Every celebration deserves a pregame to set the mood. And for weddings, that pregame is your Save-the-Date card.
Short, sweet, and joyous, Save the Date cards are the first official announcement of your wedding ceremony. While relatively new additions to wedding stationery suites, they’ve become more popular over time to give guests a friendly heads up. However, some couples might wonder—are Save the Dates really necessary?
Luckily, our team at Zola has some answers. From sending etiquette to guest lists, let’s explore why you should consider sending Save the Dates.
Functional and festive, Save the Dates are the first piece of wedding stationery that most couples send their guests. Besides alerting invitees of your upcoming ceremony, they also give guests a peek into crucial wedding details—date, location, formality, and more. Not to mention, they hint at all the excitement to come.
Overall, Save the Dates serve these purposes for engaged couples:
Information – At its core, a Save the Date card is meant to tell future wedding guests of your celebration date. Recipients should quite literally “save the date.” This is especially useful for destination or travel weddings, since guests can make arrangements earlier on.
Style – Like all wedding stationery, Save the Dates add to the overall style of your celebration. Of course, you don’t need to set your theme in stone with these early cards. But highlighting certain colors, patterns, and details gives guests a hint of your personal taste.
Celebration – As the first official wedding notice, these early reminders will warm guest hearts and keep them excited for your celebration.
Save the Dates are casual and sometimes light-hearted introductions to your future wedding. But that doesn’t mean they have zero expectations or etiquette. Even if sending a fun fridge magnet, you still need to communicate effectively with guests.
Before diving into why you should send Save the Dates, let’s explore what Save the Dates require and include in the first place.
Save the Dates are not a last-minute card—in fact, they’re quite the opposite. One of the major benefits of a Save the Date is its early notice of your wedding plans. This card should be the first time your guests learn of your official celebration.
Depending on your wedding’s location and type, you’ll need slightly different timelines for sending Save the Dates. A local or typical wedding requires sending them 4 to 6 months beforehand. However, there are a few reasons to send your Save the Dates earlier:
Destination weddings – Always dreamed of a Honolulu beachside ceremony? Just make sure your guests know the travel requirements well ahead of time. It’s common courtesy to send Save the Dates for destination weddings at least 9 to 12 months before the big day.
Out-of-towners – Sure, your ideal banquet hall venue is conveniently located 15 minutes away. But if you’re inviting many friends from across the country (or world), it’s best to give them an early heads-up for travel arrangements. Send your Save the Dates at least 8 months ahead of time.
Large parties – The more guests invited, the more likely you’ll be dealing with finicky work schedules and unexpected conflicts. For 250-plus events, send your Save the Dates on the earlier side (at least 8 months before). That way, you can avoid a slew of “Can’t attend” answers on your invitation RSVPs.
A general rule? Start your Save the Dates on the earlier side. You’ll have plenty of time to fix any printing mistakes, and guests will have more time to prepare their invitation responses.
In most cases, couples have a wedding invite “A List” and “B List”. The A List includes all the family, friends, and loved ones who will definitely be invited to your wedding. The B List covers all guests who you’d like to attend, but it’s uncertain if accommodations can fit them.
A quick answer—Save the Dates are for the A-List only.
Save the Dates directly imply that a wedding invitation will follow. If unsure whether you’re officially inviting a guest, then do not send them a Save the Date. Doing so is forgetful at best, and incredibly rude at worst.
On the other hand, you can spare sending individual Save the Dates to guests who live under one household. Unlike wedding invitations, you don’t have to send multiple cards to people who are married, under the same family household, or living together.
Think of Save the Dates like billboards. They’re a short, sweet, and eye-catching advertisement for your big day—i.e., not a lengthy breakdown of the entire wedding.
When creating your Save the Date, you only need a few basic pieces of information. Stick with these headliners:
And that’s it. Some couples might add a simple message, like “We’re tying the knot!” or “Circle your calendars!” But outside of the above, you do not need more detailed information like:
Odds are, you probably don’t know this information yet when creating Save the Dates. But if you want to share important details on a rolling basis (rather than wait to release the invitation), a wedding website link comes in handy. Check out Zola’s customizable wedding websites for an easy and stylish information center to provide your guests.
