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You identified your target wedding dates and narrowed down your guest list, which was a relief until you started waking up in cold sweats wondering, "what if no one shows up?"
We get it: wedding planning can be scary, especially since you’re investing much of your time, energy, and hard-earned cash into the process! However, know that the best way to ensure that all of your loved ones are there to celebrate you is to execute a seamless invitation suite. Unsure of what this entails? We’ve got the 411 on everything you need to know, so you can do so without a hitch (pun intended).
Photo courtesy of @_khasler, Photographed by Toni Marie Photography
But for starters, what even is a wedding invitation suite? As tradition will tell you, shooting a quick text or setting up a Facebook event won’t suffice when it comes to your nuptials. An invitation suite refers to all of the paper materials you’ll need for your wedding: save the dates, RSVP cards, invites, reception cards, wedding programs, menu cards, place cards, and/or thank you cards. If that sounds like a lot, we’ll be breaking down our thoughts on the do’s and don’ts on how and when to send out wedding invitations while keeping your wedding budget and sustainability in mind.
Save the Dates
If you’re new to wedding invitation etiquette, you might not be familiar with the term “save the dates.” But it’s all in the name: a save the date is a first communication to ask that your guests block out your wedding date on their calendars. Typically, this is sent in the form of a postcard that announces your wedding with your names, the location (town or venue), and the date. It’s best practice to send save the dates out six to eight months ahead of your wedding, and definitely closer to eight months if you’re hosting a destination wedding. This way, you’ll be giving everyone on your wedding guest list enough time to make their travel arrangements, book their accommodations, and plan for childcare (if necessary!).
It’s definitely possible to go virtual for your save the dates if you’re looking to save a few trees or dollars. Using seed paper is another great sustainable alternative! However, if you do go the snail-mail route, you’ll want to order your invites sooner than later. Aim for eight to twelve months in advance of your wedding date. You can definitely get creative as well if you want to start the festivities off with a bang! Opt for personalization: by including a photo from the engagement, an inside joke you and your partner share, or a timeline of your love story. Many couples will send a keepsake magnet instead of a postcard as well, which can be a nice touch! This is particularly true if you have older family members who’d cherish it, and especially if you plan to go digital for some of your other invitation suite materials. But keep in mind, this might get pricey! On average, couples will typically spend $150 on their save the date postcards alone.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t receive a ton of replies right away. Generally-speaking, guests aren’t expected to respond until they receive their formal invitations! But the plus-side of the save the date is that it may buy you some extra time with your invitations. And don’t forget to send these out to the wedding party as well, even though it might seem counterintuitive. They should receive any materials included in your invitation suite, just as any other guest!
Photo courtesy of @mama_bigbucks, Photographed by Braden Young
Onto the main event! Send your invitations out six to eight weeks before your wedding, and at least 10 weeks in advance for international guests. They should also include all of the important details: the names of your hosts (if you have them), the couple’s names, the wedding date and time, the venue, and any dress code or registry information. You’ll most likely want your invites to reflect the tone of your wedding. For example, if you’re throwing a traditional affair, you may want to use heavy stock, 100% cotton, or linen paper in white or ecru, engraved with black or charcoal ink, and a square of tissue to protect the type. But the sky is the limit when it comes to wedding invitation ideas! Today, most couples will use modern wedding invitations in different styles, colors, and textures to match the themes of their wedding and what speaks best to them.
If you’re ordering your invitations online or from a local stationer, you’ll want to send these out at least three to four months ahead of your wedding date. The sooner you order them means that you’ll have more time to carefully (and we cannot stress this enough!) proofread them and make any necessary changes. Addressing envelopes can also take up a decent amount of your time, so it’ll save you a headache from doing this last minute.
As with the save the dates, you can choose to use virtual invitations instead of physical ones. This can save you money and is definitely more eco-friendly. On average, paper invitations will cost couples about $230. And as we mentioned before, if you do opt for paper invites but still want to be more environmentally-conscious, seed paper is the way to go.
No matter whether you’re sending out emails or taking a trip to the post office, you can certainly DIY your invitations. The best place to get started is by taking a look at templates on Etsy! And if you’re struggling with the wording, you can find great wedding invitation examples here.
A traditional invite can include several pieces: an outer envelope, and unsealed inner envelope, the invitation, a reception card (if this will be at a different venue than the ceremony), and a RSVP card with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. It’s not uncommon to include printed maps and invitations on hotels, as well! But your invites need not include all of these materials, particularly if you go the virtual route.
Photo courtesy of @natalie__pullen, Photographed by Matt Lien
If you don’t designate an RSVP method, you may not get an accurate guest count! So if you don’t have a wedding website (many couples use The Knot or Zola for this), you’ll want to remember to include an RSVP card with the invitations. You can order these together for convenience, but if you don’t, you’ll definitely want to make sure you ask your guests all of the relevant questions when they mark their attendance virtually. In addition to asking whether your invitees are planning on attending, you’ll want to give them an opportunity to let you know how many people will be joining them (if you’re allowing for plus-ones), their dietary preferences (if you’ll be serving a meal), and if they’d like to attend any supplementary activities you might be hosting. Another idea we love for the RSVP card is to ask your guests what their preferred pronouns are (which you can include on their place cards) and about any accommodations they might require—after all, a wedding is no fun if any of your guests feel inadvertently unwelcome! On a paper invite, this is all typically done in a checkbox format with a pre-addressed, stamped return envelope.
If you’d prefer to redirect your guests to the web, a simple (and savvy!) way to do so is by incorporating a QR code on the back of your invitations. We love this method because it’s not only convenient, but will help you save money—and our planet!
Photo courtesy of @melanieruthphoto
Reception & Enclosure Cards
Reception cards aren’t strictly necessary, and you won’t need to worry about them at all if your reception will take place at the same location as your ceremony. However, if you are hosting it an alternate venue, the reception card should include all of the deets on the date, time, and place of the reception. You can also include these details on the invites themselves, or on your wedding website. Either option will save paper, so these are the most sustainable choices! But if you do send out reception cards with your invitations, you’ll want to order these with the invites to save you time and hassle.
Any other materials you include, such as enclosure cards, should also be ordered along with the invitations. Commonly, enclosure cards might include more wedding or reception details, a map or directions, transportation schedules, accommodation or hotel recommendations, itineraries, or other important information your guests may need to know! The goal of enclosure cards is to reduce confusion and hassle on the day of your wedding by answering questions you anticipate ahead of time. But as with the reception cards, this info can definitely be posted to your wedding website as well!
So there you have it: everything you need to know about sending out your wedding invitations. At the end of the day, there are many different routes you can take, as long as you keep the essential etiquette (like timelines) in mind. It’s all about choosing the route that makes the most sense for you and YOUR wedding! We trust that it’s going to be an epic party.
Any other wedding tips you’ve discovered while wedding planning? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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