Wedding Invitations for the Guest

Make sure you know your stance on bells before RSVPing. (Via)

Make sure you know your stance on bells before RSVPing. (Via)

Welcome to our first how-to etiquette post! In this feature, we will be giving you a guideline for a basic etiquette situation. As these are guidelines, always take into account your situation and circumstances when applying them. If you have a tricky situation, write us and we will answer!

Wedding invitations have their own crazy etiquette (which we will definitely be talking about later on) that can be intimidating and confusing for the first time guest. There’s really formal language and it looks so fancy! And there are so many inserts and what’s this little stamped envelope? Should you be judging people based on their fonts? Let’s break it down:

Save The Dates

Save the Dates are sometimes sent out WAY in advance to let important people know the wedding date. They might be a cute card or a little magnet to stick on your fridge, or it might just be an email. They do not require a response, they are simply a notification of the wedding date and that you can expect an invitation. However, they are an opportunity for you to start planning. If the wedding is far away, you will want to start making travel arrangements. And if you know for a 100% fact that you won’t be able to make it on that date, let the couple know.


RSVP stands for respondez-sil-vous-plait, which is French for “please, please tell me if you are coming by the deadline posted here so I can give the caterer a headcount in time.”

There may be a little card included in the invitation with its own stamped envelope (though sometimes you will have to stamp it yourself!). On this card there might be a M___________. You are suppose to write Mr./Mrs./Miss/Ms. YourFirstName YourLastName on this line. Sometimes I forget the title in my excitement and just write my name. Or there might be a box for you to write the number of people. Just make sure your name is on there somewhere so they know exactly who it is that is coming. Send it back ASAP and definitely before the deadline if given.

If there is no response card, either call or email as directed- the important thing is to make sure they know you are or are not coming. You MUST still RSVP even if you are not coming.

If you want to be really fancy, you can write your response on your own stationery as follows (try to mirror the formatting and language from the invitation):

Ms. Honoria Snodgrass

accepts with pleasure

Mr. and Mrs. Doodly’s

kind invitation for

Saturday, May 31


Generally, the only people invited to the wedding are those listed on the invitation. If Mr. and Mrs. Chatterton are the only names on the invitation, they are not welcome to bring their 5 charming children. “Mr. and Mrs. Chatterton and Family” is sometimes used to invite the whole family, though it is nicer to write out the names of all the kids. Sometimes though, single people will be invited with an “and guest” or “plus one”. In these circumstances you are welcome to bring a date. DO NOT BRING A DATE IF YOU ARE NOT INVITED TO BRING ONE. Whew! Also, you can’t just write plus one or Ms. Tiddlywinks and Mr. Fancypants (Mr. Fancypants being your uninvited date) on your RSVP if you haven’t been given a plus one in the first place. You also cannot substitute an uninvited guest for an invited one who can’t make it- wedding invitations are not write-in ballots.

Inserts and the Wedding Website

Often an invitation will come with a bunch of inserts of information. There might be directions and hotel info or registry info. There might even be a little card with the groom’s parent’s names (this is very old fashioned and unlikely- it is used when his parent’s names aren’t on the invitation so that their side of friends and family will be reminded of who the groom is).

Nowadays, more people are putting this information on their wedding website and they will either send the address along with the invitation or will announce it or email it to you some other way.

Do I have to keep the invitation?

No! Keep it handy until the wedding so you will have the information about the time and location, but after that feel free to discard or keep as you please.

How Do I Tell Someone They Smell?


Chalk is one way to tell someone they smell [Credit: Tracy O]

Welcome to our advice column! Write to us at with your sticky etiquette problems and we will give you the official etiquette answer and then our take on the situation.

Dear Uncommon Courtesy,

How do you tell a friend or acquaintance that they smell terrible? I was standing next to a friend the other day, and I thought I was going to suffocate from holding my breath so long. But I didn’t want to say anything lest I offend them. How do you (gently? harshly?) let a person know they smell terrible (this is as much for their sake as your own, too) and they need to learn how to bathe better (or more often, or twice a day, or thrice a day)?


