Addressing wedding invitations...
August 5, 2006 10:10 AM   Subscribe

How rude is it really to use a printer and a nice calligraphy or script font to print addresses on wedding invitation envelopes?

I know that traditional etiquette says that you should always hand-write the addresses.

However, after writing out about half of the addresses by hand, I can't help but think that they look like absolute crap. I don't have terrible handwriting, but it looks really goofy and uneven on the envelopes.

As an experiment, I printed out a couple of sample envelopes using an elegant script font, and they look gorgeous. I want to marry the frigging envelopes, they look that good.

Also, people send their invitations to calligraphers all the time. So is printing out the addresses from my computer really that much more impersonal?

I'm not trying to be impersonal or lazy. I just want them to look good! Am I going to go to etiquette hell if I redo the envelopes from my computer? Do normal people even care?
posted by tastybrains to Grab Bag (53 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
As a normal person (I think), I wouldn't care.
posted by handful of rain at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2006

I can't see a problem either - I doubt I'd look at the envelope for more than 5 seconds anyway...
posted by prentiz at 10:14 AM on August 5, 2006

Probably the only people who care would be post office workers, and whatever is more legible would be better for them.

A little handwritten note inside the invitation would be nice, though.
posted by Quietgal at 10:18 AM on August 5, 2006

I cannot imagine anyone worth knowing would give half a crap about that.
posted by ed\26h at 10:25 AM on August 5, 2006

I used a printer to do ours, and that was 13 years ago, so yours probably look way better than mine did.
If you use a nice paper for the envelope, something really weighty, it will look awesome.
I think handwritten looks crappier, to tell the truth.
posted by chococat at 10:33 AM on August 5, 2006

I know that traditional etiquette says that you should always hand-write the addresses.

That would seem to be a very culture-dependent issue. Which part of the world are you talking about?
posted by sour cream at 10:35 AM on August 5, 2006

Response by poster: sour cream - I'm talking about the east coast of the United States. I'm sure people are less fussy elsewhere.

Sounds like most people don't care, which works for me. I think it's mainly older fussy people who would care, but I can always pretend that I didn't know it was technically bad etiquette.
posted by tastybrains at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2006

We used clear address labels and printed the invitation addresses in bulk. Number of people who said anything to us? ZERO. Number of hand cramps I got in the process? ZERO. And honestly, the way I decided to view it was that it was my wedding, and there were a million things I'd rather spend my time on that were NOT handwriting envelopes.

And, what ed\26h said.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: Go with the laser. Weddings are stressful enough without having to worry about properly hand-addressing a bunch of invitations.

And, if anyone would be so put off by a laser-printed envelope containing their invitation to your wedding that they would actually dare SAY something to you about it, you don't want them at your wedding. If they're that picky, they're going to make EVERYONE miserable with their presence.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2006

I'm from the east coast. I neither notice nor care how invitations are addressed.
posted by amro at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: Perhaps at some rarefied level of society, the calligraphy really would make a difference. For us regular folk, no.

My wife is a graphic designer and more than a bit obsessive about printed matter. The idea of hand calligraphy on our invitations (either by us or a professional calligrapher) never even crossed her mind. We did the clear-sticker routine too, and IMO it looked good (in fact, the envelopes we used wouldn't have taken the ink from a pen well at all).
posted by adamrice at 11:06 AM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: I think it's mainly older fussy people who would care, but I can always pretend that I didn't know it was technically bad etiquette.

The fussy older people who might care about that kind of thing would also know that it's bad manners to make a fuss about it. Worst case scenario, you can always just smile sweetly and say something to the effect that using a printer allowed you to invite more people than you would have if you'd had to address them all by hand, and if you arch your eyebrow just right they will get the hint and shut up.

