You may have only just said "yes," but chances are you're already thinking about everything that has to be taken care of before you say "I do." Organizing and planning a wedding can be quite an undertaking -- and one that involves a lot of paper!
If you want anyone to know where to go, what to do or how much you love a particular wedding gift, you need to send out a series of invitations, announcements and thank-you cards. And we're not talking about Evites or any other kind of paperless, electronic invitations. Your wedding stationery suite will contain multiple postage-ready pieces, mementos and various cards and handouts that are collectively considered a wardrobe of sorts.
From the pieces that get addressed and stamped to those that are set out at the ceremony and reception, here's what you need to know.
Adhering to Theme
Not every piece of your stationery suite will require postage, but most, if not all, of your paper wardrobe should conform to the same color scheme and unifying theme.
So, for example, if you're planning a Valentine's Day wedding, you don't have to include hearts and cupids on all of your stationery, but you could feature red and white prominently, use a unifying font and select the same material or grade of paper stock for all your stationery pieces.
These similarities will unite the suite and help it support your overall wedding theme. It's also easier to find a single stationery theme and stick with it than to come up with new ideas for all your pieces.
As soon as you've decided on the date for your big day, you can send out save-the-date cards to all your prospective guests. These cards are more of an announcement than an invitation, but you shouldn't send them to anyone who might not make the final guest list (you are telling them to save the date, after all).
If you've already chosen a design and theme for your stationery suite, all you have to do is add names and addresses to your save-the-date cards and stick them in the mail. They're usually informal and are often sent sans envelope as a postcard. If you've yet to select a design, send out cards that somehow invoke the spirit or theme of your pending nuptials -- maybe a snowy landscape if you're getting married around the holidays, or a beach scene if you're getting hitched by the ocean.
Save-the-date cards should include the couple's names, the date of the wedding and, if possible, the location. If you two haven't agreed on where you'll say "I do," just give as much information as you can. Mentioning the fact that you're planning to be wed in Virginia or on a tropical island will help your guests make arrangements, even if they're not exactly sure where they're going yet. You should also include the promise of a future, formal invitation and the address of your wedding Web site if you have one.
Wedding invitations are like the diamond in your ring setting -- they're what everybody is waiting to see! Plus, they'll probably be the only piece of your stationery suite that your guests will remember. Unlike that shiny rock on your finger, however, your wedding invitations will provide the people on your invite list with more than just gossip-ready information.
Your invites will contain your names; the date, time and exact location of the event; and the hosts' names. Inside the invite's inner envelope, you'll tuck an RSVP card with a stamped, self-addressed return envelope. You'll also want to include maps, directions and lodging information on a separate insert, even if you already sent out accommodation cards.
Many wedding invitations also include separate reception cards if the reception information isn't listed on the main invite. Reception cards may simply say, "Please join us for dinner and dancing at [your location]," or they may be printed with detailed directions to the venue. These are a must for any bride who'd rather form a conga line than a search party, as it's easy for out-of-town guests to get lost in unfamiliar territory.
Schedule of Events or Itinerary Cards
They may add a bit to the cost of your wedding stationery suite, but if you're having a destination wedding or nuptials that are more of a multiday celebration, itinerary cards can save you -- or your parents --- a fortune in the long run.
These cards act as miniature event calendars by listing the locations, dates and times of all wedding-related happenings. Included response cards let you know in advance which events your guests will and will not be attending, so you don't have to reserve a boat for 200 people on the off chance that everyone would like to go deep-sea fishing. Your guests will also appreciate knowing the events to which they'll be treated and which ones they'll have to pay for themselves.
Your itinerary cards don't have to be too detailed. You'll want to list the location and time of the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, ceremony, reception and send-off brunch (that is, if you're having all those events). And if just a portion of your guests will be invited to those events, don't send the cards to everyone! You can have a separate set printed for your wedding party and family, or include an insert with official wedding business for those who have roles to fill and places to be.
Like a memento from an opera house, a ball game or an upscale rock concert, wedding programs are keepsakes of your ceremony for you and your guests. They can be as simple as a single sheet of paper or a small, bound booklet. At minimum, the program will list the date, location, time and order of events of the ceremony, as well as the names of the bridal party and their relationships to the bride and groom. In booklets, there's often an explanation of the ceremony and a statement of thanks given to the hosts.
Printing photos is a pricier option, but some couples will include pictures of themselves as children, or their engagement picture or some romantic image (wedding rings and roses are popular choices) printed on an overlaying slip of vellum.
Menu and Place Cards
The number of menus and place cards at your wedding will be dictated in large part by the formality of your ceremony.
If you're having a casual, DIY kind of affair, it's fine to just leave a single menu on each table for multiple guests to share.
Every guest gets their own menu at formal weddings with fully serviced seated dinners, and place cards tell people where to sit regardless if you're dining on banquet tables or plastic patio furniture.
If you're looking to subtly shake up your table settings (and save a bit on dinner-related stationery costs), try combining the menus and place cards into a single document that lets your guests know both where to sit and what to eat.
Wedding menus typically give guests a choice of two or more dishes from which to choose as well as wine and beverage options. If there's a special story or romantic reason a dish is being served, a brief explanation may also be provided. Place cards list the names of the guests and their table numbers, and though they're usually left at the center of each place setting, they're sometimes found in unexpected places. Instead of placing cards on the table or on top of an empty plate, you may tie them to chairs, balloons, flowers or anything else.
Signage and Favor Tags
If you're planning on handing out favor baskets or bags at the reception, you're going to want to include tags of some sort. A brief statement of thanks is common, such as "Thank you for being a part of our special day!" though many couples just include their names and the date.
Thank You Cards
Once the wedding is over, the honeymoon is done and you've started to settle into your life as a married couple, it'll be time to send out the thank-yous. If you're going with monogrammed cards (as many modern brides do), you're going to need two different sets: One with your maiden name (or initials) for the gifts you receive before the wedding, and another set with your married name for those you receive on or after the big day. Of course, if you decided to keep your name, you'll only need one set, though you may still want to separate them into before and after cards, if only to help you keep track of which notes you need to send out first.
Like anything else that's wedding-related, compiling a complete wedding stationery suite may seem somewhat intimidating. It's one of those little items that may be an afterthought or a nice touch for your guests, but it will likely require a lot of time, attention and work to get right. However, as long as you have fun with it and don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed, selecting a stationery "wardrobe" can be almost as enjoyable as choosing your wedding dress -- and you won't have to worry about how those envelopes fit in a few years!
- The Knot. "Save-the-Dates: Etiquette Q & A." 2010. (Sept. 12, 2010).http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/save-the-dates/articles/save-the-dates-etiquette.aspx
- Hello Lucky. "Wedding Etiquette: Your Complete Wedding Stationery Checklist." 2010. (Sept. 12, 2010).http://www.hellolucky.com/wedding-invitation-checklist.html