Dealing With Smells


Most etiquette experts agree that the direct approach is best. Someone close to the person should gently mention that they’ve noticed a smell and would want to be told if it was them. Too much perfume/cologne is a common complaint and is easier to bring up than body odor, but they are handled the same way.



Victoria: So Jaya, how would you like for me to tell you that you smell?

Jaya: I always like that scene in Wet Hot American Summer where Michael Ian Black just tells that kid that he stinks and needs to take a shower. But then again, you know me well, so we can say things like “Omg please find deodorant” to each other. I know you’re not trying to make fun of me.

Victoria: Yes, I think considering the relationship is super important. I am going to approach things much differently with you than with an acquaintance or a boss. I don’t think you can tell your boss they smell?

Jaya: Probably not! Though if it’s a repeated, awful thing that makes it hard to work, you may want to tell your HR person. Get someone else to deal with it! Always a solution.

Victoria: Yeah, but verrrry discreetly. I also think that with kids or people you are “mentoring” you need to be very straightforward–for their own good. I remember my 6th grade teacher telling the whole class to wear deodorant because we collectively stank.

Jaya: Aww! And that is just at that weird age where you are starting to stink. You’ve gone your whole life just stinking of dirt and food, and now the stink is coming from inside your body.

Victoria: And you just forget to put deodorant on in the morning! Someone shamed me publicly around that age and I haven’t missed a day of deodorant since!

Jaya: Oh no! So maybe sometimes a little public shaming is good?

Victoria: Kids are cruel, but they are also kind of enforcing social expectations.

Jaya: As adults, I think the shaming can be even more soul crushing. Which brings up the idea of telling someone if it’s a one-time thing versus repeated offenses.

Victoria: Yes! I think if it’s clearly a one time thing, you just need to breathe through your mouth and deal.

Jaya: Yeah, people forget deodorant all the time. Or they play sports or step in dog poop or fall in a bog. I forgot deodorant just last week, and who knows, maybe my whole office was trying to find a way to tell me. However, if someone is always stinking, either because they haven’t washed their clothes or they sweat a lot or whatever, they need to know.

Victoria: Definitely.

Jaya: Though now we come to the hard part: how do you tell them? Being frank with your friends is ok, but what about someone who is just…around? Someone you aren’t close enough with to be like “Yo, you smell”?

Victoria: I think what you want to do in that situation is find someone who is close to them and kind of suss out whether this is just you, or something everyone is noticing and then figure out who is the best person to break the news. Verrrry discreetly, again.

Jaya: Yeah. And then maybe try to blame it on something else? Even saying “Your shirt smells” can come off better than just “You smell.”

Victoria: Yes! Or something like “I’ve been noticing that you sometimes smell, maybe your deodorant brand isn’t strong enough?”

Jaya: Also, bring it up at a time when the person can actually do something about it.

Victoria: Yes! Not on the subway, or when you get to a bar, etc.

Jaya: Exactly. Because then you stink and you’re self-conscious about it.

Victoria: If you’re getting ready together or something, though, that’s the perfect opportunity to say “Oh did you forget your deodorant? Here, borrow mine!”

Jaya: What about medical issues? Is smelling something that can be cause for a doctor?

Victoria: Absolutely. So maybe, if you notice someone, or yourself, smelling a lot, go to a doctor. Depression can also make people less likely to bathe- that’s why I like the idea of saying, “I’ve been noticing that you smell strongly lately, is everything okay?”

Jaya: Nice.

Victoria: And then, they can just mention if it’s a medical issue. And you can just deal with it until it gets better.

Jaya: Also, I would like to take a moment to mention that if someone tells you you stink, don’t freak out! It’s no big deal! People stink all the time.

Victoria: Yes! It happens.

Jaya: And then if you deal with it well, you set a good example to the other stinkers of the world for how to take the news. It’s the circle of etiquette.