When to send wedding invitations?
May 23, 2011 7:02 AM   Subscribe

When should we send out invitations to our wedding?

My boyfriend and I have been engaged for about a month, and the wedding will be October 8. We'll be inviting 63 people; all but 19 of the invitees live within an hour and a half of the ceremony site, and many of the locals live within 15 minutes.

We do not have the time, money, or inclination to send out save-the-dates, which seem moot at this point; I have read that save-the-date cards should be sent 6-8 months in advance. But I have also read that wedding invitations should be sent 6-8 weeks in advance, which seems to be cutting it a bit close in the absence of advance warning.

So- when to send out the wedding invitations? I'm not overly concerned with the exact proper etiquette, I just don't want to send them so early as to be annoying (and then forgotten) or so late as to preclude one of our cherished guests from attending. Thank you for your help!
posted by heyheylanagirl to Human Relations (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've always received them about six weeks in advance of a wedding.
posted by amro at 7:04 AM on May 23, 2011

You don't have to send "save-the-dates" to tell people to save-the-date. People either will or won't save the date; there's not much you can do about that. Most people will because they're excited. And then you can send your invites 6-8 weeks in advance.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:06 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, why don't you go ahead and give people a head's up about your impending wedding? Since you're sure about the date, it makes sense to let people know as far in advance as you can that they should reserve that date for you. An actual save-the-date is not required.
posted by peacheater at 7:09 AM on May 23, 2011

If you don't want to send out invitations now, then don't. But if you don't, then you should be letting potential guests know the date, so they can keep themselves free. You may think you don't have time, money or inclination to send save-the-dates, but you need to do it anyway.

It needn't be a formal printed card. You will at some point need to assemble contact details for all your guests. Why not do that now, then email all those who can be emailed, and telephone the rest, to let them know when it will be.

Six weeks in advance is fine for an invitation, but not as a first inkling of when you guys are getting married. The six weeks figure assumes that people already know WHEN it is, and that they just need to know finer details at that point.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:10 AM on May 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, I just went ahead and sent invites 6 months in advance because we had the place reserved and everything, and had guests coming from all over the world. But, 2 months or so is the norm. You can go ahead and send out a save-the-date email. Unless you're trying to be very posh, I don't think anyone will have a problem with that.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:11 AM on May 23, 2011

Save the date emails are totally fine and a good idea in this case. Sometimes I get save the date emails, a s-t-d card, AND and invite.
But if you don't want to do it, then just send your invites 4 months ahead (i.e. June) instead of 2.
No one who cares about you will forget your wedding, and if someone accidentally loses the invite before the ceremony (not that I have ever done this), they will just ask the other guests for all the info.
posted by rmless at 7:18 AM on May 23, 2011

About 6 weeks in advance. Save-the-dates are only for awkward stuff like destination weddings where people would rip open the invitation and go "but I can't organize this with only 6 weeks to go! What are they thinking?"

Outside of that, it's better to avoid save-the-dates as it's a bit intrusive. In the hypothetical case that someone wanted to evade your wedding for reasons known only to themselves, you're making it that much harder for them to politely lie their way out of it. I say hypothetical, because anybody who was that good a friend that they'd feel the obligation to attend but bad enough of a friend that they wanted to get out of it... probably wouldn't exist, and might as well just say "no" in the first place. Nevertheless, don't bug people with save-the-dates unless you have to.
posted by tel3path at 7:21 AM on May 23, 2011

I would send a save-the-date email
as soon as possible. We didn't think of this and just did the traditional 6-8 weeks ahead, and some cousins couldn't come due to the short notice. So I regret not emailing them earlier. You might think - as we did - that every one you would like to invite knows the date and all, but they didn't and were also sorry they couldn't come.
posted by jb at 7:26 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

6 weeks seems like short notice to me. That would seem to be a time-frame in which invitees may have already made other plans that can't be changed. I'd say 4-6 months would be a more appropriate lead-time.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 AM on May 23, 2011

Six weeks notice is way too short if you're not planning to do any "save the date" cards. It may be the most important day for you, but for others it's just another weekend that could easily have a summer holiday booked right over the top of it.

Normally I get a "save the date" card six months in advance and then a proper wedding card six weeks in advance - but of course I've already ensured that I'm available on the actual weekend several months ago.

If you're going to go directly to invites then I'd give three months notice - otherwise you run the risk of people not being able to make it.

As a side note, if I was given right now (and out of the blue) an invite to a wedding in six weeks time, I wouldn't be able to make it.
posted by mr_silver at 7:36 AM on May 23, 2011

When I'm invited to a wedding, I usually hear via word-of-mouth even if/before the couple sends save-the-date cards. Since it's a smaller wedding, this will probably work out fine. Just send a quick, casual "hey there, just wanted to let you know the wedding is October 8 and we'd love to have you" to your friends, let the groom do the same with his friends. (If your parents are helping to spread the word, make sure they know exactly who you're planning to invite, so they don't accidentally invite people not on your list.)

