When it comes to wedding invitations, there’s a surprising amount to consider: the save-the-dates, the invites themselves, the RSVPs, the envelopes, the stamps. You may like the idea of a lovely invitation sent to guests via mail, but you probably don’t want to chase people down for RSVPs. Or maybe you want to keep your hands clean of all of it and don't want to touch a bit of paper (better for the environment and for your peace of mind). So where do you begin — especially if you want to keep things simple? Here’s what experts and people who’ve been there before say you should keep in mind when coordinating wedding invitations.
When Should You Actually Start Planning Your Invitations?
Without being overambitious or too much of a procrastinator, experts say you should start thinking about your invitations as soon as you’ve booked your venue and have a rough idea of who you’re going to invite, anywhere from nine to 12 months out, says Emilie Dulles, a wedding stationery and invitations designer-printer. That doesn’t mean all your save-the-dates and invites have to be designed and in the mail a year before you say “I do,” but it’s good to think about what avenue you’re going to take — totally digital, totally physical, or a combination of both — and whether you’re going to hire a designer or utilize an online tool.
If you don’t have a concrete vision for how you’d like the invitations to look, Dulles suggests going with a more “classic” design: White cardstock with traditional calligraphy or font spelling out the who, what, where, and when of the wedding. Platforms like Minted, Zola, and The Knot have a number of save-the-date and invitation design templates for couples to choose from and order completely online. According to Dulles, save-the-dates should be mailed as soon as you’ve booked the venue, finalized a rough guest list, and the hotel block has been reserved — between six and 12 months out.
“Wedding invitations should be printed and mailed at least two to three months before the wedding, and at least three to four months prior to weddings hosting international guests,” Dulles says.
If you’re going digital, there are a number of online services to choose from. Paperless Post, Minted, Joy, Evite, and Greenvelope offer both design templates and customizable layouts for your save-the-dates and invitations.
You should plan to send an online save-the-date six months ahead of the wedding and online invitations two to three months ahead of the event, says Katie Brownstein, the director of marketing and communications at Joy. And you should have all your guests’ RSVPs two weeks before the wedding date.
How It Worked IRL
For her 2018 wedding in Blaine, Washington, Lilia, 28, went the online route and used Greenvelope. Not only were digital invites more sustainable, but Lilia was able to make changes to her list on the fly, giving friends plus-ones at the last minute. Lilia loved how she could add links to the digital invitation, directing guests to other important information, like the couple’s wedding website, the venue, and their registry. Because the invitation was in an email, she felt it allowed guests to ask questions immediately and encouraged easy and open communication. “A lot of time and money and effort goes into the paper invites, and I totally understand it's a beautiful touchpoint, but I think it's not the most valuable area that I wanted to place effort,” Lilia says. “For us, we wanted to be more sustainable and didn’t see the value as much and digital seemed way easier.”
And if you go with the physical invite route, know the process for sending out invites. If your invitations require assembly, earmark a weekend and get some friends to help, depending on the size of your wedding. “It never really dawned on me just how much we were putting in each envelope,” notes Christian, 31, from Queens, New York. “The invitations we selected were beautiful, but they took a really long time to put together, and it was tricky. Not that fun.” Make time for proofing the invite, too. Read through it, have your partner read through it, and run it by a friend or two. “We spent so much on invites and then realized we had forgotten to put down the time. We had to re-send digital invites and still got a million questions about when people should come,” says Diana, 32, from Boston, Massachusetts.
The Best Hacks To Cut The Hassle
Luckily, in an uncertain era, digital invites are more acceptable than ever. Guests are also dealing with this weird new world, so they understand that there may not be formal save-the-dates, and there may be last-minute invites. That said, if you’ve got a family that has thoughts on etiquette, then you may have heard a lot of unsolicited advice on the where, when, and how of sending invites.
If that’s the case, consider hybrid-style invites.“There is something beautiful about opening a wedding invitation in the mail, and many of my clients still go that route, however sometimes printed invitations can be costly and time-consuming. Even collecting mailing addresses can feel like a full-time job!” notes Heather Odendaal, owner and principal of Weddings by Bluebird in Whistler, British Columbia. Her solution: “I’ve seen couples choose a hybrid model of mailing invites to key guests and sending out digital invites to the large majority of the guests.”
And even if you do go 100% snail mail on invites, you can embrace tech. “Consider sending your guests a meeting invite — with guests hidden, of course — to ensure that they are aware of the deadline to RSVP to your wedding,” says Odendaal.
According to Brownstein, one of the easiest ways to manage a guest list is to use a digital tool. Joy, The Knot, Zola, and others allow couples to collect addresses, track when save-the-dates and invitations were sent, manage RSVPs, and gather meal choices.
Additional reporting by Anna Davies.
Emilie Dulles, a wedding stationery and invitations designer-printer
Katie Brownstein, the director of marketing and communications at Joy
Heather Odendaal, owner and principal of Weddings by Bluebird