As a professional stationery designer, I often hear a lot questions about the timing of sending out your save the dates, when to send wedding invitations, and when to request RSVPs back. There’s a lot of conflicting advice from traditional etiquette mandates and anxiety over delays in the mail or just excitement about knowing your final head count that can make couples’ heads spin if they’ve never planned a wedding before. In this post, I’m going to dive into how to navigate this somewhat complex timing of everything from when to inquire with a stationer, to when to mail out your invitations, and even when your RSVPs should be due.
In general, wedding invitations should be sent out 2-4 months before the wedding. This timing ensures that guests will have enough time to RSVP and that the couple has enough time to do a final head count and order anything that’s needed for the day of the wedding based on that final number.
Traditionally, the advice from places like Brides Magazine and Etiquette Experts is to send out your invitations 6-8 weeks in advance. So you can send them as late as that timeframe still. However, especially post 2020, I have noticed that couples want to send out their wedding invitations even earlier than that. And I typically advise my clients to send them 3-4 months in advance of their weddings.
Here are a few reasons why sending them out earlier than 6-8 weeks is a good idea.
As you can see from the list above, there are a lot of good reasons why mailing your wedding invitations out a few months before the wedding instead of a few weeks is a good idea. It allows for better, more advanced planning and alleviates some of the last minute pre-wedding stress that often overwhelms couples in the final weeks and days before the big day.
3 months before your wedding is not too early to send out wedding invitations. In fact, the perfect time to send your wedding invitations out is 3 months before the wedding.
You may be wondering if this advice to send out your wedding invitations 2-4 months in advance is actually too early. So let’s talk more about why 3 months in advance is the perfect time to send your invites.
For guests coming from out of town, having a three month window to finalize travel plans is much easier than only having 6 weeks. Yes, when you send out a save the date you hope that your guests will have already made some travel arrangements. But sending them a reminder and more details on when they need to be there for a welcome party or farewell brunch, what hotel blocks you’ve reserved, and more specifics that you didn’t have six months ago is extremely helpful. It also relieves you of the seemingly endless questions you’ll get from friends and family members about the details of the day.
For you, as a couple, it’s also a great idea to have final head counts sooner for planning purposes. You can send out additional invitations if you have more declines than expected. And you can order all of the stationery and decor you need for the big event without rushing it towards the end. Not sure what day of stationery to get? Here’s a check list.
While being on the early side is better, this is a such thing as too early to send out wedding invitations.
The earliest you can send out wedding invitations is six months before the wedding. Sending invitations before six months, even for a destination wedding, can lead to guests having a difficult time RSVPing accurately and not having enough of the wedding details finalized.
The absolute earliest I would recommend sending wedding invitations out is about six months in advance. Any earlier and you run the risk of several small disasters:
Here’s a deeper look into the problems you could have if you send out your wedding invitations too early.
Your guests, while they need some advance notice, may not be able to commit to attending more than six months in advance. The Save the Date will help them block off the time they need from work or book travel if they need more than six months notice to do that. But requiring an RSVP so far in advance means there’s more time for guests’ plans to change. So you’ll have more of a headache keeping up with friends and family members who change their RSVP closer to the wedding date.
Here’s an perfect example of why a guest may change their RSVP if the invitations are sent out too early. Your friends who got married a few months ago may say in January that they are excited to attend your wedding in October and RSVP that they can come. But then the following month, they find out they are expecting a baby in October.
They aren’t sure if they can say anything yet because it’s too early to tell anyone and they don’t really know how having a baby will change their lives. But in April, they realize they don’t think they can come after all. So you get the call that they have to change their RSVP to nos, regretfully, several months after you thought you had finalized the list. If you had sent out your invitations in July instead, they would’ve just RSVP’d no from the get go and you wouldn’t have to go back and forth changing their RSVP.
While that scenario is not likely to happen to that many guests, you can see how plans and life circumstances for everyone can change in six months. And while you thought you were planning ahead, you’re actually creating more work for yourself when people change their minds or can’t definitively commit to attending your wedding so far in advance.
There are problems for you in your planning as well. More than six months in advance you might not have hotel rooms blocked yet, or know the time of your ceremony, or these details could change leading up to the wedding. These unavoidable changes will cause you all sorts of stress if you send our your invitations too early. Do you email everyone? Call them? Send out new invites? The closer you are to the date, the less likely things are to change drastically.
In summary, for both your guests’ sake and yours, that is why I don’t recommend sending invitations more than six months before the wedding. Instead, I recommend that couples send invitations 3-4 months in advance.
Now that you know when to send out your wedding invitations, we can tackle the next date you need to know – how many months in advance you should ask for RSVPs for a wedding.
You should ask for RSVPs 1-2 months in advance of your wedding. This timeline should be dependent on your venue or caterer and when they require a final head count.
There are a few reasons why this timing makes sense for RSVPs. First, you’ll want to give yourself a 1-2 week buffer from when the head count is due and when the RSVPs are due so you can follow up with any stragglers who didn’t RSVP on time. A week or two is enough that you can follow up politely and not feel stressed about chasing people down.
Second, you’ll want to give your guests enough time to RSVP. If you send out your wedding invitations 3 months in advance, then two months in advance gives your guests four weeks to receive their invitations in the mail and RSVP. That’s usually enough time for people to have received their invitations and not have to rush to respond immediately. But also not so much time that they forget to RSVP on time. If you give guests more than a month or two to RSVP, they are more likely to procrastinate and forget to get back to you on time.
Now that you’ve got the basics down of when to send your invitations, you should know how far in advance you have to order your invitations to get them out on time.
Generally, you should order wedding invitations at least one month before you want to mail out invitations to your guests for semi-custom invitations. For custom invitations, you’ll want to order your invitations at least 3 months in advance.
If you’re purchasing your wedding invites or accessories on a site like Minted, then ordering your invitations a few weeks in advance is generally enough time. It takes a few weeks to have them printed and shipped so don’t delay too much! And you’ll want some time to browse a few websites for the perfect invitation and fill out your information of course. That’s why a month in advance is usually a good plan for any semi-custom invitations.
If you’re looking to hire a stationery designer to create the perfect, custom invitations for your wedding then you’ll want to get started a lot sooner. First, you’ll want to research any stationers who are in your area or have a signature style you like. Then you’ll want to reach out for pricing and availability to determine if you can work with the stationery designer. Lastly, the designer will need time to create and ship your order. This last step alone can take anywhere from 2-4 months depending on the print techniques and amount of customization. (Letterpress printing for example can take 4-6 weeks just to print!)
That’s why it’s important to reach out to stationers early on in the process and get on their calendar. Three months is the minimal timeframe I would recommend getting started with a stationery designed for digitally printed invitations (which means six months before your wedding date if you want to send them three months in advance.) But you may want to reach out six – nine months in advance if you want to interview several designers before deciding and allow for production time of complex items.
Ultimately, sending out your invitations can be boiled down to a pretty solid timeline of three months in advance of your wedding. You should order your invitations at least one month before that from most websites but three to six months before you want to send them out from a custom stationery designer. And you’ll want to require RSVPs one to two months in advance of your wedding date.
Still not exactly sure when to send your wedding invitations? I made this handy chart to determine what month to send your invites out. You can find your wedding date on the left hand column then look to the right for the month when you should send invitations and when you should require RSVPs. Share this chart with any brides-to-be that you think might find it helpful!
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Bread and Jaim is a stationery company located in Westchester, NY that specializes in watercolor wedding invitations and other premium illustrated stationery. Contact us for your custom stationery needs or visit the shop for semi-custom and ready-to-ship items.
designed by Gillian Sarah