Three months in advance is fine for invitations. Six weeks does seem like it's cutting it close, especially since you want to give your guests ample time to reply and arrange for travel, and the caterer et al might want to know the final headcount before everyone's RSVPd.

posted by Metroid Baby at 7:52 AM on May 23, 2011

Nobody will lose the invitation, I don't think. I'd send it out earlier if you like, without worrying about that.
posted by salvia at 7:53 AM on May 23, 2011

One thing to consider- once you tell someone to save-the-date, that's as good as an invitation. You can't tell someone to "save the date" and then not invite them to the wedding. I saw it a lot on wedding boards, people would send out 200 save-the-dates and then realize they would could only afford 160 guests, or they'd want to scrap the whole wedding and do a destination wedding, or uninvite some friend they had a falling out with. I think that's the reasoning between the 6-8 week lead time on invitations- if you go too far back, you could end up with a guest list that doesn't reflect the people you actually want there.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:56 AM on May 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Of all the weddings I can remember going to in the last 5 years or so I knew about the wedding and the date well in advance: mostly by email or casual conversation.

I didn't think people bothered with "save the date" cards anymore - they just seem so dorky and traditionalist.

I'd just email everyone the date now. then send the invites 2-3 months before.
posted by mary8nne at 8:24 AM on May 23, 2011

If you have a lot of friends coming in from out of town—we will at our wedding—save-the-dates are invaluable. People have to plan ahead to buy plane tickets, and six weeks ahead of time isn't necessarily enough time for them to get the best deal. As someone else mentioned above, it also lets you get all the craziness of tracking down people's addresses out of the way; it's a nice trial run for doing the actual invitations. So that's my spiel in defense of that dorky/traditionalist thing.

That said, you only have four months, so maybe it'd just be better to send out the actual invitations a little early, say a month from now, which would be three months out from the wedding date. We actually sent our invitations out exactly that long before the wedding date—again, because of the out-of-town guests—and that was good, I think. Though it still didn't keep a handful of people from never RSVPing (that's a whole other story...). But yeah, whatever you can do to ensure people 1) have time to book plane tickets and hotels and 2) get you their RSVPs in a timely manner is a good idea.
posted by limeonaire at 8:59 AM on May 23, 2011

P.S. Congratulations on your engagement!
posted by limeonaire at 9:00 AM on May 23, 2011

You can't tell someone to "save the date" and then not invite them to the wedding. Yes, that stinks. Not that my cousin did that or anything.*

I didn't think people bothered with "save the date" cards anymore - they just seem so dorky and traditionalist.

Save-the-dates are a new invention, to account for the combination of long engagements and far-flung families and friends. The "6-8 week" time frame dates from when most of the people attending the wedding were already in the neighborhood. Any mechanism for alerting people to make plans, decline other invitations, schedule vacations, get plane tickets and hotel reservations, etc. is perfectly acceptable, including email or sending the invitations early.

*in her defense, her mother sent the "save-the-date", I had no plans to actually attend the wedding, and I barely know the cousin in question. It still struck me as tacky, and left me worrying that I had screwed up somehow.
posted by endless_forms at 9:10 AM on May 23, 2011

Save the dates don't have to be expensive. You can make postcards by photocopying onto sheets of card stock then cutting them into 4ths.

You could also make a wedding website and send out emails. I'm using this service.

The rest of you are freaking me out. I'm in a similar situation to the OP and am just now sending out invitations for my wedding in 6 weeks.
posted by apricot at 9:33 AM on May 23, 2011

You don't have to send "save-the-dates" to tell people to save-the-date.

Well, you do if you want to be sure they're going to be free to come to the wedding.

"Save the Date cards" are devices that inform someone two things:
  1. You are getting married on date X
  2. You intend to invite them
They may (should) also indicate the general location so that the recipient can know whether it's going to be (im)possible for them to go.

You do this because we all have things to do and we are planning vacations and getting other possibly conflicting invitations to weddings and birthday parties etc etc. Or, if you're younger than I was when I got married, you might have other similarly young friends who are at a career point where they have to start saving if your wedding requires travel or overnight stays somewhere. So some notice that we should expect to do that is good.

Those of us with some basic manners know not to assume you're going to invite us to your wedding - we may love each other to death, but finances and other matters get in the way. So if we don't hear from you we're not going to ask you if we're invited - that's potentially embarrassing for all of us. So at some point, when we get invited to something else with an RSVP or have to decide when to use those airline miles or our boss asks us to commit to a conference or demo... we're going to go ahead and do that rather than make a guess that we might get invited.

And then we're going to be really sad because we love you and want to be there for your day. And presumably, if you're inviting us, you really wanted us there and you're going to be sad we can't come.

And all of this assumes that we're smarter than I personally am, and can keep dates somewhat straight when we're told them in a non-binding way. So maybe I'll save May 13 rather than May 31, but maybe not. Because I didn't write down in my calendar that date you told me over dinner - because it's not an invitation.

