Save the Date vs. Wedding Invitation

save the date vs wedding invitation side by side

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Most people ask the question: What’s the difference between a Save the Date and a wedding invitation and which should I send?

Although Save the Dates and wedding invitations are similar, they do very different things. One is formal, the other isn’t. One is detailed the other only alerts your guests about the upcoming wedding and the potential date.

Both are important and have their own functions.

Let’s take a look at the difference between Save the Dates and wedding invitations.

Save the Date vs. Wedding Invitations

While they might seem like the same thing, there’s a big difference between Save the Dates and wedding invitations. According to wedding traditions, one is optional and the other is compulsory. It’s not either Save the Dates or wedding invitations, but it’s Save the Dates and wedding invitations.  

Save the Date:

The purpose of a Save the Date is to let your guests know that you’ve decided on a date and to alert them to your upcoming wedding. It gives the guests a little bit of information, but not all the minute details. It’s a precursor to a formal wedding invitation and most Save the Dates will have a line saying Formal invitation to follow.

Save the date magnet

Save the Date magnets by A Day to Remember. Check price here.

The Save the Date is perfect for if you don’t have all the details yet but you want your guests to save the date and prepare for your wedding. They’re especially ideal for destination weddings, where  you want your guests to know about the impending trip as soon as possible so that they can get leave from work and look at travel deals. Guests aren’t expected to RSVP to a Save the Date.

Wedding Invitations:

Wedding invitations, on the other hand, are your ‘real’ invitations. They are usually sent out closer to the wedding, with all the details the guests will need to know. This includes information about the venue, the date and time of the ceremony and reception and a formal invitation asking your guests to join you on this occasion.

Wedding invitations

Wedding invitation cards by Alice Bluefox. Check price here.

Most wedding invitations are sent with the RSVP and reply cards, specifying the date by which the guests need to inform you if they’re attending the wedding or not. In order to send the wedding invitations out, you need to be prepared with all the details your guests will be wanting to know.

When to Send Out Save the Dates and Wedding Invitations

While the timeline can vary depending on your specific wedding situation, here’s a general timeline:

  1. First, make a guest list so you know how many people you would likely have at your wedding.
  2. Secure a venue based on capacity, theme and style of your wedding. It’s a smart idea to opt for a venue that can accommodate your maximum attendance.
  3. Send out Save the Dates. For a destination wedding, give your guests at least 12 months to start preparing their schedule. For a local wedding, send these out around 4-8 months before.
  4. Send out formal invitations around 6 to 8 weeks before the wedding. 

Note: Sometimes you might have to send out the Save the Dates first before you can book the venue. For example, if you’re getting married overseas and have a guest list of 80 people, estimating your potential turnout could be very difficult. You could get 8 people coming or all 80. In this case, it makes sense to send the Save the Dates and request an RSVP to guestimate (see what we did there?) your final guest list. 

Etiquette for Save the Dates and Wedding Invitations

There are not strict rules about sending these informative cards to your guests, but probably the most important is to send them on time so that your guests are given ample time to clear their schedules and prepare for your wedding. This will also ensure that your guests can make it to the wedding, which is the point of the whole thing.

Don’t worry too much about coordinating or matching your Save the Dates and wedding invitations. They don’t have to match and can be as random as you want them to be. Save the Dates are typically a lot less formal and are often very creative. They can be sent as fridge magnets, pencils or some other item that you know your guest won’t throw out but will keep around. This is what you want, because then they’ll remember your wedding and to save the date. Wedding invitations can be formal, but again, it’s totally up to you and your specific style.

classical brides and groom photography style

While snail mail is still the most popular option for wedding invitations, electronic invitations are becoming increasingly used because they’re more convenient and easier to send out, won’t get lost in the mail (unless they go into the spam folder) and are more affordable. However, physical invitations often become a keepsake and older guests may not have easy access to email. One good way to go about this is to send out both a physical and digital invitation.

And finally, create your guest list carefully before you send out Save the Dates. There’s no going back so choose your guests carefully. You can’t uninvite people you’ve sent Save the Dates to, so anyone who’s got a Save the Date should also be sent a formal wedding invitation. That’s just good manners. If you think there are people you might not invite at the last minute due to budget cuts, then don’t send them the Save the Date but if you do decide to have them at your wedding, send them the invitations.