Save-the-Date Etiquette

Want to announce your upcoming wedding? Here's how to do your wedding save-the-dates right.
Pink and white save-the-date design ideas
Photo by Devon Jarvis

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 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 weekend affairs 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 to, but it will give guests a 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 around six months prior to the ceremony (eight months for a faraway destination or holiday weekend). 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 verbal confirmations from certain guests, you should still 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. Which information should we include?
At this point, you may not have all the specifics, and that's okay. The save-the-date should include the couple's names, wedding date (or dates, for a wedding weekend), location (a city is helpful, even if the venue isn't booked yet) and a notice for a formal invitation to follow. Including a wedding website is ideal, but again, not necessary. At this point an RSVP shouldn't be expected—after all, this is the correspondence that gives guests an opportunity to figure out what their RSVP will be when the formal invitation arrives.

Q. Do our save-the-dates have to match our wedding invitations or theme?
Not at all. Save-the-dates are much less formal. This is your opportunity to let your style as a couple really shine, or try out a theme you love but are hesitant to commit to just yet. Play with colors, motifs or fonts to create something that will get guests excited for the occasion.

Sticky Situations

Q. Can we send electronic save-the-dates?
Email invitations for informal events like bachelorette parties and postwedding brunches are becoming more popular, and as a result, rewriting the rules of snail mail etiquette. We stand by old-school stationery for the big stuff like formal invitations, but leave the use of digital up to the discretion of the couple for any additional wedding events. If you do decide on digital, consider doubling up: Send out an electronic save-the-date to everyone, and send paper correspondence to older relatives or friends that may want it as a keepsake.

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. By including the actual names of every intended guest on the envelope, you're less likely to have any assumed invitees (like your second 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.)

Q. What about our registry information?
While your guests will likely want to know where you're registered, it's in bad taste to include this information on your save-the-dates or wedding invitations. Gifts, of course, are not required. Guests will know to ask bridal party attendants or your parents for the scoop. You can also include a link to your wedding website (where your registry information should live) on an invite insert.