Suffering from a bout of writer’s block? Found yourself lost for words? Are you the literary equivalent of tongue-tied? We’ve all been there – when putting pen to paper proves more than a trifle difficult and the blank space on the page (or card) just stares unblinkingly back at you. Knowing what to write in a wedding card is either something that comes naturally (hats off to you lyrical geniuses) or is a task that requires a bit of a nudge, a dollop of inspiration and a generous scoop of advice. Enter our wedding card wording guide, there to ensure your lovingly-scribed verses fill the happy couple’s hearts with joy, and if all goes exceedingly well, bring a tear to at least one eye...
Basics first – always, always address both people in the ménage à deux. If your opening gambit neglects one half of the newlywed bubble, you’re off to a bad start from which it’s hard to recover. Embrace them both, even if your relationship is predominately – or entirely – with just one of them. After all, this little thing you’re congratulating them on applies to both parties; it takes two to tango.
Skipping over the wedding card wishes momentarily (more of that to come), your sign-off is the other part of the wedding card sandwich that falls under the ‘basics’ category. Don’t go signing it off from all and sundry. If it’s your childhood best friend and you’ve got your parents, siblings and aunts and uncles who remember them from when they were ‘only this big’, that doesn’t mean they should get to tag on to the end of your message. Get them to send their own, while you keep yours to just y-o-u, or you and your significant other.
Try to resist the urge to add a pet’s name too – reason being, this card will carry real sentimental value to the newly betrothed and as much as you love your cat/dog/chinchilla, s/he won’t be genuinely over the moon for them on their special day. Keep it meaningful, from start to finish – that’s the wedding card golden rule.
Card etiquette covers not just words but logistics. What’s the deal with when to send it, for example? Pre-wedding to wish them well for their upcoming nuptials? On the day so that it promptly arrives at their venue to read before walking down the aisle or rests on their gift table to read the day after? Or is the card supposed to come after the wedding to welcome them home from their honeymoon? The good news is, there’s no hard and fast rule on this one.
So, take a moment to think about what you might want to say and that will help you determine when the best time is to send it. If what comes to mind are words of anticipation and appreciation for being part of their day, or sadness that you can’t make it along with gratitude for the invite, then posting it to them beforehand makes sense.
On the other hand, if you want to hold fire so that you can include favourite moments from the day and advice for wedding day blues, then there’s no harm in stamp-licking in the days after the wedding. Just remember, that if you’re posting it rather than plonking it on the designated gifts-and-cards table, you’ll need to spare a thought for their names.
That might sound like it’s stating the obvious, but pre-wedding card envelopes need only their ‘regular’ names, whereas on-the-day or post-wedding envelopes should take into account whether their surnames are changing. Or, keep things simple and address the envelope on first-name terms – you’re friends after all.
The final thing to note before we get onto the meaty stuff, the personal stuff, the emotional stuff is where people stand on putting money inside the wedding card. Wedding gifts are a whole other topic, but if the couple have politely asked for ‘contributions towards their newlywed nest’ or ‘help with the honeymoon of their dreams’, then sending money will be more than well-received.
Frankly, who has ever opened a card and wailed about finding a cheque or the face of our gracious queen looking back at them? Tip: it’s handy to reference your gift somewhere in the card if you can as it’s a godsend for keeping track of who sent what and how to thank everyone in a personal way when the clock chimes thank-you-card o’clock.
Now to the filling. It’s all well and good sharing suggestions like speak from the heart or make it personal to your relationship with the bride and groom, but aren’t you after chunkier pieces of prose that you can lift and adapt rather than vague signposting? Here, some of our Papier poets have jotted down precisely what they’d put in a wedding card to their nearest and dearest to inspire scribing for every eventuality, from cards for siblings and besties to messages formal and funny. Starting with a short and sweet, catch-all template for you to try on for size.
Dearest Ruth and Rufus,
Husband and wife, soulmates, best friends, when two become one – that’s you two to a tee.
Huge and heartfelt congratulations!
We couldn’t be any happier for you both if we tried.
Here’s to many moons of love and laughter.
Life is always better together.
All our love,
Annie and Hugh
A spot of advice and phrases to pinch depending on how you want to pitch your message.
More informal wedding card wordings begin with speaking like a human being rather than like you’re writing an essay or a letter to the bank. Less, ‘our sincerest gratitude for being invited to partake in your wedding day’ (which was genuinely in one of the Papier gang’s wedding cards) and more, ‘Hurray! You’ve finally done it and it was literally the best day ever!’. Casual messages also have free rein to go big on the exclamation marks.
Now, if you want to keep things polite and proper, undo everything we just said. A good starting point for formal wedding card wishes is to go crazy on the verb ‘may’. Watch and learn.
‘May your life be filled with lasting joy’, ‘May today mark the start of your journey together as husband and wife as you weave your own tale as old as time’, ‘May you remain as jubilant as you both looked when exchanging your vows to one another today’.
