Okay, it’s official. You’re getting married! Your friends and family are ecstatic – this will be an event to remember. But, when? And, where? The trick is, YOU might not even know at this point, but the sooner you do, and the sooner you can get it on people’s calendars, and the better the chance potential guests are likely to be free.
Save the Dates are a relatively new tradition starting circa the turn of the millennium. These came into being as a solution for planning ahead in our ever-increasingly busy world where hotels, flights, and other transportation methods get booked up quickly.
The early bird catches the worm when it comes to travel deals, free spots on the calendar, and reserving wedding venues.
If you’re looking to get married on a weekend in a peak wedding season (summer, fall), chances are you have booked your venue at least a year in advance, so giving people ample notice as to where and when shouldn’t be difficult to do.
When Should You Send Save the Dates?
Proper “etiquette” says the appropriate time to send Save the Dates is 4-8 months for local weddings and 8-12 months for destination weddings.
But eschewing etiquette, my advice is if you know your location and date – and there’s no chance either of these will change, send them out as soon as possible (+- one year out) from your wedding. The thought here is why delay and limit your relatives’ and friends’ planning options?
Schedules fill up quickly; especially during the summer months with graduation parties and events.
People are busy – all of us have a lot going on these days. Most families live in scattered locations, requiring certain members to fly out (or drive far) to where your wedding is.
There are good reasons to inform people sooner rather than later:
- Travel is cheaper the further out you can book it.
- A lot of companies require a few months advance notice for people who are taking off work.
- If your wedding guests need to request time off of work and possibly save up money for airfare this gives them enough time.
- If your date is in the summer or on a holiday weekend, you’ll probably still be fighting with some potential conflicts, no matter how early you inform people.
- It’s a courtesy to give people enough time to prepare.
With all of this in mind, understand that sending a save the date early enough is important – it ups the odds of your invitees being available. It will also probably save your loved ones a little money by allowing them to jump on tickets ahead of time, which they will be sure to appreciate.
Do you Have to Send Save the Dates?
If you are having a destination wedding, a large wedding, and/or are inviting guests who are out of town – and you want them to show up, yes you should.
At a minimum, notify those who live out of town – somehow – as early as you can, so that they can start to plan their trip.
If you want to save money on the cards & stamps, consider sending them only to your out-of-towners, or opt to notify these invitees via phone or email.
Alternatively, you could also send your official invitations out earlier.
Etiquette dictates wedding invitations without Save the Dates should be sent out 3 months before the wedding.
Again, I personally would send them sooner – but I’m that kind of person. I’ve seen it many times where two conflicting events are happening on the same day and the person who sent the invite first wins priority. Your wedding is too important to play the “who sent it first” game, and lose out on having key people not show up for it.
If all of your guests are local, and you only have a handful of invitees who you talk to regularly, Save the Dates may not be necessary. They are still fun though to receive and look at, so you might still consider doing them even if you don’t feel you need to.
Some couples are using social media like Facebook to announce their date – which is certainly a less formal way of notifying guests. If that works for you and you don’t feel weird about doing it that way – go for it! Keep in mind people who are not technical (typically older generations) will probably not get these messages which means you’ll need to reach out to them another way; i.e., phone.
What Info Goes on a Save the Date?
The information is usually very simple.
You typically want to keep these notifications succinct, providing only these elements:
- Who: Bride & Groom Names
- When: Date of Wedding
- Where: City/state only
- Usually included: Invitation to follow
It is assumed that you will be sending a more detailed invite, but it’s better to spell that out so that there isn’t any confusion – and so that you don’t start getting contacted by people wondering where they will need to go.
If you have common names like John and Jen, you will want to make sure a last name is on the return envelope to ensure people aren’t wondering which John and Jen it is getting married.
Who Do I Send These To?
Everyone who will get a wedding invite will get a save the date card – including your wedding party/Mother/Best Friend.
Do not send these to backup guests until you know you will be inviting them. Some people have a B list of people that they open up invites to after they get a few rejections from the A list. Obviously, don’t send Save the Dates to people if you aren’t sure that you’ll be inviting them. It would just be cruel for them to expect an invite that never shows up; and would result in some awkward situations when they contact you to find out if their invite got lost in the mail.
Also, make sure the A and B list people aren’t very close friends or you might ruffle a few feathers.
Save the Date Ideas
Save the Dates are so much fun because they don’t have to match the formality that your wedding might have – they are a way of relaying exciting news to the people you love most in your life, in any funky style you choose.
