Steamboat Springs A wedding invitation serves as preview to the event itself, giving clues about the level of formality and the style of the celebration.
Invitations must be ordered early to ensure that there's enough time to address and mail them.
Most wedding planners recommend placing the order at least three months before the wedding.
Jill Waldman, owner of The Main Event in Steamboat Springs, urges couples to choose their invitations six months before the wedding and mail them six to eight weeks before the ceremony.
That allows time for responses and gives guests plenty of time to make plans.
Invitations range from engraved card stock to do-it-yourself computer programs -- all of which are acceptable as long as the invitations reflect the tone of the wedding.
"Let invitations be a clue to the type of wedding guests should expect," Waldman said. "The level of formality should be reflected in the invitations."
The range of invitation styles has grown dramatically. Couples can choose pastel, moire or pearlized paper, which may have a colored or imprinted border, flowers and other decorations. It's also possible to get invitations that coordinate with a wedding theme.
In Craig, couples can get invitations printed at The Print Shop.
In Steamboat Springs, Lincoln Avenue Printers or Steamboat Specialties can do the job.
Wedding invitations can also be ordered online, but Waldman urges couples to not order anything unless they've seen a sample first.
"The weight, stock or color might look different online," she said. "If the company's not OK with sending a sample, I wouldn't work with them."
Office supply stores will have the paper and accessories for do-it-yourself invitations.
"With computers now, it's easy to buy card stock and print out all matching cards," Waldman said.
She does recommend that couples consider the headache of creating their own invitations and weigh that against the cost of purchasing invitations.
"It might equal out if you have to glue, cut or paste anything," she said.
Couples should expect to spend 3 to 4 percent of the price of their wedding on invitations, including postage, reply cards and thank-you notes.
Waldman said couples should always consider the cost of postage, which could be as high as 60 cents an invitation for heavier or oddly shaped invitations.
Choosing the wording is sometimes complicated. It largely depends on who is hosting the wedding. For example, if the bride's parents host, the traditional wording would be "Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Jane Ann Smith."
Some couples, however, choose to issue the invitation under their own names.
In that case, the invitation might read, "The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of Jane Ann Smith and Thomas Michael Jones ..."
Tips for wedding invitation wording are included in etiquette and wedding planning books as well as online.
Couples will also want to think about what to include with the wedding invitation.
Many couples use preprinted response cards, which allow guests to simply fill in their names and check off whether they will attend. These should be accompanied by self-addressed, stamped envelopes.
Other popular enclosures include reception cards, which include the time and place of the reception; travel information, such as maps and information about nearby accommodations; rain cards, which list an alternate site for outdoor weddings in the event of bad weather; "save the date" cards; or itinerary cards if the wedding is being held at a resort or will be a weekend event.
Many couples also choose to order their thank-you cards when they order their wedding stationery. Some also get "at home" cards, which list the couple's new address.
This is also handy for alerting friends and acquaintances of the name by which the bride will be known.
Consult a wedding etiquette book for instructions about assembling the invitation and accompanying information and addressing the envelope.
Generally, when addressing invitations, you should not use abbreviation except Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.
Names of streets should be written in full.
Remember to allow plenty of time to address your invitations; brides will want to use their best penmanship.
And, don't forget to order a few more invitations than are needed in case of mistakes and to keep a few as keepsakes