The Stationery Timeline

"How far in advance do I need to order my save the dates and wedding invitations?"

This is a question that it seems there are many different opinions on. Well, now you're going to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. The fact of the matter is that it really varies, and for the most part depends on 2 things - 1) Where you are ordering them from and 2) The design, as in already pre-designed vs something custom made. We'll get in to that discussion in a minute, but first things first. If you're sending out a save the date, no matter where you get it from, this should most likely be done 6-12 months from your wedding date. Now on to invitations...

So you've found a design online or from a big box store that you love - great! This will save you plenty of time and money for sure. But be careful, is it really the quality that you would expect for the most important invitation that you will ever send in your life? Maybe so, but always always always order a sample before you order all 100 { or however many } invitations that you need. OK I've digressed a little, but I had to give my little disclaimer because I always favor working closely with an actual human being over a computer screen, but I may be biased { just a little }. Now back to timelines. If you were lucky enough to find a design that you love and is of good quality online or in a big box store, you can more than likely get away with ordering your invitations 8-12 weeks before your mailing date. This equivalates to 4-5 months before your wedding date. Though these will most likely arrive within 2 or 3 weeks, you still have to plan for all the unknowns, and for goodness sake - allow time for addressing, stuffing, and stamping your envelopes! This is a task that literally everryyyy bride and groom underestimate. Whether you've hired a calligrapher, someone (hey, like us!) to print the envelopes, or you're writing them out yourself, allow at least a couple weeks to get all of this done { unless you have a small army helping you }. I could go on, but then this post wouldn't be about timelines would it?

Opposite the above scenario, you've decided you're like most couples that I get to work with, that there is no perfect cookie cutter invitation suite combination already out there online or in stores to suit your unique taste, colors, or vision. Or you just want to work with another living, breathing, caring person on your invitations { again, I'm biased, what do you expect? }. This process is a little different, actually a lot different, than just picking an invitation out of a lineup. We first take the time to meet and discuss what you like and want, making sure that our vision fits with your vision, and just as importantly, your budget. Then there's the actual designing, which doesn't happen overnight unfortunately, believe me I wish it did. I might be a perfectionist and may take a little longer than others, but rest assured that when you receive your proofs they have had lots of my attention and love! After you receive proofs, the timeline is kind of transferred into your hands, since the time that you take to decide on edits is entirely up to you. This can sometimes draw out the process longer than expected, which is why so much allotted time is recommended. Then we order your custom paper/materials that you picked and wait for them to arrive if we don't already have them in stock. Then there's print and production, during which actual people are hand assembling and making sure that everything looks perfect. So what is the timeframe on something like this? If you decide to go the designer route, order your invitations no later than 6 months from your wedding date, the more time the better. Seem too far in advance? Let's break it down...

Timeline Chart

When I have this discussion with brides, it's easier to think about it starting from your wedding date and go backwards. You'll want to send out your invitations 6-8 weeks from your wedding date, even farther out if - 1) you didn't mail save the dates, 2) if your wedding is on a holiday weekend or popular travel time, or 3) if it is a destination wedding requiring booking travel. So, right off the bat that's around 2 months out from your wedding, you have to allow time for your guests to mail back their responses after all. So when deciding on a timeline determine what your desired respond by and mail out dates are first and then apply the turnaround times { to recap 2-3 months for pre-designed orders and 4-6 months for custom orders }. So just to continue with our example, let's pretend you go the custom route and you want your guests to respond one month before the wedding, so you mail your invitations out 8-10 weeks, or 2.5 months, before your wedding. Prior to mailing them you took 2 weeks having them addressed, stuffed, and stamped. So now we're at 3 months out. Before that the invitations spent a week coming in the mail to you, and about a month in print and production. So now we're at a little over 4 months out. Before print and production, you spent about 2 months proof editing by sending the proofs out to your mother, your in-laws, and your BFF, all going back and forth about what changes should be made { yes, the norm is about 1 month, but 2, 3, and even 4+ months of proof editing has been known to occur }. That puts us at 6 months out respectively. See, I told you, it all adds up so order your invitations early to avoid rushing!

Speaking of rushing, it can of course be done but you usually have to sacrifice something for it unfortunately. Whether it's perfection (maybe you have to order a less than perfect, in your opinion, invitation), money (rush fees), or time (rushing through proof editing etc.). Bottom line? Do yourself a favor and order your invitations 6+ months out to have a nice, stress-free, fun ordering experience with no sacrificing!

And if all of those numbers and timelines are still swirling around in your head? Well, here's a lovely little visual shown by month to help you out:

Timeline Chart by Month

I'd love to say that these charts and timelines apply to every situation, but unfortunately they don't. You are the ultimate timeline-maker for your big day, and only you know when is really best to complete these tasks. But hopefully this will at least give you something to go off of when deciding!