Weddings are a time of excitement and planning. And for many couples, the first step in that process is sending out invitations or saving the dates. 

But do you need both? What’s the difference between wedding invitations and save-the-dates? 

Save-the-date cards and wedding invitations are two of the essential pieces of the wedding planning process, especially where your guests are concerned. 

There’s a lot of overlap, and it can be challenging to understand what goes where as you march toward your big day. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here. 

If you’re struggling with save-the-dates or wedding invitations, here’s what you need to know about wedding stationery.

What’s the Difference?

Let’s start with the fact that there is a difference between these two items. Save-the-date cards tell the recipient to do precisely that: save the date. 

While it does serve to give your invitee some information about your big event, its role relies less on providing details. Instead, it focuses on alerting your possible guest to the possibility of a formal invitation.

On your save-the-date, include your names, any basic information about the location, the date and a little comment to let the recipient know to expect a formal invitation soon.

As your wedding date gets closer, you want to start thinking about sending out your actual invitations. 

The official wedding invitation gives much more detail about your special event. This is where you provide:

  • The venue information.
  • The date and time of the wedding.
  • The date and time of the reception. 

Your Invitation should also formally ask your friends and family to celebrate the union between you and your partner.

There is a clear difference between these two stationery items. A Save the Date tells your guest to do precisely that, reserve the date in their calendar. 

While it gives some information about when and where your wedding will be held, the role of this card is to allow guests to plan and let them know that a formal invitation will be sent at a later date.

The information on your Save, the date card, includes the request (e.g. ‘Please Save the Date’), your names, wedding date, location (State and Postcode) and a note to let them know to expect a formal invitation. 

You can also include a wedding website if you have one.

As it gets closer to your wedding date, you’ll need to send out formal invitations. The role of your Invitation is both to invite your guests and give more detail about your event. 

Your Invitation should formally invite your friends and family to come to celebrate the marriage between you and your partner with invitational lines written from yourselves and your families. 

Your Invitation should also include all of the information your guests need to attend. 

This includes venues and times on the invitation card itself, along with any additional information you want to have in extra cards such as RSVP, accommodation information, maps and directions, transport and travel information. 

There is no limit to the amount of detail to include, provided it is relevant and styled consistently with the main Invitation.

Primary Function: Save-The-Dates Vs. Wedding Invitations

Are Save The Dates And Wedding Invitations The Same2

The most significant difference between save-the-date cards and wedding invitations is that the first is meant to notify guests, while the second acts as a formal invitation to the event. For that reason, save-the-dates are sent first — often months or even a year before the wedding date.

Send Save-The-Dates

  • 9-12 months out for a destination wedding
  • 9-10 months out for a wedding that doesn’t require most guests to travel internationally or to an exotic/busy locale that books up quickly

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.

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. 

To send the wedding invitations out, you need to be prepared with all the details your guests want to know.

Wedding invitations are traditionally sent about six to eight weeks before the wedding. 

Remember, guests should already have the save-the-dates and know that your wedding is coming, so the Invitation is just confirming their attendance and sharing more details about the event itself (location, the hotel where guests are staying, etc.). 

You don’t want to send the invitations too early, as you may not have all the necessary arrangements in place, but you also want to leave enough time for guests to RSVP and for you to update the venue and caterer with your final guest list as needed.

What to Include

Again, there’s some overlap here, but for the most part, save-the-dates are a general outline while invitations fill in the details.

Your Save-The-Dates Should Include:

  • Your full names
  • The date or dates of the wedding and associated events (i.e. a pre-wedding welcome party or post-wedding brunch)
  • The city and state where the wedding will be and venue information if you have it
  • The URL for your wedding website

Your Wedding Invitation Should Include:

  • Who’s hosting (this may be your parents, or you may skip this if you’re a more modern couple or are throwing your wedding)
  • You and your fiancé’s names
  • Language addressing the recipient and issuing the actual Invitation
  • The date and time of the ceremony
  • Venue address
  • Reception details including the time, venue name and address (some people also like to spell out what to expect at the reception, such as “dinner and dancing” or “breakfast buffet and mimosas”, so guests know whether they’ll be fed and if they should wear their boogie shoes)
  • Dress code, if applicable.

