Start working on these items as soon as you have a venue nailed down. It's okay to skip the save the date or send it via e-mail if you're tight on time or budget. It generally takes 2-4 weeks to get invitations printed, so start the ordering process at least 3-4 months before the wedding. The earlier you can start, the better it is: this is the best way to prepare for any unforeseen complications and to allow yourself the time to address and mail the invitations.
- Save the date
- A save the date is an announcement of the date and general location of your wedding. It can be printed or electronic.
- Send it 6 months before your wedding, up to 12 months ahead if you're having a destination wedding.
- Include your names, date, city and wedding website and password if needed. Specific venue information is not needed at this point.
- Wedding Invitation
- The invitation is the formal announcement of the date, address and time of your wedding. While it is customary to send a printed invitation, you can e-mail an invitation if you are on a very tight budget.
- Start the ordering process 3-4 months before the wedding. Send the invitation 8-10 weeks before your wedding. If you're having a destination wedding, send it 12 weeks in advance.
- Must-have details include your names; the date, time and addresses for the ceremony and reception; and an RSVP deadline, which should be 2-4 weeks before your wedding. Optional information includes listing the names of the hosts, who are often the parents, the time the reception is due to finish (Carriages at...) and dress code guidelines.
- Optional Wedding Invitation Insert Cards
- Reply Card
- A reply card is the card guests use to RSVP to your wedding.
- RSVPs can be sent via a printed card or electronically. If you choose to use a printed reply card, include it with a self-addressed, stamped envelope with the invitation.
- If you ask guests to RSVP electronically via a website or e-mail, provide the site/e-mail address on the invitation or on an information card.
- If you plan to offer entrée choices at the reception, ask your guests to choose an entrée or to list any dietary restrictions when they reply.
- Reception Card
Directions / Info Card
- A reception card is a card with the date, place and time of the reception, sent if the party will be at a different venue from the ceremony.
- Include the date, location, address and time of the reception.
- These are not usually used in the U.K., where reception details, even if in a different venue to the ceremony, would appear on the main invitation.
- A card that offers directions as well as travel and accommodations information.
- Include the addresses for ceremony and reception venues, directions to these venues and any pertinent accommodations and transportation details. You can also include a map that marks nearby hotels, the ceremony and reception venues and any other event locations.
- Accommodations Cards
- The accommodations card is optional, but it's smart to include one for destination weddings or if you're expecting lots of out-of-town guests.
- It's enclosed with save the date cards to assist your guests with booking travel and lodging.
- Include a list of hotels near the ceremony and reception sites, airfare or other transportation information and maps of the area.
- If you're limiting invitation costs, include this information on your wedding website and direct guests there on the save the date.
- Rehearsal Dinner Invitation
- An invitation to the rehearsal dinner
- Within many families, the groom's parents issue this invitation. Because this invitation likely won't be your responsibility, it's not necessary for rehearsal dinner invitations to match your wedding invitations. However, it's a nice touch. Talk it through with your future in-laws and let them determine how to proceed.
- Thank You Cards
- Thank you cards are stationery used to thank guests for attending your wedding and for any gifts.
- Send thank you notes within 2 weeks after receiving a gift.
- These notes should be handwritten. Include your new mailing address if you are moving.
Start working on these components once your invitations are in the mail. Some items will need to wait until the last minute, since they might depend on knowing the guest list, schedule and menu. Check with your stationer to confirm drop-dead deadlines for final proof approval.
- Welcome Letter
- A printed letter that welcomes your guests and fills them in on any planned events or optional activities. This letter is especially helpful for keeping guests informed at a destination wedding or if you've planned a host of events for the weekend.
- Leave the welcome letter in the guests' rooms, at the check-in site for the wedding or at the rehearsal dinner. Another option is to attach the note to the guest welcome bag.
- Include a list of events and times, notable addresses, contact information, dress code requirements and maps.
- A program is a printed list of the wedding party and the ceremony's order of events.
