What's the Difference Between Save-the-Dates and Wedding Invitations?

Do you need both save-the-dates and wedding invites? The short answer: It depends.
Painted minimal save-the-date from The Knot Invitations
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated Aug 27, 2021

You and your future spouse have officially set a wedding date. Congrats! So what comes next? Well, lots of wedding planning tasks, one of them being inviting your guests to the celebration. Here's where many couples get tripped up when it comes to wedding invitations: Should you send save-the-date cards or formal invitations? Or both? As with all things weddings, there is no right or wrong answer. It really depends on you, your soon-to-be spouse, when and where your wedding will take place, your guest list, and your preference.

To help you make an educated decision, we chatted with an expert on all things invites to break down the difference between save-the-dates vs. invitations, including their purpose, when to send them and what to include in each.

Save-the-Dates vs. Wedding Invitations: What's the Difference?

A save-the-date and a wedding invitation each serve a different purpose for your guest list. Here's the biggest difference between the two: "Save-the-dates are sent early in the wedding planning process to ask your guests to hold the date in their calendars for your wedding while formal invitations and the details are being finalized," says Jordan Kentris, founder and creative director of A Good Day, a boutique design firm specializing in event stationery. "A wedding invitation is the piece that contains all the necessary details to invite a guest to attend your wedding."

In other words, think of the save-the-date as giving your guests a heads up that they're invited, while the actual invitation formally invites them with all the details.


Painted minimal save-the-date from The Knot Paper.

What to Include in a Save-the-Date

Now that you're up to speed on the biggest differences between a save-the-date vs. an invitation, let's dive into the details of each and what they should include, starting with the save-the-date.

According to Kentris, the save-the-date card should include three pieces of information: who is getting married (that would be you and your spouse-to-be!), what city the wedding will take place in, and the wedding date (hence the name "save-the-date").

The city is very important to include for destination weddings especially. If you have a wedding website that you plan on updating with more details as the date draws closer, you can also include the link to that as well. This is a good way to keep out-of-town guests in the loop with travel information and accommodations.

Traditionally, save-the-dates are sent via mail but sending them via email is also an option. If you do go the mail route, Kentris says save-the-dates don't typically include inserts, but you can definitely add an additional card to include travel details for destination weddings.

When to Send a Save-the-Date

There is no hard rule of when exactly you should send out save-the-dates to your family members and wedding guests. Ideally, the sooner the better once you've pinned down a wedding date. Kentris recommends following date etiquette by sending out save-the-dates at least six to 12 months out.

The idea, Kentris says, is that you give your guests enough time to book travel arrangements, budget accordingly, request time off work if needed, or make any other necessary arrangements to ensure they can attend the wedding.

Remember that at this point you likely won't have all the details of your wedding finalized and that's perfectly fine. You just want your guests to know they're invited and when the wedding date is taking place.

Formal Wedding Invitations

Painted minimal wedding invitation suite from The Knot Paper.

What to Include in a Wedding Invitation

Date, Time and Address

The formal wedding invitation will follow up the save-the-date to provide your guests with all the wedding details once they're finalized. "The invitation should include the couple, date and time, address of the ceremony and reception, and any additional elements a guest should know about [such as] attire or if the event is adults only," Kentris says.

Additional Details

To provide guests with those extra details, Kentris recommends including additional wedding stationery and inserts with your wedding invitations that include details such as hotel information, an itinerary if you're having multiple wedding events (rehearsal dinner, farewell brunch, etc.), maps to the wedding venues, if childcare will be available, and the wedding website. Wedding registry information is traditionally kept off printed materials, but guests can find these details on your wedding website.


Another key difference between a save-the-date vs. an invitation is that RSVPs are typically requested for invitations and not save-the-dates. This makes total sense given that not all the details may be finalized when the save-the-dates are sent out and it's often tricky for people to know so far in advance if they'll be able to attend.

RSVPs also allow you to get a headcount on how many guests will be attending your wedding. Printed RSVPs, Kentris says, are more traditional and formal, but you can opt to go digital as well. If you decide to go printed, he adds, just keep in mind that your guests will need ample time to send back the RSVP via snail mail before the big day.

For plus ones, Kentris says, that's typically included on the invitation envelope (e.g. Jane Smith and guest). "You can [also] include the number of guests invited on the RSVP card," he says. "This makes it clear to your guests the number invited and if there are children invited or not."

Engagement Photos

The wedding invite is also a great place to feature an engagement photo. You can, of course, include one in your save-the-date as well if you already had the photoshoot. In terms of how to include the engagement photo in your wedding invitations, it's totally up to you! Kentris says options include putting the engagement photo on the invitation itself or as a separate photo to act as a keepsake.

When to Send Out a Wedding Invitation

The ideal timeframe for sending out wedding invitations, Kentris says, is about eight to 12 weeks before the wedding date. This gives your wedding guests enough time to RSVP. However, Kentris adds, if you sent out save-the-dates then it is safe to send out the formal wedding invitation a bit closer to the day.

Up Next
  • personalized wedding stationery
    How to Create Personalized Wedding Invitations