Wedding stationery is unlike any other mailed correspondence. Its uniqueness of design and packaging tells the recipient that they’ve received something special. Yet until I got married myself, I had never paid close attention to the individual packaging elements that actually make wedding invites so distinctive.
One of those atypical elements is the inner envelope. Originally used to protect invitations from dirt, water, and the eyes of messengers back in the days when correspondence was hand delivered, today the inner envelope serves a more social purpose. While the outer envelope is used for the guest’s name, address, and postage, the inner envelope is addressed simply with the names of each member of the household invited to your wedding. Formal etiquette dictates the use of surnames (last names) on both the outer and inner envelopes, but many brides today opt to employ last names on the outer envelope only and to use more informal and more personal first names on the inner envelope.
While this approach sounds stuffy to some, the key purpose of this social standard is to clearly indicate who is invited so that there is no confusion for your guests. For example, if you are choosing to invite a married couple but are not including their three children, you would address the envelopes as follows:
Outer Envelope: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew Guilders’
Inner Envelope: ‘Mr. and Mrs. Guilders’ or ‘Bart and Bitsy Guilders’
And if you did want to invite the children, the inner envelope would read:
‘Bart and Bitsy Guilders’ on the first line and ‘Betsy, Tacy, and Tibb’ on the second line.
Inner envelopes differ from outer envelopes in additional subtle ways. The outer envelope is slightly larger than the inner envelope (making it easier to stuff). The inner envelope does not have any sealing gum/glue on its lip (because it’s not necessary to seal it) nor does it bear a return address on its back flap (since it’s not being mailed on its own).