Knowing when to send out your wedding stationery could be tricky. There are lots of "rules of thumbs" out there and etiquette, but every wedding, guest list, and couple are different... how is one to know when the right timing is? I like to approach it by backing out of the wedding date with the understanding of what needs to happen to get there, instead of starting from the beginning.
The table to the right is the quick cheatsheet for the formula that I use with my wedding clients.
So let’s break down why this works the way it does.
RSVP Due Date
The RSVP due date depends on a few things, but is typically 2-3 weeks before the wedding. I always recommend talking to your wedding coordinator and caterer to see when final headcounts are due, as well as allow yourself enough time to figure out the seating chart. And of course, you may need to give yourself some time to track down stragglers if you KNOW that your guests are prone to forgetting things like, I don’t know, letting you know whether they’re coming to the most stressful dinner party of your life (people, right?). This means that in some scenario, you may even need 4-6 weeks before the day to get the RSVPs in.
Now that you have the RSVP due date (which will go on your invitation so make sure that’s nailed down!) you want to figure out then in-home delivery date for your wedding invitation. This is one that people tend to forget, but just because you SEND your invitation on a certain date, doesn’t mean all guests are going to receive it on that date. To allow for the post office to deliver, as well as for guests to actually check their mail (I mean, I can tell you right now that I only check my mail like every 3-5 days), account for a week between actually sending and delivering the invitation.
So, between the invitation getting into the guests’ hands and the RSVP due date, you should give folks 4 weeks. This tends to be the sweet spot—any longer and guests think, “Oh I have SO MUCH TIME, don’t need to do it now!” but any less and guests can feel overwhelmed by the looming deadline.
In other words, the invitation should arrive at folks’ mailboxes 4 weeks before the due date, which means you want them at the post office 5 weeks before the due date. Make sense?
Save the date - 6-8 months
Last but not least is the Save the Dates. The rule of thumb here is that when you have a venue and date confirmed, you’re ready to send out these suckers—which usually happen 8-12 months prior to the wedding day. No need to be really structured with this guy, it’s by definition just a heads up. You don’t even need to send to your entire guest list, just folks you couldn’t live without if they weren’t there. And these days, between you and your excited relatives, the word of your date permeates pretty quickly. It could, however, serve as a great “filter” to let members of big families know who should expect an invite and who shouldn’t, so it’s not a surprise later.
Extra credit: Are you planning destination wedding?
The timeline can shift a bit if you’re planning a destination wedding, or more than half of your guests will be traveling in. Allow more time for both yourself and your guest, because arranging travel could be tough, and you may have to make more calls to see if Grandma from across the country will be able to make the trip over.
You can also use this extended timeline if you know your caterer/coordinator needs the RSVP earlier, you’re planning a wedding around the holidays (again, travel is tough), or your wedding invitation send out date falls near a holiday.
RSVP due date: WD - 6 weeks
Wedding invitation in-home date: RSVP - 4 weeks, or WD - 10 weeks
Wedding invitation send date: RSVP - 6 weeks, or WD - 12 weeks
Save the Date: WD - 8 months