While a save-the-date card is usually just one card, a wedding invitation may be accompanied by several enclosures and embellishments such as a card with directions to the venue, an enclosure card with hotel booking information, a response card, a reception/meal ticket that needs to be filled out and mailed back, an itinerary for the day or weekend, and a stamped, pre-addressed envelope.

Design and Style

There is no hard-and-fast rule regarding how formal either type of stationery has to be, but save-the-dates are generally a little more casual. At the same time, invitations are the classic pieces typically saved as keepsakes and even framed by the couple getting married. 

For that reason, save-the-dates are an opportunity to have a little fun with the design and theme. 

You can match them to your wedding motif if you have one already picked out, or pick a style that reflects a favourite vacation spot, a hobby, your favourite baseball team’s colours, your love of 1920’s fashion, the place you got engaged — the sky’s the limit. 

Save-the-date cards can even be done as magnets for your guest’s convenience or as a postcard to keep things simple and streamlined.

For your invitations, you’ll want to adhere more closely to the look and feel of your wedding. 

The invites are really where the wedding festivities start, so think of them like an intro that sets the scene and gives guests a hint at what’s to come. 

Keep colours and patterns on theme with what guests will see at the ceremony and reception, and opt for paper invites — you’ll never regret having hard copies to put in your scrapbook or frame.

The RSVPs (or Lack Thereof)

Save-the-date cards don’t require a response. They’re just for the recipient’s use, to serve as a reminder and allow them to start planning. 

Invitations are the exact opposite. Guests have to respond yes or no so you know how many chairs you’ll need, what to tell the caterers, and if your venue is indeed correctly sized. 

Include crystal-clear RSVP instructions and, if possible, a return envelope or RSVP postcard that’s already addressed and stamped to make it easy to mail. 

After all, the faster you get your responses, the sooner you’ll know whether you need that gluten-free meal for Aunt Edna.

Etiquette for Save the Dates and Wedding Invitations

There are no 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 you’re 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 save the date. Of course, wedding invitations can be formal, but again, it’s totally up to you and your specific style.

While snail mail is still the most popular option for wedding invitations, electronic invitations are 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. Looking for the Best Photobooth Hires in Melbourne? We have compiled an exclusive list of some of Melbourne’s best photobooth hire suppliers to capture your special day.

That’s just good manners. If you think there are people you might not invite at the last minute due to budget cuts, don’t send them the Save the Date but if you do decide to have them at your wedding, send them the invitations.

Save-The-Date Etiquette

There are some things you should and shouldn’t do when you decide to send save-the-date cards. So here are some guidelines to follow for save-the-date etiquette that will ensure you’re getting the most out of your decision to send these cards:

  • Put enough information on them: Anything you know about the location is essential and can prove helpful to your potential guests.
  • Don’t worry about your save-the-dates matching your invitations — be creative!
  • Don’t include anything like glitter or confetti in the envelope.
  • Send save-the-dates only once you’ve nailed down a guest list.
  • Include information for allowing plus-ones and whether children will be welcome to attend.
  • Don’t include gift registry information, but do include your wedding website if you have one.

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:

  • First, make a guest list to know how many people you would likely have at your wedding.
  • Secure a venue based on the capacity, theme and style of your wedding. It’s a brilliant idea to opt for a platform that can accommodate your maximum attendance.
  • 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.
  • 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 booking 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 eight people coming or all 80. In this case, it makes sense to send the Save the Dates and request an RSVP to guesstimate (see what we did there?) your final guest list. 

You’ll always want to send some official invitations out for your wedding. Save-the-date cards, however, are optional. 

It’s important to know when to send save-the-dates if you choose to use them. In general, you want to send them out four to six months ahead of your wedding, but sometimes even earlier than that can be better.

By sending these cards, you’re letting people know to keep that date open. Then, they can make their plans to attend accordingly. 

