Wedding Etiquette: The Invitational Line

catholic wedding invitationThe tradition of the bride’s parents sending out the wedding invitations (along with the tradition of the bride’s father giving away the bride) have their origins in the days when the bride’s father made the marriage arrangements for his daughter by negotiating the size of her dowry.

Today, the traditions continue with the bride’s family customarily hosting the wedding. But it’s not as easy as “Mr. and Mrs.”

Below we answer some of the most common questions brides have about how her parents’ names should appear on the wedding invitations. Of course, a bride’s parents will not always be present, which we cover below, too.

And now, some Q&A’s:
Where on the invitation should my parents’ names appear?
My father is a medical doctor. Does he use his title?
My mother is a medical doctor, but my father is not. How is that worded?
Both of my parents are medical doctors. How do their names read?
My mother kept her maiden name. How should my parents’ names read?
My father/mother has a Ph.D. Does he/she use “Doctor” on my wedding invitations?
My father is a minister. How should my parents’ names read?
My mother is a minister but my father is not. How do their names read?
My father is a judge. Does he use “The Honorable”?
My mother is a judge but my father is not. How is that indicated?
My parents are separated. Should they send my invitations together?
My fiancé and I are paying for the wedding. How is that indicated?
My father dislikes his middle name. Is it proper to use his middle initial?
My father’s middle name is just an initial. Is it proper to use his initial?
One of my parents is a widow, can I still include my deceased parent on the invitation?
When is it appropriate to use “senior”?
My mother is a widow who has not remarried. She prefers the use of her first name. Can her name read “Mrs. Mary Chance Forrester”?
My father passed away last year, and I’d like to include his name on my wedding invitations. How is that done?
Both my parents are deceased, who should issue my invitations?
What if I’m not close with any of my relatives?
Can my groom’s parents issue the invitations?

Where on the invitation should my parents’ names appear?
The first line of the wedding invitations.

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My father is a medical doctor. Does he use his title?
Medical doctors do use their professional titles. “Doctor” should be written out, but may be abbreviated to “Dr.” if your father’s name is exceptionally long.

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My mother is a medical doctor, but my father is not. How is that worded?
Traditionally, your mother would use her social title — “Mrs.” — on your wedding invitations, so your parents’ names should read “Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester.”

However, as more and more women have become doctors, they have felt it unfair that male doctors can properly use their professional titles while they are relegated to “Mrs.” So, they may also, quite properly, use their professional titles.

If your mother chooses to use her professional title, her name, preceded by her title, appears on the first line. Your father’s name and title, preceded by “and,” appears on the second line. The use of “and” indicates they are married. Not using “and” implies they are divorced.

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Both of my parents are medical doctors. How do their names read?
Your parents’ names most properly would read “Doctor and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester,” but may read “The Doctors Forrester” or “Doctor Mary Chance Forrester / and Doctor Andrew Jay Forrester” instead.

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My mother kept her maiden name. How should my parents’ names read?
One avenue is to discuss with your parents the possibility of their using “Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester” for purposes of the wedding invitation. Another option is to engrave your mother’s name on the first line of the invitation and your father’s name, preceded by “and,” on line two. No titles are used in this format.

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My father/mother has a Ph.D. Does he/she use “Doctor” on my wedding invitations?
Ph.D. is an academic title that is used only in academic settings. The use of “Doctor” on wedding invitations is reserved for medical doctors and ministers with advanced degrees.

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My father is a minister. How should my parents’ names read?
The invitation line should read, “The Reverend and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester.” A minister who holds a doctorate uses “The Reverend Doctor Andrew Jay Forrester.” Neither “Reverend” nor “Doctor” should be abbreviated. If the invitational line becomes too long, it may be split to read “The Reverend Doctor / and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester.”

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My mother is a minister but my father is not. How do their names read?
Women traditionally use their social titles on social invitations, so your parents’ names should read, “Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester.” If your mother chooses to use her theological title, the first line should read, “The Reverend Mary Chance Forrester.” Your father’s name would be given on the second line, which would read, “and Mr. Andrew Jay Forrester.”

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My father is a judge. Does he use “The Honorable”?
“The Honorable” is always used when addressing a judge. However, when a judge issues an invitation, he does not use “The Honorable,” as it’d be presumptuous for him to bestow that title upon himself. However, he may use “Judge” as his title.

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My mother is a judge but my father is not. How is that indicated?
Your mother most properly uses her social title, which is “Mrs.” Should she wish to use her professional title, her name would appear on the first line of the invitation preceded by “Judge.” The second line would read “and Mr. Andrew Jay Forrester.” The use of “and” indicates they are married to each other.

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My parents are separated. Should they send my invitations together?
Yes. Their names may appear on separate lines with the name of your mother on the first line and your father on the second line. The word “and” is not used to join their names.

Your mother properly uses her married name, which is “Mrs.,” followed by her husband’s name. If she does not want to use “Mrs.,” she can use her first, maiden and last names without a title. This wording, however, is not proper and is therefore less formal. It also requires the dropping of all other titles on the invitation to keep the rest of the invitation uniform.

