Photo: Maison Meredith Photography

Once your wedding planning process is underway, it’s time to share the exciting news with your guests. This is where your save-the-date card comes in. This “invitation before the invitation” will announce your wedding date, general location, and let guests know that a formal invitation will follow.

To help simplify the save-the-date process, here is a guide that will answer all of your questions and give you some tips on creating cards you and your guests will love!

Do I have to send out save-the-dates?
No, you do not have to send out save-the-dates if you don’t want to, but it is highly recommended. Sending out these cards gives your guests a heads up so they can reserve your wedding day or wedding weekend. This is especially true if you’ll be getting married during a holiday weekend or if guests will need to travel to attend. You want to make sure there is ample time for them to make travel arrangements and clear their busy schedule. save-the-dates will increase the chances that your guests will be able to attend your wedding celebration.

When should I send out save-the-dates?
The general rule is that Save the Dates should be sent out about six months prior to the date of the event. You may want to send them out a little earlier, say eight months to even a year prior, if you’ll be having a destination wedding or getting married on a holiday weekend.

Who receives a save-the-date?
Since save-the-dates are pre-invitations, they should only be sent out to guests who will definitely be receiving a formal invite. If you and your fiancé are unsure about the number of guests you’ll be having, it’s best to hold off on sending save-the-dates. Once they are in the mail, there’s no turning back. You’ll also want to send your save-the-dates to everyone invited, even those who you already know will be attending, like your bridal party and immediate family. The card will help make sure they’ve marked that date on your calendar and some of your family members may keep them as keepsakes.

What information do I need to include in my save-the-date?
The most obvious piece of information is the date of your wedding, or dates if you’re hosting a wedding weekend. Other than that you’ll want to include both of your names and a general location for the wedding. You don’t need to know the specific venue, but knowing the city will be beneficial for guests who will be traveling to attend (and if you already have hotel room blocks reserved in your wedding city, include that information as well). The save-the-date should also include a note that a formal invitation will follow.

If you’re planning on having a wedding website or have one already set up, you can also include that on your save-the-date. That way your guests will be able to get more information as it becomes available. Including the wedding website is especially important if you’ll be having a destination style wedding since you’ll likely have a lot of information that needs to be conveyed to your guests.

What should my save-the-dates look like?
Now we get to the fun part, designing your save-the-dates! These are really an opportunity to have fun and let your personality show. At the time you’re sending out the save-the-dates, you may not have picked out wedding colors or have a cohesive theme for the event, so don’t worry about making them match your invitations. You want your save-the-date to be overflowing with your personality. When your guests see it, they should immediately think of you as a couple.

Add pictures of the two of your throughout your relationship, make a reference to your favorite movie, or keep it simple with graphics. Many couples choose to do an engagement photo shoot and incorporate those photos into their save-the-date cards. While save-the-dates started out as cards, there’s no reason why you can’t switch it up. Many couples stick with cards because they are simple to design and easy to send out, but feel free to opt for save-the-date magnets or have the information printed on a bar of chocolate, a vintage mixtape, or another item that has significance to you as a couple. The possibilities are endless.

If you like the idea of doing something more customized, like taking new photos, or having a designer create a sketch, make sure you plan ahead because the professionals can book up quickly.

For photographs, make sure you take into account not only the time it will take to set up a time of the photo shoot, but also the amount of time the photographer will need to edit the photos and get them back to you. If you’re working with an invitation designer, ask about the process so you have an idea of how long it will take to get the proofs, make changes, and order the cards.

One bonus of working with a professional on your save-the-dates is that it can act as a trial run for wedding events to come. Let your potential wedding photographer shoot the engagement photos for your save-the-dates or let your potential invitation designer or company create the cards. Not only will it help ensure you like the artist’s work, but it will also help the artist get to know you as a couple, which can lead to a better working relationship down the line.

How many save-the-dates should I order?
Save-the-dates are like invitations in that you’ll only need one per household. When deciding how many to order, make sure you take that into account. Whatever number you come up with, add approximately 15-20, depending on the packages offered. You may realize that there’s someone you left off your initial list or you may make a couple of errors when you’re addressing the envelopes. It will be cheaper and easier to order extras during the initial order than to have to place a second order later on.

How long will it take to address my save-the-dates?
Don’t forget that once you’ve ordered your save-the-dates, you’ll still need to address and mail them. If your save-the-dates are more formal you may want to send them out to be addressed with calligraphy. It takes approximately one week for a calligrapher to address 100 envelopes. If you’re going to be addressing them yourself, you’ll likely want to allocate two to three weeks depending on how many guests you’re inviting. Save time by getting return address labels pre-made or getting a return address stamp.

So there you have it! Everything you need to know about creating your save-the-dates, from start to finish. Now it’s your turn to start brainstorming and come up with your perfect save-the-date!