And so on. May takes the language up a gear. Words of advice are also more likely to appear in a formal wedding card and you may (see, may just sounds more eloquent) want to reflect on the years to come rather than the immediate wedding day bubble, as formal cards tend to be more on the serious side.
Cute, cheesy, a little bit Taylor Swift in vibe – there is nothing wrong with sending a card filled with a mushy message if that’s your style. If you’re a hopeless romantic and there’s a sonnet out there that sets your heart aflutter, then write it down (Sonnet 116 with talk of love that not even a tempest can shake, we’re looking at you).
If there’s a verse from a song that speaks to you and you want to share it with the happy couple, then by all means do. Or even if you want to go all gooey over certain aspects of the wedding day, then indulge your soft centre and ink away. Your wedding card should be personal to the couple but also a personal reflection of who you are and what you want to say to them.
This one’s for the natural comics out there, the dry and quick wits, the masters of slapstick and sarcastic humour. So long as there’s something in there that’s genuine and that takes their wedding day seriously, you’ve got a free pass to crack some funnies – providing you’re not taking the mick out of the bride or groom or risk causing any upset.
Try to avoid any of the obvious dad-joke quips like ‘Our sincerest apologies for joining the ball and chain society’. Instead, think about a memory that you share with the newlyweds and see if you can draw upon that. For example, ‘Who’d have thought that night out in second year of uni would have ended up like this? You’ve swapped the vodka for vows, the bodycon dress for a bridal gown, the night bus for a horse and carriage, and I couldn’t be more chuffed that you have. Congratulations you lovebirds.’
Or can you link your present to something that will make them smirk, like: ‘You might think that £100 cheque is to go towards a candlelit dinner somewhere fancy on your honeymoon. It’s not, it’s an instalment towards her unstoppable shoe habit because I didn’t want you to have to go it alone, no man should.’ The best funny wedding card wishes are when the jokes aren’t what every Tom, Dick and Harry might write, but that you’ve tailored to them.
So what about if you want to keep it warm and laid-back but not over-casual because let’s face it, you’re not close enough with them to be too chill? And if you want to show a bit of the lovey-dovey without going mega soppy? And if you want to avoid being funny because it feels a bit out of place?
There’s nothing wrong with a generic message or two; these can be helpful for distant relatives and people who are acquaintances rather than inner circle. Don’t be tempted by the totally generic though, because they just sound empty. ‘Congratulations on your wedding day’, ‘We wish you a lifetime of happiness’, ‘Best wishes’ and so forth are all a bit blah. Our general wedding card wording example to Ruth and Rufus is a good place to start. Or, steal phrases like: ‘We couldn’t be happier for you’, ‘You did it!’ and ‘You deserve all of the happiness in the world’.
General angle and tone decided, you might want to think about how to adapt your wedding card wishes depending on the relationship you have with the bride and/or groom.
Probably the one where you can get away most of all with excitable squeals, laidback language and an overdose of emotion. You might want to say things like:
OMG as if you’re a wifey and he’s a hubs!
This has literally been one of the best days of my life.
Let’s raise a glass to love and friendship!
Now my other half has an ever better other half – I’m so happy you found one another.
Now this all depends on how close the two of you are. If you’re two peas in a pod, you might speak to your sibling like they’re your bestie (see above), but if you’re more of the cat and dog variety, you’ll probably opt for something less gushy like:
What a wonderful day and what an honour it’s been to celebrate with you both.
Today, you two have marked the start of a new family together, but we also get to celebrate the extension of our own. [Insert bride or groom’s name], it’s such a pleasure to be able to officially call you my brother/sister-in-law.
I’m absolutely delighted to congratulate you both on this momentous, magical day.
This is where things get extra emotional. Finding the words to say to your child (or grandchild) on their wedding day don’t always come easily, because there’s just SO much to say. But to help get things going:
Today, we watched our little girl/boy marry their Prince Charming/the girl of their dreams, and nothing could make us happier.
[Insert bride/groom’s name], we’ve considered you as a part of our family for a long time, but today, it brings us great joy to be able to officially call you our (grand)son/(grand)daughter-in- law.
We’ll be forever thankful to have been here to see you both looking as happy, as in love and as radiant as you both did. It’s a memory we’ll cherish forever.
We wish you all of the love and happiness in the world.
Take your cue here from the best friend section. But, if you were one of the chosen few to be made bridesmaid or groomsman, you’ll want to spice up your message with a little something like this:
There are no words to properly tell you what it’s meant to me to be part of all the wedding preparations and planning, and then to be at both of your sides on your special day.
It’s going to be incredibly hard to ever top today – this has meant the world.
Thank you a million times over for asking me to be such a special part of your wedding day.
Just so you know, you might stop calling yourselves bride and groom after today, but here on out, I always want to be referred to as best man/bridesmaid/maid of honour/groomsman. That way, I can keep reliving today over and over and over, because I just don’t want it to end.
Now, find your pen, scribble on some scrap paper first (nothing is worse than starting a card with barely-there ink) and start pouring your heart out.