When to Order Wedding Invitations: A Timeline

Sending invitations at the right time isn’t just a matter of etiquette. It’s vital to ensure that the entire wedding process runs smoothly. Time things correctly and you give yourself breathing room to properly plan seating, the reception, and the event itself. Leave yourself too little time and you’ll be scrabbling to rearrange the seating plan. The last thing you want is to be panicking!
Below, we’ve set out a timeline of when you should be sending save-the-dates, wedding invitations and RSVPs (as well as when to expect them back).

What Is a Save-the-Date?

The save-the-date is the first thing you should send out to any potential guests. It’s similar to a wedding invitation, in that it can tell the recipient what date the wedding is, where it’s being held, and what time of day.
Its name describes what the point of it is: the idea of a save-the-date is that it tells recipients to keep a day (or days) free so that they can attend your wedding. You send it earlier than a regular invitation to give people more of a chance to get time off.
The main differences are that it’s sent further in advance of the wedding than a normal invitation, and that it doesn’t necessarily come with extra stationery like an RSVP, directions to the wedding, or anything else like a seating plan.

Why Send Save-the-Dates?

They serve several very important functions, so you could argue that they’re second only to the invitations themselves. First, the save-the-date ensures the date of the wedding won’t be a surprise to any of your guests. It allows them to plan months in advance for your wedding. For anybody with a job that they struggle to get time off from, this can be a lifesaver.
For the recipient, they also give a chance early-on to tell you that they aren’t or can’t come. If they know for a fact that they won’t be able to attend, for example because of a health issue, then they can tell you now rather than later. It’s much better for somebody to tell you ‘no’ before you send the official invites out.
They also serve a useful purpose for you. They allow you to put the feelers out, so to speak, and get an estimate of how many people are actually going to turn up to your wedding. This lets you organise things like the seating plan, travel arrangements and more well in advance.
In short, they save time for everyone.

When Should You Send Save-the-Dates?

Save-the-dates are supposed to be sent well in advance of the wedding date. Somewhere around four months beforehand is ideal. This is more than enough time even for the most hard-working of people to find some time off from their jobs.
Any further out than this and it’s likely people won’t be able to save the date, as they won’t know whether anything will come up between now and then. Any closer to the wedding date and you aren’t giving people enough time to organise their lives around your big day. Four months is a good sweet spot.
However, if you’re having a destination wedding, you need to give people much more time. Depending on your arrangements, people may need to organise hotels, flights or other means of travel, pet care/kennels and more. A few months may not be enough time for people to save and organise their trip. You should therefore give people twelve months if you’re planning a destination wedding.

What Is a Wedding Invitation?

The next stage is the wedding invitation itself. This is a formal invite to your wedding day, and features all the information that a guest might need: who’s getting married, where the ceremony and reception are being held, and when the ceremony and reception are being held. The invitation may also come with a seating plan and RSVP.
Invitations are one piece of wedding stationery that you can’t do without. You can choose not to send hen party invites or save-the-dates, if you prefer. But if you arrange invites informally, you won’t know roughly how many people are going to turn up, which will stop you being able to make a seating plan or book travel arrangements.

When to Order Wedding Invitations

There are two ways of sorting out wedding invitations. The first is to arrange them through a wedding planner. And while this will save you some stress, of course, this is the expensive way of doing it. So if you’re creating and sending your own invitations, when do you order them?

Four to six months is a good rule of thumb. This gives you more than enough time with them before you have to send them. Remember, you might have to send them back because of a spelling error, or you just might not have the time to fill them all out in one go. Four to six months should be enough.

When to Order RSVPs

There are two ways to send RSVPs with a wedding invitation. The first is simply to state RSVP on the invitation itself, and make reference to the method through which you’d like to receive them (e.g. text, social media, or through sites dedicated to organising RSVPs online). This method saves on waste and cost.
The second method is to send a physical card along with your invitation, preferably with an envelope with prepaid postage. This is the old-fashioned way, so it’s the way that’s preferred for big classic weddings.
If you choose the former option, there’s no extra ordering involved. But if you choose the latter, order your RSVPs at the same time as your regular invitations. You will then be able to prepare your invitations all at once, rather than having to wait for your extra RSVP cards and envelopes to arrive.

How to Prepare Wedding Invitations

The first thing you need to do to prepare your wedding invitations is check them over for any errors. There are two kinds of errors to look for. The first are any spelling or grammar mistakes. If you had them printed online, then you may have mistyped something for example.

The second are any printing errors. These are errors with color, the location of where things are typed and similar that are the printers’ fault. If there are any errors, inform the printer as soon as possible and order some more invitations.

The next step depends on what kind of invitations you bought. Some you buy already filled in, and some you don’t. The amount of time it takes to fill them in depends on which kind you bought. If you have to fill out your invitations, do so carefully. Ideally you should order some spares so that any mistakes aren’t important.
You could also hire a calligrapher to fill them out for you. There’s likely more than one in your area, so look for the best rates and organise their services as soon as you can.

You may then need to organise envelopes to send the invitations in. Some can be sent like postcards. But if you’re sending RSVPs or anything else with your invitations, you’ll need an envelope. Write the envelopes out carefully, double checking that you get the names and addresses correct.

Then you’re ready to send them!

When to Send a Wedding Invitation

You should send your wedding invitations between six and eight weeks before the wedding itself. If a person didn’t get their save-the-date, this should still be enough time for them to arrange the day off.
This should allow you around 4-6 months between the time you order the wedding invitations, and the time you send them off. This allows more than enough time for the printer to print them and send them to you, and for you to prepare them.

This might sound like a lot of time, perhaps more than is really necessary. In truth, it is likely more than you need. But weddings have a way of creating unexpected issues that you couldn’t possibly see coming. These could be problems with the invitations themselves, or with anything else to do with your wedding which might leave you short on time. Four to six months is therefore leeway that you can have, just in case something comes up.

When to Expect RSVPs

When you send your wedding invitations, you have to pick a date by which you’ll expect their RSVP back. If you’re expecting them back in the mail, give them enough time to decide and then send them back. Ideally this should be three to four weeks before the wedding. That gives people around four or five weeks to respond.

Even if you’re expecting people to reply by text or call, you should leave the same amount of time. That’s because the time isn’t just based on how long it will take a letter to reach you. People have to reorganise their lives and find time off to attend your wedding. That isn’t necessarily something you can do in a day.

After you get your RSVPs back, all that’s left is… Everything else!