It's *your* wedding. Weddings can make you crazy with all the small details- keep it simple where you can, so that you can pay attention to the details you really care about.

on preview, what everybody else said.
posted by ambrosia at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Remember that, traditionally, people didn't have laser printers with calligraphic fonts. The tradition might not be the same if they did. :)
posted by Hildago at 11:08 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

The only time it registered with me that a friend had bulk printed labels was when I got a wedding invitation from a very good friend with my last name spelled wrong--a definite finger-slipping sort of typo. If she had hand-written it, that's a typo that never would have happened.

So, double-check your typing and addresses after everything prints out and I doubt anyone will notice.
posted by divka at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2006

I wouldn't care as the recepient, and with my upcoming wedding this is the way I'll do it too.

To add a touch of 'hand-made-ness' why not use some candle wax and a stamp to seal the envelope ? A friend did that recently and it really added a touch of class to the invites.
posted by superfurry at 11:24 AM on August 5, 2006

People who care about these sorts of things will think it's tacky, but (as ambrosia points out above) will never actually say anything about it to you.

The important question, though, is what the guests whose opinions you actually care about will think -- and I mainly mean your future mother-in-law. Only you know that.
posted by Ø at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2006

I'll be the lone voice of dissent. I always appreciate a hand-written envelope, no matter how sloppy or neat the handwriting. It means that someone was thinking of me personally.

When we sent out our wedding announcements, I addressed them by hand and it allowed me to take a moment to reflect on each person I was sending one to.

I can understand about not having time, and if that's truly the case, nobody with good manners is going to poke you for using a printer. But if you have the time, you might turn it into a sort of a meditation.
posted by Addlepated at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2006

I like what Addlepated said.

If you know your guests, you could laser print for the common folk, and hand address for The Aristocrats. Doing the one doesn't preclude doing the other, just don't screw up the guest list and double invite someone.
posted by paulsc at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2006

Response by poster: Dammit, Addlepated, and I was just feeling good about my decision to print them all out! :-P

It's not about time - it's about how they look. It's just that I slaved over my invitations - I made them all by hand and spent hours cutting, scalloping (yes, there's scalloping!!!), gluing, etc - and it pisses me off to put them in sloppy handwritten envelopes.

Also, I can't honestly say that I really care about 3/4 of the people invited to my wedding either, because I don't even know most of them.

Etiquette like this is such b.s. This is the last time I cave into pressure to have a formal wedding, I can tell you that much.
posted by tastybrains at 12:05 PM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: Oh dear lord, tastybrains! I hand made our invitations too, and that is a HUGE amount of very, VERY personal work. Print the addresses with a laser printer. You've reversed the tradition...putting lots of time and energy and care into the most important part of what you are mailing...the invitation. Most people get engraved invitations in bulk and hand address the envelopes.

If anyone is so crass as to point out that their envelope was not addressed by hand, point out that the handmade, personally crafted invites were your main focus.

(And congrats on the upcoming nuptials.)
posted by jeanmari at 12:20 PM on August 5, 2006

Thank you for asking this question, I was going to within the next couple months. Our wedding theme is kind of black and white and bookish and Times New Roman is the font I'm using on everything, and the TNR ampersand (and our initals) are part of our "theme". I've doing an embossed return address on the envelope in TNR as well. There's no scripty print on anything. So can I piggyback and ask if anyone thinks if I use a printer, can I use TNR for the guest addresses instead of a calligraphy font? Or should I keep the semblance of handwriting?
posted by krix at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2006

I think it generally only matters to hoity-toity high society people. And if you happen to be of those people, you can probably afford to hire someone to address your envelopes for you. Otherwise, nobody cares.
posted by clarissajoy at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2006

I'd be wary of sending out two sets of invitations as paulsc suggests, lest the printed group somehow find out about the handwritten group and infer that there are two different "tiers" of guests.
posted by Ø at 1:13 PM on August 5, 2006

I just did this exact thing. No one even made a peep. We used a laser printer and the nice transpararent labels available from Avery (I think). I'm sure any transparent labels will work.
posted by maxpower at 2:08 PM on August 5, 2006

"I'd be wary of sending out two sets of invitations as paulsc suggests, lest the printed group somehow find out about the handwritten group and infer that there are two different "tiers" of guests."
posted by Ø at 4:13 PM EST on August 5

To the extent that is a legitimate concern, you've clearly answered tastybrains' question that not handwriting all the envelopes would be rude.

