Save the Date Etiquette

Save the date etiquette ties into a lot of other types of practical etiquette including dinner invitation etiquette and wedding invitation etiquette. Save the date cards announce to your guests a special event well in advance of the planned date. This allows people to set up travel plans, get time off from work, and arrange for child or pet care if applicable. These cards prove particularly valuable if you live in an area where booking flights or hotels gets difficult at various times of the year due to weather or local tourist fluxes.

Let’s look at a couple examples. Wedding save the date cards should go out between 4 and 6 months in advance of the wedding. However, if you’re having your affair in a "destination" like Hawaii, give people a year’s notice. That’s going to require saving funds for travel on top of other necessary arrangements. By comparison, a save the date card for a graduation party could go out at 3 months time provided most guests are local.

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Because save the date etiquette dictates these cards may NOT be used in lieu of an actual invitation, they don’t have to be as strict as an invitation – no matter how formal the planned event may be. You can choose a design and size that fits your budget and your personality. It’s one area where practical etiquette allows for wiggle room so long as the basic rules of good taste apply.

As with dinner etiquette, your save the date cards need to include all the basic information your guests really need to know. You want your name, the date of the gathering, the occasion being celebrated, and the location for the main event. If this is a black tie or white tie affair, you may want to include that information as a courtesy so people who don’t have formal attire have time to acquire it. Also, so that people do not mistake the Save the Date card as a “proper” invitation, have a note on the bottom stating, “invitation to follow.”

In considering to whom to send Save the Date cards, for a wedding close friends and family should receive these first. This is doubly true if you have a limited guest list due to your budget. Similarly, follow up with these people with the formal invitation before you send out your secondary list. Hint: statistics indicate that 5-10% of individuals who do not R.S.V.P. or who said they could not come will actually show up. 15 percent of those who said yes to the R.S.V.P. will not make it. Use those figures to keep your actual guest list on target.

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Some courtesy items in save the date etiquette include offering guests information that can help them with travel, hotels, local sites, and directions. This is particularly true for weddings. Do a little research and see if you can find a travel company that will give you a group discount, and then include the contact information for that company on the Save the Date card. This benefits everyone. Your guests won’t worry about their arrangements as much, and you’ll know they’ll make it on time!

Follow up your Save the Date card with a suitable invitation about 2 months before a wedding. You can shorten this time for less formal affairs. However, less than three weeks is considered a tad “rushed” no matter the occasion. Think of your own schedule. How long does it take you to schedule a dinner for several friends with different responsibilities? If you use the basic knowledge about friends and family invited, your Save the Date etiquette won’t fail you.

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