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Words, Words, Words

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No kids allowed. Don’t forget to slather on sunscreen! You’ve been invited by the bride’s divorced parents to celebrate her wedding. Black tie preferred. Please RSVP.

Wording a wedding invitation isn’t always as simple as who, what, where and when. Even addressing an invite can cause phrase folly. The best way to write off mistakes is to be as clear and direct as possible, according to Lea Armstrong, a spokesperson for the online stationary company Wedding Paper Divas. Being straightforward can mean anything from having separate invitations for kids to avoiding faulty phrases.

“The rule of thumb when addressing your invitation is to be as specific as possible so it’s clear who is invited,” Armstrong says. Children are often an issue, and Armstrong says they should most likely get their own invitation or be included in the second line of the address on the internal envelope. That way you can avoid an unfriendly “no children” phrase.

“Brides need to be really careful about using ‘and family’ on the invitation, because that says anyone in the household is invited,” Armstrong says. Grandma, grandpa, Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob might show up to have your cake and eat it too.

Ambiguity is bad in the address, and it’s annoying in the introduction. Anonymous third-party hosting (e.g. come join us) is lousy, according to Armstrong. But being explicit about hosting can be hard. What if the parents are divorced and the father is footing the bill?

“You don’t want to give the impression that they are still married, so you don’t want to put them on the same line,” Armstrong says. “If both parents are hosting the wedding, whether they are married or not, the mother goes first. If the father is paying and the mom is not, you can leave the mom out altogether. But if you want to include her, you should list the father first.”

If a parent is deceased, you can call the bride “daughter of the late John Smith” rather than implying there’s a zombie host by saying “the late John Smith requests your presence.”

Redundant phrases can rob an invitation of its dignity. RSVP is a French acronym that means “reply, if you please.” So “Please RSVP” tells guests to “please reply, if you please.” Armstrong says “12:00 noon” is another common redundancy. Noon means 12:00 p.m., so don’t use both terms together unless you want to make double-sure nobody arrives at midnight. Avoid possibly ambiguous phrases like “black tie” altogether since they can confuse guests, Armstrong says.

If you absolutely need to tell people to wear sunblock, don’t put it on the invitation itself. Special requests just don’t belong. Armstrong suggests putting them on an itinerary card or sending out an itinerary e-mail after you’ve gotten the RSVPs. And please, write your own invitations.

“Some people gather different verses that they see on other weddings invitations,” Armstrong says. “Then the pronouns don’t flow and it doesn’t make sense.”

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