Wedding planning is full of choices, but one question is particularly important when you kick off your search for the perfect wedding stationery: Do your save the dates need to match your invitations?
In short, the answer to that question is no. But, to ensure you’re in line with modern wedding etiquette and setting yourself up for wedding-day success, here are the most important things to know about picking out save-the-date cards vs. selecting your wedding invitations.
It’s All About the Message
First, let’s review what save the dates and invitations are supposed to do:
Save the dates are used to give potential guests a heads up that you’re getting married. You’ll also detail when you plan to have your ceremony (just a date at this point) and reception. Because save the dates are one of the earlier items on your wedding planning checklist, it’s to be expected that you might not have your venue picked out or know exactly how the big day is going to look. But sharing a date and a general location, like a city and state, helps your loved ones start their own planning process, including scheduling time off from work or school and making travel arrangements.
Wedding invitations are the more formal follow-up to save the dates. Where save-the-date magnets or cards are casual and usually only contain one or two pieces of key info, invitations are expected to fill in the blanks on venue address and the time of the ceremony, indicate whether there’s a dress code, outline or at least hint at a theme, and instruct guests how to RSVP.
While it’s certainly okay for these two types of wedding stationery to match, it’s not required by etiquette experts — nor will guests be surprised if your save the dates and invitations look totally different.
Embrace the More Casual Vibes and Get Creative
The fact that save the dates come in a variety of formats, including cards or magnets, clearly shows how playful these items can be. So, with that in mind, let your creativity flow.
A unique design like Our Story brings guests-to-be up to date on the finer details of when you and your significant other were born, when you met, when you got engaged, and of course when you plan on tying the knot. Extra! Extra! looks like breaking news, with lots of extra space in the text box to share a message to guests, tell a joke, or spill the beans about your meet cute.
The point is that knowing you don’t have to coordinate your save the dates and invitations means you can literally pick whatever save-the-date design you want without worrying about whether you’ll want to be as funny, quirky, or creative when it comes to your invites. Be playful now and then feel free to shift to contemporary elegance later on.
It’s Okay to Change Your Mind
With nothing tying save the dates and wedding invitations together (other than the fact they both star you and your beloved, of course), it’s no big deal if you choose a save-the-date theme and decide you don’t want to stick with the theme later on down the road.
Say it’s March, you’re about to announce your engagement, and with all the beautiful spring weather around, you’ve become a tad obsessed with tulips. You choose a save-the-date card covered in those tulips, but two months later, you and your better half discover the local goth concert hall is available on your wedding date and your theme is now very definitely not “spring renewal.” Cool!
It’s common, if not expected, for save the date cards and invitations to be at odds with each other design wise. Unlike your future spouse, purchasing stationery doesn’t mean making a lifelong commitment to one single aesthetic. Go with your gut and choose a playful or art deco save the date now, and then switch to a beach design when you later discover you can turn your dream destination wedding into reality.
Two Designs, One Theme
When you’re first shopping around for save the dates, you may have a theme in mind, find a design that fits the bill, and go ahead and place your order. Then, two months later, you find an online wedding stationery retailer whose designs you really adore, and you find yourself drawn to a totally different invitation that still honors your original theme. Go for it!
It’s a great idea (and super fun) to choose two designs that both fit one overarching theme. Now, instead of deciding between two designs you love, you get to use them both — one at the beginning of your wedding planning journey and one when you’re ready to order formal invitations.
You might also opt to stick to one color palette that brings together two otherwise completely different designs. Using green and red for your save the dates suggests a holiday wedding, but your invitation can be wall to wall traditional Christmas or just incorporate dashes of green and red in the text and embellishments. The two prints will look like they belong together but still be far from matchy-matchy.
Take a quick look at save-the-date stationery and you’ll see that the majority of those designs feature at least one picture. On the other hand, wedding invitations rarely include an actual photograph. That distinction is the perfect excuse to ham it up and show tons of personality on your save the date, introducing guests who might have known you as a kid to who you are as an adult, or showing off your relationship in a unique and interesting way.
Once you get to the invitation stage, the focus switches from “here we are as a couple” to “here’s what you need to know about our big day.” You’re building a sense of anticipation rather than announcing an upcoming event, so a photo doesn’t feel as appropriate.
Browse through save the date designs and choose a photo from your engagement shoot — or multiple photos if you want and the design allows —that represents your love. You may even hint at a future theme (taking photos in the snow or in a botanical garden for instance) or include your pets. Who wouldn’t be excited to stick a picture of your English bulldog in a tuxedo collar on their fridge? Instant keepsake, and there’s clearly no expectation for you to include more bulldog pics on your invites.
3 Times You Might Want to Match Your Save-the-Date Cards and Wedding Invitations
By now you know that save the dates and wedding invitations don't have to match, but can they? Sure, and here are three scenarios that might make it more likely for you to choose one design that fits both items.
1. You’re Already Set on Your Theme
You’ve known since you met your fiancé or fiancée in the front row at Fashion Week that you’d have a black-tie wedding with an ultra-glam theme. In this case, it’s perfectly fine to choose a luxe-looking save-the-date that corresponds with an equally luxe wedding invitation so at least one decision is out of the way for good.
2. You’ve Chosen a Unique Theme Guests Need to Prepare For
You love cosplay, so you’ve decided to get married in full sci-fi regalia and expect all your guests to show up dressed head to toe in similarly out-of-this-world getups. While it’s likely at least some of your inner circle shares your affection for all things geekdom, others might be less familiar with the niche and need to do some research before they start putting together their own costumes. It’s also just fun to extend a unique theme as long as you can.
In this case, go ahead and select save the dates and wedding invitations that either match or both belong to the same category. You can buy both items from the same design suite or opt for a modern save the date with futuristic undertones and go full sci-fi when it's time to send out invites.
3. You Prefer All Your Stationery Matches
The best reason to go with matching save the dates and wedding invitations is because you prefer it that way. Some people just like it when all their wedding stationery syncs up. Maybe you want to create a wedding scrapbook or shadow box later on and think it’ll look better if every paper item has the same motif. Maybe too many differing colors or contrasting design elements makes you anxious.
Whatever the reason, just remember that while save the dates and wedding invitations don’t have to match, they certainly can. The ball is in your court.
Finally, remember that the average guest is unlikely to notice or even care whether your save the dates and wedding invitations match. They’ve had your save-the-date magnet on their fridge for months, and getting your invitation in the mail is new and exciting. They’re ripping open the envelope to read up on your venue choice and whether they’ll get chicken or fish, not racing to the fridge to hold up the two pieces of stationery side by side to see if they’re a perfect match.
Make this decision one of the few related to your wedding that’s completely stress free. Go with your gut, switch lanes whenever it feels right, and enjoy falling in love not only with your future spouse but potentially with two different designs that both do a stellar job representing you, your sweetheart, and all that lies ahead.