ooooh, the drama here folks! First, let us give thanks that it is the 21st century, and we now do not have to write things like “nineteen hundred and ninety-six”. But, those pesky 2000s (and 2010s especially) do cause their own problems.

The question of the day is: do we write the date “two thousand twelve” or “two thousand and twelve”? Or is it actually “twenty twelve”?

I’ll save you searching on Uncle Google and give it to you straight. Who knows? It’s actually quite controversial (I know, really, right?). For every “authority” you will find that says one thing, you find someone equally important who says the other.

Technically speaking, there is no black and white answer – the British tend to use the “and” while here in North America we tend not to. Both “two thousand twelve” or “two thousand and twelve” are correct; but, while it’s easiest to say “twenty twelve”, it isn’t really the formal way of spelling the year (plus it just looks yucky on an invitation – it really does).

If it’s up to me, I tend to use “two thousand twelve” – looks cleaner, less wordy, that’s my preference. Just know the whichever you choose, you aren’t really wrong!

The Time:

This another example where we almost never write out the time with words, so certain elements may be tricky.

First, format-wise, again there is no capitalization, and it’s important to note that rather than using AM or PM, the time of day is included (ie. “in the morning”, “in the afternoon”, “in the evening”).

So while it’s not that complicated if your wedding is at 7 pm (that would be seven o’clock in the evening), what if it’s at 7:30 pm?

Again, I’ve read multiple different arguments on how to word this, but traditionally speaking, you would say “half past seven in the evening”, or “half past seven o’clock in the evening”. These days it’s most commonly written without the “o’clock” and I prefer it that way myself, as I think “o’clock” actually sounds awkward in that context. It’s also acceptable to say “half after seven in the evening” and more common in the UK, Australia etc. What you don’t want to say is “seven-thirty o’clock in the evening”.

Oh, and a tip – if your ceremony is at noon, or midnight, that’s exactly the way to write in. No need to say noon o’clock or noon in the afternoon. Just plain old noon will do, since that is a specific time of the day and is not repeated.

And while we’re on the subject, do you have to specific morning/afternoon/evening? Are people really going to think your wedding is at seven-thirty in the morning? While they won’t, formally the time should either include AM or PM, or the time of day written out. Since abbreviations of any kind are a no-no for formal invites, you should in fact include the time of day (and it just sounds nice).

Now on to controversy number two – when does afternoon end and evening begin?

Traditional speaking, afternoon would be considered noon until 6 pm, and then evening from 6 pm onwards. There are some that would say evening begins at 5pm – not sure where that comes from to be honest, but I’ve seen some serious internet throw-downs on this topic.

When it comes to invitations, most etiquette mavens will tell you that indeed, evening begins at 6 pm, so if your ceremony is at 5:30 pm, you’ll need to say “half past five in the afternoon” rather than “half past five in the evening”. Frankly, “half past five in the evening” just sounds really wrong to me somehow; but, that said, I don’t think you’ll be tarred and feathered if you feel it makes more sense to you.

And that brings me to…

Do I really have to follow this traditional/formal stuff anyway?

If you’re a frequent reader of The Invitation Blog, you know the answer already. No, you don’t. While I would say that most of our clients actually do place a lot of importance on their invitation being “correct”, we also do invitations often that bend or break the rules above, but there is one important thing that makes it work – it fits the event. Writing the time informally on your invite as “7:30 pm” is fine, if you are having a more casual wedding or have chosen a very modern invitation style. If you are having a huge formal affair – probably not appropriate.

You know what “fits” you and your event – if you’re throwing a backyard do and would never be caught dead saying “half past seven in the evening”, then go for whatever works for you.

So, did you know there was so much controversy and drama involved with dates and times?

Next week we’ll dial back on the drama and talk about something fairly straightforward(ish) – venues and reception wording!

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