You can get very creative with your messaging and delivery format. This is one area where you don’t need to be afraid to let your personality shine through.
There’s also no need to stick with a physical card – consider putting your information on a magnet or other gift as a cute and memorable way of sharing your news.
Here are some clever ideas for items you could print your wedding info on as an alternative to just a card:
- Plantable Seed Paper
- Paper Fans
- Cocktail Napkins
- Bottle Openers
- Beer Koozies
- Polaroid Picture
- Luggage Tags (great for destination weddings)
Once you get engaged it’s a good idea to have professional engagement photos taken. These can be used for Save the Date cards and other wedding related photos (think your wedding website or pictures you use for a frame signing at the wedding).
Often, couples will use a happy picture of themselves hugging or having fun as their Save the Date card background.
Save the Date cards don’t need to match your actual wedding invitations in any way – but if you want them to match they can.
You can also have some fun with wording, such as:
- We Do
- Keep Calm & Marry On
- Eat, Drink, & Be Married
- It’s a Date
- $hit Just Got Real (very casual)
- Pencil us In
- Pack Your Bags (destination)
When do you Send out Wedding Invitations?
2-3 months before your wedding is when you should send the actual invite. The reason behind this is that you need to receive the return RSVPs in order to know your headcount.
Typically, you will give your guests a month or so to respond to their RSVPs. The response deadline should be clearly stated on the invite.
Some venues require a final headcount 40 days prior to the wedding, so if your venue has a strict cutoff, you will need to receive your RSVPs ahead of whatever that is.
Plus, following up with those who haven’t responded requires time and effort at a time when you will be very busy with all of the other planning details. Make sure you give yourself enough time to have some breathing room.
On the flip side, if you are sending invites out very early, you may have received RSVPs from people who can no longer attend, which throws off your final count. This is why traditionally, invites are sent out only 1-2 months ahead of the wedding; this helps guarantee that the final count is as accurate as possible.
Save the Date Addressing Etiquette
This is actually very important for a specific reason – while your Save the Date doesn’t necessarily imply who is invited, telling your guests if they should book additional flights for their children or partners is part of what they need to know.
Because of this, you will want to address your pre-invite to include only those who will be invited on the day of.
You can use X name “and Guest”, or “Family” to imply that they are all included.
If you are only inviting the adults in a family with kids, you will only address the invite to the adults.
If children are not allowed, that should be made clear from early on however you feel most comfortable doing so. You might include a mention on the Save the Date that says something like, “So that everyone enjoys an evening of relaxation and celebration, the Bride and Groom graciously request an adults only ceremony and reception”. Or, you might opt to give people with children a quick call after they receive the Save the Date. It is important for people to understand what you are okay with so that they can get a babysitter if needed or buy a plane ticket for the kids if they are allowed to join.
Unless you are going for a more modern way of addressing your envelopes, you should traditionally use the full, formal names of the people you are inviting. Start with the person you’ve known the longest first.
Married couples with separate last names:
- Mrs. Emily Blunt and Mr. John Krasinski
- John Krasinski and Emily Blunt
- Ms. Amanda Becker and Ms. Sarah Conner (same-sex marriage)
- Mrs. Jane Dory and Mrs. Jean Kline (same-sex marriage)
Married couples with same last name:
- Mr. and Mrs. Krasinski
- John and Emily Krasinski
- Mr. Pete Buttigieg and Mr. Chasten Buttigieg (same-sex marriage)
- Amanda and Jennifer Becker (same-sex marriage)
If there are children under 18 included, the females are usually addressed with Miss, young males do not have a title.
- The Krasinskis
- The Krasinski Family
- John, Emily, and Hazel Krasinski
- Mr. John, Ms. Emily, and Miss Hazel Krasinski
- Mr. John, Mrs. Emily, Miss Hazel, and Joeseph Krasinski
- Ms. Emilia Clarke and Guest
- Emilia Clarke and Guest
- Mr. Richard Madden and Guest
- Richard Madden and Guest
- Mr. Richard Madden (no guest invited)
Remember What Matters
Beyond anyone else’s “expectations” – this day is above all, about you and your partner. However you want to communicate your news, who you want to invite, what you want your day to look like, how formal you think it should be, is completely up to you.
Follow tradition or go off-script.
There are no real “rules” when it comes to marriage. Just what works for you and your specific style – your friendships and relationships with your people.
Do it the way you think it should be done, and with the same respect and advanced notice you would expect/want from them.
Most of all – enjoy your day – and your spouse.
Congratulations on starting your new life!