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Save That Date!

More often these days, save-the-date cards are sent to guests long before the invitation to inform them of the wedding date and locale so they can plan ahead. The cards are especially helpful for out-of-town guests, or if the wedding will happen over a holiday weekend or in a seasonally busy locale when guests will need to book travel accommodations far in advance. Information on area hotels, along with contact information for a travel agent if one is coordinating guest arrivals and securing discounts, is often included with this mailing.

These cards can be on more casual stationery and often include illustrations or graphics, but ideally they should play off the theme or color palette of your wedding. If it's too soon for you to decide on anything besides the date and locale, try to link the cards to either of those aspects; guests informed of a wedding held over Independence Day weekend, for example, could receive cards with a flag, fireworks, or a red, white, and blue motif.

Order these as soon as you know your wedding date. When to send them? Ideally six months before your wedding (longer if the wedding is a destination wedding or over a holiday weekend).

Wedding Invitations: A Complete Checklist

Need the 411 on wedding invitations and more? Here's everything you need to know about all the paper products you'll be ordering.

Before you go buying every pretty note card in sight, determine your needs by breaking down your wedding day. Use your wedding style, however formal or casual, as well as time and budget to guide you through the boundless options. It's helpful to establish a thread of consistency -- with color, theme, or motif -- and apply it to each piece. For efficiency and cost effectiveness, strive to order all your stationery needs from the same place and, ideally, at the same time. Here's everything you need to know about the paper products you'll be ordering.

Invitations

The centerpiece of your wedding stationery, the invitation reflects the tone of your wedding, whether black tie or beach party. An invitation can have several pieces: the outer envelope, an unsealed inner envelope, the invitation, a reception card (if the party is held at a different venue than the ceremony), and a response card with a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Printed maps and information on hotels is often also enclosed.

  • Traditional:

    These are heavy stock, 100-percent cotton or linen paper in white or ecru, engraved with black or charcoal ink, and with a square of tissue to protect the type.
  • Twist:

    Couples are steering away from the standard invitation and using papers in unusual sizes and colors, with exotic textures (perhaps relating to the color scheme of the wedding), and emblazoned with motifs, graphics, monograms, and family crests. Waste-conscious brides with less formal invites often forgo the unsealed inner envelope (originally used to protect the invitation from the elements when mail was hand-delivered and often arrived in shoddy shape).
  • Order:

    Three to four months before the wedding date. The sooner you order them, the more time you'll have to proof them, make any changes, and address the outer envelopes (a calligrapher, for example, requires up to two weeks to address 100 invitations).
  • Send:

    Six weeks before the date is the most common; eight weeks is ideal (10 weeks for guests coming from abroad). You have more leeway if you send save-the-date cards first.

Reply Cards

These cards are, of course, sent with your invitations with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

  • Traditional:

    Reply cards often ask each guest to check a box letting couples know how many people will attend the wedding. A date for the return of the reply card is essential.
  • Twist:

    Since so many people have dietary concerns, many reply cards now include the menu options so that guests can check off what they wish to eat that day, and so the caterer can be fully prepared for the number of vegetarian meals that needs to be cooked. Additionally, if it's a weekend wedding, the reply card will often include a list of activities with check boxes so that guests can let the couple know which events (such as a tennis tournament or golf outing) they plan to attend.
  • Order:

    With your invitations.

Reception Cards

These are cards sent with the wedding invitation to inform guests where the party will take place.

  • Traditional:

    A small card that asks guests to join the newlyweds and their families for a celebratory reception. It gives the date, place, and time.
  • Twist:

    Play with fonts and designs (like a motif or monogram) on this card, especially if your invitations are classic.
  • Order:

    With your invitations.

Wedding Programs

Not only can they provide useful information, they also make charming mementos. Programs are often in the form of a small booklet and include information about the ceremony, such as the date, the names of the bridal party (and perhaps their relationships to the bride or groom), the order of events, and the titles of readings and songs. Couples may also choose the program to honor deceased loved ones, to thank important people, and/or to explain unfamiliar rites of the ceremony.
tip

On your invites, the "reply by" for the response cards should be at least three weeks before the wedding so there's time to create the seating arrangements.


  • Traditional:

    The front cover of the booklet bears the couple's names or joint initials. The pages are bound, usually by the stationer, with a satin ribbon.
  • Twist:

    A less expensive option is a single piece of heavy-stock paper with a vellum overlay, tied together, by you and your bridesmaids, with a ribbon reflecting your color scheme. Some couples are including their favorite poetry or the story of how they met or got engaged. Other couples are crafting creative programs, such as ones shaped as fans (especially popular for beach or summer weddings).
  • Order:

    If the programs will be formal and multipaged, it's best to order them with your invitations. Otherwise, order four to six weeks before the wedding date.
    Knot Note: Read more on wedding program basics before you visit your stationer.

Menu Cards

These cards are becoming more popular and thankfully so. No one likes to sit down to a meal when they have no idea what is about to be served.

  • Traditional:

    Often designed as a single card in a heavy cotton stock in a rectangular shape and containing the elements of the meal, including different wines or other beverage options.
  • Twist:

    This is a great place to list why you've chosen a particular dish if it has cultural or personal significance. Drink cards (listing the five martinis available to guests, for instance) are cards that stand at the bar.
  • Order:

    At least six weeks before the wedding day.

Place Cards

Place cards inform guests which chair to sit in. (Escort cards direct people to their tables.

  • Traditional:

    Small, tented cards that are printed with each guest's name and placed at the top of every setting.
  • Twist:

    You can choose to use any kind of prop you like to tell guests where to sit: small stones with hand-painted names, the tag of each favor, even a die-cut flower to enhance your wedding aesthetic.
  • Order:

    With your invitations (or buy them about four weeks before the wedding day).
    Knot Note: Instead of writing each guest's table assignment on the escort card itself, slip the card into a small envelope that's tagged with a table number. This way, you can easily swap guests' table assignments up until the last second.

Thank-You Cards

These handwritten notes -- from both of you -- should thank guests for their gifts and/or presence at your wedding.

  • Traditional:

    Cards that say "thank you" or have your new married monogram and new address stenciled into them.
  • Twist:

    Our favorite idea is a picture card or postcard with your wedding photo (or a photo of all the guests at the ceremony) on the front.
  • Order:

    With your invitations.
  • Send:

    No later than one month after your honeymoon for gifts received the day of your wedding. You should ideally send thank-you notes out immediately for any gifts received before the wedding day.

-- The Knot

See More: Wedding Invitations + Wedding Stationery