Etiquette Planning

Weddings 101: Invitations & Stationery

When you become engaged, you will have many decisions to make about your wedding. One of the big ones is what type of wedding invitations you would like. Since most people are unfamiliar with the world of custom stationery and wedding invitation wording, use this quick primer to learn the basics:

What is the difference between thermography, letterpress, and engraving?

Hundreds of dollars! But seriously, letterpress and engraving are traditional methods for creating exquisite personalized stationery, and they come with a price tag that reflects the time and care put into making one of a kind invitations. With letterpress, moveable type is set into a press and inked, then heavy cotton paper is placed on top of it. A press rolls over the back of the paper, which prints the words onto the paper. Each invitation is printed one at a time, and the letters made a deep impression into the paper (the invitations will also make an impression on your guests!).

Letterpress wedding invitations often feature unique motifs and interesting color palettes. Image via

Engraving is the most formal way to print wedding invitations (although letterpress is also extremely elegant). For an engraved invitation, a copper plate is etched with the wedding invitation wording. The copper plates are called “dies”, and they make a wonderful keepsake for after your wedding. The lettering is then printed onto a fine paper using the die. With engraving, an indentation is left on the reverse side of the paper, and the lettering on the front is slightly raised. This is the opposite of letterpress, which results in the lettering being indented on the front.

The special opaque inks used in fine engraving allows the option of using a white ink on a dark navy paper, as seen in this stylish wedding invitation. Image via.

Thermography is intended to replicate the look of engraving at a lower cost. It is printed in a standard method (no custom dies or moveable type required) with a special resin ink. Heat is used to activate the resin, which then rises up slightly to create a raised typeface. While thermography does have raised print like engraving, the finished effect is quite different to the trained eye. First of all, a thermographed invitation with not have the telltale indentation on the back side like a genuine engraved invitation, and yes – people will look. Also, the inks used for thermography are not as opaque as engraving inks, so you cannot do a light ink on dark paper as you can with the engraving process. In addition, thermography results in shinier and slightly less even printing than engraving. If it can be worked into the budget, engraving or letterpress definitely make the best impression.

What is the difference between “The honour of your presence” and “The pleasure of your company” on a wedding invitation?

This is actually quite simple: Use the phrase “The honour of your presence” for a wedding ceremony in a house of worship and “The pleasure of your company” to invite guests to a ceremony anywhere else. Note the traditional British spelling of “honour”, which is customary for a formal wedding invitation.

When should I send out my wedding invitations?

Invitations should be issued approximately six to eight weeks before the date of your wedding. If you will have many out of town guests, the eight week time frame is better. Many couples prefer to give their guests more advance notice than two months, particularly if their wedding is scheduled for a busy time (like a holiday weekend). In that instance, send out a save the date notice about six months in advance, and follow up with the official invitation at the eight week mark.

What does R.s.v.p. mean?

It is an abbreviation for the French “Répondez s’il vous plaît”, which translates to “Reply please”. It is simply a request that the recipient of the invitation let the hosts know whether or not they plan to attend the event. Note that the proper way to write it is with a capital letter R and the rest of the letters in lower case: R.s.v.p., not in all capital letters: RSVP. An alternate is “The favour of a reply is requested”, which is popular in the South. As with “honour”, it is customary to use the British spelling “favour”. Either of these notations should be printed on the lower left hand corner of the wedding invitation.

Then all you have to do is stamp your invitations, hand cancel them, and drop them in the mail. Before you know it, your mailbox will be flooded with responses to your beautiful wedding invitations!