Paper Tales

Weddings are exciting, memorable, and fun. And then there’s all the paperwork. Marblehead-based manners master Jodi Smith helps local couples decode the ins and outs of invitations, thank-you notes, and RSVPs.


Illustration by Grady Mcferrin

My fiancé and I are planning a scuba wedding with a clambake reception on the beach. A traditional invitation is just so not us—we don’t want to “request” anyone’s “presence” at our marriage. What are our options? —R.P., Andover

Wedding invites are the first pieces of tangible info your guests will get; it’s important to consider the message and the mood you want to convey. For your non-traditional wedding, try being creative: Roll notes in bottles filled with sand and seashells, print invites on very fine sandpaper, or create cards shaped like flip- flops. This is your chance to have some fun. A casual sample to get you started:

Please join us as we take the plunge!
Grace Daniels & Evan Matthews
Will be wed
In the waters off Cape Cod
Saturday, July 4, 2009
At high tide (10:42 am)
Followed by a clambake reception
Railroad Bridge Beach
Sandwich, Massachusetts
Glass-bottom boats will be available
Beachwear & bathing suits
Footwear optional


We’ve already started receiving wedding gifts, but the ceremony is still three months away. Should I wait to write my thank-you notes? —S.K., Boston

There’s no need to wait! It’s better that guests know their gifts arrived on time and in one piece. Plus, this will be one less thank you to write after the wedding. And if you’re taking your husband’s name, this is the perfect opportunity to finish your supply of old stationery. All thank-you notes written before the actual event should reflect your single status. And all thank yous, period, must be sent within six weeks of the ceremony. (It is a cruel marriage-manners myth that you have a year to write your notes. That is simply not true. The later the note, the longer the note— so start scribing now!)

After the expense of the wedding, monetary gifts are quite welcome. How do I let people know that this is what we need without sounding materialistic and greedy? And how do I thank them afterward? —T.D., Waltham

Yes, weddings are expensive, but invitations are not invoices! There’s no polite way to say, “We want cash.” Guests who do skip your registry and invest in your marriage instead should be acknowledged with a tasteful thank-you note. Phrases such as “We are saving for our first home; thank you for the gift toward our down payment” or “We are so glad you were able to celebrate our wedding with us, and thank you for the generous gift” tend to work well.

Our wedding is a few weeks away, and we still have not received response cards from some of our guests. Help! —N.S., Hingham

Now is the time to start dialing. Feel free to enlist your fiancé for calls to his side of the guest list. A face-saving assumption is always that the invitation did not reach its intended destination. The script for the conversation is “Susie, I’m reviewing the responses for my upcoming wedding and didn’t see your name on my list. I’d feel horrible if your invitation was lost in the mail. Will you be able to join us?”

When my fiancé and I registered for gifts, each shop gave us cards to slip into our invites. My mother and I had a huge fight about whether it’s tacky (mom) or helpful (me) to include them. Please help settle this. —L.R., Weston

First, call your mother immediately to apologize. The store’s objective is to turn a profit. Your mother’s objective is to raise a well-mannered daughter. (Trust me, retail stores do not have your best interests at heart.) The ideal place for registry information is on your wedding website. When you send out save-the-date cards, you may politely list your website’s address.

Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, 978-744-7780,