So you by no means HAVE to send save the dates - and there's nothing wrong with sending an email to your tech-savvy friends and family, or making a phone call, particularly when you have a short window - but it's a nice thing to do both for yourself and for your guests.
posted by phearlez at 10:05 AM on May 23, 2011

Those of us with some basic manners know not to assume you're going to invite us to your wedding

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I have more than basic manners and, as far as I'm concerned, if you send me a "save the date" card then that is EXACTLY what I'm going to do.

I'm certainly not going to start accepting invites to other things after I've received that card.
posted by mr_silver at 10:57 AM on May 23, 2011

I think pharleaz was referring to cases where one know the date of the wedding but has not received instructions to save the date (whether via card, email, or whatever). In which case at some point you do assume that you must not be invited.

I had to miss a good college friend's wedding because of lack of save the dates! First I'd heard of it (the date, not the wedding per se) was the invitation, and I had put down the deposit on a room for a big family party on the same day as her wedding literally the day before the invitation arrived. I was very disappointed. So give a heads-up somehow. An email would have been fine with me.

Basically, I'd say that if there are people who you really want to have at your wedding, you should tell them now, and if you do it via email or phone make it clear that there will be no separate save the date, so that they know that they need to write it in their calendars now. Don't let them assume they're not invited and make other plans.

On the other hand, if there are people you're going to invite but you're not going to be fussed whether they come or not, just send them the invitation six weeks ahead of time.
posted by mskyle at 11:16 AM on May 23, 2011

I've been to several weddings. I've received exactly 1 save the date from all of those, none were in the city live in. In each case, I received an invitation about 6-8 weeks in advance, but I knew the date of the wedding shortly after it was set, because they told me when they saw me.

Tell people who you are going to invite when your wedding is, and that you hope they will be able to come. It sounds like you've got plenty of time so I wouldn't necessarily make a great list and email people all at once.

YMMV - weddings are cultural and I live in the UK.
posted by plonkee at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2011

For this size of a wedding (especially if you are not too concerned about etiquette), I think it's entirely fine to send out a "save the date" email and then follow it up with a formal invitation six weeks before the wedding.

My husband and I did a lot of the wedding communications electronically (we even had guests RSVP through a website that we created) and that worked fine.
posted by bananafish at 11:57 AM on May 23, 2011

Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I have more than basic manners and, as far as I'm concerned, if you send me a "save the date" card then that is EXACTLY what I'm going to do.

Right - that's the hearing from you part. It's those people who have heard about the wedding but have gotten no concrete indication that they're going to be invited. A StD card is a concrete indication. So's a phone call or email saying "we're going to be getting married on X date and will want you there."

There's wedding etiquette books galore on what is the Right Way to do this sort of thing. I'm just trying to say that from a completely practical point that the StD card DOES fill a very valid role.
posted by phearlez at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2011

GNNAA It's those people who have heard about the wedding but have gotten no concrete indication that they're going to be invited that I am talking about - they should not presume that they're going to be invited absent some concrete indication, nor should they put someone on the spot by asking them if they're going to be invited.
posted by phearlez at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2011

I'm attending a wedding the weekend prior to that and have not recieved the official paper invitation yet. I think you're still in the clear, though you should probably get on it.

The couple in question did an email Save The Date, which worked out well (that I received in mid March for their Oct 1 wedding). My understanding is that StD's are the done thing now because so many more people travel to attend weddings or otherwise have to make complicated arrangements (personal day from work, childcare, etc). It basically lets you know "hey, we're inviting you to our wedding! start making the necessary arrangements!" ASAP.
posted by Sara C. at 2:06 PM on May 23, 2011

I'm just trying to say that from a completely practical point that the StD card DOES fill a very valid role.

My mistake, gotcha, and yep, totally agree with you :)
posted by mr_silver at 2:39 PM on May 23, 2011

Thanks, you guys. Since it's small-ish, all the invitees have already either been told directly by my boyfriend and myself, or have heard through the grapevine. So I'm thinking we'll be alright with Metroid Baby's timeline.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 4:09 PM on May 23, 2011

If I were you I'd make sure the people who have heard it "through the grapevine" hear it from you or your boyfriend personally. I heard "on the grapevine" that a friend who I knew to be engaged had set his wedding date, but until I heard from him personally (just in the nick of time before I committed to something else on that date) it didn't occur to me to assume I would be invited.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, with weddings costing what they do these days, I don't take hearing it through the grapevine to mean that I'm invited. I hear through the grapevine that lots of people are getting married.
posted by Sara C. at 5:21 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

We thought that my husband's first cousin had heard through the grapevine -- that is, his parents, her aunt & uncle or her parents, who all knew -- but somehow she hadn't and she couldn't come because we didn't give her enough notice. You can never assume that someone has heard through a grapevine.

A save-the-date email costs nothing, and saves a lot of trouble. Unless you just send the invitations now.
posted by jb at 6:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

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