Yo, Heads-Up! Save The Dates
Save the Dates are kind of like a pre-invitation. The point of a Save the Date is to alert your guests to the date and city of your wedding so they can make plans to be not otherwise occupied that day and start looking at travel arrangements if they will need to make a hefty trek. If your guest list consists of people who live nearby and don’t do a lot of traveling (i.e. they aren’t likely to make plans before they get your invitations that would conflict with the wedding) you can skip them in theory (but it’s still nice to send them anywho!).
I apologize now for how many times I’m going to write out “Save the Date”…they have the unfortunate acronym of StD, and while we’re all adults here I’d really rather not have to say the phrase “I gave my friends an StD” or the worse yet “I gave my mom an StD”.
If you’re the kind of person who likes consistency and flow, it’s a good idea to go ahead and take the time to choose the invitations you’re going to want to use so you can choose either a matching or a coordinating Save the Date design. Save the Dates can be relatively informal, even if you plan on having a formal event and formal invitations, which means you can also easily get away with having Save the Dates that look nothing like your invitations.
The only actual rule to worry about for these is that you can NOT send one to someone and then not invite them to the wedding. It doesn’t matter if your relationship with that person changed, you can’t not invite them after sending them a Save the Date unless they have done something truly terrible and deplorable (much like how you can’t un-bridesmaid someone). It’s like going up to them and saying “hey I’m having this awesome party, and YOU’RE not invited!”
Beyond that, the guidelines for Save the Dates are relatively relaxed. You can’t throw etiquette to the wind, but things like the rules about addressing invitations don’t all apply here (like you don’t have to write out full names and what not, you can simply address it to “Joe Smith” instead of “Mr. Joseph Smith”). You don’t even have to send one to everyone who’s on your current draft of the guest list. If you’re afraid there may be situations where you’d have to cut someone (whether that’s for budget reasons or other conflicts), you don’t have to send them a Save the Date, thus avoiding violating the above rule should something happen.
There doesn’t need to be a lot of detail, which is nice because there’s a good chance you will still be working out some of the details by the time you have to send these out. As a matter of fact, I’d actually avoid using a lot of details simply because it’s quite possible that plans will need to change. Simply include your names, the date, the city, and the URL to your wedding website if you have one. It is also customary to add the phrase “Formal Invitations to Follow” to the end to avoid confusion. Most timelines will recommend you send out Save the Dates about 6 months in advance. We sent ours out closer to the 8 month mark simply because my entire family is flying in from various parts of the country and they were already starting to make summer plans. Don’t send them more than 10 months out, but if you have an incredibly busy social circle where more notice is better you can get away with 8 to 10 months without looking ridiculous.
Since most people will coordinate their Save the Dates with their invitations, and that is in fact what we did, I’ll write up the post about choosing invitations next/very soon.