Do you need an inner and outer envelope for your wedding invitations?

Almost all wedding and stationery etiquette books explain that wedding invitations are to be mailed in inner and outer envelopes – also known as “double envelopes.” With this system, a slightly larger outer envelope with the recipient’s name and address, return address, and postage encloses a slightly smaller inner envelope with just the invitees’ names.

There is a good reason for using this system: you are able to clearly list the individuals invited to the wedding on the inner envelope. This is most useful when including (or explicitly not including) children in an invitation to a family, or when allowing a single person to bring a guest – both of which are typically not written on the outer, addressed envelope. 

On the other hand, there are a few reasons you might want to dispense with this tradition. Despite the popularity of inner and outer envelopes in etiquette books, they are very uncommon in real life. Few stationery stores sell invitations with two envelopes, and they are really not necessary for any except the most formal  weddings.

The original purpose for inner and outer envelopes was to keep the inner envelope clean during transport. Once the invitation arrived at the home, the butler would remove the soiled outer envelope and present the pristine inner envelope to the lady of the house. She would never even see the outer, addressed, stamped envelope. Clearly, this tradition is completely out of step with our current household systems (unless you have a butler…?)

Plus, having an inner and outer envelope doubles the cost of envelopes, and it’s better for the environment.

So, if you decide to only use one envelope instead of two, how do you go about addressing the outer envelope? See our post about that here.