In addition to designing wedding invitations, I provide a lot of wedding invitation etiquette advice…such as how to word the invitation properly, what phrases to use for a church verses a non-religious venue, whether to use the bride and grooms’ middle names, how to mention attire, whether to direct guests to a registry, where to list a wedding website, and the list goes on and on. With more and more couples paying for or contributing significantly to their own wedding budget, many couples are asking for my advice on when and where to list the couples’ parents’ names on their wedding invitation.
Traditional wedding invitation etiquette provides some guidelines that I refer to when I answer this question. First, wedding etiquette dictates that whomever is paying for the wedding named as the “host” of the wedding at the top of the wedding invitation. Therefore, if that host is a parent, they should be named at the top of the wedding invitation. For example we might say “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honor of your presence”:
More and more families are coming together to split the costs of their children’s weddings. In those situations, where both parents are paying equally for the wedding, then we name both parents as hosts at the top. In that situation we might say “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith along with Mr. and Mrs. Robert Martin request the honor of your presence” as shown here:
If one set of parents is paying for the majority of the wedding, but the other set is still contributing (or if the wedding couple simply wants to name the other set on the invitation) its easy! Here it is customary to reserve the top of the invitation for the parents paying for the majority. You can still name the other set of parents below. It is very common to name the grooms parents as seen in the following example:
If the couple AND either or both sets of parents are all contributing to the wedding, wedding invitation etiquette suggests everyone be listed as a host of the wedding. We might say “together with their families” or “together with their parents” as seen below:
Often the bride and groom are paying for their own wedding, without contribution from parents. In that situation it is appropriate to list the bride and groom solely as the hosts, i.e. “Mr. John Smith and Ms. Jane Doe request the honor of your presence at their wedding.”
I have found there are several reasons to part ways with traditional wedding etiquette with respect to wedding invitation wording. Whether to list or omit a parent’s name is ultimately a personal choice, but the following reasons come up often 1) Parents who cannot afford to contribute to the wedding often want to be named or honored 2) those who cannot afford to contribute to the wedding are often embarrassed when omitted from the invitation, 3) mothers and fathers who are contributing, albeit a small amount, are offended by being omitted, 4) Step-parents who have been in their son or daughter’s lives for many years are hurt if not named and finally, 5) those parents that might be afraid their invitees will not recognize the name of a bride or groom and decline the invitation. Ultimately though every couple will decide what makes them most comfortable.