- They can be placed on each seat before the ceremony, handed out by ushers or placed in a container such as a basket or decorative box for guests to help themselves.
- While the program is only used the day of the wedding, start putting your program details together at least 1 month before the ceremony.
- Include your wedding date, the names of the bridal party members and their relationship to the bride or groom, the order of events and the titles of the readings and songs. Some couples include a note to honour a deceased loved one, to explain rites within the ceremony that may be unfamiliar to guests or to offer a word of thanks to the hosts.
- An order of service is a fuller form of the program and is usually a folded card or booklet depending on length of service. The cover has the venue, the couple's names and the date. Inside the sequence of the service is laid out with hymns and any responsorial prayers written in full. The readings can either be written in full or left as the title of the reading along with the author and reader's name. A list of the wedding party, the minister, organist and choirmaster may also be included.
- Printed cards that tell guests where to sit at the reception.
- The options for displaying these cards are endless. Tie them to a tree with ribbons in your wedding colors, pin them to a decorated board or simply lay out tented cards in alphabetical order on a table.
- Avoid seating chaos at dinner by setting out the cards early (before the cocktail hour if you are having one).
- The only two "musts" on a seating card are the guest's name and his or her table number or name.
- A large table plan (about 20" x 30") can also be used showing all the tables and seat assignments either by table name/number or arranged alphabetically. Be aware that at large functions, it is best to have this on display during the cocktail hour so that guests can find their seats over a longer stretch of time. Otherwise, if left to the last minute, you might be left with a herd of people straining to see the board, rather than a room of seated guests.
- Printed cards that tell guests where to sit at the reception. Unlike an escort card, a place card is positioned at the guest's table seat.
- Traditionally place cards are tented at the head of each place setting, but they also can be hung with ribbons from the backs of chairs, or attached to an object indicative of your wedding theme.
- Set out the place cards in advance; you want them in place before the guests arrive at the table.
- All you need is the guest's name.
- A printed table card designates each table with a number or name to help guests find their seats. Stand the table cards up in holders that the servers can remove before the dinner service or simply tent them.
- You'll typically need one card per table, though you might want two or three per table if you're doing king's tables (long banquet tables that typically seat 15-20 guests or more). Set out the table cards in advance; you want them in place before the guests arrive at the table.
- All you need is the table number or name. Make sure the table's number or name is printed on both sides of the card so that the guests can see it from different points in the room.
- Printed menu cards let guests know what will be served.
- Menu cards typically are placed at each setting and with the addition of the guest's name at the top, can sometimes double-up as the place card. A single menu can be used at each table if your reception is arranged in a series of small tables. Another option is to print one large menu or have it handwritten on a chalkboard for all to see.
- Set out the menu cards in advance; you want them in place before the guests arrive at the table.
- Include a list of what will be served as well as wine and beverage choices. You may choose to explain the significance of a particular dish or describe the ingredients of a signature cocktail.
- A guest book lets guests leave a message or wish for you. It can be a traditional blank or lined book, or you can do something more creative, such as colorful note cards, a vintage typewriter with blank lined paper, vintage postcards or journals with questions on the cover to prompt guest advice (e.g. Where should we go for our 5-year anniversary?).
- Set your guest book out at a welcome table at the entrance to your reception or at a prominent table during cocktail hour.
- Include a sign that says "Please sign our guest book," or how-to instructions, if needed.
- If you're doing a guest book, it can a nice touch to put your names and the wedding date on the cover.
- Signs can be used to indicate anything from buffet selections and cocktail choices to the direction of the restrooms. Signs allow you to highlight important information for your guests within the style of your wedding's theme.
- Put signs out wherever and whenever they're needed at the ceremony or reception.
- At the ceremony, possibilities include a simple welcome sign, a sign for a welcome beverage if you're serving one and reserved seating signs. At the cocktail hour, bar signs can be used to list drink choices or highlight specialty cocktails. At the reception, you may choose to have a guest book sign and labels for a dessert bar or buffet stations. Signs can also be used for any amenities or treats you're handing out during the evening.
