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Invitation Anatomy 101 - Typical Components - Part 1 of 3

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Author: Laura Paladino

Article source: Used with author's permission.

"What am I supposed to have in my invitation?" This is one of the most common questions I get asked. The answer is quite simple: Anything! It's true that convention doesn't quite apply anymore with respect to what 'goes' for an invitation these days. That being said, there are a lot of components in the most common invitation styles. I should caution that there are literally thousands of options available - some a lot more unconventional and some are even bizarre. For the sake of brevity, I'll keep my breakdown constrained to the more common components and options used in invitations today (as about 85-90% of invitation orders inevitably consist of these).

I've broken down my Invitation Anatomy 101 into two lessons: Typical Components and Optional (or Additional Components). The first I'll describe here:

Typical Components

1) The Outer Envelope

  • Anchors your 'invitation package'. This is your guest's first impression of your wedding or event at the mailbox!
  • It is a good idea to have your return address printed on the back flap of the envelope in the same lettering as your invitation.
  • Your guest's address may be handwritten neatly or written using the services of a calligrapher.
  • Outer Envelopes should be reasonably sturdy and presented to your post office (fully stuffed) to determine exact postage prior to stamping and mailing.

2) The Inner Envelope

  • Historically, inner envelopes were created to provide added protection to the contents of letters. That is, the outer envelope often suffered quite a bit of wear and tear between destinations, so the inner envelope would preserve the contents while identifying the recipient if the original address information wore away.
  • The need for an inner envelope no longer exists, but the romantic tradition remains. Nowadays, the inner envelope identifies only the invitees within the household (e.g. Mr. & Mrs. Wilhelm Schneider). No address is written on the inner envelope. All contents of your invitation package are placed inside the inner envelope. Usually the inner envelope back flap is left folded, but unsealed.
  • On a side note, I've found that amongst my clients only a small handful a year actually end up ordering inner envelopes. The decline in the use of Inner Envelopes is primarily due to the durability and material quality of custom invitation outer envelopes. This makes Inner Envelopes both expensive and redundant.
  • On a side note, I've found that amongst my clients only a small handful a year actually end up ordering inner envelopes. The decline in the use of Inner Envelopes is primarily due to the durability and material quality of custom invitation outer envelopes. This makes Inner Envelopes both expensive and redundant.

3) The Invitation

  • Obviously, the most essential component of your invitation package. If your invitation is a folded card, all other components should be placed inside the invitation. If this is not possible, or your invitation consist of a one-sided card, place all other components on top of the invitation. The goal here is to make the invitation package as neat and tidy as possible.
  • As mentioned, anything goes when it comes to invitations. However, some typical features of a custom or custom-inspired invitation may include the following:
  • Outer Card - Heavier weighted stock that envelops or mattes the invitation contents. This is the foundation of your invitation. The outer card can be anything from a plain card backing, to a pocket-fold enclosure to a multi-panel pocketed fold-out!
  • Outer Embellishments - Known as the finishing touches on the 'exterior' of the invitation. This can be a ribbon tie, wax seal, monogram, matted graphic, pictures, foil stamped image, name, slogan, clasp, etc.
  • Inner Card(s) - Usually, an inner card contains your invitation wording. There are hundreds of inner card options including, vellums, vellum overlays, mounted card, bound card, embossed cards, imported stationeries, decorative papers, embellished card or paper, folded cards, loose cards, etc.

4) The RSVP, Response, or Reply Card

  • Just as important as the invitation, the size and expense of your event is largely determined by the number of accepted/returned RSVP cards.
  • RSVP cards usually contain a blank line where the guest fills in his/her name and indicates the number of persons attending from his/her party. Usually an addressed and pre-stamped envelope is included to encourage your guest to respond as soon as possible.
  • RSVP cards can contain other information such as multiple dining options which must be chosen, or spaces for comments, requests, feedback etc.
    • TIP: Lightly number each RSVP card with a corresponding guest/invitation list. That way, if any RSVP card is returned blank without the sender's information, you'll know exactly which guest it is.

  • RSVP sizes are usually much smaller than invitations and contain an appropriately-sized return envelope. However, there is a trend towards more oversized RSVP cards (though still smaller than the invitation size).

Congratulations, now that you've completed the first lesson, you're ready for the "Invitation Anatomy 101—Optional Components" articles now.

Laura Paladino's work has been featured locally and nationally across print and television. Her public and commercial clients range from brides to wedding and event planners to celebrities in Canada and the United States. For additional articles and resources, information on Laura Paladino, her invitation design collections, or her select bridal boutique products and studio services, visit

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