With this sweet but stressful time in your life, it’s always good to have a little guidance. Now that almost half of U.S. engagements span 13-18 months1, it may seem like you have all the time in the world to get the ball rolling. But do you really? Here’s a look at the estimated timeline for all things wedding stationery, in the order that you’ll need them in.
item one | SAVE THE DATE CARDS
—–> when to send? 4-8 months before your wedding
—–> when to order? 2 months before you plan to send them out
As a stationery expert, here is my general guide for the minimum time you should allow for sending out save the date cards:
- Guests out of the country: seven or eight months in advanced. Shipping can take a while, and they’ll need longer to plan/save up, so the more time you can give them, the better
- Out of state guests, or guests that will have significant traveling: six months in advanced. While the mail will only take a few days, more notice is needed for your guests who will have to take off of work.
- In town guests: four or five months in advanced. If all they have to do is block off their weekend, then it’s ok to only give them this much notice
The bottom line: You can send them out all together, or by the guidelines above. If you give them too much time (over 9 months) then they might forget, so feel out your crowd, and plan accordingly. As far as ordering goes, some companies will take up to 6 weeks from initial order to when they’re at your door, and then you will have to plan on taking time to address, stuff, and ship these. To be on the safe side, order them at least 2 months before you’ll need them.
item two | INVITATIONS
—–> when to send: 8-10 weeks before your wedding
—–> when to order: 3 months before you plan to send them out
Personally, I think it is ideal for your guests to have the invitations in their hands eight weeks before the wedding. This would mean that you’d need to send them about nine weeks out. This way, they have time to plan the details, such as hotels and flights, as well as (most importantly!) giving them plenty of time to RSVP.
This brings us to the questions: When should the RSVPs be due? Most catering companies need the final numbers 7-14 days out2 (this is being conservative, ask your caterer for specifics), so if you have your RSVPs due five weeks out, they will be to you four weeks before the wedding, which gives you two weeks to hunt down all the non-RSVPers, and finally send your final numbers to the caterer two weeks before the big day.
Ordering your invitations: This is normally a bit of a longer process than save the dates, so I’d say to be on the safe side, give yourself 2-3 months, and you’ll want another two weeks to address and send them.
items three and four | programs and menu cards
——> when you’ll need them: the day of your wedding!
——> when to order them: 6-8 weeks before your wedding
Order these as soon as you have the menu and ceremony details finalized. To be on the safe side, order for 80% of your guest list, to account for the people who RSVP that they can’t come. For programs, you can dip as low as 70-65%, because many people won’t grab them (I’m not sure why, but it always happens this way!) Also, you can just order one or two menu cards per table and display them, as this bride did with our ‘Eat, Drink, and Be Married’ menus in the picture below:
item five| place cards
—–> when to order: place card turnaround times vary so much between vendors, because we know that it’s a time crunch between when you have your seating chart finalized and your wedding day. I have clients pre-order so I don’t get booked up, and then I have a 3-4 business day turnaround time from when they send me their list.
Some quick info about escort cards and place cards:
- Escort cards are the cards you put on one big table outside of your reception that tells people where they will be sitting
- Place cards go at the actual table to tell your guests which seat they’re assigned to
- If you have place cards, you much also have escort cards, so guests have a way of finding their seats
- However, If you have escort cards, you don’t have to have place cards, if you’re just assigning tables, and not specific seats
- Arrange escort cards in alphabetical order, not by table number! This is so that your guests can find their names easier!
I hope this cleared up all of your wedding stationery timeline questions! My name is Tori, and I am the owner of Wed Designer, a wedding stationery online shop. You can find it at www.etsy.com/weddesigner, and always feel free to email me with questions or inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.