Paper can be a wonderful, inexpensive way to decorate. Consider ideas like:
- Patterned paper wrappers for vessels and votives
- Streamers, pom-poms, pennant garlands and paper link chains
- Crepe or tissue paper flowers (in lieu of or in addition to fresh flowers)
- Patterned paper or table runners (or butcher paper, if you're going for a more minimal look)
- Paper placemats and napkin rings
- Paper details in bridal party attire, such as corsages, pocket squares (made of paper instead of fabric) or bouquets
- Many couples give a small favour or charitable donation on behalf of their guests.
- You can create favour packaging, such as a tag or label, depending on what the favour is. Many baking and packaging supply shops (such as www.planetbake.co.uk, www.bakeitpretty.com and www.papermart.com) sell plain pastry bags, cello bags, glassine bags, boxes and more. These are a great starting point. You can add your own tag or label to personalise them and give them creative flair.
- On your tag or label, include a gracious message—such as "Thank you for celebrating with us!"—along with your names and the wedding date.
- If you are giving a donation to charity, you can print a small donation card or print the message in your program or at the bottom of your menu cards. Example wording: "In lieu of favours, we have made a donation in your honour to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America."
- A favour can also double as a seating card or place card by adding the guest's name to the tag or label.
- Drinks are a perfect place to add some simple decoration to add to the festive mood.
- Drink flags, which can be made from a bamboo skewer or a straw combined with a flag made from paper or ribbon, can add a festive touch to your signature cocktail.
- Cocktail napkins and coasters are available in a wide range of colors and can be custom printed by vendors likewww.foryourparty.com.
- You can even think about adding pretty patterned paper liners to trays on which drinks are being served or presented.
- If you are serving a signature drink from a large pitcher or urn, made a decorative sign with the drink name and tie it on with colorful ribbon.
- Food packaging is great place to add creative detail, especially if you're serving finger foods during the reception or giving guests a bag of chocolates, candies or pastries as a welcome or farewell gift.
- Baking and packaging supply websites like www.bakeitpretty.com sell many of the basics you'll need to present your food in a tasty and stylish manner, from popcorn boxes to cupcake liners and pastry bags.
- You can add your own creative touch with customised labels. For example, place a custom label on the front of a glassine bag containing sweets or biscuits.
- If you are doing a candy bar, you can make decorative signs for jars and bowls.
Before you sign off on your stationery proofs, review this checklist. Reprints and printing a few extra cards later can be surprisingly expensive, so order enough and check carefully!
- Are all the items you've ordered shown in the proof?
- Did you order one invitation set per household, rather than one per guest?
- Did you order at least 10 extras for last-minute additions or post office returns? Order more if you plan to send out invites to additional guests if people on your A-list decline.
- Did you order plenty of extra envelopes for addressing mistakes (calligraphers typically need 20% extra)?
- Will your printed invitations be ready to mail 8-10 weeks prior to your wedding, 12 weeks ahead for a destination wedding? If not, ask about rush service. Remember to give yourself time to address, stuff, seal and mail them.
- Are the ink, paper and envelope colours correct? (Note that colours online don't always look the same in print, so check against physical samples if time allows.)
- Are any design elements, patterns or motifs missing? (If it's not shown, it's not getting printed.)
- Are all the fonts correct?
- Is the text spaced properly?
- Is the text's alignment correct?
- Are the ceremony date, time and location correct?
- Are all names, professional titles, e-mail and web addresses, physical addresses and telephone numbers correct?
- Double-check that there are no abbreviations and that all dates and addresses are spelled out (i.e. Street versus St.).
- Triple-check spelling and punctuation.
- If your guests are replying by mail, are your name and address correct on the reply envelope? The post office may not deliver it if a name is not included. Remember to include the country if guests will be replying from overseas.
- If you are getting your envelopes addressed, do addresses fall at least 5/8" from the bottom edge of the envelope? The post office may not deliver it if the address is too close to the edge.
