A timeline of when to order your important wedding stationery items
You got engaged! Hooray! The excitement is still fresh, you're on cloud nine.... and I'm sure by now approximately 739574 people have asked you "So... when's the big day?". If you are anything like me when I got engaged, this might have caused you to jump into overdrive planing mode if for no other reason than to not have to continue to dodge that question for the 739575th time.
One of the biggest questions I get asked, as a wedding stationer, is about when to send out the important wedding invitation and stationery items. When do I send out my save the dates? What if it's a destination wedding? What about shower invitations? Or Rehearsal dinner invites? But what if my Great Aunt Suzy won't stop asking me when she is going to get her invitation even though the wedding isn't for another year? Can I just send them now?... okay that last one might not be a common question, but you can all probably relate to that, am I right?
So I'm here to help answer some questions about not only when you should mail everything, but also when you should think about getting started on working on those paper goods as well. Most custom stationery designers, like myself, will book out weddings in advance. The reason for this is because the design process takes time. Now the amount of time it takes to create custom invitations will vary with every stationer, so it's always best to ask them up front when you should order, but in my experience this guide is a good estimate of what is pretty common among wedding stationers.
Of course, not everyone is going to feel the need to have a completely custom design, there are a lot of great collection designs out there that can be personalized and printed more quickly, so in those cases just count backwards from the "send" recommendation to get your "start" time.
WHEN TO ORDER AND MAIL YOUR WEDDING STATIONERY
Let me start with a little disclaimer *Starting earlier is always better in my book* The reason for this is because starting later might limit what can be added or done with your invitations. Also rushing the designer can sometimes limit creativity. So if you know your wedding details, such as the date, location, time etc... then what are you waiting for? Let's get started :)
Engagement Party Invitations- You should start on those designs right away and plan to mail them to your guests at least 2 weeks before your party. If you plan on doing a formal engagement party where you will be doing a dinner or meal for your guests, then you might want to think about mailing them at least 4 weeks in advance to allow time for replies.
Save the Dates - This can be broken down into two categories, in town weddings and destination weddings. For weddings that will be in town, or local to most of the guests, you should plan on sending those out about 4 to 6 months before the wedding. Which means you should start working with your stationer about 6 to 8 months before the wedding on the design. Now if you are planning a destination wedding, those should be sent to your guests at least 6 to 8 months before the wedding, which would mean you should start working on the design at least 8 to 10 months before, even longer if you are able to.
Wedding Invitations - Wedding invitations should be sent 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding. I see some people suggest sending them sooner with destination weddings, but if you sent a save the date that really isn't completely necessary. For local weddings I do not recommend sending them any sooner than 8 weeks before the wedding simply because people tend to forget to send the RSVPs back at a higher rate when you send your invitations out too soon. For destination weddings, I wouldn't recommend sending out the invitations any sooner than 12 weeks prior. So this means you should start working on your custom invitations at least 6 to 7 months before your wedding. I would say even sooner if you know you want to add some bells and whistles like foil stamping, vellum wraps, custom envelope liners etc. *Pro Tip* - If you are worried about making sure people are able to book their travel plans, make a wedding website and put accommodation information on there. This way people can start making their travel plans when they get their save the dates.
Shower Invitations - It's best to send shower invitations about 6 to 8 weeks before the shower whenever possible. This means you should start working on your shower invitations about 3 months before the shower.
Rehearsal Dinner Invitations - These can be sent with the wedding invitations to the people who would be invited to the rehearsal dinner. Because the grooms family traditionally hosts the rehearsal dinner you can do this two ways. You can coordinate with the grooms family to make sure the invitation is worded to show the hosts and include it in mailing with the wedding invitations, or the grooms family can handle everything on their own. It is up to your family and the best way to handle that. If the rehearsal dinner invitations will be mailed separately, it's best to have those mailed out about 3 to 6 weeks prior to the dinner which would mean starting the design should come about 2 to 3 months before the dinner.
Day of Stationery Items - This is another big question I get a lot: "When should I order my menus, programs, place cards, signage etc?" The short answer is at least 1 month before the wedding. The longer answer is to get started with he day of stationery items at the same time as your wedding invitations. What I mean by this, is let your stationer know what items you will be wanting and then they can create those designs (minus the last minute details) ahead of time. This way, when you start to get your details finalized, that information will be easier to finish up quickly, causing less stress for you and your stationer.
Thank You Cards - I also recommend designing these at the same time as your invitations. The reason for this is that as your RSVPs start to roll in you can use those to address your thank you card envelopes ahead of time. This will save you SO much time after the wedding and help you get those thank yous out quickly! The accepted timeframe for sending out thank you cards for gifts received before and after the wedding is within 2 to 3 weeks. For gifts received at the wedding, no longer than 3 months. The sooner the better though.
Whew! That was a long one. If you are still with me please give yourself a pat on the back for hanging tough. High fives all around. Just as a reminder, the downloads are free for personal use only.