It has become a wedding etiquette must to send out save-the-date cards informing guests of your upcoming wedding date and location. This is so they have plenty of notice and can make their travel plans accordingly. In some cases, receiving a save-the-date card is a guest's first notice that you are engaged, so there's a great deal of interest in making this stationery item attractive and personalized to convey the excitement of your big news.
Brides and grooms love to design stylish save-the-date cards using the current trendy colors, patterns and layouts. Letterpress is popular now, as are floral motifs, stripes, chevron patterns and fun fonts that announce a wedding with flair. And just as with wedding invitations, there are several essential etiquette rules that go along with the design of a great save-the-date card:
--Include both the bride's and the groom's first and last names. If guests were to receive a card saying "Sarah and David are getting married!" they might not know which of the many Sarahs and Davids they know are the bride and groom. It's best to make it absolutely clear who you are and who you're marrying.
--Include the year of the wedding. People know that wedding dates can be set a year or two in advance, so it's important that they know whether your Sept. 17 wedding is in 2013 or 2014.
--You don't have to write out the date of the wedding in full formality as you would in a wedding invitation (Sunday, the fourth of May, two thousand thirteen). It's OK to use numerals (5-4-13) in an attractive font, even if you are having a very formal wedding.
--"Don't be too informal in your save-the-date design style if you will have a formal wedding," says renowned celebrity invitation designer Ceci Johnson. Guests look to the save-the-date card to get a feel for the formality of a wedding. So a very informal save-the-date card with, say, a circus-theme design won't do the best job of letting guests know to expect a very formal, dressed-up celebration. Formality can be conveyed in a simple yet elegant card, with a formal font choice. Color in cards is OK for any degree of formality, so if you'd like to send a coral-colored save-the-date card, you're perfectly within the rules of etiquette.
--It's OK, and advisable, to provide the URL of your personal wedding website. Guests will want to find out more about the location and how to get to your wedding ceremony and reception, and they'll also find on your personal wedding website the links to the bridal registries they may use to get your gifts. The URL can be printed on the bottom or back of the card along with "For more information, visit our wedding website at..." but not "To find out where we're registered for gifts, go to..." There should be no mention of gifts on this wedding stationery item, just as etiquette states that there should be no mention of gifts on a wedding invitation.
--Be 100 percent sure of your guest list before you send save-the-date cards. It's bad etiquette to ask guests to save the day for your wedding and then not invite them to the wedding.
--Design or order your save-the-date cards as soon as possible. Johnson warns against starting your search too late and then rushing to design and order, not giving guests enough notice. "I always advise as soon as you book your venue and wedding date, book your save-the-date/wedding-invitation designer," says Johnson.
--Address your save-the-date cards to the guests who will be invited. That means if you plan to have an adults-only wedding reception, you'll address the save-the-date card to Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Smith -- or Elaine and Jeffrey Smith, if you wish. Guests will then realize that it's just the couple invited to the wedding, not their children. If you wish to invite a couple with their children, you'll address the save-the-date card to Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Smith and Family. That's code for "kids are invited." Another etiquette-OK addressing option is to write Elaine and Jeffrey Smith, with their children's names written below theirs.
--Just be sure you address your save-the-date invitations with the correct spellings of guests' names and that you are updated on how many children those guests now have. It's a too common etiquette flub to leave off the names of guests' youngest kids of whom you weren't aware. Check with in-the-know relatives to get the scoop on kids' names -- and also on whether couples are still together. It would be an awful etiquette faux pas to invite a guest with his or her ex or departed spouse.
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.