Use the table below as a general guideline for how to address your invitations, based on guest type. In addition, follow these simple rules of thumb:
- Spell out guest names
- Titles, e.g. Doctor, Reverend, The honourable. Exceptions: Mr., Ms., Mrs.
- "and guest," where applicable
- children's names or "and family," where applicable
- Spell out all abbreviations
- County names
- Street, Road, Avenue, Crescent etc.
- Flat ( No. is acceptable in a pinch)
- Double-check the correct formatting of international addresses
- Sometimes the postal code comes before the state or county
|Married couple||Mr. and Mrs. John Gilbert|
|With children under 18 living at home||Mr. and Mrs. John Gilbert|
Heather and Michael Gilbert
Mr. and Mrs. John Gilbert and family
|In which woman kept her married name||Ms. Christine Brown and Mr. John Gilbert|
|In which man is a doctor||Doctor and Mrs. John Gilbert|
|In which both are doctors||Doctor Christine Brown and Doctor John Gilbert|
|In which woman is a doctor||Doctor Christine Brown and Mr. John Gilbert|
|Single Woman||Ms. Christine Brown Gilbert OR|
Miss Christine Brown Gilbert
|Single Man||Mr. John Gilbert|
|Guests||If a guest is invited, it is appropriate to add "and guest" to the envelope|
|Unmarried couple living together||Miss Christine Brown|
Mr. John Gilbert
|Using Married name||Ms. Christine Gilbert OR|
Mrs. Christine Gilbert
|Using maiden name||Ms. Christine Brown|
|Widow||Mrs. John Gilbert|
While you are welcome to use creative license when deciding how to present your invitations, you should be aware of the following traditional rules of thumb:
- Invitation and enclosures are placed in the envelope so that they are facing right-side up when pulled out with your right hand.
- The enclosures are stacked from largest to smallest, with the RSVP set placed on top of the invitation. If there are two cards of the same size (e.g. the invitation and a map or directions card), place the more important card on top.
- The RSVP card is tucked under the flap of the self-addressed, stamped RSVP envelope, not placed inside of it. Remember, no postage is needed for RSVP cards that will be mailed back to you from out of the country.
- Number your RSVP cards lightly in pencil on the back side, and match these numbers up to your guest list. This way, if a guest accidentally omits his/her name or that of a guest, you can follow up appropriately.
- Use an envelope moistener with adhesive to seal your envelopes securely. This is an especially good idea if you are using a thick cardstock or have 3-dimensional elements to your invitation, such as buttons or ribbon.
- Remember that invitations with a 3-dimensional component and square invitations are subject to a non-machineable surcharge. Check with your post office for rates.
- 12-16 months ahead
- Pick a wedding date, or a couple of possible options. Keep in mind the season and regional weather conditions, particularly if you are planning an outdoor wedding.
- Start a wedding file. This is where you'll keep your ideas, potential DIY projects, contracts and timelines. Begin scouring magazines, blogs, Pinterest and other resources for inspiration.
- Decide on the style, size and level of formality of your wedding. Be sure to discuss with family members who are going to be involved in planning and contributing to wedding costs.
- Start a rough guest list including addresses. Remember you'll need to combine your list with his list, as well as those of your parents. If the number of guests you can invite is limited by your venue or budget, give each set of parents a fixed number of guests they may invite in advance, and try to keep that number even on both sides. We recommend using a spreadsheet program that allows online collaboration, such as Google Docs, so multiple people can edit the list.
- Decide on a wedding budget. Adjust your guest list, time of year or venue ideas accordingly.
- Hire a wedding planner, if desired. It's a good idea to do this early in the process, as the planner can help you pick a venue, hone in on your style and identify vendors who are a good fit for your vision.
- Select a ceremony venue and reception site that fit your style, guest count, and time of year. These will often be the same location but if they're not, be sure that both venues are available on your wedding date. Put down a deposit to reserve the date. Take photos for planning and styling purposes, get a floor plan and measurements and find out if there are any limitations on hanging d%eacute;cor and signage. Confirm set-up and breakdown times, and book extra time for set-up if you'll need it.
