WHAT YOU’LL NEED
It doesn’t matter if you’re doing DIY or top of the line, chances are you’re going to get your hands on more than a few pieces of paper before your wedding day. Typically when it comes to announcing your engagement and throwing a wedding, you’ll use at least a few of the below items, depending on the size and style of your wedding and your individual needs:
- Save the dates to announce your wedding and share your engagement photos
- Invitations with full details as to when and where your wedding will take place and information as to how your guests can RSVP
- Programs listing the basic order of events as well as the names of immediate family, the wedding party, the officiant, and readers
- Escort or place cards to tell guests which table they’re assigned to.
- Table numbers or names to identify the tables your guests are sitting at
- Menus listing food items that will be served and / or the caterer’s information
- Signage for the bride’s and groom’s seats, the bar or dessert table, the photo booth, etc.
- A guest book or print for guests to sign and share well-wishes
- Thank you cards for bridal shower gifts, acts of generosity, and wedding gifts.
SAVE THE DATES
After you’ve selected your venue, set your date, built your guest list, and collected your guests’ addresses, you’re ready to get the word out and give your guests a firm date to attach to your wedding.
Even if you don’t have every wedding detail figured out, let your family and friends know when and where you’re getting married so they can start booking flights and hotels, asking for time off work and making plans to throw down some cash for your wedding gifts.
(And you get to share your engagement photos, so it’s a win for all involved. People eat this stuff up.)
Whether you send a Save the Date by mail or digitally, include the following information:
- Your names
- Your wedding date
- Ceremony and reception locations
- Wedding website URL
Wedding etiquette is beautiful, but it’s also a beast. Invitations can be complex. Let’s break down the anatomy of an invitation:
- Invitation: formal invitations typically include information as to who is hosting the wedding (bride’s parents, groom’s parents, both sets of parents, or you), your names, the wedding date, time, and location.
- Reception Card: if you’re reception is at a different location than your ceremony, you can include a card with information on the start time and location.
- RSVP Card: This card allows your guests to indicate whether or not each invited member of the household will be able to attend the ceremony, reception, or both. They will also allow guests to indicate their meal choice for the reception and any additional information you’d like to include (such as song requests for the DJ!). Invitations with an RSVP card will include a pre-addressed stamped envelope for guests to return their reply.
- Additional information: Some couples choose to include maps or accommodation information in their invitations.
Pick and choose from the above and stuff it all into the fitted envelope from back to front (for example, the reception card goes on top of / in front of the invitation). If the idea of including a bunch of inserts feels like a lot, use your wedding website to list information such as maps, directions, and accommodations and to collect RSVPs. Hello Wedding makes it easy to include an RSVP button that automatically updates your guest list as people respond, so you can see who’s coming in real time.
When wording your invitations, there are several rules of thumb as to how to apply formal etiquette. If you’re doing it yourself, Crane & Co’s guide to wedding invitations will walk you through the rules of wording your invitation.
ADDRESSING THE INVITATIONS
When you’re addressing your envelopes, there are a few rules of etiquette that you can follow if you’d like. For a great walk-through of addressing etiquette, visit Crane & Co’s guide to envelope etiquette.
If you have a guest list management tool, you should be able to easily export your guests’ addresses and print them onto labels. If your guest list management tool is really awesome, you should already have all of your guests’ email addresses too. Consider going green and sending something digitally. Put the money you save into buying your dream invitations.
Still need a guest list management tool? We like ours a lot. Hello Wedding helps you easily collect your guests’ email addresses and mailing addresses and offers personalized digital save the dates. We also automatically format your guests’ addresses for you, so you don’t have to. Let us help you!
Tip: Hello Wedding allows you to choose between formal or informal etiquette when you’re addressing your envelopes, and we format your guests’ names and addresses for you!
USING A CALLIGRAPHER
You’ll need to get invitations in the mail at a minimum of 8 weeks before your wedding date, so if you plan to use a calligrapher for your invitations or envelopes, begin looking early! Whoever you hire will need plenty of time to address everything before it’s time to drop it in the mail. Schedule a consultation with him or her so that you can see samples of the calligrapher’s work and talk through your calligraphy needs for the invitations and any other paper goods.
If you’re working with a calligrapher, plan to have the envelopes back before then so that you have time to get them in the mail.