Your parents may also, when legally separated but not divorced, issue your wedding invitation together as “Mr. and Mrs.”

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My fiancé and I are paying for the wedding. How is that indicated?
There’s no proper way to indicate you and your fiancé are paying for your wedding. Your guests, however, will probably assume you and your fiancé are paying for your wedding if you issue the invitations yourselves.

You may also have your parents issue the invitations to the ceremony while you and your fiancé issue the invitations to the reception. The reception card would have your name and title on the first line and your fiancé’s name and title on the second line. The rest of the reception card would read, “request the pleasure of your company / at the marriage reception / immediately following the ceremony,” followed by the name of the facility at which the reception will be held.

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My father dislikes his middle name. Is it proper to use his middle initial?
Formal wedding invitations require the use of full names. Initials should not be used. If your father insists on not using his middle name, it’s better to omit it entirely than to use an initial.

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My father’s middle name is just an initial. Is it proper to use his initial?
It’s proper to use just his initial as long as the initial is his full middle name.

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One of my parents is a widow, can I still include my deceased parent on the invitation?
Your wedding invitations should be issued by your surviving parent. His or her name appears alone on the invitational line.

In most cases, stepparents’ names are not used.

A widow retains the use of her husband’s name. If she has not remarried, she continues to be known as “Mrs. Andrew Jay Forrester.” If she has remarried, she uses “Mrs.” followed by her present husband’s name. In this case, since your surname is different from your mother’s surname, your full name appears on the fourth line of the invitation. Your name is not preceded by “Miss.”

Two exceptions to the “no stepparents” rule occur when the bride’s mother or father remarried and the bride’s stepparent helped raise the bride from a young age (assuming the bride feels especially close to her stepparent). In these situations, the name of the bride’s stepparent may properly appear.

When this is done, the third line of the invitation reads either “at the marriage of her (his) daughter” or “at the marriage of Mrs. Davies’ daughter.” This suggests to your guests that, in this case, your mother is your natural parent. The use of “Mrs. Davies’ daughter” is an older form that is gradually disappearing from use. The vast majority of brides nowadays use “her daughter.”

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When is it appropriate to use “senior”?
A man who is a “junior” usually stops using “junior” upon his father’s death. If he is married, his widowed mother uses “senior” to distinguish herself from her daughter-in-law. “Senior” should be spelled out using a lowercase s. It may be abbreviated to “Sr.” when used with an especially long name.

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My mother is a widow who has not remarried. She prefers the use of her first name. Can her name read “Mrs. Mary Chance Forrester”?
A widow who has not remarried should use her deceased husband’s name, preceded by “Mrs.” (A divorced woman uses “Mrs.” followed by her first, maiden and married names.)

If your mother would rather use her first name, she should do so without her title. Using names without titles on an invitation, however, is generally considered incorrect and makes the invitation less formal than it otherwise would be.

If your mother’s title is omitted, all other titles should be left off the invitation as well. This is done to keep the wording of the invitation consistent.

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My father passed away last year, and I’d like to include his name on my wedding invitations. How is that done?
Wishing to include a deceased parent’s name on a wedding invitation is a lovely sentiment, however it’s not proper to do so (except in Latin America).

The essential purpose of a wedding invitation is to invite your guests to your wedding and to tell them where and when it’s taking place. It lists the host or hosts of the event, what the event is (your wedding), and the date, time and place.

The only logical place to list your father’s name is on an invitational line. This is improper, however, as he’d be listed as one of the hosts of your wedding. Since he is deceased, he cannot be a host.

Your father’s name is, of course, mentioned in your newspaper announcement and may also be mentioned in the wedding program and during a prayer said during the service.

The Hispanic tradition, on the other hand, does include the name of a deceased parent. If the deceased parent is the bride’s father, her mother’s name appears alone on the first line and her father’s name, followed by a small cross if Christian or a Star of David if Jewish, appears on line two.

One note of caution: Your guests may not be familiar with this custom and may not understand the meaning of it.

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Both my parents are deceased, who should issue my invitations?
Any member of your family. Your relationship to the relatives issuing the invitation is designated on the third line of the invitation where the word “daughter” normally appears. Your full name minus your title appears on the following line.

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What if I’m not close with any of my relatives?
Close friends will do just fine. When friends issue the invitations, no relationship is
shown on the third line, and your full name, preceded by “Miss,” appears on the following line.

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Can my groom’s parents issue the invitations?
On rare occasions, such as when your parents are deceased or live in a foreign country, your groom’s parents may issue the wedding invitations. The format is a little different from the standard format. The parents’ relationship to the groom is mentioned on the fifth line of the invitation instead of on the third line. This way, the invitations can still be read as the bride being married to the groom. Both the bride and the groom use their full names, preceded by their titles.

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Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you have one (or two or six), email our Crane Concierge at concierge@crane.com. 

One thought on “Wedding Etiquette: The Invitational Line

  1. Pingback: Wedding Invitation Etiquette: A Line By Line Guide «

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