Every couple approaches their wedding planning in different ways. Some couples prefer to let a wedding planner take the reigns and plan each aspect for them, while others must stay in control of even the most minute details. As there are differences in the how every couple plans their big day, there's also many variations on the when you should accomplish different tasks in the planning process. And, the timeline for planning begins with the day that you get engaged—not when you announce your engagement to your family and friends—and ends with the wedding day itself. While this all seems obvious, it's worth remembering because time moves quickly and your big day will come up before you know it!
Timelines are important to us here at Little Woman Design, and we have made it part of our process to develop a timeline for each and every one of our clients who want customized stationery. With every wedding and wedding planning experience being unique, it's difficult coming up with a one-size-fits-all timeline. However, we thought it would be helpful to offer our advice on when different pieces of stationery should be designed and ready to go. After all, it's great to dream of having a wedding theme that carries through your wedding, from the save the dates to the seating cards, but you may not be able to realize the dream if you wait until the month before your wedding!
We have outlined one timeline with both a 12-month and 6-month starting time. We certainly do not want to discourage couples who have less than 6 months until their wedding day, but we want to offer a realistic approach to planning your custom designed wedding stationery! The timelines we have developed assume that you want save the dates, wedding invitations, thank you cards, and other miscellaneous customizations.
12-months/6 months: Interview and hire your Wedding Stationer/Graphic Designer. Your guests will need to know the details of your wedding: where is it, what are the menu options, how formal is it. Unless your planning on inviting your guests using Facebook or an Evite (but this is your once in a lifetime wedding, not a bar-b-que!), you are going to need to communicate these details to your guests! Some couples forget that it's just as important to meet and hire a stationer around the same time as your photographer, venue, or caterer. After all, it is your graphic designer who will carry your theme, color palette, etc. throughout the entire planning process and your wedding day. During your first meeting, you will also want to come up with a list of the printed items you need for your wedding day, so that your stationer can come up with a comprehensive proposal.
6-12 months: Send out your save the date. There are several factors that go into when and if you should send a save the date. Most books and advice columns concentrate upon one—how many guests are you inviting from out of town? If you are inviting quite a large number of out-of-town guests who would need to make arrangements to get to your wedding, then you should send them out a year in advance. We are going to also advocate for another reason to send out your save the date early—when are you planning to get married? Are you marrying during the summer months when people normally plan their vacation time a year in advance? Are you marring on on a holiday or over a holiday weekend? In these instances, the sooner you send out your save the date the better! One final reason to decide upon sending out your save the date would be to do something fun and whimsical which you might not normally consider doing for your formal wedding invitation.
6-9 months: Design your wedding invitation set. Would you like letterpress or digital printing? Embossed or engraved? 100% recycled or 100% cotton (also eco-friendly) paper? There are so many options to choose from, and it would be best to start early so that you get exactly what you want in a wedding invitation. As an engaged couple, you should be able to let your designer know what you'd like, and let them present to you the best way in keeping with your budget to accomplish it.
4-5 months: Calligraphy. Yes, you can address your invitations yourself, but you're going to have enough to do in the months leading up to your wedding! Trust us, between addressing thank you cards and potentially save the dates, you will more than have your fill of writing out addresses. Nothing classes up an invitation set more than having calligraphy for at least your outer envelope. When your guests receive their invitation, they'll be wowed from the get go, and not likely to leave the invitation unopened on their hallway table. Outside of selecting different lettering styles, you can customize the color ink used as well. Imagine a black envelope with white calligraphy! Calligraphy takes time, so you should plan on getting your envelopes to your calligrapher around the 4 month mark to ensure that you have enough time.
3 months: Send out invitations. Sure, you want to get your invitations out so that your guests can decide between the Surf and Turf or the Pan Roasted Wild Salmon. But the other reason you need to send out those invitations at the 3 month mark is so that you can have your RSVP deadline set to 6 weeks before your wedding. Why? You're going to need to know a total head count, and probably a count of the number of dishes as well to provide to your caterer or venue. But, it's not just meals that hinge on your final count! Table numbers, quantity of centerpieces, even the size of your wedding cake all rest on your final tally. And, no matter how much you will wish it is not the case, you will need to allot yourself enough time to track those stragglers down who haven't returned their RSVPs.
2 months: Thank you cards. While you may think you don't need your thank you cards until after the wedding, you will be surprised at how many wedding gifts you will receive before the wedding—even from guests who are planning to attend the big event! Getting your thank you cards early will mean that you can make a small dent in writing them out. One caveat: if a guest does plan on coming to your wedding and gives you a gift prior, it may still be a good idea to send the thank you out after the wedding so that you can include how appreciative you are of the fact that they attended your wedding.
3-8 weeks: Miscellaneous customizations. Whether you want a custom designed seating card, or one hand lettered, you won't be able to have them done until after you get your RSVPs as you will need to know both the names of the guests coming as well as the table number they are sitting at. Or, maybe you want tags for your wedding favors, a custom made footer for your photo booth picture, or your own personalized cocktail napkins. While the designs of these items should have been done weeks before this timeframe, you should be taking delivery of the majority of these items at least one or two weeks prior to the wedding day.
We hope these tips will help you with getting the wedding stationery of your dreams! While this may seem overwhelming, it is up to your wedding stationer/graphic designer to devise a timeline for you! It will help make this part of your wedding planning experience a fun and stress-free one!
Special thanks to Lynda Asprinio from Write Away for You for providing us with the calligraphy photograph used in this article, as well as being Little Woman Design's go-to person for our client's calligraphy needs!
Have a question about devising a timeline? Want to know how long it will take to have a custom illustrated save the date created? Post a comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We'd be happy to hear from you and answer any of your questions!
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