When Is It Too Early to Send Save The Dates?

Save the date laying flat next to ribbon and green eacalyptus.

You’re engaged, you’re happier than you’ve ever been, and you can’t wait to get this whole marital show on the road. That kind of eagerness is utterly endearing, but jumping the gun on your wedding checklist may not be as beneficial as you think.

Much like relationships, wedding planning is all about timing. Here’s what you need to know about save the dates, including when to send them and why putting them in the mail too early is a bad idea.

What Are Save the Dates?

Save the date card on top of envelope next to eucalyptus.

Save the Dates are notifications you send to potential wedding guests to let them know you and your partner have gotten engaged and you’ve picked a wedding date. While you may not know your exact venue yet or even what time the ceremony will take place, clueing in friends and family as to what date they should block off on their calendar helps ensure guests don’t accidentally double book.

Typically, save the dates include four simple but vital bits of information:

  • Your names

  • The fact that you’re getting married

  • Your wedding date

  • Where you’re getting married (city and state will do)

Most people are familiar with save the date cards that look like a smaller version of a greeting card, complete with an envelope used for mailing. But there are also more contemporary and casual formats available, including Save the Date Magnets and postcards. The format you choose is up to you. Some people prefer the privacy of an enclosed card. Others opt for a magnet that remains highly visible on recipients’ fridges and doubles as a keepsake.

When Should You Send Your Save The Dates?

Save the date on top of envelope next to green botanicals and ribbon.

For a typical wedding (meaning not one arranged last minute or set in a far-off locale), experts recommend sending out save the dates around 8-10 months before you plan to say, “I do.” This may sound early, but keep in mind that your guests have planning of their own to do.

Depending on guests’ personal situations and professional obligations, they may need to request off work, arrange for child care, make travel plans, or save up for hotel costs or your gift. You also want to have “first dibs” on your chosen date. If you wait too long to send your save the dates out, you may discover that some loved ones already have plans that are either impossible or impractical to change.

For instance, say you’ve always wanted a summer wedding. People often plan summer vacations six months to a year in advance to get good deals on resort stays or snag tickets to a big event before they’re sold out. The same idea applies to holiday weddings. Planning a Christmas wedding will always be risky because some would-be guests won’t want to travel during the holidays or will have family get-togethers that come first. But others will make the time to come and celebrate your marriage if they have enough of a head’s up to adjust their schedules accordingly.

When to Send Save the Dates for a Destination Wedding

Destination save the date laying on envelope next to eucalyptus.

If you’re planning a destination wedding, the same general save the date rules apply, but you’ll want to err on the earlier side of the window mentioned earlier. That means sending out save the dates no later than 10 months before your wedding. Some couples try to give their guests 11 months or even a year to plan. That may seem like too much time (and in some cases, it can be, as we’ll discuss shortly), but destination weddings require a lot of planning and guests need the additional months to get all their ducks in a row.

When destination weddings require guests to travel outside their current country of residence, a quick flight becomes a complex trip that may necessitate new passports, visa applications and pinching pennies to save enough money to cover plane tickets, hotel rooms, outfits for a different climate, a car rental, and other travel expenses.

Why You Shouldn’t Send Save the Dates Too Early

Flatlay of a save the date, green eucalyptus, and tan ribbon.

With all the planning guests have to do, it’s best to send out your save the dates as early as possible, right? That way, friends and family can take their time making arrangements and no one will have any excuses for not showing up on your big day.

It seems like solid logic, but sending out your save the dates too early can backfire in a big way.

Here’s why you should wait until the time is right.

It’s too early to plan properly

Send out save the dates a year in advance and it’s too early for most people to even think about asking for time off work. College students can’t approach their professor about clearing the date either, because they don’t even know what classes they’re taking two or three semesters into the future.

People are naturally forgetful

Since it’s too early to plan, prospective guests are probably going to stick the save the date in a desk drawer or tuck it into their purse where it will promptly be forgotten. It’s not intentionally disrespectful, it’s just hard for people to conceptualize where they’ll be or what they’ll have in terms of work or family commitments 12 or 14 months into the future.

