There are as many different ways to plan a wedding as there are weddings, so my thesis here isn’t that there’s a correct WAY to plan your wedding or your wedding invitations, just that there might be an efficient order in which to make whatever decisions you’re going to make. As you’re beginning to plan, it’s wise to keep your timeline in mind, make your decision about the format of your invitations before you get too far along, and to keep the details that will inform your invitations in mind.
Invitation Format: Print or Digital?
There are a whole lot of decisions that go into an invitation, but one of the first decisions to make is whether you plan to mail your invitations, or send them via email. This choice will affect your timeline, your budget, and how you manage your guest list and other details. There are many different ways to approach both of these types of invitations, so narrowing down your format first helps you eliminate some of the options right away!
Determining a Timeline
Paper invitations are usually sent so that they arrive 6-8 weeks before the wedding day, but they can be sent as much as 3 months in advance, to give guests ample time to plan. If you know you have guests that will be traveling long distances, it’s nice to let them know as soon as you have the date secured, either by sending some sort of Save the Date announcement, or just by talking to them!
If you’re hiring someone to design your invitations, they may have a turnaround time of 3 to 6 weeks, or sometimes longer depending on the complexity of the invitations and their production process. Some designers are booked out months and months in advance. A lot goes into custom letterpress printing and other specialized techniques. Adding calligraphy will extend your timeline even further, because it takes time to write things by hand! This means that if you’re interested in custom invitations, especially if you have your hearts set on working with someone specific, it would be totally reasonable to start reaching out 6-9 months before your wedding.
If you’re planning to DIY printed invitations, or order from a line of standard invitation designs, you’ll want to account for printing and shipping timelines, so you might start trying to lock down some details and decisions around 4 months before your wedding.
Digital invitations make timing a little less of a concern, because many platforms will allow you to make your own updates to existing templates – you could theoretically DIY your invitations and send them the same day.
The basic goal of an invitation is something like “I’m having a party, can you come?”, but often weddings are complicated enough events that we end up also needing (or wanting) to use the invitation to communicate information about lodging, travel, and other logistics as well as to collect information about guests, dietary restrictions and/or choices, and maybe even attendance at related events like rehearsal dinners and brunches.
You will have a much easier time, however you plan to make or have your invitations made, if you can sketch out ahead of time the information you need to communicate and the information you need to collect. This will help inform your timeline, too, since the details of these different pieces will come together at different times. This is a great time to get parents or other relatives involved, because you might discover that someone has strong feelings about specific wording, or that your rehearsal dinner venue doesn’t quite fit everyone you thought you were inviting.
Of course, all of this decision making is helpful, but not a required pre-requisite to working with a designer! If you have a question about invitations, the invitation design process, or any of the things I mentioned in this post, you can get in touch by email, post your question on my Facebook page, or track me down on Instagram.
This is part one of a series on Planning your Wedding Invitations, you can also read part two: A wedding invitation reality check.