As you plan for your special day, you might feel like you’re entering a whole new world — one with its own unique rules and customs that are different from any event you’ve planned before. Oftentimes, this is most noticeable when you’re not sure about how to approach a specific detail, like when to take a particular planning step or send out information to guests.

Luckily, you can use this guide as your resource for each step of the way. We break down the standard timeline for all wedding invitation-related correspondence so you know what to expect and how to prepare in the time leading up to your big day.

Phase 1: Decide on a Guest List

For many couples, thinking about the guest list can begin soon after the ring hits the finger. Designing your guest list provides the opportunity to consider all your meaningful relationships with loved ones and how they’ve shaped your life. This is also an important first step in wedding planning, as the number of guests you include will influence many of your planning decisions.

When should I create my guest list?

Early in the process, you’ll need a rough headcount to search for the right venue. You’ll need to refine this list and get addresses for all the people you want to invite so you can order and send your save-the-dates and invitations. Develop your guest list at least six months prior to your wedding date, if not earlier, to stay on track with the rest of your wedding invitation timeline. Learn more about how save the date timeline etiquette can affect when you need to make your guest list below.

Note: You won’t have a final guest list until all invitation RSVPs have been returned.


Phase 2: Send Your Save the Dates

Save the dates serve a different purpose than the invitation, they’re the first glimpse your guests will get into the celebration you’re planning. You don’t need to include specific details like registry information or attire on your save the dates, as they’re intended to helps guests plan to attend by sharing the date and general location before the actual invitations come out. You can include the specific venue address, times, and more details with the invitations to follow.

When should we send out the save the dates?

The best time to send save the date cards depends on the type of wedding you are hosting:

  • Send save the dates for a destination wedding six months to a year before the wedding to allow guests enough time to make necessary arrangements.
  • Send save the dates for a typical wedding four to six months before the wedding. You can send save the dates even earlier, say nine months in advance, if your wedding will be held during a busy travel weekend.


Phase 3: Send Your Wedding Invitations

As your wedding date gets closer, it’s time to share the most important and detailed piece of wedding correspondence – the invitations!

When should you send out the wedding invitations?

The traditional timeline for sending your wedding invitations is six to twelve weeks before the big day. Give guests more time to prepare by sending save the date cards in advance.

How far before the wedding should the RSVPs be sent back?

The final date for guests to RSVP to your wedding should be about three to four weeks before the big day. This timeframe is close enough to the date to ensure guests will have a solid sense of their schedules and will give you plenty of time to finish your seating charts and give final counts to your vendors.

When can I follow up and ask my guests about their RSVPs?

Feel free to follow up with your guests a week after your requested RSVP date. Generally, you’ll want to have the final list and headcount at least a couple of weeks before your wedding date — this is the number you will give to your caterer.

No matter what type of wedding you choose to throw, the most important thing is to include personal, special touches throughout. The save the dates and invitations should be the start of the celebration of you, your partner, and the beautiful journey you’re starting together.

Find answers to more of your burning invitation questions and learn how to word your wedding invitations to make preparing for your big day as smooth as possible.

Image source, Alexandra Rowley. 

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