Ask Etta

May 21

Ask Etta: Guest List Etiquette

Kimberly asks…

Help! With large families on both sides, high school friends, college friends, work friends, and now my fiancé’s graduate school friends, the guest list for our wedding has gotten out of control. I’ve been told there is a certain percent you can expect to not show up – should I send more wedding invitations to guests than our wedding venue can handle?

Etta says…

This question seems to always confuse brides. While it may seem like a science to create the perfect guest list that keeps everyone happy, there is no hard and fast formula for guest attendance. You’ll hear some experts say to invite 10% over your venue limit, while others claim 20%– and I’ve even seen some pretty complicated math problems put forward! (Hint: if your guest list plans start to resemble your eleventh grade calculus homework, you’re making things too difficult).

Wedding Paper Divas Blog - Air of Affection Wedding Invitation

Remember, you might end up accountable for every person on your guest list. After all, if they are important enough to be on your guest list, you may be (and hopefully are!) important enough to them to warrant the travel. Keeping that in mind, I suggest you create two guest lists. The first will be the definitive list of must-invite guests. The second list will be backup guests, listed in prioritized order (think co-workers, club friends, or friends of parents).

Send invitations out to your first list over eight weeks in advance of your wedding date, and ask for RSVP response cards to be returned within just two weeks. This ensures that you receive responses in a timely manner – allowing you to start inviting those from the second list without cutting it too close to the wedding date.

Wedding Paper Divas Blog - Response Card

At the end of the day, you and your fiancé know your friends and family the best. If you know that Great Aunt Mary won’t make the travel to your wedding, but still wants an invite, then by all means, send her an invitation. On the other hand, if you know your groom’s graduate school friends will travel anywhere in the world for a good party, I suggest you make sure you really want them at your wedding.

I hope this helps, Kimberly!

Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at and she’ll post an answer for you.



April 9

Ask Etta: Sending Late Wedding Thank You Cards

Jill asks…

I had great plans of creating DIY thank you cards personalized for each of my guests, including a photo of myself, my husband, and the guest at our wedding reception. But when we returned home from our honeymoon, it was a whirlwind of moving into a new house, catching up on two weeks of missed work, and settling in to our new married life. Somehow, four months have passed, and not a single thank you note has been sent. Am I too late? Would it be better to just not send a thank you card at all, at this point?

Wedding Paper Divas Photo Thank You Card -- Marriage Manifesto

Etta says…

While the proper time frame for a wedding thank you note is within two weeks of returning from your honeymoon, it is never too late to send a thank you card. Any guest that truly appreciates receiving a thank you card will know you haven’t sent one yet, and will be happy to find one in the mail (even if it is four months late). Remember, something is better than nothing, in this case. As for your other guests, if they haven’t realized your thank you cards are late, it’s likely that they don’t know the proper etiquette timeframe. Therefore, your note will be a lovely surprise for them.

Wedding Paper Divas Photo Thank You Card -- Thankful Thoughts

The inclusion of a photo is a thoughtful addition to a thank you card, but individual photos can be time consuming. Choose your favorite photo from your wedding day of you and your groom, and use the same image for all cards to help manage your time effectively.

Wedding Paper Divas Photo Thank You Card -- Elegant Etching

If you need help on how to craft the perfect thank you card, I have tackled that question here: The Golden Rules of Gratitude.

Wedding Paper Divas Photo Thank You Card -- Well of Love

I hope this helps, Jill!


Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at and she’ll post an answer for you.


March 20

Ask Etta: Extra Wedding Invitations

Cassidy asks…
I’ve chosen my Save the Date style, and even my wedding invitations, but I’m not sure what to do now. How many invitations do I need to order? I want to have extra in case of an emergency, but I don’t want to have too many invitations left over.


Etta says…
Great question, Cassidy. It sounds like you are already ahead of the game, since you have your save the date cards and your wedding invitations chosen. Have you also decided on your guest list? If not, that would be the next step.


I recommend ordering ten to fifteen extra invitations, depending on the size of your guest list. You’re bound to have an unforeseen error come your way, whether it is remembering a guest that had been left off the initial head count or a mistake made when addressing the invitation envelope. Having back up wedding invitations keeps you stress-free in these moments! Trust me, you’ll be happy to have the extras.

If you do end up with extra invitations after your wedding day, there are several great ways to use them. Including a copy of your invitation in a wedding photo book will create a keepsake that will last for years to come. I love these DIY projects that incorporate a wedding invitation into an ornament or a canvas print.
I hope this helps, Cassidy!


Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at and she’ll post an answer for you.


February 27

Ask Etta: Joint Hosting Etiquette

Anne Asks…

I know that it is tradition to have the wedding invitation addressed from the bride’s parents, as they traditionally host the reception. But I find myself in an unusual reception situation. My fiancé and I are paying for the majority of our wedding cost, but both of our parents are helping us out with small financial contributions. I don’t want to make my future in-laws feel left out, because they are contributing just as much as my parents. How do I appropriately say this in an invitation?