- Order a wedding gown. Remember that fittings and alternations take time, and custom gowns are not refundable so it pays to shop for one you love. Also look for matching accessories such as a veil and shoes.
- Choose attendants and request their participation. Begin shopping for attendant attire so they have plenty of time to order custom items if needed.
- Refine your style and color palette.
- Make a list of DIY projects and a DIY timeline, and begin sourcing materials.
- Identify your DIY crafting team—this is your core group of friends or bridesmaids who will be helping you with craft projects. Get started on some of the larger or more time consuming projects, such as making pom-pom strands.
- Continue to compile and refine your guest list, and organize/verify addresses.
- Book a caterer. Often the caterer is dictated by the venue, but if they are not, interview several candidates and attend tastings. Do not scrimp here: the caterer ultimately calls the shots behind the scenes at the wedding reception (they control the timing of food and beverage service), so be sure to evaluate their efficiency and organizational skills along with the quality of their food.
- Book a photographer. This is perhaps the most important vendor, since they will determine how the wedding is remembered. Evaluate portfolios, but also be sure to meet with candidates personally to make sure you feel at ease around them. You can also book the photographer for an engagement photo shoot at this time. This is a great way to get comfortable with the photographer, and you can also use these photos for your save-the-date cards, if desired.
- Book a florist. Review portfolios, and be sure their personality is a good fit with yours and that they're open to your style suggestions and to incorporating your DIY ideas. Flowers are a big (and expensive) part of the wedding d%eacute;cor, so spend time doing your research.
- Book music for the ceremony and reception. Remember that the ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner reception are all distinct portions of the event and may call for different music or musicians. If budget allows, hire a live band or professional DJ for at least part of the reception. While it can be fine to "iPod DJ" a portion of your wedding (say the ceremony, the after-party, or the later part of the evening), remember that you still need a professional sound system and someone to manage the iPod. And, you should mix the wedding songs in advance to ensure a good variety, remove long lead-ins, codas, and awkward silences.
- Book a lighting designer. An oft-overlooked element of the wedding, lighting is incredibly important to setting the mood, particularly if you are having an outdoor or tented wedding. The lighting designer can also coordinate "pipe-and-drape", e.g. fabric draping that can create distinct areas in your reception, such as a lounge area, or cover up unsightly wall hangings or fixtures.
- Throw an engagement party (or have friends or family throw one for you!). This is a great way for everyone to start getting to know each other, so they'll have more fun on your wedding day!
- Make or order and mail out save-the-date cards, if using. Set up a wedding website, if using, and reserve hotel room blocks for out-of-town guests.
- Start working on DIY projects, beginning with those that are either time consuming or require multiples (e.g. pom-poms or garlands, votives, drink flags) and/or those that aren't depending on knowing a final guest count (e.g. ring pillow, flower girl garland or headband, bridal party accessories).
- Order a wedding cake.
- Book an officiant. Interview a few, and consider friends and family members. Choose one who fits your beliefs, style and the tone of your wedding.
- Plan and book your honeymoon.
- Sign up for a gift registry. We recommend using a registry service like www.myregistry.com, which allows you to add items for any retailer on the web as well as register for cash gifts.
- Reserve rental equipment, such as tents, tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, glassware and portable restrooms, if needed. Note: it is often best to leave rentals to the caterer, since they are best positioned to know what quantities they will need and can coordinate drop-off and pick-up times that work for them.
- Decide on favours and begin making and assembling them (if they are not perishable).
- Book a makeup artist/hair stylist.
- Book transportation/limousine service for the wedding party and guests to and from the reception. Book or decide on a get-away car, if using.
- Purchase wedding rings.
- Purchase or reserve groom's attire. Make any special accents for the groom and groomsmen, such as pocket squares.
- Book a room for the wedding night.
- Sign up for dance lessons and decide on your first dance.
