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Wedding Invitations vs. Save-the-Dates: What You Need to Know

BY: Randall Colburn | May 6, 2016

 Adding to the stress of planning a wedding is nailing the logistics: long before the event itself, guests need to be contacted with all the necessary information to participate in your big day. But exactly when should they be notified of the impending nuptials? Will a Facebook page or email blast suffice for the save-the-date? What should the invitations say?

Deep breaths, brides- and grooms-to-be. We’re here to make this simple by laying out the basics of save-the-date and wedding invitation etiquette, as well as some of the options available to newly engaged couples.


What is it?

A save-the-date is a pre-invitation, essentially. It announces your nuptials and tells people to mark your special day on their calendar. As such, your save-the-date should include the date of your wedding as well as the location—just the city is sufficient here. You can also include the address of your wedding website, if you have one. And though this line is optional, you can clarify on the card that a formal invitation is to follow (it might keep you from being hounded with questions regarding details you’ve yet to nail down).

When should I send it?

That depends on both where and when you’re getting married. Let’s break it down this way:  

  • If it’s a local wedding, aim for around four to six months before the big day so guests have time to ask off work and make travel arrangements, if necessary.
  • If it’s a destination wedding, you’ll want to give people eight months to a year to begin planning their getaway. International locations especially call for at least eight months’ notice, since some guests may need time to get their passports in order.

Do I need to send one?

Because destination weddings require so much advanced planning by hosts and guests alike, a save-the-date is considered common courtesy. If it’s a local affair, don’t feel you absolutely must send them, but remember they’re often appreciated. That said, if your engagement is a short one (three months or less), a save-the-date would probably be too much to cram into your timeline—spare yourself and your partner the extra stress.


What should it look like?
For a save-the-date, simple is best. Because you’re conveying a few simple logistical facts, you don’t want them to get lost in a lot of visual clutter. Stick with a few lines of text and, if you like, a photo. If you’ve already landed on a theme or color palette, go ahead and design your save-the-date around that for an extra dash of personality. See some examples below:

Are there different approaches?

If sending a traditional card strikes you as too old-school, you have options:

  • Make it a magnet: Everyone needs more fridge magnets. Making save-the-date magnets not only gives friends another magnet, but ensures they’ll be reminded of your wedding whenever they fetch a snack.
  • Keep it online: If a mass mailing sounds like a drag, you can make a webpage or even upload a video to YouTube. Feel free to go the email route if time is precious.
  • Get ‘em hungry: Pull out all the stops with an edible save-the-date: print the information on a wrapper and tuck a chocolate inside.

Wedding Invitations  

What is it?

It’s an invitation, of course. But it’s possibly the most important invitation you’ll ever send, so you need to get the details right. Wedding invitations should include the following:

  • The date and time
  • The venues of the ceremony and reception. (Don’t forget to include street addresses as well.)
  • The type of reception. Think “dinner and dancing to follow” or “cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to follow.”
  • Suggested attire, if you’d prefer guests dress a certain way (say, if it’s a black-tie affair or a sandals-approved beach wedding).
  • Wedding registry and wedding website information

How do I communicate who’s invited?

Make it crystal-clear exactly who is invited from each household by addressing the invitation specifically. If it’s a kid-free ceremony, don’t address it to “The Johnsons,” for instance; use the adults’ names. Similarly, if you’re giving a guest a plus-one, address the invitation as “Sally and Guest.”

How should I handle RSVPs?

When it comes to the RSVP, it’s all about making it easy for guests, which in turn makes things easier for you. Many couples include an addressed and stamped envelope along with the RSVP card. Another increasingly common practice is to direct people to a wedding website so they can respond online in a matter of minutes. If guests have a choice of dinner entrée, that typically goes on the RSVP as well.

When should I send it?

Again, it depends on the where and when.

  • If it’s a local wedding, aim for around six to eight weeks beforehand. Your RSVP deadline should be two to three weeks prior.
  • If it’s a destination wedding, you’ll want to send out your invitations three months before the wedding. Your RSVP deadline should be four to six weeks prior.

Do I need to send one?


What should it look like?

Well, that’s up to you. As with save-the-date cards, clarity is paramount. What’s also important, though, is conveying the tone of the ceremony. If it’s elegance and white tablecloths, you can’t go wrong with some fancy script lettering and foil edging. If your wedding is going for something a bit sillier—a Doctor Who theme, anyone?—there’s nothing wrong with including a picture of you and your mate in the TARDIS. 

Are there different approaches?

Just like the save-the-date, wedding invitations can take on any number of weird and wonderful forms. Consider your options:

  • Get poetic: If literature’s your bag, try relaying all of the relevant information through a clever poem you and your beau pen together. (Just make sure guests aren’t confused.)
  • Slip in a gift: Sometimes it’s hard getting people to commit to a destination wedding. One way to convince them to make the trip is to include a tiny trinket. If you’re getting married on the beach, for example, include a teensy bag of sand or some seashells to get them dreaming of waves and beautiful sunsets.
  • Carve it in wood: Paper can be a touch flimsy. More and more couples are carving their invitations from blocks of wood. This way, it’s as much a keepsake as it is a source of information.