Etta Says…

Thanks for writing in, Anne.

It is now quite common for couples to take on the financial load for their own wedding reception. Often, a bride and groom will pay for the wedding entirely on their own. Sometimes it is the groom’s family hosting, instead of the bride’s, and in other situations, like yours, the wedding is a shared cost between the couple and the two families.

With so many different options, crafting perfect wedding invitations can be difficult. But whichever your situation, there is certainly etiquette in place to make sure all members of the family feel acknowledged for their special part in your wedding.

I can think of several wedding invitation templates that would be perfectly acceptable and recognize both sets of parents.

With this formal template, it is clear that the bride and groom are the hosting the wedding, and yet still acknowledges the parents:


A similar, but less formal, format uses the parents’ first names, for a modern touch:


This invitation template uses a clean layout to convey a similar message:


Another option is to simply note that the parents are a part of the wedding, but not mention by name:


Most of all, it is important to keep in mind how this applies to your personal situation. Are your parents, or your fiancé’s parents, likely to be offended if their names are not on the invitation? If so, I strongly suggest including their names. This is such a simple gesture of goodwill that can mean a lot to your family.

I hope this helps, Anne!


Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at and she’ll post an answer for you.


February 12

Holding a Pre-Destination Wedding Reception: Ask Etta

While we dish about the hottest trends and latest designs, we also know how stressful prepping for the big day can be. Meet Etta, our expert in all things etiquette. She’s ready to delve into your every dilemma.

Debbie Asks…

My husband and I have a very large group of friends that have been a part of my son’s life, and we want to have a celebration before the destination wedding (definitely not after). We are inviting all the people that will be invited to the destination wedding, plus all our other close friends.  What do I call this type of celebration? And do I have to state “no gifts’? Should I stick an insert with the invitation explaining that we are having a small destination affair?

destination invite

Etta Says…

Thanks for writing in, Debbie.

Holding an “at-home” or local celebration is quite common for couples who chose to have a destination wedding. But usually these receptions take place two to six weeks after the marriage ceremony (and thus celebrate the newlyweds).

With no marriage completed, hosting a wedding reception may be a bit misleading for your guests, particularly since the ceremony will still be over half a year away.

Since you are planning the celebration prior to the destination wedding, I suggest that you host a send-off celebration for the engaged couple. I also recommend that your celebration be a casual affair – which it sounds like you are planning.

An engagement party invitation or couples shower invitation can easily be modified to fit this unique celebration. Simply alter the wording along these lines: “Please join us to celebrate the upcoming marriage, and send off the happy couple with your best wishes.”

Destination pre reception

It can feel awkward to host a second reception, when attendees have not been invited to the destination ceremony. But remember that you are making an effort to include all loved ones in the celebration of your son’s marriage. It is widely understood that destination weddings are smaller, more intimate events – and your guests will be happy to be included in this larger celebration.

Formal etiquette calls for no mention of gifts on the invitation, even in the case of requesting no gifts. It is appropriate, however, for you to share this information yourself, in casual conversation.

If you do hold the reception after the wedding, a wonderful way to notify guests is through a wedding announcement, along with a photograph from the destination wedding, which requests their attendance at the reception.

I hope this helps, Debbie!


Have an etiquette question for Etta? Email us at and she’ll post an answer for you.


January 15

Addressing Wedding Invitations for Widows: Ask Etta

Judy Asks…

What is the appropriate way to address an invitation to a widow?  Do you use the husband’s name?  One of my guests has been widowed several years and is now dating—the other is VERY recently widowed.


 Etta Says…

Thanks for writing in, as we know this can be a difficult topic to address. The most important thing to take into consideration is that this really comes down to your relationship with the widow. It is a difficult topic and you might feel worried about either offending or saddening the recipient, which is understandable.

Here’s what we recommend…

Addressing the Outer Envelope:

Proper etiquette holds that on formal correspondence, like wedding invitations, widows must be addressed with their deceased husband’s full name—regardless of the amount of time that has elapsed from his death. The name on the outer envelope should read, “Mrs. John Smith.” However, these days, many feel that addressing this way is dated. If you agree and feel more comfortable addressing it only to her, it’s appropriate etiquette to address the outer envelope with just the widow’s first name, “Mrs. Becky Smith.”

 Addressing the Inner Envelope:

When addressing the inner envelope, etiquette says to leave off first names. Therefore, it should read “Mrs. Smith.” If you are allowing her a guest to the ceremony and/or reception, you can address it as “Mrs. Smith and Guest.”

To recap, when addressing invites to a widow, take your relationship with her and the length of time she has been a widow into account. If you’re close with her and she’s recently widowed, it may be appropriate for you to use her husband’s name. If a lot of time has passed and she’s now dating again, it probably makes more sense to address it to her single name.


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