At the end of the day, Save the Dates are straightforward—less is more, in this situation. Extra details can overwhelm guests or even spread uncertain information. To keep your Save the Dates simple, avoid these common mistakes:
So you’re not throwing a destination wedding or a bacchanal-style reception. Then what’s the point of sending Save the Dates?
It turns out, there are plenty of reasons. If your celebration is larger than a family dinner, it’s worth giving your guests these functional and stylish cards. From setting themes to collecting addresses, let’s review the top reasons to mail Save the Dates.
Save the Dates were created for a practical purpose—alerting guests of your wedding earlier than an invitation.
Compared to the past, weddings are much less local affairs, uniting friends and family across states (and even countries). To respect guest time, schedules, and budget, a pre-invitation notice is recommended and even expected. Save the Dates can help invitees prepare:
Just think—the earlier notice you give guests, the more likely they can all attend your wedding. It’s a respectful gesture and a chance to gather all loved ones at your celebration.
Save the Dates are a joyous call to kickstart the good cheer. Also, it alerts any off-the-grid loved ones of your future union.
To put the party into your Save the Dates, consider these design elements:
Photographs – Nothing personalizes wedding stationery like a beautiful photo of you and your partner. Just make sure to use a professional photographer and schedule your photo shoot at least one month before mailing.
Welcoming titles – Elegance and simplicity are lovely styles for wedding stationery. But that doesn’t mean you should forgo excitement. Sprinkle some cheer on your Save the Dates with a catchy leading line—”We do,” “It’s a date,” or even “Join us.”
Unique formats – As a less-formal introduction, Save the Dates are the perfect time to play around. Get creative, and choose a unique format. Pin buttons, fridge magnets, even printed candle holders could all be Save the Dates.
As the first official piece of wedding stationery, Save the Dates are your chance to establish some design themes—or play around. It all depends on where you are in the wedding planning process.
With their more casual air, Save the Dates are the perfect chance to experiment with a stationery and overall wedding aesthetic. Test out some designs with these elements in mind:
Format & material – Sure, a simple card never goes out of style. But for a little flair, consider breaking out of the box. Certain paper types, like parchment or linen cardstock, carry a distinctive feel that guests will associate with your celebration. And for the real creatives, more unique formats—postcards, fridge magnets, button pins, even candles—will help guests keep your Save the Date for months to come.
Colors – Every wedding needs a color palette—i.e., two to four colors that imbue all decoration and visual elements. Your Save the Dates are one the first ways to introduce this palette. Try to blend one neutral tone (white, grey, beige, etc.) with more colorful additions. Or for the truly modern couple, go full-monochrome.
Patterns & motifs – Stripes, polka dots, florals, color-blocking—all of these patterns are excellent choices for your stationery set. For traditional Save the Dates cards, we recommend picking a design motif that fits your personal style and venue choice (for example, sandy backgrounds for a beachside wedding).
Typography – Even if your Save the Date is an edible chocolate bar, it’s going to need some writing—and font choice matters. Different fonts communicate different levels of formality, from fancy gold-foil script (like our Verona Type Foil design) to more casual sans-serif varieties.
At Zola, we love a customized wedding website. It’s the perfect way to update guests on every detail regarding your celebration—and to keep those details off your stationery. When it comes to Save the Dates, the simpler the better.
Once guests receive your Save the Date, they might flood you with questions. Where are nearby hotels? Do I need a floor-length dress? How can I give to your wedding registry? Save yourself from replying to dozens of emails by dropping a wedding website URL on your Save the Date.
On Zola’s free wedding websites, you can share guest information and features like:
On top of that, Zola lets you match your website design to your Save the Dates. Stay in style from the page to the screen.
Save the Dates are like a trial run for invitations—you can get all mistakes out the way.
While Save the Dates shouldn’t require an official RSVP (they’re simply too far out from the celebration), they are an efficient way to help finalize a future guest list. With mailed Save the Dates, you can receive:
Photographs aren’t the only wedding memorabilia out there. Your Save the Date is a charming, personalized keepsake in the making. Alongside your invitations and other stationery pieces, you can treasure it for years to come.
