Thinking of mailing your invitations early?
Here’s why that might not be a good idea…
Are you just looking for a reliable resource on invitation mailing and response timelines without a long-winded explanation? Go ahead and jump to here… If you’re interested in the entire explanation, I invite you to read on and then head on over to Instagram to chat with us about your thoughts!
With the excitement of wedding planning comes the anxiousness of wanting to get all of your ducks in a row. Whether they’re just excited to know who’s coming so they can “get the party started” or uber-organized and trying to stay ahead of schedule, we’re seeing couples mailing their wedding invitations earlier and earlier. There are a few good reasons for early invitation mailing (and we’re not going to chat about those today), but generally speaking, sticking to the traditional timeline is good for both you AND your guests.
Traditionally, wedding invitations are mailed between 6 and 8 weeks ahead of your wedding. 12 weeks ahead is appropriate for a destination wedding, or if you have not sent Save the Dates.
I was taught many years ago that to be early is to be on time and to be on time is to be late. (shoutout to Mr. Maiello for that important life lesson!) Whether that’s your motto, or you simply feel like “early is always better,” let’s get in the mindset of your honored guests for just a moment:
If you have sent save the date cards that include the city of the wedding and a link to your wedding website where guests can find travel details like hotel room blocks, then let’s be honest, they have everything they need to begin making their arrangements when they are ready. Once they have that save the date, receiving your invitation many months before the actual wedding can just feel downright pushy at this point. The purpose of the save the date is to make sure your guests don’t book another commitment on your big day, so allow that mailing to work its magic.
Some clients have expressed concern that the traditional window does not allow their guests enough time to think about it before they commit to the wedding. But again, presuming you’ve sent save the date cards, by the time the invitation comes, your guests have already been thinking about it. Mail that invitation out with a long gap before they need to respond, and you’re inviting them to set it aside and forget about it (c’mon, raise your hand…don’t be shy…we’ve ALL been “that” guest once or twice in our lives!) Then you’re hunting them down to get an answer anyway. See? That really didn’t save you any time or stress. A **little** bit of urgency between receipt of the invitation and needing to respond will result in quicker action on their part.
Now we need to talk about that response date… let’s just take a cleansing breath, here…
There is A GINORMOUS amount of work that goes into preparing for a wedding and those uber-organized couples want to stay on top of things. Cool. But again, please put yourself in the shoes of your wedding guest. Sometimes you receive a wedding invitation that’s a no-brainer — You’d cancel an audience with the Dalai Lama himself in order to attend the wedding. And sometimes, just sometimes, you get an invitation that makes you think, “Oh that’s so sweet they thought of us! I’d love to go if it doesn’t conflict with my audience with the Dalai Lama.” A little real-talk, here…if you’re having a good sized wedding, then SOME of your guests are going to be in that latter category. This means there’s a chance that the health of their parents, the travel sports schedule of their kid, or maybe even a work obligation will come first. When you give them time before the response is expected, you’re allowing them to work out the logistics and when they make a commitment, it is less likely to need to change.
Conversely, I have heard SO.MANY.TIMES from clients who request early RSVPs (more than a month ahead of their wedding) that guests’ responses were in flux for weeks after the deadline. Maybe they said, “Of course we’ll come!” but when they later looked at airfare, realized it just wasn’t feasible. Or maybe the response was requested before a tournament schedule was posted and then they knew they simply could not miss their son’s big game. Let’s be honest, unexpected situations may arise even with a shorter window between response and wedding, but by giving your guests a deadline that is as close as possible to when you actually need it, you are far more likely to receive firm commitments. I know you want to create the seating chart, tie bows on wedding favors, and [insert-your-reasoning-here], but if guests are changing their mind right before the wedding, you have not saved yourself any time at all. Creating seating assignments is HARD, people…you don’t want to have to do it more than once!
So now, thinking in terms of respect for your guests and stress level for yourself, when do you really NEED those responses? Most of our clients are comfortable with 3-4 weeks ahead of their wedding. This allows them a few days to hunt down some straggling responses, create a seating plan and get those assignments to us for seating charts or escort cards, give the final count to their caterer, etc. Know exactly when each of your vendors needs to know, and then give yourself a week or two to get organized for them.
Worried about your own ability to get things done in this timeframe? Make sure you block off time in your schedule NOW. Put “Create Seating Plan” in your calendar. Invite your friends over for a welcome-bag-stuffing party during that month before the wedding so you know you’ll have the help you need to get it all done when you’ve got your final headcount. For the non-personalized details (custom cocktail napkins, flip flops for the beach, shawls for the fire pit area, or sparklers for your grand exit), you may just need to estimate. Give yourself a 10-15% buffer from what you think your guest count will be and if you have extra items, you can gift them to your wedding day vendors or donate them to charity.
A comfortable timeline…
The chart below is designed to be a rough guide to help with your planning. It presumes you’ve got plenty of time before the big day and allows for a stress-free, comfortable timeline. If your wedding is coming up a little faster though, have no fear…we can often accommodate a shorter turnaround time, so just get in touch to share your details!
||Let’s Meet About It||Get Them Started||Get Them Mailed||Expect Guest Responses|
|Save the Dates||Between 6 and 12 months before your wedding|| Most Orders: 4 or more weeks before you need them.*|
Complex Custom Orders: 7 or more weeks before you need them.*
Local wedding: Between 4 and 6 months before your wedding.|
Destination Wedding: Between 6 and 8 months before your wedding.
|Don’t! You haven’t officially invited your guests yet, so don’t put them on the spot by asking for their plans!|
|Wedding Invitations||6 Months before your wedding is comfortable. More is great, less can often be accommodated.|| Collection Order: At least 4 weeks before you need them.* |
Custom Order: At least 7 weeks before you need them.*
| Local Wedding: Between 6 and 8 weeks before your wedding OR up to 12 weeks before the wedding if you did not send Save the Date cards. |
Destination Wedding: Up to 12 weeks before your wedding.
|Check with your wedding planner, caterer, or other vendors who need your guest list/head count and build in a buffer. Typically 3-4 weeks ahead of the wedding.|
* Give yourself time to stamp, stuff, and seal those envelopes, but not so much time that your pretty paper is sitting around subject to humidity variations or pet curiosity!