Wedding-invitation quandries

"Etiquette is intended to be a guide to good taste," explains Megan Kuntze, senior marketing manager for Crane & Co., a Dalton, Massachusetts, fine stationery company. "But it also is meant to facilitate good relationships and to help everyone feel comfortable. You should never adhere to etiquette at the cost of damaging a relationship," she emphasizes.

Here's a rundown of some of today's most common wedding-related sticky situations and suggestions from the pros on how to handle them:

  • Divorced parents - In the case of divorce, the rules of etiquette recommend that the bride's mother's name appear on the first line and the bride's father's name on the second. If both parents are remarried, "we suggest the bride include the names of the new spouses," says Stovall. However, she quickly adds, if the remarriages have resulted in strained relations, it's probably better to not include the names of parents' new spouses.

    Another alternative, Kuntze suggests, is to include the names of a father's new wife or a mother's new husband on the reception card. That conveys that the family is acting as a unit in inviting guests to celebrate this union.

  • Acknowledging who's picking up the tab - Wedding invitations aren't the place to showcase who is paying the bills, says Kuntze. Traditionally it's the bride's parents who are "giving away" their daughter, regardless of whether the groom's parents, the bride and groom, or a divorced dad is the financier of the festivities.

    If the groom's parents are paying, Stovall suggests putting both sets of parents' names on the invitation. "Even if someone else is paying," she says, "it's important to respect the bride's parents. I'd still put the bride's parents first." And regardless of who is paying, if eliminating the groom's parents' names on the invitation makes anyone uncomfortable, it's okay to compromise, says Stovall.

    If the bride and groom are throwing their own wedding, Kuntze suggests wording the invitation this way:

    Together with their families
    [bride and groom's names]
    request the pleasure of your company

    Another alternative is to word the reception card to say
    [Mr. and Mrs. Whoever]
    request the pleasure of your company
    at the marriage reception.

    "That clearly shows they are hosting the celebration," says Kuntz

What about gifts?

Certain circumstances prompt party hosts to address the issue of gifts, even though doing so has traditionally been considered crass. A remarried couple or older couple, for example, may need and want nothing and wish to indicate that they do not expect guests to bring gifts.

StickySituations

Similarly, many people celebrating milestone birthdays or anniversaries do not want guests to feel obligated to buy them presents, but rather, simply want their friends and loved ones to celebrate this special occasion with them.

On a wedding invitation itself, Stovall suggests that no mention of gifts be made. Instead, she says, it's acceptable to add a line to the response card in small type that says "No Gifts, Please." If the couple feels that the wording is too strong and want to keep it lighter, she proposes writing, "Your Presence is your Present."

For other types of invitations, where response cards normally wouldn't be included, the "No Gifts, Please" preference should be written in small type at the bottom of the invitation, near the RSVP information.

Image credit: My Expression