My proposal was based on the idea that tastybrains would know who truly wouldn't care or even notice how an envelope was addressed, and who would. Presumably, those that don't care wouldn't care even if the point was made to them that there was a difference, and they weren't favored with the handwritten versions, because they wouldn't care at all, in the first place. And for those that do care, well, they get to feel still more special, on tastybrains' special day.

But my theory is kinda out the window, since tastybrains says she doesn't even know 3/4 of the people coming. In my book, that makes 'em hoi polloi, who should be damned glad to be getting an invitation, period, to say nothing of a handmade one. A pox on them, then, as have no better manners than to gossip about small things at her wedding.

But, also, having thought about it some more, purely on personal grounds, I love what Addlepated said. Of everything posted here, that is furthest from Bridezilla territory, and closest to a fostering of peace and joy for a celebration of a joining of lives.

Good luck, and best wishes, tastybrains, whatever you decide.
posted by paulsc at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2006

By all means, laser-print, but what must be done manually is affix the wax seal. Either you or your helper-bonobo — someone with opposable thumbs — must see to this.

Even in this cyber-age, certain shortcuts are just wrong.
posted by rob511 at 2:48 PM on August 5, 2006

As an aside, consider using a nice, clean sans-serif or serif for the mailing labels instead of a calligraphic / handwrittten font. The OCR in postal sorting equipment cannot read fonts like that and, depending on the font, nor can a letter carrier.
posted by nathan_teske at 2:50 PM on August 5, 2006

Response by poster: paulsc - I totally get what you meant, and I'm organized enough that if I did handwrite some and print others, I could keep them straight. However, the people I know won't care. They know that I'm not trying to be impersonal or superficial. It's all of the people our parents insist we invite that we either don't know or have only met once or twice who I'm really concerned about.

But I guess after reading all of the responses, I think I am going to go with my gut and my eyeballs and print each of the envelopes out. The invitations were the only thing that I really was excited to take care of, and I want them to look the way I want them to look, envelopes and all. If people I barely know are appalled at this, then they don't have to come to the party.

So, thanks for all of your input!


Krix - If it coordinates with your invitation, then I don't think TNR is necessarily a bad idea. My only concern would be that TNR is often the default font in applications, but if you're embossing it, then it will look classy and nice.
posted by tastybrains at 3:09 PM on August 5, 2006

tastybrains, my only concern were I to do this would be that my invitation would be mistaken for bulk (junk) mail. Over the last couple of years I've noticed that a lot of junk mail has started coming in envelopes that are greeting card size, and with laser printed addresses, sometimes even on labels. I usually shred those without opening, as it's offensive to me that a company will try to trick me into looking at their advertising (I felt the same way when I once answered a call and the caller said "HI Vignettist - how've you been? Just fine, who's this? Oh, this is Bob from XYZ company..." I can tell you I damn near blew his ear drum out when I shouted for him to never call my number again. It's just offensive to pretend that you have a personal relationship with a potential customer when you have no established relationship at all.)

Um... /rant. Whoa. Anyway, all I'm saying is a handwritten address always gets my immediate attention.
posted by vignettist at 3:41 PM on August 5, 2006

My mother isn't high society or anything, but I can tell you she would not be happy if I sent out a printed invitation. Many in her peer group would agree.

But know what else? I bet almost none of them would bat an eye if they got a printed one from someone else's child. Probably wouldn't even notice, and certainly wouldn't care.
posted by SuperNova at 4:30 PM on August 5, 2006

I'd print directly on the envelopes, instead of using address labels, which I think look a bit tacky, particularly in comparison to the engraved invite.

