Weddings – and wedding invitations – used to be so simple; you did a bit of planning, bought a dress, sent the invites six weeks before the wedding and the rest of the plans unfolded from there. Of course, that was also a time when the only thing served at wedding receptions was cake, punch, and coffee.
Times have changed, wedding expectations are elevated and the digital era has convoluted things a bit.
Before the wedding invitations, you save the date!
While six weeks’ notice for a wedding used to be plenty, that’s not the case anymore. People are busier than ever, especially families with children. If you really want everyone on your guest list to attend, we recommend sending out Save the Dates at the six-to-eight month prior mark. This gives everyone the heads-up so they can get the date on their calendar.
It also gives people from out of town a chance to look for great airfare and travel deals. A six-to-eight month notice especially recommended if you’re planning a destination wedding because those require guests to take extra time off work, a bigger travel budget, and so on.
Etiquette for Save the Date Cards:
- You don’t have to send Save the Date anything – so keep that in mind if you’re trying to simplify things or if you’re planning an eco-wedding and want to cut down on paper waste. Save the Dates are a modern trend, not an official requirement.
- You don’t have to send a Save the Date to everyone, only the people who are most important to you (that being said, be prepared to field questions if you’re sending Save the Dates to some people in one of the inner rings of invitees, but not others, because word gets around).
- Paper or digital formats are perfectly acceptable, although paper is preferred for more traditional weddings. If you go the digital route, you might want to consider paper versions for the inner-family circle and the wedding party (assuming you know who will be what at the wedding) to make it more official.
- Get the date, time and city/location nailed down first. Some couples think it’s fine to stick anything in there just to get the date set, assuming people will get the “real” information via the “real” invitations and/or the website later on. Not cool. The basic facts should be official before sending anything out in writing. If you haven’t chosen a venue yet, that’s fine. However, a general location or city (even better) should be selected before you send anything out.
- Don’t print registry information on Save the Dates. You’ll see this repeated again for invites. That type of unsolicited information shouts, “give us gifts,” and that’s not a gracious attitude (even if wedding gifts are really, really fun).
Now that your Save-the-Dates are out of the way, it’s time to get the official wedding invitations in order.
Wedding invitations should be received at least six weeks before The Big Day
It seems like the advent of Save the Dates gave brides internal permission to be lazy about wedding invites. Our staff have received official wedding invites from family and friends as little as one or two weeks before the wedding day. This isn’t a good idea. Most specifically, it can make guests wonder if they really are invited. Like, what if the Save the Date was a fluke? There’s nothing more awkward than calling a bride or groom to inquire, “am I really invited to your wedding? Because I got a Save the Date, but…” Avoid placing invited guests in a compromising or awkward position by sending out invites ahead of time.
The good news is that the same vendors who make Save the Dates also make wedding invitations, so a package deal will streamline colors, themes, and the information provided on each one. If you order them all together, you’ll have months to work on hand-addressing each envelope (more on that in the Wedding Invitation Etiquette section) so they’re all ready to go a couple of months ahead of time.
If you do your job well, all of the guests will receive their official wedding invitations in the mail, complete with accurate Where/When/What information, a link to your website (if you have one), and a SASE with the RSVP card between six and eight weeks before your wedding date.
Wedding Invitation Etiquette
- Were they invited to a shower or engagement party? You should invite them to the wedding. Anyone invited to a bridal shower or engagement party should also get a wedding invite unless you are having the world’s tiniest wedding. Otherwise, it can seem like gift mongering. The exception to this would be if your workplace hosts a shower for you since work colleagues are not expecting an invite if they aren’t in the inner-circle. If you’re reading this way ahead of time, you can reverse engineer that information and re-think your engagement/shower guest list – don’t invite anyone who wouldn’t be included in the wedding guest list.
- Don’t send invites to anyone who has already told you they aren’t able to come to the wedding. This includes anyone who already received a Save the Date (again, sending them another invite looks like gift greed).
- Handwrite the addresses. We’re sorry to break it to you, but even in the digital era, pre-printed labels are considered tacky. You don’t have to be a calligraphy artist, but neat, handwritten addresses are the way to go for this once-in-a-lifetime event. If you’re handwriting stinks, enlist the help of some friends or relatives to help out.
- Address envelopes thoughtfully. How the wedding invite is addressed can make a big difference in the number of RSVPs you receive, as well as the age of your guests. Don’t want little ones at the wedding? Don’t address the invites to The Jones Family. Instead, send the invite to Mr. & Mrs. Jones. Period. This is their clue that it’s an adult-only affair. Would you like your cousin to bring her guy-du-jour to the event? Then address the invite to Miss Michelle Jones and Guest.
- Don’t say “adults only.” It would be so much easier if you could, we know. Unfortunately, wedding invitation etiquette prevents exclusionary language. Instead, be careful about how the invite is addressed and let your family, close friends and wedding party in on that tidbit so they can tactfully share the information with others.
- Don’t put your registry information on invites. Again, greedy. Instead, let family, close friends and the wedding party know and they can help spread the word. You can also include a link to registry information on your website.
The bottom line when it comes to sending wedding invitations is that you want your guests to have all the time they need to prepare themselves for your special day. If you’ve achieved that, you’re well on your way to having the wedding of your dreams.