If you’re just starting to plan your wedding, you may be wondering What are save the dates? How are they different to wedding invitations and are they absolutely essential? Will anything truly disastrous happen if I decide to forego save the dates altogether?
Today, we’re going to discuss what save the dates are for, and when you do and don’t need to send them. There are some situations in which save the dates are a must-have, so we’ll explain what these circumstances are and why. We’ll also clarify when to send wedding invitations if you’re not sending save the dates beforehand.
What Are Save the Dates?
Save the dates are small cards that you send out well in advance of your wedding. They inform your guests that your wedding is coming up (though it may be a long way off).
Usually, save the dates are sent at least 6 months before the wedding, though you can send them up to a year in advance. You can send save the dates as soon as you know your wedding date and your guest list, before you’ve planned any other details of your wedding – even the venue.
Knowing the date of your wedding well in advance will allow your guests plenty of time to:
• Ask for time off work
• Arrange childcare
• Book accommodation and/or transport if they need to travel for your wedding
• Decline any further engagements that they may get invited to on the same day
• Go shopping for an outfit
You only need to send one save the date per couple, family or household. You can choose whether to include plus ones at this stage, or when you send your formal invitations.
When you’ve confirmed the final details of your wedding – such as the ceremony and reception venues, start time, and dress code – it’s time to send the formal invitations. Send these out around 6-8 weeks before the wedding.
What to Include on Save the Dates
The only things you must include on your wedding save the dates are: your names, the name(s) of who you’re inviting, and the date of the wedding. Don’t forget to include the year, especially if your wedding is more than a year away.
When inviting someone who lives quite far away, you should also give them a heads up as to where the wedding will be held. If you haven’t settled on a specific venue, at least let them know what country (or area of the country) you’re considering.
If you have already settled your venue, you can include your venue on the save the dates as well. But don’t include it unless you have formally booked it. You may change your mind, or find that the venue isn’t available on the date you want.
When Are Save the Dates Essential?
Most people consider save the dates essential for any wedding. If you wait too long before letting your guests know the date of your wedding, there’s a chance they may have already booked a prior commitment.
If you’re having a small, local wedding, and the date of your wedding has travelled around through word of mouth, save the dates aren’t essential. However, there are some circumstances in which you should always send save the dates.
Most weddings are held on Saturdays. This is a perfect day for a wedding, as (most of) your guests won’t have to work, or get up early for work the next day.
Therefore, if your wedding will be on a weekday or a Sunday, you should send save the dates as far in advance as possible. This gives your guests plenty of notice to book time off work (for the day of the wedding and the day after).
Similarly, always send a save the date if you’re getting married at a busy time of year (e.g. Christmas).
If you’re getting married in a foreign country, save the dates are absolutely essential. Your guests will need lots of notice to arrange time off work, and book transport and accommodation. They’ll also need enough time to save enough money for a plane ticket.
Even if you’re not having a destination wedding, you must send save the dates if any of your guests live far away. If they live more than an hour away from your venue, they may wish to book accommodation nearby. They’ll need lots of time to do that.
Guests with Busy Jobs
As we’ve said, the day of the week on which you hold your wedding is important. Most people have Monday to Friday jobs, so Saturday weddings usually work out best.
However, ask yourself: do any of your guests have unconventional jobs, where they work odd hours (nights or weekends)? Or do any of your guests have particularly busy careers, where they work a lot of overtime? If so, you should send save the dates, no matter what day of the week you’re marrying on.
Guests with Young Children
You should definitely send save the dates if any of your guests have children under 16. If you’re not inviting the kids, or if your guests decide not to bring them, they’ll need time to arrange childcare.
Even if they are bringing their children along, parents will need longer to get ready for the wedding than child-free guests. They’ll have to sort out their children’s outfits as well as their own, for one thing. They’ll also need extra time to plan things like snacks, toys, and potential nap times.
Downsides to Sending Save the Dates
There are, of course, some downsides to sending save the dates. For one, they’re an extra cost that will use up some of your wedding budget. Weddings can be expensive, and every little element adds up. You may not feel like you can afford any added expenses.
That being said, save the dates don’t always have to be costly. Bride and Groom Direct offer a range of beautiful save the dates, starting at just 50p each.
Sending save the dates does mean that you have to finalise your guest list early. You should only ever send save the dates if you’re 100% sure who you want to invite. Uninviting guests from a wedding is extremely awkward to have to deal with.
If you don’t send save the dates, you can finalise the details of your wedding – such as your venue capacity, and your catering budget – before deciding who to invite. This means you won’t accidentally invite too many people.
When to Send Wedding Invitations Without Save the Dates
If you’re not sending save the dates, it’s polite to still give guests an informal heads-up, if you can. When you’ve decided on a date, just give them a call, email or text and let them know when the wedding is.
At least spread your wedding date around via word-of-mouth through your family and friends. That way, none of your guests will be caught off guard when their invitation arrives.
It’s important to send out your wedding invitations earlier than normal if you’re not sending save the dates. Usually, formal invitations are sent out around 6 to 8 weeks before the big day. But if you’re not sending save the dates, you should send the invitations out at least 12 weeks prior.
If your guests have to travel far, the earlier you can send the invitations, the better. Aim to give travelling guests 6 months’ notice, if you can manage it.
Don’t forget to include the deadline that your guests should RSVP by. Usually, this is around 2 to 3 weeks before the wedding day. Speak to your venue and your caterer, and they’ll be able to give you specific guidance on this.