When Should I Send Save the Dates for a Destination Wedding?

a sign of an arrow labeled with the words “save the date” with a beach background for a destination wedding

Save-the-date cards are often the very first piece of wedding stationery you’ll buy. That makes them seem uber important — and in a way they are — but don’t let the significance of save the dates make you nervous.

Save the dates also have the fewest rules out of all the wedding stationery you’ll peruse and the most potential for fun, too. Want to include a goofy candid of you, your sweetheart, and your dog? Go for it! Have your eye on a save the date in magnet form? Brilliant idea. Interested in a photo collage postcard with cheaper postage? Check, check, and check.

But no matter what photo or design style you choose, one big question remains: When are you supposed to send them out? Timing is especially tricky when you’re planning a destination wedding, but no worries, our experts have all the info you need to get your destination save the dates designed, personalized, and mailed right on time.

A quick look at pre-wedding timelines

a woman a writes to-do list for her wedding next to laptop computer, smartphone, wedding rings, and flowers

One of the first things you should do after getting engaged is sit down with your better half and make a wedding planning checklist. This handy document will walk you backward from the actual big day, so you know when to take care of important things like choosing your wedding party, booking a venue, and yes, sending out your save the dates.

Looking at the big picture like this has several benefits. For starters, all the items on your to-do list are interconnected, so if you accidentally skip one thing, it could affect everything else. Forgetting to schedule your engagement photos a year out might not seem like a big deal, but pushing back that photo session means you also have to delay your official announcement, your save the dates, and maybe even your invitations. If your save the dates and invitations are delayed, you may get late RSVPs, which affects your catering account and maybe even your budget.

Bottom line: Stay on schedule from the beginning of the planning process and you’ll likely have a much less stressful experience overall.

When should I send save the dates for a traditional wedding?

a man puts a letter in red letterbox

For weddings in a centralized location, where most invitees are local to the venue or are only traveling a short distance, you can send out your save the dates around six to eight months before your wedding date. That’s plenty of time for guests to make travel arrangements, book hotels, and find appropriate childcare or a pet sitter for the night.

Remember that some guests also have to take time off of work or take their kids out of school. Depending on the time of year you’re holding your wedding, there may be other potential conflicts. If you want to take priority over other weddings, holiday parties, vacations, or family reunions, make sure you’re on the calendar first.

Why are destination weddings different?

a person searching for and booking a flight on their laptop computer

Destination weddings require more notice because they require more planning. Depending on the location of your ceremony and reception, guests may need to:

  1. Buy plane tickets, including potentially more expensive international fares
  2. Get a passport
  3. Book hotel rooms
  4. Rent a car
  5. Arrange for a babysitter to watch their kids at the hotel after the ceremony/during the reception
  6. Ask for extra time off work
  7. Make sure they don’t accidentally use up vacation time they’d need to attend your wedding
  8. Get SCUBA certified (okay, not a requirement, but hey, people can dream!)

For those reasons, it’s best to order save the dates for a destination wedding about 12 months before your wedding date. Then address and mail them as soon as possible but no later than 9 months before the big day. That’s enough time to get a hotel room, even at more popular destinations, ensuring your friends and family can be by your side when it’s time to celebrate.

You’ll then follow up by purchasing your Wedding Invitations six to nine months before your destination wedding and mailing them out no later than four to six months prior to your I dos. Obviously, this timeline isn’t set in stone and certain circumstances — like a short engagement — could cause things to shift. But the general idea is to give as much notice as you can so nobody has to miss out because they couldn’t get flights or score a hotel room.

What to include on the save the dates for your destination wedding

a blank yellow card surrounded by a coconut, pineapple, flowers, and pine leaves

Now you know when to send your save the dates, but it’s equally important to know what to put on those small but mighty cards.

You have lots of options in terms of save-the-date styles these days. Traditional save-the-date cards are great for couples interested in a classic look, but there are postcards and magnets available too. Experiment with styles to see what appeals to you — you may be surprised.

Then it’s time to fill in all the key details. At a minimum, that means including:

  1. Both of your names
  2. Your wedding date
  3. The location of your wedding

For couples having a non-destination wedding, including the city is usually enough information for a save the date without mentioning a specific venue. But for destination weddings, including the name of the venue may be the only way guests can properly ascertain whether they can afford the trip. After all, two resorts in Punta Cana can come with vastly different price tags. There’s also transportation to consider (both air and ground) and even dress code. Some people may not be interested in having to find their own accommodations in a strange place, but if you mention a specific all-inclusive resort in your save the date, the entire planning process seems much simpler.

Sending save the dates to your guests is a courtesy to those interested in attending your wedding, but it also helps you begin to gauge who might be interested in traveling for your nuptials. Getting the notice out early benefits everyone, especially when you’re hoping your loved ones will buy plane tickets and update their passports in order to attend.

Ready to kick off your destination wedding planning? Check out these beach-themed designs that are perfect for a romance-filled tropical getaway.