So you’ve just dropped your Save the Dates in the mailbox. There’s no need for a formal invitation, right?
Nope. Every wedding, no matter how small or large, needs formal invitations for guests. In fact, they’re more important to send than Save the Dates (even though you should still send both).
Although connected, Save the Dates and wedding invitations are not the same. They both welcome guests to your celebration, but their timing, content, and format widely differ. Let’s break down the two stationery pieces, and why you probably need both.
If Save the Dates are the billboard ad for your wedding, invitations are the product package. They include more details and insight into your event for guests to absorb. Not to mention, they also officially call loved ones to join your celebration.
Besides all information from your Save the Dates, wedding invitations should share:
To include all these details, many couples opt for an invitation suite—a collection of inserts and enclosure cards that accompany your official invitation. However, it’s completely up to you to determine your invitation and Save the date design.
Typically, wedding invitations are sent much closer to your actual wedding day—6 to 8 weeks beforehand is custom. But in today’s globalized world, destination weddings and out-of-town guests are incredibly common. That’s why a Save the Date has become a popular way to notify guests months ahead.
To simplify planning, here’s a breakdown of the typical invitation timeline:
12 Months Before – Book your wedding venue and set a date
10 to 12 Months Before – Take your engagement photos (optional), finalize guest lists and addresses
9 to 12 Months Before – Send out your Save the Dates for a destination or large wedding
6 to 8 Months Before – Send out your Save the Dates for a local wedding
6 to 8 Weeks Before – Send out your wedding invitations
2 to 3 Weeks Before – Collect your RSVPs and notify all wedding vendors of your final headcount
Besides providing guests more crucial information, wedding invitations also include one other necessary component—an RSVP.
In most cases, including an RSVP (or “Répondez s'il vous plaît”) notice on your Save the Dates is impractical. Most Save the Dates don’t have the space, and it’s usually far too early before the wedding for guests to determine their attendance. The only way to receive RSVP responses with a Save the Date is by directing guests to your wedding website, which could hold a digital poll or form.
However, a wedding invitation nearly always has an RSVP response form. With only 6 to 10 weeks to go, you’ll need an accurate final guest count—so clarity is key. Make sure to include these components in your invitation’s RSVP:
Reply-by date – Don’t leave guests responding two days before the wedding. At the very least, request all invitees to RSVP two weeks before your ceremony. Most caterers and wedding venues will need a closed headcount by then.
Response option – Of course, every RSVP form needs response options. Upscale invitations can include the formal “Attending” or “With Regrets” options, while casual cards can offer more fun responses (“Packing our bags” or “Will be celebrating from a distance”).
Plus-ones – Depending on the wedding and your capacity, it’s up to you if your RSVP includes a plus-one checkbox. Just make sure your extra-guest policy is clear.
Dietary preferences (optional) – For catered receptions, couples must check for any guests' dietary restrictions or preferences. However, you can choose to put this question on your RSVP card or a separate enclosure card/insert.
Pre-set postage – No matter how casual your wedding, it is custom to provide guests with prepaid postage and envelopes for a paper RSVP. No invitee should have to pay for their response.
Today, much wedding etiquette has loosened or gone out the door—and that includes stationery. But as a general rule, wedding invitations are more “official” than Save the Dates. Their holistic design should reflect the style, formality, and venue of your wedding, while Save the Dates can be more free-wheeling.
Despite their differences, try to match the design themes between your Save the Dates and wedding invitations! Using the same shade of red or a distinct fan pattern will help guests recognize your stationery as distinctly yours.
Once a new-fangled idea, now a common introduction, Save the Dates are more necessary than ever. From confirming travel arrangements to kickstarting designs, they clear a smooth path for both you and your guests to celebrate your marriage. And after all—they get the party started!
Not sure where to start with your Save the Dates? Leave it to Zola’s expert designs. At our paper shop, you can find hundreds of premium templates with customizable features, from letterpressing to foil. Even better—our paper shop can unite your entire stationery suite (and wedding website) under a cohesive theme. It’s the simple solution for a stylish couple-to-be.