It does always make me smile to see the thank-you note envelopes handwritten, though.
posted by desuetude at 5:09 PM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: It sounds like you've made your decision, but here's some more general advice: it is YOUR wedding. Have it the way you want it. People who would bitch and moan about inappropriately addressed envelopes or uncouth table linens or out-of-order first dances or whatever else foofy garbage wedding etiquette they've made up are going to find SOMETHING to bitch and moan about, so screw 'em. The only things my wife and I regret about our wedding are the things we compromised on because we thought they were what other people would want.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:25 PM on August 5, 2006

There's a huge wedding industry dedicated to trying to get you to spend as much as possible. Beautifully laser-printed envelopes are just fine. Where ettiguette sets rules for ways to live in harmony, great, but anybody who's offended by the way your envelopes are addressed needs to get some priorities. Bitr0t's grammy excepted.
posted by theora55 at 5:44 PM on August 5, 2006

I always appreciate a hand-written envelope, no matter how sloppy or neat the handwriting. It means that someone was thinking of me personally.

... for ten seconds, until you were pushed out of their mind by the next name their cramped hand had to scrawl.

Print 'em.
posted by kindall at 6:06 PM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

One very unfortunate thing about weddings is that certain people see them as an opportunity to find fault. No matter how much care and thought go into your arrangements, they're going to criticize something. If your invitations are by-the-book perfect, these carpers are just going to find something else you "should" have done differently. The seating arrangement, the guest list, the gift registry, the menu. I'm not saying "You can't please everyone." Rather, there's going to be a guest or two who will take pleasure in pointing out things they didn't like. It's their favorite part of going to weddings.

Luckily, most of your guests will be completely positive, no matter what. When doubts come to your mind, think of the individuals you've invited, not just a faceless roomful of people. You know almost all of them are on your side. And the ones that aren't... you're never going to win with them.

Heh... makes me want to plan a wedding just to mess with 'em!
posted by wryly at 7:12 PM on August 5, 2006

My reaction would be as follows;

"Wow. This person wants me to come to their wedding and buy them a gift - and yet they can't take the time to write a personalized note."

Then I would throw the invitation away.
posted by bradth27 at 7:45 PM on August 5, 2006

Then I guess you'd never open the envelope and see the invitation made by hand -- just for you -- on the inside. Pity.

Go ahead and print the labels.
posted by maudlin at 8:09 PM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: Oh for gawd's sake... as the parent of not one, but two offspring about to be married (one male, one female for those that that care about these things) just print the g-d envelopes on your computer and enjoy the wedding! We're from the northeast too (Boston), and anybody that gives a rats a## about how the invitations are addressed clearly doesn't have enough going on in their lives.

Concentate on enjoying a great party, and on being in love, and forget about pleasing Grandma Ethel (even if she has all the bucks).

I wish you the best for your life together.
posted by dragonbay at 9:34 PM on August 5, 2006

The people who will be most likely to be upset that the envelopes aren't hand-addressed (or that some other detail of etiquette is not observed) are not the guests. They are family members or other people in some way involved with the wedding who are, by generation or by disposition, more inclined to formality. They may be afraid that the informality will reflect badly on them, or feel ashamed that someone close to them would do the wedding equivalent of going to work without pants, or may just feel that all would not be right with the universe.

The solution in such situations is sometimes to let them do the annoying task that they happe to feel is necessary. Hand-addressing envelopes, for example, is something that parents can feel strongly about and can be willing to do.

The corollary to this observation is that if you are afraid that something would be rude or just not done, it pays to ask yourself who would be upset if you did it that way. If you can't think of anyone at all, this may be a good sign that you can dispense with the ritual because it just isn't that important in your situation. If you can think of someone, then you can ask yourself what would make that person happy and how to handle the situation, and go on from there.
posted by grimmelm at 9:47 PM on August 5, 2006

Response by poster: "Wow. This person wants me to come to their wedding and buy them a gift - and yet they can't take the time to write a personalized note."

Who the hell writes a personalized note on an invitation? An address hardly constitutes a personal note.

