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  • Christina Hubeli

Your Wedding Invitations Crash Course


wedding invitation with shoes, flowers, and jewelry
Photo: Elizabeth Nord Photograph

The last three to four months leading up to your wedding can start to feel like a flurry of little tasks to do. From obtaining a marriage license to picking a first dance song to having your final attire fittings, there’s a lot going on! One of the (not so little) tasks you’ll complete during this time frame is sending out your invitations and tracking RSVPs.


We’ve found that once couples start getting into the details of designing their invitations, it can get a bit overwhelming! There are lots of decisions that go into creating your invitation suite: selecting a design that’s cohesive with your wedding theme, determining the proper wording to use on the invitations, establishing how you’d like to address the invitations, picking out an RSVP date, and so on.


Below we walk you through the who, when, and what to include for both save the dates and invitations, as well as some of our best tips!


Save the Dates


Who? You’ll send save the dates to anyone who is for sure getting invited to the wedding. Meaning that if you have a secondary guest list (called a B list), do not send a save the date to those people. For both save the dates and invitations, order an extra 10% or so just in case.


When? Save the dates can truly be sent any time after you have a booked venue (and therefore a confirmed wedding date). Typically, they are sent out about 6 to 9 months before the wedding, but if you prefer to send them out earlier, go for it! If you’re planning your wedding on a timeline that’s shorter than 6 months, you may want to consider skipping save the dates and just sending invitations.


What should I include? A save the date is relatively simple! Include your names, your wedding date, and the location of your wedding (most couples opt to keep it to the city and state where they’ll be getting married, rather than the specific venue). Optionally, you can also include your wedding website if you have it completed by this point. If you’re accepting online RSVPs, you may even get a few early ones back. You can also optionally have the phrase “formal invitation to follow” on the save the date to indicate they’ll receive more information closer to the wedding.


Invitations


When? There are a few factors to consider for determining when you should start the invitation process. If you’ll be working with a stationer to design a semi-custom or custom invitation suite, the lead time for this can be longer compared to ordering invites online from a site like Minted or Zola. When working with a stationer, you’ll likely start the invites process around 6 months out from the wedding date. This may vary a bit depending on the individual stationer’s timeline, but this is a standard expectation to have.


For invitations that you’ll order online, plan to start looking at designs around 4 to 5 months out. Allow for around a month to select your design, customize your wording, and order your invites. Shipping typically takes 3 to 4 weeks. For sites like Minted, they’ll provide you with a digital proof of your invitation suite to approve prior to them printing and shipping the entire order of invites. However, keep in mind that if you prefer to receive a physical proof, this may add on a few extra weeks to the process to allow for them to get this to you. If you’ll be booking a calligrapher to handwrite your envelopes (or if you’ll be handwriting them yourself), allow for an extra month in your timeline for this.


Overall, you’ll want to send your invitations out around 2 to 3 months prior to the wedding date.


What should I include? Wedding invitation suites can vary in terms of what’s included, but you may want to include any or all of the items below:

  • The invitation with your wedding date, time, and location

  • Reception card: If your reception is at a separate location, you may opt to include a second card detailing the time and location; if your reception is immediately following your ceremony at the same location, you can just include the line “reception to follow” on your invitation.

  • Accommodations card: This will detail any arrangements you’ve made for accommodations, such as a room block at a hotel. You can include instructions for booking a room in the block, as well the link for your wedding website to direct guests to more details.

  • Directions card: If you would like to detail how to get to the wedding venue(s).

  • If you prefer to consolidate the last three bullet points, you can just include a Details card that includes reception, accommodations, and directions info.

  • Weekend events card: If your wedding weekend will have multiple events throughout the weekend that all guests are invited to, you can include a weekend events card with the details of each. If you’re thinking about planning other wedding weekend events but haven’t quite nailed down the details yet, don’t worry! You can always add this info to your wedding website later on.

  • RSVP card & return envelope with postage: This will be necessary if you’re collecting RSVPs through the mail. The RSVP card at the minimum should include a spot for the guest to accept or decline the invitation and your RSVP by date. If guests are selecting what they would like to eat for dinner, this should also be included along with a line for them to list any dietary restrictions. The return envelope should already have the return address printed on it, along with a stamp.

  • RSVP online card: If you’ll be collecting RSVPs online, you can include a card that directs guests to your wedding website. If you prefer to consolidate this info, you can include a line on your invitation saying “Please RSVP by [date] on our wedding website, [url].”


Pro tip: Check and re-check the proofs sent to you, whether it’s from a stationer or an online store! Ask a set of outside eyes, like a parent, wedding party member, or your planner, to read through everything to ensure the information is correct and easy to read.


When should my RSVP date be? When determining your RSVP date, you’ll want to pay attention to when your vendors require your final guest count to be submitted to them. Your venue and caterer will commonly require your final guest count 10 to 14 days prior to the wedding in order to ensure their food and alcohol orders, equipment, staffing, etc. are appropriate for your guest count.


Beyond venue and catering, other vendors that may need to know your final guest count are your florist, stationer (if they’re providing extras like menu cards or escort/place cards), equipment rentals, alcohol providers, external staffing companies, and transportation providers. For instance, if you were originally planning to have 15 guest tables, but your final guest count only requires that you have 12 guest tables, your florist will lower the number of centerpieces in your order (and therefore your final payment will be less). Any vendor providing tabletop equipment, such as chargers, flatware, and so on, will also adjust the order so you’re not overpaying.


All this to say, read your contracts thoroughly before deciding on an RSVP date! Oftentimes, your venue or caterer will ask for your final guest count prior to other vendors, but there may be an instance where another vendor needs the final count earlier.


If your contracts are all looking fairly standard in that the earliest a vendor needs your final guest is 2 weeks out, plan for your RSVP date to be at least one month before the wedding. This will give you enough time to track RSVPs and follow up with any guests that have not responded by the RSVP date. If you prefer to have your RSVPs back earlier than this of course, you can always bump that date earlier.


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