When you’ve found a calligrapher or handwriting artist that you like, move forward with the contract. While it might vary, the contract should include the information below:
- Who: name and contact info (your’s and their’s)
- What: everything they’ll be providing (inner and outer envelopes, additional paper goods)
- When: date items must be delivered to calligrapher and date they will be returned
- How much: cost per item
- Receipt: total cost
Some calligraphers will require you to order a proof before moving ahead with the final order, so check with yours to find out if that’s the case. Mistakes are easy to make when you’re handwriting a hundred addresses, so drop off a few extra envelopes just in case.
STATIONERY AT YOUR WEDDING
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by just how many paper products you need to buy, especially if you want each to be perfect. We love the advice of event stylist Jen Elliott Blake: “Less can be more. Yes, things like flowers and paper details and great linens can all enhance the beauty of the day (I recommend all of them!), but they can be done in a way that is cost effective and also visually appealing too. For example, instead of feeling like you have to have every last paper detail imaginable at your wedding, just focus on a beautiful dinner menu. Put all the money you might spend on ceremony programs, or favors, or labels for your desserts into one beautiful hand-calligraphed menu at each spot at the table. A detail like that can be so visually striking when displayed side by side at each plate.”
A good program tells your guests what will be happening and who will be doing it. They’re helpful but certainly not required. If you do want to do a program, at minimum you should include a rough order of the ceremony (think processional, the names of readings, songs, and hymns, the exchange of vows and rings). If you want to go into more detail, you can include the names of every person in the processional, the lyrics to songs and hymns you want your guests to participate in singing, prayers you’d like your guests to be included in, and the name of your officiant. You can also use the program to give a general shout of appreciation for all of your guests or to honor special family members who aren’t able to celebrate with you on your big day.
ESCORT CARDS, PLACE CARDS, TABLE NUMBERS
Depending on how you choose to seat your guests, you’ll use escort cards or place cards. Guests will find their escort card at the “where to sit” table (official terminology). This will direct them to their table, where they’ll find a place card at their seat. If you’re not assigning specific seats, just leave the place cards out and let your guests seat themselves at the table. And of course neither escort cards nor place cards have to be cards at all. You can display seating assignments in a large frame or string decorative garland made of colorful paper with guests names on it.
Table numbers don’t have to be numbers either. You can use table names instead, such as the names of places the two of you have traveled, and you can display table numbers or names as actual card stock or in picture frames or miniature chalkboards.
THE GUEST BOOK
Your guest book is a way for your guests to leave notes and well-wishes for you to read following the wedding day. It can be a blank book, a decorative box with blank note cards for guests to write on, a page that guests can fill in with thumb prints (just make sure you use water soluble ink and have a wet cloth for guests to clean their hands), a photo book with space for personal notes, or anything else that you want to use to collect thoughts of love from your loved ones. Have fun with it, but don’t over think it.
Menus are another optional item, but they’re helpful if you’re allowing guests to make their meal choice while actually at the wedding, if you want to acknowledge the chef and / or catering company behind the meal, or if you just want to let your guests know what’s for dinner.
If you’re printing menus on card stock, you can order them through stationary companies or find a free printable, and you’ll include them in the place settings at each seat. If you don’t want to print menus you can meal options or buffet items on an extra-large chalkboard leading into the reception or on smaller cards next to each item on the buffet.
SAYING THANK YOU
While this whole wedding thing is kind of about you, it’s also kind of not. It’s about the friends and family who shaped you into who you are! It might seem counter-intuitive, but the more you focus on your guests, the more fun you’ll have. Come together to toast, to laugh, and to celebrate – you’ll never have more people you care about in one place again.
“Thank you” is a great way to get the ball rolling. During these final three months, keep these words on the tip of your tongue. Here are a few ideas for writing the perfect thank you card.
- Be specific about what you’re thanking them for
- Reference fond memories
- Use repetition to sound poetic
- Skip sincerely. Use “love,” “warmly,” or “xo” instead.
A bad thank you would sound something like this:
Thank you for the 6-piece glassware set. We will use it.
But a good thank you takes the time to really consider the person on the other end and what they mean to you.
I can’t believe how far we’ve come from chasing boys in Mrs. Gilroy’s class (3rd grade) – I’m getting married! Ahh! The glassware was really thoughtful of you – cocktails here we come. You’re an amazing friend, a confidante, and a dreamer – and you have great taste to boot!
Want even more tips for planning your wedding? Our weekly countdown walks you through the entire wedding planning process from beginning to end, telling you exactly what you need to do and when you need to do it. Check it out HERE.