We want to hand out a “bulletin” that says thank you for coming from the bride and groom, tells the names of the bridal party, and gives a map to the reception. We are looking for “special” wording to welcome people and say thanks.

After fighting your way through the intricacies of “proper” wording for wedding invitations, it’s easy to develop the impression that every element of the wedding demands some special wording that you’d never use in daily life.

If we have to “request the honour (note that “u”!) of your presence” from every guest, surely we must have to say something equally fancy to thank the participants who have done the most to make the wedding day a success!

It doesn’t help, in this quest to “do things right,” that so much of wedding-related socializing consists of answering the same questions or saying the same things over and over and over and over!

About four months into wedding planning, the temptation to hand out a flyer with the key messages, “Yes, we’re excited; no, I don’t know where the honeymoon will be; we’re registered at Pier One; thanks so much; no, it’s just a small wedding” becomes almost irresistible. So it’s not surprising that couples want to get their welcoming and thanking done, in the most proper way possible, all at once and in print.

This is, however, not the most powerful way to help people feel welcomed and appreciated. Nothing succeeds like personalization, eye contact, and individual attention. If you want your guests to feel warmly welcomed, greet them at the door (yes, the bride and groom can do this!) or at least make sure that the ushers are warm, friendly, and helpful rather than stiff and nervous. Include a welcome at the beginning of your ceremony. Look people in the eye and pay attention to them during the receiving line. Thank the attendants and parents personally before the wedding day and mention them in the reception toasts. Personal attention says “we’re glad you shared this day with us” more powerfully and memorably than any message printed in the wedding program.

This doesn’t mean you’re shockingly silly or improper to want to include a little something in the wedding program in addition to whatever you do in person! Many couples feel that it’s too abrupt to just launch into the key information without some sort of prelude.

The key to sounding sincere and perhaps tugging a heart-string here and there is to keep the message short, simple, and direct. “We’re so glad you could be here today” has the ring of truth. “A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has made this day the most perfect in our lives” sounds as if it was written by some corporation’s committee at the behest of the Human Resources department. And as for doggerel like “Our joy in our union is more complete / when we see you here dressed up so neat / Accept our thanks with joy and kisses / from the soon-to-be Mr. and Mrs.”… the less said the better.

Must cleverness be completely ruled out in the name of bland good taste? Life could not be so cruel! The trick is to be clever and original in a way that doesn’t come across as artificial or insincere. If you happen to be the local limerick champion, you certainly may thank people with an original limerick in your wedding program. If your favorite poet has something stunning to say on friendship, quote it! But run, run, keep running from anything that smacks of pseudo- formality or wordings that you’d never, ever use face-to-face.

In your situation, I’d design the program for a half-sheet of cardstock, with reception directions or map on the “back” and the wedding party on the front. At the top of the front, add your names and the date of the event, then one or two sentences of thanks and welcome. Keep it simple, write from the heart, and you’ll never look back and wonder what possessed you to put that in a wedding program!