It's people like you who make the entire process of having a formal wedding a complete nightmare. Your argument about "time" isn't valid - it takes just as much time to type out an address as it does to handwrite it - it just looks better. And would you be half as miffed if some spoiled brat sent her envelopes to a professional calligrapher? No, because then she's spending $5 or so per envelope to have someone else do the work for her.

Furthermore, the insinuation that the only reason that you would be invited to a wedding is to provide a gift is another reason why formal weddings are nightmares. I seriously do not get why people seem to think this. Does anyone actually profit off of weddings? I highly doubt it. If I was in it for *things* I would have just taken the money for the reception and used it on the things I wanted. I have no expectation of getting anything out of this, except losing a lot of money and a year of my life. Instead, I'm trying to make things nice to have a party for my friends and family (and family of family and friends of family, bah).


I'm printing them out just because if there are people on my guest list who want to jump to assinine conclusions like that, I don't want to feed them dinner or have to spend a single moment in a room with them anyway.
posted by tastybrains at 10:42 PM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: By the way, now that I'm done ranting, I do want to thank those of you who have been encouraging. I'm just a wee bit stressed out, and I'm happy that it seems more than 3/4 of you think it's just fine to print them out.

I know it seems so trivial, but then you hear people being catty about brides' wedding faux pas for years afterwards, and brides-to-be are really bombarded with etiquette and tips and half of them contradict each other.

Also, to clarify, I do plan to print them directly on the envelopes, in brown ink which perfectly matches that of the invitation, and use a dainty wax seal so no one will think it's junk mail (unless they've elevated their scam to include wax seals...!). I wasn't kidding when I said they look good! ;-)

I seriously cannot wait to be done with all of this so I can move on to living happily married with the love of my life and not stressing over ridiculous details like this...!
posted by tastybrains at 10:49 PM on August 5, 2006

I printed a nice font for all mine and everyone seemed to like it. I had all the addresses in Excel already, so mail merge made it easy. Half the family was from New England, too. May I suggest Grimshaw Hand ITC. I have the font, so email me if you want more details.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 11:47 PM on August 5, 2006

tastybrains, I just wanted to say I couldn't agree with your rant more. Wedding planning is a living nightmare for the bride who normally has a life full of non-trivial concerns but who is polite &c enough to get sucked into other people's Wedding Madness. And then observers say "oh, brides are so bitchy and demanding and selfish and rude". The less mental space you can devote to this crap (other people's very detailed expectations) the better off you will be.

Printing them sounds like a great idea and my hat is off to you for handmaking the invites (my god!). If you are happy on the big day, the people who care about you will be thrilled to be there and it will all be good. Repeat this phrase as often as necessary between now and then. (Another good one to repeat, on the day of, if you're freaking out a little: In x hours, he and I get to drive away in a car together and nobody else is coming with us.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:09 AM on August 6, 2006

Plus, I don't know if you have seen the site, but their message boards are a good resource for some bridal freakouts. The people there are very sane for the most part, which can be a welcome departure from the "OMG, we're getting napkins to match my shoes" tone of a lot of wedding stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:15 AM on August 6, 2006

"Wow. This person wants me to come to their wedding and buy them a gift - and yet they can't take the time to write a personalized note."

So, in other words, the printing of envelopes prevents petty, judge-the-invitation-by-its-cover (that would be envelope) pieces of shit like this from showing up and ruining your wedding. Great filter.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:22 AM on August 6, 2006

Coming from England we generally, rightly or wrongly (rightly, imho) take a lot of care to meet with tradition, especially in the matter of weddings and other social functions of high esteem.

Tastybrains made a good point that addressing the envelopes by hand is a moment of personal reflection on each guest. I believe things like this are what truly elevate a wedding to more than just a 'gathering'.

I can't help but feel that laser-printing is too business-like. Where's the personal touch that makes everyone invited feel part of a special day? As someone wiser than me once said, 'God is in the details'.

Either way - sincere best wishes on your wonderful day.
posted by mooders at 1:07 AM on August 6, 2006

Save the handwriting for the personalized thank you notes which reference the gifts. It depends on who you ask and how laid-back your family is, but you'll have from 1-to-3-to-6 months after the honeymoon to send those. We chose 3 months.

