Photo is from a Winter Fairytale Styled Shoot. Photography by Amanda MacPhee Photography. Stationary by The Organized Bride.
This is the sixth post in a year-long series chronicling the process from engagement to wedding. We will share tips, ideas, and real-world experiences that may help you through your own planning process.
How are your guests going to find out the details of your event?
You could shout it from the virtual rooftops of course, and repeatedly post on social media to invite or inform a good majority of your guests. But what if you’re including someone who doesn’t have Internet, such as an elderly grandparent? What if someone doesn’t check their email or social media frequently?
Sending something via the mail is still a good idea for a number of reasons: everyone likes good mail; it will arrive for your elderly or Internet-free guests; it can be stuck to the fridge and seen daily as a reminder; and many guests are on the lookout for something in the mail once they hear about the wedding. Even if you only send one of your stationary items by regular mail, you should consider sending something through USPS.
What are these stationary items you need to be concerned about, and when do you send them? There are many, many guides available on the Internet. Below are my suggestions and best tips for a timeline of when to contact vendors and when to have them confirmed in order to have your best experience.
For our purposes, we’ll assume your wedding is on a twelve-month timeframe. Adjust as necessary to suit your needs.
A Note About Handmade Stationary
If you plan to have a vendor create all or some of your stationary, then you will need to contact them and confirm their services about eight months away from the wedding. If you are hiring a calligrapher or want your stationary to be handwritten, check with the vendor’s timetable and follow their guidelines for how far out they need to book to fulfill your order.
For all of your stationary, allow enough time in your planning to proofread and revise and, if necessary, reprint!
Save the Dates
Your first piece of stationary! The save-the-dates are so exciting! The save the date is the first piece of wedding-related mail your guests will receive, and you want it to catch their eye. I’ve seen some couples choose to send magnets instead of a traditional paper save the date so their guests could put it directly on the fridge and always see it.
You can choose a style that will be similar to your invitations or you can go an entirely different direction. Some couples use graphics and text only; others use the photos from their engagement photo shoot on the save-the-dates. Whichever route you go, make sure you have your wedding date and venue confirmed BEFORE sending these! You do not need to have the time of the ceremony nailed down by this point, but you should include the names of the couple, the venue, the date, and maybe your wedding website (if you have it made already) to let people explore on their own.
When to send: Typically, you’ll want to send your save-the-dates at least 6 months before the big day. If you’re planning a destination wedding, or if you know that some of your guests will require additional advance notice, aim to send these at least 8 months ahead to give guests more lead time.
Typically, the mother of the bride hosts the bridal shower, and so they would be the host and invitation sender for the shower. Keep in mind that the bridal party or the bride herself can help with the invitations as well, such as by providing names and addresses or by sending on the parent’s behalf.
You can do anything you like with the shower invitations! They do not need to match any other stationary, and are often colorful, fun, or exciting.
When to send: A polite timeframe is about 6-8 weeks before the date of the shower.
Your most important piece of stationary is the wedding invitation! Give yourself plenty of time to search for a style you like. In general, your wedding invitation will reflect your wedding’s theme, color scheme, and/or level of formality.
You can start looking at styles and vendors as early as you would like. Some couples start looking shortly after deciding on a wedding date. Others wait until closer to the halfway point. Regardless of when, keep in mind your timeline, and remember that if you want handmade invitations and you have a large guest list, you need to give your vendors time to create a beautiful invitation for you!
As for what to include on the invitation, it can vary depending on how traditional you want to be and what familial situations you may have to account for in the wording. I recommend taking a look at WeddingWire’s detailed wedding invitation guide to help you make some decisions.
When to send: For a destination wedding, give more advance! Send invites at least 2-3 months before the wedding date. For a local wedding, send about 6-8 weeks beforehand. Make sure that your RSVP date is at least a week before your final count is due to the venue and caterer in case you have to track down responses.
Rehearsal Dinner Invitations
These invitations can be very simple and easy. You send these only to those who need to be there for the rehearsal, and thus the rehearsal dinner. This doesn’t have to be a big bash unless you want it to be. Typically, you should include the bride’s and groom’s parents, siblings, any grandparents, and the bridal party.
Traditionally, the parents of the groom host the rehearsal dinner, and they should send the invitations (or the couple can prepare and send the invitations on the parents’ behalf, if that’s easier, with the return address label showing the hosts’ address). However, the couple could choose to host, or if you are going a non-traditional route, feel free to have the invitations come from whomever is hosting the dinner.
When to send: WeddingWire recommends you send these after you’ve sent the wedding invitations, but no later than roughly 4 weeks before the rehearsal dinner.
This stationary doesn’t need to be sent anywhere! This category contains items like your ceremony programs, table cards, signage, etc. Anything you plan to use on your wedding day falls here.
These items can be prepared well ahead of time, or whenever the bridal couple desires. However, for the program, confirm your bridal party and wedding details before printing! You don’t want to waste money having to do a reprint of 100 programs at the last minute.
Some couples want their programs to match the look of the invitations. You do not have to do this. You can be whimsical, serious, simple or fancy, or any style you want. When thinking about what your program will look like – such as a simple front-and-back cardstock, a multi-page booklet, or something in between – you’ll need to account for the size of the bridal party, the length of the ceremony and what’s included in said ceremony, and anyone you would like to explicitly thank.
Thank You Notes
Keep track of your gifts! At any party, shower, or other wedding-related event, it may help to have a friend or family member assist. They can keep a list on a pad of paper with the gift and who gave it, or they can save the gift tags and add any necessary details.
Make sure you keep a list, though. You will need to send thank you notes to all of your guests and gift-givers. Sending thank you notes is a polite and traditional way to thank a guest for attending and/or for giving you a gift. If someone attended the wedding but did not send or bring a gift, it’s still polite to send a card thanking that person for being present.
Your thank you notes do not have to match the rest of your stationary unless you want them to. You could even get some very pretty thank you notes from big box stores or Amazon and spare your budget a little bit. However, if you do want them to match your save the dates or invitations, you’ll need to include them in the count you give to your vendor.
When to send: It’s never too late to send a thank you card. However, try to send them within 2-3 weeks of your wedding date. You can send a thank you card up to 3 months afterward without raising any eyebrows. Most folks understand that you’ll either be on your honeymoon or simply enjoying wedded bliss during this time.
Don’t hesitate to ask your coordinator or a more experienced family member/friend if you have any questions!