The timing for the invitations is much later, usually six to eight weeks before the wedding.

Tips for the Wedding Invitations

Are Save The Dates And Wedding Invitations The Same3

Your wedding is getting closer, so now it’s time to order and send out your official wedding invitations. 

First, make sure you order the invitations far enough ahead to allow time for proofing them and fixing any mistakes. 

About three to four months ahead is usually enough time. Choose invitations that reflect the personalities of you and your partner and maybe the theme of the wedding.

With your Invitation, include a reply card with a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope. If the reception is at a separate location from the wedding, you should also have a reception card with all the information about the party included.

Your wedding invitation is an excellent place to put the details of your menu. Many people have different dietary needs. 

If you give your guests a chance to make the chef aware of any special needs ahead of time, it can make your special day more enjoyable for everyone present.

Include any hotel information when appropriate. Also, you can include directions to the venues or even a map in some cases.

Do You Need to Send Save-The-Dates?

When you’re deciding on the timeline for your pre-wedding milestones, from when to have your engagement party to what weekends work for all of your besties for the bachelorette, one of the many to-dos on your wedding planning schedule is deciding whether or not to send save-the-dates. 

Save-the-dates essentially alert guests that they will be invited to your wedding in the coming months, along with sharing important date and location information. 

Couples typically send out save-the-dates a few months after they’ve gotten engaged and have decided on a wedding date and venue. 

But they’re hardly mandatory, and for some couples, they might not even be necessary.

So, should the two of you spend the time (and money) to save the dates at all? 

Here’s a breakdown of some of the pros and cons.

You Give Your Guests a Heads Up

Let’s face it: Calendars can fill up fast. One of the benefits of sending save-the-dates is that they alert guests of your official wedding date and location, which is ultra helpful when travel is involved. 

That way, they can jump on booking airfare and accommodations for the weekend—or at the very least, set up travel alerts to snag future sale fares to attend your wedding if they live far away or you’re planning a destination wedding. 

Even if they live nearby, they can still mark it on the calendar and be thankful that you gave them a head’s up.

They Can Say “no” to Other Commitments.

Having your wedding day marked on their future calendars will give your nearest and dearest a chance to make plans around your wedding weekend and ensure they don’t accidentally double-book. 

Plenty of personal and professional events and travel plans are confirmed months in advance—including work trips and conferences and annual family vacations, to name a few. So the more critical notice you give your guests, the greater likelihood they’ll be available to attend.

They’ll Know for Sure That They Are Invited.

You may assume your friends and family know for sure that they’re going to be invited to your nuptials, but just because they’re close to you doesn’t mean that they’re automatically expecting to receive an invitation. 

Wedding guest lists are tricky things, and it can sometimes feel like a bit of a guessing game; a save-the-date confirms for your many circles of friends and immediate and extended family that they are indeed on the guest list and can start planning accordingly.

They Take Time—and Money

Creating and sending save-the-dates is another expense that you’ll have to build into your wedding budget. 

(Depending on how many you plan to send and how elaborate they are, they could cost several hundred dollars.) 

Plus, designing, printing, and mailing your save-the-dates takes time and effort—including the tedious task of collecting everyone’s mailing addresses. However, that list sure does come in handy come wedding invitation time!

Even if you opt to send digital save-the-dates to save funds, you’ll still need to collect everyone’s email addresses (and all-important emails might get missed).

You’ll Need to Finalise Your Guest List Asap.

Suppose the two of you opt to send save-the-dates. In that case, you’ll need to make some decisions about who you’re inviting to your wedding pretty shortly after locking in your wedding and reception venue(s), which, together with your budget and personal preferences, dictates the maximum number of guests you can have in attendance. 

Keep in mind that once someone receives their save-the-date, they will assume they’re invited to your wedding; you can’t send them an official wedding invitation later! Here at Brighton Savoy, we have compiled an exclusive list of Wedding Photo Locations in Melbourne to help you decide on your special day.

So choose wisely and thoughtfully to avoid any guest list drama down the line.

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