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Save the dates haven’t been around all that long.  In fact, they didn’t exist when I started Raspberry Creative nearly 20 years ago.  Even though they are a fairly new invention, just like your other wedding stationery, there are certain rules and etiquette that apply even to this very early part of your wedding planning process.

Sending out save the dates indicates to those that receive them that your wedding planning is underway but is it too soon to ask the recipients to make a commitment on whether or not they can attend your big day?

Before you order RSVPs to mail along with your save the dates, let’s make sure we understand what Save the Dates and RSVPs are exactly and why they should never go together.

odette hand drawn flower calligraphy monogram crest save the date card

What is a Save the Date?

Regardless of when, where or type of wedding you are planning, it’s always best to give your guests enough time for them to make any necessary arrangements.  Most invited guests will need to plan for potential time off work.  For those that need to travel to attend your wedding, there are a number of other things to consider, such as:

  • Air travel
  • Rental cars
  • Hotel accommodations
  • Possible new clothes to align with venue or destination
  • Additional time off work for travel
  • Childcare
  • Even visas or passport renewals if it’s a destination wedding.

Most wedding experts recommend sending out your save the dates 10 – 12 months before your wedding, with wedding invitations to follow around 2 months before.  Your save the dates will include the basic, essential details like your names, some sort of brief indication that you are getting married, the general location (city and state only – no need for a venue or address at this time), and the date.

All other wedding details like the venues and addresses, the time, etc. will be shared later on your formal invitation.  If you are setting up a wedding website, that information can also be shared there.

the layne wedding invitation suite

What is an RSVP?

RSVP which is the abbreviation of the french phrase “repondez s’il vous plait”, literally means “respond, if you please” in English.  Here in the US, we often use “RSVP” to indicate that we expect a reply from someone we’ve invited to an event such as a baby or bridal shower, social gala or wedding.

Even though many modern wedding invitations still use the “RSVP” other phrases are used commonly as well, such as:

  • Kindly reply
  • Please response by (insert date)

Now that you know what Save the Date cards and RSVP cards are, let’s look at another question.

Tatiana Monogram Crest Save the Date Card

Can you ask Guests for RSVPs with the Save the Dates?

No, and here’s why:  A save the date is simply an announcement that you’re getting married and that you’ve set the date.  It doesn’t actually invite anyone to anything and if done correctly, actually says that an invitation will follow.  The save the date is NOT the wedding invitation.

While you should never intentionally send save the dates to people that you do not plan to invite to your wedding, the save the date doesn’t technically guarantee that the recipient is invited and therefore shouldn’t be asked to RSVP.

I’ve seen brides justify why they think it’s OK to do this but let me be clear, it’s not.  While I can certainly understand the temptation of wanting to get an idea of RSVPs with your save the dates so you can figure out budget or venue, etc., you still shouldn’t do it.  Especially if you are planning to do an  A/B list; this is simply rude regardless of how you try to spin it, and your guests will know.  

Expecting someone to commit to coming or not coming to your wedding 8 months to a year in advance is next to impossible and if you are waiting to pick your venue till you have an idea of who is coming then you are possibly planning your wedding in the wrong order.  If you haven’t locked down your venue until you have an idea of whose coming then you shouldn’t be ordering save the dates yet.

frosted branches save the date

I don’t mean for this to sound harsh, but I see a lot of brides get advice from other brides or friends, and they think that just because someone else did it, it’s OK.  There is still right and wrong and this is a biggy my friends.

Even if you have to adjust your guest list as you get further into your wedding planning due to budget constraints you weren’t planning for, or you realized you missed someone important in your initial list (it happens), you should have a pretty solid list based on your venue choice, budget, etc. before ordering any stationery. 

We get it, things do change, but asking for an RSVP in response to your Save the date locks you into a guest list that is far from finalized this early on in the planning process.

Remember, when it comes to RSVPs with save the dates, there is a several month gap between when your save the dates are mailed out and when you will be mailing your wedding invitations.  Once your wedding invitations are mailed there is often another gap of several weeks at least before your guests are to confirm whether they are coming.  Asking for RSVPs too early will almost positively guarantee an inaccurate guest count.  Very few people will know their schedules that far out from your wedding.

It’s not uncommon for someone who thought they were available 11 months out had something come up out of the blue that will prevent them from attending your wedding.  Others may say no only to realize months later that they are free that weekend.  This simply makes for way more confusion so it’s best for everyone if you wait until the proper time to ask for RSVPs.

sibyl dusty blue classic monogram crest save the date card

Here’s more Save the Date Etiquette:

While we’re talking about save the dates and thinking about all the dos and don’ts, here are a few other pointers to consider as you prepare for your own save the dates.

Remember to count households, not individuals.

One of the most common mistakes couples make is when it comes to quantity.  Because most other details of their wedding take into account actual individuals, they automatically do the same for their stationery when it fact you’d end up with way more than you need.  Save the dates and wedding invitations should be mailed to households, not individuals.  For example:  The Smith Family or Mr. and Mrs.Smith, Andrew and Brianna Jamison.

Only send Save the Dates to the people you plan to invite.

In my experience in the wedding industry over the past 20 years, I firmly believe that a solid guest list should be one of the very FIRST tasks done when planning any wedding.  The size of the guest list will help determine the size of the venue needed, and is often dictated by overall wedding budget.

While there are necessary changes that sometimes have to be made in terms of reducing the guest list because of budgetary or other reasons, it’s another reason to send out save the dates to everyone you have ever known more like an announcement only to end up inviting less than half of those people.  Think about how you’d feel if you were the one who received a save the date only to be left out of the actual event.  This could make for an awkward conversation to clear up a misunderstanding or offend someone to the point where they no longer want to associate with you.

Don’t include Registry Information on your Save the Date

You may think you are being helpful by providing registry info on your save the date but in fact it sends the wrong message.  For the same reason you don’t ask for RSVPs with your save the dates, you aren’t actually inviting guests to your wedding with your save the dates so telling them where to buy a gift seems tacky and maybe even like you are simply out for the gifts.

If guests ask about your registry, send them to your website where it’s more than OK to provide links to any and all registries.

Include your Wedding Website

With just about any save the date design, there is room to add a small line at the bottom that includes your wedding website.  I’m always surprised by couples who don’t have one because it’s such a great way to keep your guests informed on all the details of your wedding planning from venue location to times of the ceremony, travel accommodations, etc. 

As I mentioned above, this is also the perfect place to include all your registry information.

It can be challenging to understand all the etiquette surrounding your wedding planning but I’ve found that as long as your heart is in the right place with each phase of the process, everything almost always turns out just fine and in the end.

For more information, etiquette, planning tips and more for your Save the Dates, check out our other articles below:

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etiquette series can you send rsvps with your save the dates?