Wedding Etiquette: Everything you need to get started with wedding invitations and save-the-dates
OMG your partner popped the question and you said YES!!! First off - Congratulations. My best advice for newly engaged couples is to take some time just for the two of you to celebrate and enjoy being engaged no matter how long or short of a time period that might be. Now you're ready to jump head first into wedding planning and you have questions about wedding etiquette, invitations, and save-the-dates. While I'm not a wedding planner or coordinator (they're the real experts on this) I have a ton of knowledge for photographing weddings and planning timelines that I wanted to share a couple of thoughts that I know will help you get started.
Photo Rights: Quinn Walsh Photography
Know what your budget for stationary specifically
This is one of the largest errors that I see happen when looking at any aspect of a wedding. You need to know how much money and time you want to commit and allocate to a specific item. In this case that item is stationary which can include engagement announcement cards, save the dates, wedding invitations, table place cards, escort cards, seating chart lists, and so much more. You can have all of these or you can pick to only have a couple of these. Make sure that when you start thinking about what kind of cards you specifically want that you keep an eye on staying in budget. Generally stationary is not something most are willing to blow their budget on and take money away from other things like a DJ, a wedding dress, or the venue itself. Also consider if you want to have someone else make your stationary for you or if you want to DIY it. When you have other things going on in your life outside of wedding planning (who doesn't?), remember that your time is also a currency that is worth something. Think through how you want to spend your physical money and your time as they both play into your overall wedding budget.
Deciding who to invite to which event and who gets a plus one
I feel like this is one of the ultimate debates in the wedding industry because the truth is that there is no single right answer. The system for plus ones that I heard a while back and think works really well is this:
If they are married, engaged, live together, have kids together (and are on good terms) or have been together for a number of years, they get a plus one.
If they in the wedding party or are immediate, close family, they get a plus one.
If it is a fresh relationship that you aren't sure of their future or if you have never met their partner, skip the plus one.
If they are single, they don't get to bring a random plus one.
I love how simple this breaks the question down. While applying it will never be perfect and totally feel free to make exceptions to the rule, I feel as it gives couples a really good starting point to jump off from when building their guest list for their wedding.
A reminder I like to put this this is that you can invite different people to different events. You don't have to invite 100% of the same people to everything. Some people can just be for the Stag n' Doe, your hen party, or whichever you want to have. Some people you might want at your engagement party, but later on don't want to invite to your wedding. Some might be bridal shower kind of invites, but not others. While you will have a core group, like your immediate family and wedding party, that you will probably have at everything, not everyone else has to stay the same. And there is absolutely no reason to feel bad, guilty, or apologize for it.
Save the dates
Think of a save the date as a form of pre-wedding invitation. It's a type of preview of what's to come. Save the dates are especially good if you are going to be having a series of pre-wedding events leading up to the wedding itself. These work as a little teaser and a courtesy to the people in your life to give them a heads up. Normally there are no RSVPs associated with save the dates. Like I mentioned above, they are generally seen as a courtesy, heads up. Include all the basic info like both of your names, your wedding date and location (make sure to only do this after the venue/date is set), if you have a wedding website set up, and that a wedding invitation will be separate and will follow in the coming weeks/months.
When to send out the actual invitations themselves can be one of the largest questions when it comes to call this. Some experts will tell you exactly 8 weeks before your wedding. I personally am someone who recommends a little more than that in the 8-12 week range from the perspective of the person putting them together and sending them out. If you're here in Canada like me, you know that Canada post if the best mailing option for small items like invites, but they aren't always the fastest. If you are sending physical invites to your guests, I would highly recommend leaning towards that 12 week mark. It is still far enough way that it gives the mail time to get to your guests, but it's also close enough that your guests will know what their calendar looks like. If you choose to go with a virtual invite, I totally agree with the 8 week idea.
Regardless of the responses you organically get from sending save the dates, send an invitation to everyone on your guest list. Even if they say they can't come right from the get go, still send the invite. They will feel thought about and I promise you that it will make such a good impression on them.
When you create the physical body copy for your invite and other included items that you want to make sure you are as clear and concise as possible. Make sure to include all of the 5Ws that you can - who, what, where, when, why, and how.
Who - you and your partner's names as the people who are getting married.
What - what events are taking place during that day? Ceremony? Cocktail hour? Reception?
Where - Where are these events taking place. Are they all at the same venue or are they in different locations? Do you have a hotel block arrange for your guests?
When - What time does everything start? What time do you want guests to show up?
Why - Okay, this one is pretty straight forwards. A wedding invitation is generally for a wedding.
How - I like to this of this section as any special requirements that might apply. Is there any special instructions that they will need? Is there special transportation they need to be aware of? All of that extra, but key information.
I hope that gives you a little more confidence and knowledge compared to how you felt before reading through this. I know that there can feel like there are so many rules and etiquettes when it comes to weddings and it can feel overwhelming. My goal with everything I write is to share my knowledge in a way that helps people and eases the stress of wedding planning.
If you want to chat more about anything in this post, or if you want to chat more because you are looking for an awesome wedding photographer, don't hesitate to shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If it's the second option and you are looking for your dream wedding photographer, send me an inquiry through my website and we can set up a time to chat!!!
Until next time.