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Formal wedding invitations contain two separate envelopes: the inner envelope and the outer envelope. If you’ve never received an invitation with two envelopes before, it can seem redundant, but both serve a purpose and help clarify who, specifically, is invited to the big event! 


Remember, children over the age of 16 — even if still living at home with their parents — should receive their own invitations.



The outer envelope contains the entire invitation suite, including the inner envelope, the invitation piece, any inserts, and the RSVP card and envelope. It has a sticky flap that is sealed once all the pieces are organized inside. 


Formal wording is standard when addressing your guests on the outer envelope, though you can simplify it a bit for less formal gatherings. The formal wording would be like so: 

Mr. and Mrs. Jim Smith

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238

- or -

The Smith Family

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238


Less formal invitations may read:

Jim and Lisa Smith

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238


While the formal “Mr. and Mrs. Jim Smith” is correct, many women do not like being addressed by their husband’s name in correspondence. If you, your partner or a family member feels similarly, you may address your invitations to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” while maintaining the formality of the traditional wording.



You may choose to allow single guests the option of bringing a date. However, in the most formal setting, the outer envelope should never read “and guest.” If you will be inviting a single person and would like them to bring a guest, the outer envelope will read:

Miss (or Ms.) Layla Smith

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238


Mr. Jack Smith

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238


The inner envelope would then indicate that the invitation recipient may bring a guest.

If your invites are more casual and you are only including the outer envelope, the outer envelope will read:

Mr. Jack Smith and gGuest

123 Main Street

New York, NY 11238



On formal invitations, you must include titles before names, even for children.

  • Mr. — Any male who does not have another title.

  • Miss — An unmarried woman or girl.

  • Mrs. — A married woman that has the same name as her spouse. May also be used when a woman is widowed and not remarried.

  • Ms. — Any woman, regardless of marital status; a woman who is married but has not changed her name.

  • Master — A male child below the age of 16. 

  • Dr. — An individual who has a doctorate degree in any field.

  • Hon. (“The Honorable”) — An individual that has been elected to a judgeship.

  • Clergy (“Reverend,” “Rabbi,” “Pastor”) — An individual that has been through a seminary program and serves in a house of worship.

  • Military Titles — For anyone who is currently serving or is retired from the military; may include such titles as Lieutenant, General, Captain, Major, Admiral, and others depending on the branch of the military. 



If you are having a child-free wedding, you should not indicate so on the outer envelope or the invitation card. Simply avoid using “The Smith Family” and instead address it to the invited guests, “Mr. and Mrs. Jim Smith.”


The inner envelope will address who is invited. If the guest RSVPs for the whole family, including children, you will need to make a phone call to let him or her know your plans so that alternative arrangements for childcare can be made.



The inner envelope is slightly smaller than the outer envelope and fits neatly inside it. When you open the flap of the outer envelope, you should see the front of the inner envelope. Unlike the outer envelope, the inner one does not have a sticky, sealed flap; it remains un-gummed and unsealed.


The inner envelope is where you indicate which family members are invited to the wedding, and is generally the most polite indicator of whether or not children are invited to the wedding. Where the outer envelope might say “The Smith Family,” the inner envelope indicates whether the entire Smith clan should come by listing each family member by name.


The inner envelope may read something like:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith

Miss Layla and Master Jack

- or -

Mrs. Lisa Smith

Miss Layla Smith


You could also choose a less formal wording:

Jim and Lisa 

Layla and Jack

- or -

Uncle Jim and Aunt Lisa

Layla and Jack



In a formal invite, if the outer envelope is addressed to the Smith family, and you intend for all four Smiths to be invited, you could consider the inner envelope to be unnecessary. However, this issue becomes complicated if you intend for your wedding to be child-free, or if you intend to provide a single guest with a plus-one. If you choose to allow guests to have plus-ones, and decide not to use an inner envelope, you can indicate that more than one seat has been reserved on the RSVP card. 



If you plan to send your envelopes to a calligrapher for addressing, you will need to do so at least three months prior to the wedding. The calligrapher will need your guest list(s) complete with addresses, and the wording you intend to use on each envelope. He or she can address both the inner and the outer envelopes and will have samples of style options available to help you match the look and feel of your invitations with the corresponding calligraphy. It will take approximately two to three weeks for you to receive the envelopes back. 



Your invitation suite will contain an RSVP card for guests to mail their acceptances or regrets back to you. If you choose to, you can have these envelopes sent to the calligrapher as well, though this is not necessary as these will all be sent back to you, or whoever is collecting responses. The front of the envelope should list your name and mailing address, as should be pre-stamped for your guests’ convenience. There should also be a space for the guest to put a return address sticker or write in his or her address.

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