For those of you who are just starting your wedding planning journey, we know the number of stationery pieces to think about and choose from can seem daunting, but we’ve created this guide to help you understand what to send when (and to let you know which pieces are wholly optional).
Save the Dates
Save the Dates are generally sent to guests six to eight months before the wedding date. Some couples may send them nine months to a year in advance if they're asking guests to celebrate with them in a far-off destination or during a popular holiday weekend.
Pro Tip: Start gathering your friends and family members’ addresses five to six weeks before you plan to send your Save the Dates to ensure you can take advantage of your stationer’s addressing services.
The cards themselves are simple. They often just provide the name of the couple, the expected wedding date, and a city and state. If you have a wedding venue already, you can list it, but it's not an etiquette requirement until the invitation. Many couples also include a wedding website URL (we’ll talk about those below!) on the backs of their cards so guests can access important details sooner rather than later.
Most of the couples we work with opt to showcase a photo on their Save the Dates, either of the proposals or taken during an engagement session, but we have been seeing an increasing trend of bold and typographical Save the Date cards that feature interesting fonts, unexpected color combinations, and fun sayings to get guests excited to celebrate.
While these aren’t paper, we still consider the wedding website to be an integral part of the wedding stationery portfolio. Think about it—most of your wedding communications to your guests will come via your website! That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be beautiful, however, and there are a variety of wedding websites out there that allow you to seamlessly translate your vision and design to the screen along with the key informational pages your guests will be expecting.
The list of what you can include on your website is long, but the essentials are a welcome page, event specifics like the location map or transportation instructions, information about travel and accommodations for out-of-town guests, and registry information.
One key feature we'd encourage you to look out for is ensuring that the website RSVP function is user-friendly and easy for guests. It's becoming increasingly commonplace for guests to expect the option of RSVP-ing online, and you want to make sure you'll be able to get all the answers you need (including guest names and meal preferences) through your website.
Invitations are meant to be sent three to five months in advance, giving guests ample time to RSVP. If you're tiering your guest list, we recommend that you start at the five-month mark so you have a good enough idea well before the RSVP deadline to invite additional guests without offending them or making it clear they're a late invite.
More than etiquette, invitations are often the first time a guest is physically experiencing your wedding vision, so it’s worth taking the time to design something that helps show the wedding you’re hoping to have as well as telling vital information. Even with our semi-custom designs, we find that couples enjoy taking the time to explore all of their options and find something that is absolutely perfect. Our recommendation is to take your venue, floral direction, or color palette as a starting point and design from there! Many wedding stationers (Minted included) offer free sample kits so you can see their available papers, printing techniques, envelopes, and finishes, so that’s another great way to get started in seeing what's available.
In terms of invitation content, the elements are standard, but their contents can vary somewhat. The general formula is a host line, which states who's hosting or inviting you to the celebration, the names of the couple, the date, time, and location of the ceremony, and light details about what to expect for the reception (e.g., “Dinner and dancing to follow”). You can find a variety of guides like this one online to help you get started with more examples and detail.
In addition to the invitation itself, most couples include at least one enclosure card in the invitation mailing. There are three primary types:
- RSVP Card: Generally intended to be mailed back and included with a self-addressed stamped envelope, this card is for the guest to fill out and return with their acceptance of or regrets to decline the invitation. It often includes options for meal preferences if you're offering. As noted earlier, if you're accepting digital RSVPs, you can also indicate as such on this card. We recommend you keep a separate enclosure card even if only soliciting website RSVPs to avoid clutter on your invitation and ensure guests do not miss this important step. Be sure to include an RSVP by date!
- Reception Card: Most often used if the reception is being held at a different location from the ceremony, this card simply shares the address of and any transportation details to the new location. As many modern couples host late-night or after parties, they often choose to include details about these events as well.
- Direction Card: This is more often than not a “miscellaneous information” card. While it can include actual suggested directions to your venue, couples will also use it to provide details about arranged transportation and hotel blocks to ensure all guests are aware of these services.
Each of these enclosure cards is slightly smaller than the invitation, typically at 4.25” x 5.5” versus the 5” x 7” invitations, and is assembled stacked on top of the invitation, typically bound by a paper ribbon known as a belly band. We love finishing off our belly bands with a (secretly peel and stick!) wax seal for an extra luxe look.
Finally, we come to all of the paper goods you’ll need for your big day. Our big word of caution here is to order these at least a month in advance. While most providers can accommodate last-minute orders and rush ship them to you (we’ve done this many times!), it creates undue stress for the couple during an otherwise exciting phase of the planning process.
For your actual day-of, you'll need to think about paper goods for your ceremony and reception. For the ceremony, it's customary to offer printed programs with the order of ceremony, names of any readers, and acknowledgment of the members of the bridal party. These are typically placed on each chair for guests to pick up as they are escorted to their seats.
For the reception, you’ll start by either needing a seating chart sign, which lists out each guest’s name and the table they are seated at, or escort cards, which are tent fold cards with the guest’s name on the front and table number printed either underneath the name or inside. We’ve seen couples getting incredibly creative with escort card displays, doing everything from tying these cards to a glass of champagne to carry into the reception to using their wedding favors as escort cards.
If you used a seating chart as opposed to escort cards or want to control the order in which guests are seated, you’ll also need place cards at each plate for guests to find their seats. Otherwise, the last two day-of stationery touches you’ll need are table numbers (and holders) for guests to find their assigned table and menus for guests to understand which courses to expect, even if they’ve already chosen an entrée.
Beyond this, we also see couples using fun and creative wedding signs and sayings to create instagrammable vignettes for guests as well as to help them navigate a ceremony or reception space and get them to the most important part—the dance floor!
All in all, wedding stationery may seem complex, but each piece helps to make the experience seamless and enjoyable for your guests, and it's one of the first things you get to do before the big day! Above all, it's incredibly fun to design and, after your wedding, can be preserved as a beautiful memento. To that point, make sure you bring a full invitation suite and a save the date to your venue so your photographer can take a photo of it in situ with your wedding décor. We know you'll love it!
Photos courtesy of Minted