- Make or order and mail out your invitations; book a calligrapher, if desired, or start practicing! Remember to check the post office for the latest postage rates. Invitations should be mailed 8 weeks before the wedding, 10-12 weeks if you are expecting a lot of out-of-town guests and have not already mailed save-the-date cards. If you have a lot of out-of-town guests, consider asking them to note their arrival and departure dates and where they are staying on the RSVP card. To save time later many brides order their place cards/escort cards at the same time as the invitations and write one for each guest they invite rather than waiting for all the replies to be returned.
- Finalize details of the menu with the caterer. Confirm arrival and departure times and rentals. Decide on server attire (e.g. bistro aprons, striped shirts), if desired.
- Plan the ceremony. Discuss the order of service with your officiant. Choose readings and music for the ceremony. Write your wedding vows, if you choose.
- Schedule a rehearsal time and rehearsal dinner (traditionally hosted by the groom's family).
- Meet with your makeup artist to try out the makeup and hairstyle.
- Buy stockings or any special lingerie for your dress and honeymoon.
- Choose your wedding music. Share your list with your DJ or band, or mix your iPod play list and book sound equipment.
- Make a detailed event timeline, including load-in, set-up, arrival and departure times of all vendors, drop off of welcome bags to guest rooms, shuttle pick-ups, g uest arrival times, ceremony start time, order and timing of toasts, first dance, cake cutting, and shuttle departures. This is where a wedding planner comes in very handy! If you do not have a wedding planner, designate two or three attendants to be the day-of coordinators/ "cruise ship directors." Make sure they have each other's cell phone numbers. Share this timeline with all vendors.
- Make or order programs.
- Make or order a guest book.
- Make or order menus, if needed.
- Make or order a cake topper.
- Make arrangements for pre-wedding events, such as welcome cocktails, and a post-wedding brunch, if desired.
- Send change-of-address information to the post office, if needed.
- Contact local newspapers about publishing a wedding announcement, if desired.
- Follow up with guests who have not yet RSVP'ed.
- Begin making a seating plan, write seating cards and/or place cards and make table numbers.
- Make additional signage, such as bar or buffet signs, reserved seating signs, bride and groom's seating signs, a guestbook sign and a "Just Married!" sign.
- Write guest welcome letters, if using.
- Notify caterer of guest count.
- Write toasts for rehearsal dinner and wedding reception.
- Confirm where out-of-town guests are staying, and when they are arriving. Prepare welcome bags and letters, if using.
- Finalize seating plan and update seating cars and place cards.
- Make guest welcome bags, if using. Deliver to guest rooms in conjunction with guest check-in dates.
- Circulate finalized event timeline to all vendors and vendor contact list (include cell phone numbers of attendants who will be helping with specific tasks).
- Assign specific responsibilities to attendants, e.g. handing out programs, handing out corsages & boutonnieres, hanging signs, delivering welcome bags, coordinating timing of toasts and the first dance with the DJ, etc.
- Confirm rehearsal plans with attendants.
- Pack for your honeymoon, and gather all necessary travel documents.
- Organize your wedding day attire and accessories. Pack an emergency kit including: sticking plasterss, hair-pins, mobile phone, soda water (for stain removal), deodorant, double-sided tape (for fallen hems), extra stockings, ibuprofen, makeup and makeup remover, nail polish and nail polish remover, prescription medications, safety pins, snacks, safety pins, sewing kit, tampons/pads, toothpaste and toothbrush, tissues and water.
- Confirm flight arrangements for your honeymoon.
- Set up ceremony and reception d%eacute;cor, lighting. Receive deliveries.
- Confirm transportation arrangements.
- Rehearse ceremony and attend rehearsal dinner.
- Give gifts to the wedding party.
- Prepare tip and payment envelopes for officiant and vendors; arrange for someone to distribute them.
- Have a manicure and pedicure, and a massage!
- Have your attendants take care of last-minute details such as setting out place cards, seating cards and programs.
- Give the wedding rings to the best man.
- Relax and have fun!