Important Save-the-Date Etiquette to Know When Planning a Wedding

From when to send them to what information to include.

A printed wedding save-the-date card with flowers and an envelope.

Photo by Rebecca Yale Photography

Congratulations, you're engaged! While there's plenty to keep you busy in those early days of your engagement—including sharing the good news far and wide and starting to think practically about possible wedding dates, locations, and your wedding budget—one important consideration in the wedding planning process is when to send save-the-dates to your future wedding guests.

What Is a Save-the-Date?

Save-the-dates serve as an official announcement of your wedding date and location. They also let guests know that they will, in fact, be invited to the celebration. Save-the-dates preceded wedding invitations, which come later and are more detailed.

Ahead, we speak to lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann about some of the most pressing save-the-date etiquette questions.

Meet the Expert

Elaine Swann is a lifestyle and etiquette expert, and the founder of The Swann School of Protocol.

Do we have to send save-the-dates?

While most of your friends and family have already heard about your engagement and maybe even know where and when the wedding will be, this pre-invitation notification is still essential. Plus, save-the-dates are a fun way to give your guests preliminary information about the wedding!

Swann notes that if you're having a destination wedding—especially during busy travel dates, such as a three-day holiday weekend, summer in a resort town, or peak season in the Caribbean—then sending a save-the-date as far in advance as possible is ideal since many of your guests will have to make travel and hotel arrangements. "Giving people a heads-up that there is travel involved is courteous," she says.

One function of save-the-dates is to give your guests a glimpse of the wedding to come. So the more formal the wedding, the more likely a printed card will set the tone you want your wedding to have.

When do we send them?

As a general rule of thumb, Swann recommends that couples mail their save-the-dates four to six months before the wedding—or even earlier if you're planning a destination wedding that may require more extensive travel arrangements. In general, giving your guests an advance head's-up increases the likelihood that they'll be able to attend.

Who should receive one?

Save-the-date notifications should only be sent to those you plan on inviting to the wedding. "Don't make the save-the-date any more public beyond the actual guest list you have," says Swann. Once they're in the mail, there's no turning back, so be sure you've compiled an accurate guest list before sending them off. And even if you've already received verbal confirmation from some guests, you still need to send them a save-the-date—that includes everyone in the bridal party, key wedding participants, and immediate family members, of course.

Can we send them via email?

These days, sending your save-the-date announcement via email is perfectly appropriate. Just be aware of a few potential bumps along the road, like the fact that your e-card may get filtered into guests' spam folders. While convenient and budget-friendly, delivery is not 100 percent guaranteed, so you'll want to follow up to ensure delivery.

What information should we include?

Provide any details that will help guests plan for your big day, the most important being your wedding date and location (though it doesn't have to be a specific location yet). And, of course, don't forget to include your wedding website URL, where your guests can find all sorts of additional information. You don't have to name your wedding and reception venue(s) just yet—save that detailed information for your actual wedding invitation. Simply naming the town or city and state (or destination wedding location) works for this early announcement.

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