Rustic Wisconsin wedding photos - James Stokes

Wedding Etiquette: Invitation Essentials and Timing

Rustic Wisconsin wedding photos - James Stokes

It all starts with the invitation, the centerpiece of your wedding stationery. But, what else needs to go in that ever important envelope? Your wedding invitation sets the tone for your wedding and tells the who, what, when, where of the day. It can be very confusing (since you only pick these out once in your life!) to know what parts you need to include in your invitation and why. I’ve broken down, below, what are the essential components of your wedding invitation and some optional items you may want to consider. We recommend checking out Basic Invite for everything from Wedding Invitations to Bridal Shower Invites.

Wedding Invitation

This piece is indispensable, the main component, which all of the other pieces turn. Information to include is the bride and groom’s names, the date, time, and location name with addresses at the minimum.


The RSVP Card

In an effort to make responding easier (and to gather a more accurate head count for seating arrangements and catering), RSVP cards became a popular inclusion to the wedding invitation.  Also, don’t miss putting an RSVP deadline for your guests have a timeline as to when you need their response information.  I recommend a deadline of no less than two weeks before your wedding date.


The RSVP Envelope 

Some brides choose a postcard style RSVP.   However, whether you choose a postcard or a card/envelope combo, don’t forget to include postage to make your guests’ job of returning it as easy as possible.


The Reception Card

The reception information should be on a separate card and list the starting time of the reception and the address of the venue (if it is separate from the ceremony venue).


Optional items to include with the wedding invites…could do without, but you probably shouldn’t.


A Directions Card

If most of your guests are from out-of-town, consider a directions card, which will guide them from the ceremony venue to the reception site. This card is also indispensable for locals if either site is in a difficult to find the area of town.


An Accommodation Card

For guests who are traveling, it is often helpful for them to know which hotels you recommend. If you’ve booked a block of rooms for your guests at a local hotel, be sure to include the hotel code on this card so the guests can get the reduced rate. Now that you have all your invitation components to get you started.  You may be wondering when do I need to do all these things? Timing is so important and should not be ignored.  Here are some answers to questions concerning wedding invitations and the timing you will need to know.


When should Save-the-Date cards be sent out?

This pre-invitation mailing officially announces your wedding date and lets guests know that they will, in fact, be invited to the celebration.  Save the dates are a great way of letting friends and family know to keep a particular date free or organize any travel plans that may need to be made.  These should be sent out six to nine months before the wedding day, especially if you are planning a summer wedding.  Save-the-dates are usually just a single card or postcard containing very basic information (couple’s names, wedding date, and sometimes the location).


When should I start looking for wedding invitation designs?

Whether you are going to purchase a pre-designed invitation or design one yourself, you should start shopping or designing about 6 months before your wedding day.


When should I order my wedding stationery and how many?

Ideally order your invitations as soon as you have your wedding day schedule finalized.  A good amount of time would be four to six months before your wedding.  Each family/couple/guest will need their own invite.  Order a few extras in case of inevitable mistakes.


When should I start to address my invitations?

Start addressing the invitations 3 months before the wedding.  If using a calligrapher, they might need 4 months prior.


When should I send out my wedding invitations?

Wedding invites should be sent out no later than eight weeks before the wedding.  I like to plan for 10 weeks especially if you have a large amount of family and friends traveling for the wedding.  It gives them time to make travel arrangements.  I, also, like to schedule the RSVP deadline to be two weeks before the wedding.  This ensures that you have time before your guest count numbers have to be to the caterer.  Inevitably you will need to give a few guests a call or email that have not RSVP’ed.


When should I expect my RSVP’s to be back?

Ideally, all RSVPs should be back two to three weeks before the wedding.  It is appropriate to follow-up with any RSVPs not back before then with a phone call or email.


A couple last tips…

Postage.  Please be aware when you are creating your invitations as to how much the invitation and all the added components will weight and the amount of postage it will require to send it out.  I advise taking a sample to the post office and ask it to be weighed so you know the accurate postage it will require.



I recommend to each of my clients to place a small (in pencil) guest number that refers back to your guest list.  Unfortunately, just a few guests will return the RSVP card but forget to enter any of the needed information.  This, in turn, will assist with knowing who they are and if you need to contact them to gather additional information.   

Most of all, give yourself plenty of time and plan ahead!  You do not want to rush through this part.  So…get some help.  If you would like some help, please give me a call.  I can come alongside you and assist you with this stage of your wedding planning and much, much more.  Or ask others to give you a hand and make it fun!


Happy Inviting!




Marsha VanArk, Wedding Planner & Owner

Distinctly Yours Wedding & Events, LLC


Wedding Planning



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