You've just gotten engaged and now you have a wedding to plan: ceremony, dress, dinner, flowers, cake, music, favors, hotel blocks -- the only thing you think about is your wedding. However, as special as it is, your wedding is not the only thing your guests will be thinking about, which is why it's important to send a save-the-date.
"People's schedules are extremely busy and travel is extra expensive right now, so save-the-dates sent with ample time will allow them to get you on their calendar and plan ahead," says Anna Joyce, a custom wedding-invitation designer. They are usually sent out about nine months before the big day, but can even be sent a year in advance if you are planning a destination event or your wedding will take place during the peak wedding months of May through October. You just need names, the date, the city and, ideally, the URL for your wedding Web site which provides guests with information regarding travel and hotels so that they can get started right away and maybe save themselves some money.
But as simple as the information is, try not to think of these little reminders as just another item to check off on your to-do list. From origami fortune tellers that open to reveal the details for an urban extravaganza, to a packet of real flower seeds with a customized label for a country wedding, clever save-the-dates set the tone for your wedding and get your guests excited.
"It's fun to match your save-the-date to the season in which it will takes place," suggests Sharon Naylor, author of 35 wedding books, including "The Essential Guide to Wedding Etiquette" (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2005), which usually makes for a memorable contrast to the season in which it is sent. For example, if you are having a December wedding, you can have "Christmas in July" by sending an ornament that has been embossed with the save-the-date info. Or, for a July wedding, send something bright and cheerful during the cold winter months, such as a pair of plastic sunglasses from the dollar store that have the wedding info printed on the lenses. Or, for a destination wedding at a warm-weather locale, send a small, travel-size bottle of sunscreen with a personalized label.
Craft stores and label makers make it easy to assemble all sorts of personalized reminders, but if you're feeling really creative and have a little extra time, put today's technology to good use. If you and your sweetie are movie buffs, make a short film about your engagement and then send out copies of the DVD. Or, says Joyce, make a mixed CD of dance hits and tell your guests that they better get ready to party. You could even assemble a "secret mission" spy kit, suggests Naylor, using a voice recorder to create individual tapes with the message that the guest's mission is to attend your wedding, and then provide them with a secret password and tell them to destroy the tape. The kit could also include a pen or a pair of cheap, dark sunglasses that direct the guest to your Web site.
But there are other clever ideas that won't take nearly so much time or money.
"I think it's really cute to send a bookmark; you can make it yourself with heavy paper and a silk ribbon at the top," says Joyce. You also can DIY the classic save-the-date refrigerator magnetic with three-dimensional clear, plastic bubbles behind which you affix a picture and your text with Mod Podge, a smooth glue that dries clear. The same method works for paperweights or even coasters -- practical items that will keep your wedding info in plain sight.
Other fun, quirky ideas include assembling miniature passports with a blank space that says "Your Picture Here" for a destination wedding, sending little boxes with fortune cookies that contain the wedding info inside along with a line like "Come help us share in our good fortune," and stocking up on dollar bills and spending an hour at a photo booth, taking pictures while holding up a save-the-date sign, suggests Joyce.
The options really are endless, especially when you consider the more traditional and pretty reminder route, as well, so take a little time and think about it.
In fact, although you want to get your save-the-dates out as early as possible to make attending easier on your guests, it's extremely important to hold back until you're location is secured and your guest list is finalized, warns Naylor, as you may end up needing to change your initial guest list due to budget constraints or location limitations.
"It is extremely poor etiquette not to invite someone to your wedding after you sent them a save-the-date," says Naylor. "Once the save-the-dates are out, you no longer get to cut people out; you simply have to start cutting plans."
So take a serious, focused look at that guest list and then let your imagination run wild.