Plans change

You’ve got a year to go until your proposed wedding date and you can’t wait to let people know. But then you really get stuck into wedding planning and realize your dream day isn’t in your hometown like you thought, but at a ski chalet in New England. Oops. Give yourself time to figure out what you really want and what dates are available to make that happen before you ask guests to clear their calendars.

Guest lists change, too

Many experts suggest sending out save the dates before you’ve nailed down your guest list, but this can quickly become problematic. If you ask someone to save your wedding date and afterward decide they don’t make the cut, it can come off as a major insult. If you’re not sure you want to invite your old college roommate or your parents’ neighbors you’ve only met once, don’t send them a save the date at all. Instead, wait until you’ve finalized your guest list. If those potential guests do indeed make the cut, you can send them an invitation. While they won’t have as much time to plan and may therefore be more likely to say no, let’s face it — if they were that crucial to your celebration, they wouldn’t have been on the bubble in the first place.

When to Skip the Save the Dates

Wedding invitation on top of envelope next to green eucalyptus.

There are two scenarios in which it’s a good idea to skip save the dates entirely.

The first is if you somehow work out all your wedding details as soon as you get engaged. This could happen if you have access to a family-owned wedding venue and there’s no question when and where you’ll be tying the knot. Or maybe you’re having both the ceremony and reception in your backyard, so it’s easy to just go straight to invitations and share all relevant information with guests right off the bat.

Keep in mind, though, that most venues aren’t considered fully booked until you have a signed contract, and that usually includes putting down a deposit. If you haven’t signed a contract, don’t send out invitations with that venue and date on them. It’ll cost you twice as much time and money to send out corrections if your proposed venue falls through.

The other scenario is if you plan to have a very short engagement. Say your other half proposes in September and you want to get married in January. This is common when there are other life changes in the works, such as one future spouse facing military deployment, a baby on the way, or a desire to get married before tackling a big cross-country move. Or sometimes you’re just so in love you can’t imagine waiting!

If you’re getting married in just a few months, skip the save the dates and just send out your wedding invitations. You’ll likely have to secure a venue and vendors ASAP anyway, so press fast forward on your to-do list and condense your timeline as much as possible. You can also create a custom wedding website and include that URL on your invitations. That way, any changes that happen as you sprint toward your big day can be conveyed in real time thanks to the wonders of the internet.

A Few Other Quick Save the Date Tips

Save the date next to tan ribbon, eucalyptus, and cotton.

Before you run off to customize and order your save the dates, here are a few other expert tips to help you nail both the design and the process.

  • Most etiquette experts agree that including wedding registry information on your save the date is a no-no. After all, guests aren’t even officially invited yet, so it’s not the time to start hinting at gifts.

  • Leave off details about ceremony and reception start times, dress code, and even your theme. All those things are likely to change as you search for venues and vendors, so it’s best to hold off until you’re certain you know where your wedding is going to be and what it’s going to look like.

  • Your save the dates do not have to match your invitations. They don’t even have to be the same theme. Go ahead and choose a modern, three-photograph save the date magnet now and switch it up with a vintage-inspired invitation later on. It’s totally up to you. Save the dates are considered a separate entity from the rest of your wedding stationery, so this is your chance to have fun and inject lots of personality.

  • When sending out save the dates, don’t forget your parents and your bridal party. Even though you can pretty much guarantee those people are coming, they still deserve a formal heads up and an actual invitation when the time is right too.

As important as timing is when sending out save the dates, a few weeks here or there won’t make or break your wedding planning process. Above all, know that every “oops” can be fixed. Just take a deep breath, revisit your to-do list, and decide on the best way to get back on track. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you get to meet your significant other at the end of the aisle and take the plunge together.

Looking forward to the next step after you send out save the dates? Check out our diverse collection of Wedding Invitations and create a customized design that’s perfect for you.