Your Crash Course in When to Send Save-the-Dates

Get guests pumped to mark their calendars.
cathryn haight the knot
by
Cathryn Haight
cathryn haight the knot
Cathryn Haight
Commerce Editor
  • Cathryn is a commerce editor at The Knot, where she focuses on all things gifting and stationery
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Cathryn spent years as a food editor
  • Cathryn holds a bachelor's degree from Trinity College and a certificate in publishing from Columbia University
Updated Jun 07, 2023

The ring is on your finger and the location of your Pinterest-board dreams is confirmed for the big day—now it's time to get your guests in the loop. Your first step: mailing wedding save-the-dates (the pre-invitation that officially announces your wedding date). Wondering about when to send save-the-dates or the details of save-the-date etiquette? You're in luck. We're answering your most burning questions about this essential piece of correspondence. From how many save-the-dates to order (and if you need extra) to our top tips and tricks to save a little cash on postage, we're here to help you nail this process and get guests stoked to clear their calendars.

What is a save-the-date?

A wedding save-the-date is essentially the little sister to your official wedding invitation—it's a piece of mail that's sent out a few months ahead of the invite that lets invitees know the date and location of your upcoming nuptials (and also confirms that they made the coveted cut to get on your guest list).

If you think that still sounds a lot like just a regular wedding invite, let us break down the difference between save-the-dates and invitations a bit more: Save-the-dates are sent early on to give guests advanced notice to hold your wedding date to ensure they're free to attend. You basically just need your when and where (day and location—not even your exact venue) to send them out—nothing else needs to be finalized. Wedding invitations, on the other hand, include many more details of the day, such as the ceremony time and the venue address.

Are save-the-dates necessary?

Do you have to send save-the-dates? We say yes, you absolutely do in some shape or form. Without giving a heads up, you run the risk of guests making other plans, like long vacations or even committing to another wedding. You want as many of your loved ones to celebrate with you as possible, so it's both practical and polite to give them ample advance notice. Plus, it's a good place to include a link to your wedding website to offer access to your registry (which will come in handy for prewedding parties like a wedding shower) and for invitees to check for wedding updates in real time.

When should save-the-dates go out?

If you're wondering how far in advance to send out save-the-dates, there's a sweet spot: Start spreading the news six to eight months ahead of the ceremony for the ideal save-the-date timeline. (We recommend skewing more toward eight if you're getting hitched at a far-flug locale or over a holiday weekend.) This gives wedding guests plenty of time to book travel, save money and ask for days off work. Any later than that and they won't have enough lead time to do those things.

Is it ever too early to send save-the-dates?

We get it—you're super excited for your big day and maybe you have lots of details hammered out well in advance, but there are occasions where it's too early to send save-the-dates. How soon is too soon? At the very earliest, try to keep it to under a year—if you surpass that, your day may be too far away to stay on guests' radars and you risk folks putting off making the appropriate plans. Plus, you'll have a little more leeway if you need to—for some reason—change the date or location.

Who gets sent a save-the-date?

In short, everyone on your wedding guest list who would get an invitation is who you should send a save-the-date to. That means one per guest, with the option to send a single card for families with members in the same household or couples living together. Remember, though: Once your save-the-dates are in the mail, there's no turning back—so only send them to those guests you definitely want to attend your affair. (Even the ones you've received verbal confirmations from, like your bridesmaids and family members.)

Do save-the-dates and invitations have to match?

No, save-the-dates and wedding invitations don't have to match. We feel the relationship between your save-the-dates and invites is a lot like the one between your two eyebrows: they should be sisters, not twins. So if your main invitation is a rainbow wash of pastels adorned with sparkling gold-foil accents, perhaps pull a favorite color from your invite to be the main hue of your save-the-date. (Plus, going the mix-and-match route will ensure your save-the-dates don't spoil the surprise of your main invites, if you have a really bespoke design up your sleeve.)

That said, if you're dreaming of a perfectly coordinated wedding paper suite (with a design that might even spill over to your wedding website) we've got plenty of options for you at The Knot Invitations.

How can you save money on save-the-dates?

Here's what you need to know when it comes to how to save money on save-the-dates: For the physical card itself, you can keep to a lower price point if you forgo anything super custom, like a hand-painted watercolor save-the-date (save that for your wedding invitations). There are also plenty of printable save-the-date templates out there where you can get a custom design at a very fair price, given you put in a little elbow grease.

We know save-the-date magnets are popular, too, but keep in mind they're heavier and will therefore cost more to mail. On that note, you can also save the elegant wax seals, custom calligraphy and hand-sourced vintage stamps for the main invitation, too.

Do you need to order extra save-the-dates?

Ordering a few extra save-the-dates (at least five, if you're looking for an exact number of how many extra save the dates to order) is a smart idea. You or your parents might want a couple as keepsakes and to store in a memory box. It's also smart to have some backups on-hand to account for any last-minute guest list additions.

How do you mail save-the-dates?

Once you've compiled your list of guest addresses, mailing save-the-dates is fairly similar to mailing wedding invitations. If you have embellishments or unconventional mailing materials (like magnets) in your save-the-dates, expect a slightly higher cost per card—if there's extra weight or if you have to opt for a hand-canceling service, which saves your cards from being squished by a machine before mailing. If you have any questions, bring an envelope that's ready-to-go to the post office and have it weighed by a clerk to get the exact price per card. And most importantly: Never drop your precious save-the-dates in the mailbox! It's easy to be tempted by the convenience, but handing them over to an actual postal worker will ensure their safe delivery.

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