I’ve read so many generic guides to buying wedding stationery on the internet. Some are outdated, many ignore DIY brides and there’s no single article out there which considers all the options – so I’ve put together a simple guide to help you work out when to order your wedding stationery, whatever style you choose and wherever you’re ordering it from!
A comprehensive guide to ordering wedding invitations: when, what & why
Save the Date?
Save the Date cards are an optional extra. You don’t necessarily need them, but they can be nice if:
- you’re getting married abroad
- or in holiday time
- or just to send to key people who absolutely have to be at your wedding!
Send Save the Dates up to a year in advance. Any longer and you risk guests forgetting all about them.
Send your invitations between 3 months and 6 weeks before your big day. The important thing is to remember you’ll need to buy your invitations weeks beforehand:
Off the shelf
Buy off the shelf invitations at least 4 weeks before you plan to send them. If you’re shopping from a high street retailer they might run low on stocks or change their designs; if you’re buying online even off the shelf invitations might have a few weeks leadtime.
Order designer invitations 2 – 3 months before you plan to send them. Popular independent designers (via Not On The High St, Etsy, etc.) will book up quickly and may not have availability if you leave it too late. Getting your name down in the designer’s diary will ensure you don’t miss out on your favourites.
If you’re making your own wedding invitations you’ll still need to buy all the bits and pieces 2 – 3 months before you plan to send them. Allow plenty of time to make them as well: even simple designs will take a couple of full weekends to make up. Printing inserts, glueing embellishments and stuffing envelopes is surprisingly time consuming and takes up lots of space, especially if any glue needs time to dry!
On the day wedding stationery
What will you need?
Often wedding venues provide some or all of your on the day stationery. Here’s a quick list of the items you could have – but you’ll rarely need them all, and if you’re on a budget you shouldn’t feel any pressure to spend on any of these!
- table plan
- table name / number cards
- place cards
- escort cards (often instead of table plan / place cards / favour tags)
- orders of service / orders of the day
- welcome signs
- other signs (e.g. “please sign our guest book”)
When should you order on the day wedding stationery?
Again timings will depend on where your stationery will come from. Most often couples will make their own, so we’ll begin with DIY:
DIY on the day stationery
I’d suggest about 8 weeks to buy and make your on the day stationery. Allow longer than you think, and be flexible! Plan which items to make when: the table plan will have last minute changes (almost every time!) so leave it until a couple of weeks before BUT don’t do it the week before as you’ll have a lot to do already! It’s a good idea to allow a full day per ‘make’ – so a day for your escort cards, a day for favour tags, a day for table planners etc.
Off the shelf reception stationery
If personalisation is required then allow 6 weeks for off the shelf stationery like place names, tags, table plans. Buying the stationery itself is the easy part; adding names by hand still takes a long time so don’t get caught out! And bear in mind that even the big suppliers let their stocks run low sometimes so if you have your heart set on matching stationery from Paperchase, M&S etc please don’t leave it too late!
Designer on the day stationery
Ideally reserve your slot for designer stationery at least 12 – 8 weeks in advance of your wedding. If you’re getting married in the busy wedding seasons (June – September, or December) book a long time in advance. Stationery designers will be very busy over peak periods, especially the most popular. If your on the day stationery is complex and you’ll need to see design proofs, consider how long you’ll need to approve them.
The most important thing is to plan which stationery items you’d like to have (and discard those you definitely don’t need) and order in plenty of time. Knowing there will be no delays means a stress-free process for all your wedding stationery, whether you’re trusting it all to an experienced designer or looking forward to the challenge of DIY!