The ring is on your finger and the planning is underway -- time to get your guests in the loop. Your first step: Send a wedding save-the-date card. This pre-invitation mailing officially announces your wedding date and lets guests know that they will, in fact, be invited to the celebration. Here are the answers to your most-asked etiquette questions.
Where to Start
Q. Do we have to send a save-the-date?
As destination weddings and three-day weekends have become more standard, so have save-the-dates. And if you're marrying during high-travel times like a holiday weekend or summer in a beach town, a save-the-date is an expected courtesy. Of course, you don't have to send one if you don't want, but it will give guests the heads up about your wedding plans. Between travel arrangements and busy schedules, sending a save-the-date will increase guests' chances of attending your celebration. And that's the goal, right?
Q. When do you send them?
As a general rule, it's best to start spreading the news at around six months prior to the ceremony (eight months for a faraway destination). This gives wedding guests plenty of time to book their travel, save a bit of cash, and ask for days off from work. Any earlier, and they may toss the notice aside. Any later, and it might as well be an invitation.
Q. Do we have to send save-the-dates to everyone?
Just to the people that you want to come to your wedding. Even if you've already received confirmations from certain guests, you still need to send them a save-the-date (bridesmaids, siblings, and parents). But remember: Only send to those that you definitely want to attend. Once these are in the mail, there's really no turning back.
Q. Do we need to add “and guest," or can that wait for the invitations?
It's best to be clear about who's invited to the wedding, even this far in advance. Always call your best friend's boyfriend by his nickname? Now's the time to find out what's on his birth certificate. By including the actual names of every intended guest on the envelope, you're less likely to have any assumed invitees (like your third cousin's new boyfriend), or general confusion (is your seven-year-old niece invited?). Being up front about who's invited also gives families with uninvited kids ample time to plan for child care, and out-of-towners time to figure out hotel room shares.
Q. What if we send save-the-dates and then change the date or location?
This scenario is very unlikely, since no couple should send out formal wedding information before setting the plans in stone -- but stranger things have happened. In the event of an unexpected change of plans, your best bet is to update your wedding website, pick up the phone, and start spreading the word. You do have the option of sending out another mailing that explains the dilemma -- but a personal, verbal notice is the best way to avoid confusion. (If your wedding guest list is a bit overwhelming, enlist the help of your bridal party.)