Anyway, print the addresses.
posted by empyrean at 2:13 AM on August 6, 2006

Tastybrains, your rant made my day. It's also a fairly concise reasoning why my husband and I needed to have three weddings/marriage celebrations before we finally got one we liked.

Print, relax, enjoy. And best wishes in your upcoming marriage. (I've long thought that if people were allowed to give over with all the BS attached to weddings and spend that time building their relationship with their intended spouse, the divorce rate might be somewhat lower.)

Though empyrean is right on one bit of etiquette worth holding onto: personalized thank you notes (within one year, but preferably sooner) is where you need to go low-tech. But you'll have plenty of time to work on those.
posted by Dreama at 3:52 AM on August 6, 2006

Unless you really want to hand-address all those envelopes, print them. I would suggest printing them in a font that doesn't look like "calligraphy" because an ornate font looks like you're trying to fool people into thinking that's what your handwriting looks like.

Engraved cards and invitation blanks were originally designed to mimic standard orthography, the idea being that the hostess could simply scrawl in the details of time, place and invitee name instead of laboriously cranking out "Mr. and Mrs. Rufus T. Firefly / request the pleasure of your company at / [etc etc]" In other words, the engraved invitation was conceived as a device to save time. As such, engraved invitations were at first rather frowned upon by the more conservative element of Society. (A real lady would have taken the time to hand-write the entire invitation to a wedding over however many times it took to get a fair copy for each guest.)

The address is a variable field, and as such, could not be included in an engraver's plate. However, technology has advanced since then at about the same rate that the art of ladylike handwriting has fallen into disuse.

Neat laser printing is less deceptive than hiring a calligrapher, and certainly less pretentious.

The various comments about thank-you notes are correct. And a thank-you note must be a handwritten letter on notepaper, not a few lines scrawled on the inside of an informal novelty "Thank You" card. The more relaxed rules of 21st century society allow these letter to be written by either partner in the marriage, not just the bride -- which means that the duty can be shared between the two.

Or, short answer, laser printing is OK.
posted by La Cieca at 10:15 AM on August 6, 2006

Traditionally, the bride-to-be's parents send out the invites, so you shouldn't be worrying about it in the first place ;-)
posted by jack_mo at 11:05 AM on August 6, 2006

My personal taste would be sure: go ahead and laser-print them. But print them directly on the envelopes, not on labels (even the clear ones).
posted by baylink at 1:31 PM on August 6, 2006

I went through the same dilemma last year and laser-printed the addresses directly on the envelopes in a clean and readable but fancy modern font. Not one person said anything other than 'oh what beautiful invitations'...and at least 2 people asked for the name of the calligrapher!

One note: if you're laser-printing, you're fine...but if you're ink-jet printing, I recommend putting the envelopes in clear plastic envelopes (with the postage on the outside of the clear envelope). Inkjet ink smears when wet, and that's a risk you don't want to the clear envelopes will protect your handmade efforts and make the envelope distinctive in the mailbox.

Don't let people stress you out about stuff like's your wedding and you should do as you like. In the end, the envelopes are going to have no effect on whether people have a good time at your wedding (and of course they will!).
posted by hsoltz at 8:02 AM on August 7, 2006


I just mailed out 75 invitations and had my stationary store laser print the inner and outer envelopes with a pretty calligraphy font. They looked hand written, really. The shop charged me $1.75 per envelope and gave me a proof of all the addresses prior to printing. Perhaps in your case they could do this via mail order. You can find them at

This was invaluable as it saved my fiance and I a ton of time and looked beautiful. I figured we spent so much time planning and revising the invites, it would be a shame to screw up the envelopes. And as far as writing them out by hand goes, I say forget it. If the invitations are designed and printed on a computer than the envelopes should be too.

Hope you have a great wedding day!
posted by argus at 5:11 AM on August 14, 2006

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