Working Backward for the Perfect Save the Date

Nearly 40 percent of engagements occur between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, and if you’re one of those people, I say, “Congrats!” But also, “Hold your horses on that save the date.”

It makes sense that you want to announce your new engagement to the world—and make sure all your friends and family know to start planning ahead for you wedding. Time and time again though, brides come into the studio months after they sent out their save the date. They fall in love with an invitation look and feel, but it doesn’t flow at all with what they sent for their save the date. They want a branded, cohesive look, but that proverbial ship has sailed. With just a little bit of patience and planning, this could have been a different scenario.

Your save the date should not define the look of your invitation. It should be the other way around.

Most brides also want to coordinate all the other paper products at their wedding: the menus, programs, place cards and welcome notes they leave their guests. Creating consistency between all these products has a lovely design appeal but creating consistency between your save the date and invitation can also be a major favor to your guests.

When the ink, paper, font and colors—and especially the formality—of your invitation and save the date are consistent, it helps brand the wedding in your guests’ minds. They’ll have a better understanding of whether it’s a formal or casual event and what type of couple you are.

With a funny engagement photo; open san-serif font; bright color scheme and a reply post card, your guests will know they’re in for a casual affair. If your save the date is low-key and informal, but your invitation traditional and very classic, guests might have a hard time knowing exactly what you mean by ‘Semi-formal Attire’ or even what kind of gift to give. 

Coordinating these pieces really does show concern for your guests and that you want to help them be as comfortable as possible. After all, in the words of Brene Brown, “To be unclear is to be unkind.”

If you really want a perfect save the date, I recommend making design decisions regarding your invitations even before your engagement photo session. Engagement photos are wonderful, but most people get them for their save the date cards. So why wouldn’t you want to know ahead of time whether your card is going to be vertically or horizontally oriented, how much white space you need at the top or bottom and what color clothes to wear?

Typically, I like to have a clear vision of where we’re going in terms of style, colors, fonts and overall design of invitation before anything else. Then we work backward towards a save the date: applying those design elements to create a coordinating save the date. I’ll ask clients to email me their top three to five favorite photos from their engagement session, and I’ll design the save the date using their fonts and inks, integrating the photo into the mood/feel that works best.

Just another helpful hint: here are some timelines and the basic information you’ll need to start the design work on your invitation and save the date (You’ll need much more info to finish the invitation!).

Save the Date

Mail by: 6 months to a year before wedding (no more than 1 year before, at least 2 months before invitation)

Design time: 2 weeks
Print time: 1 week
What info you need:
·      Date
·      Location (at least city and state)
·      Engagement photo session scheduled (ideally soon after we meet or even prior to meeting)
·      An idea of the wedding formality

When to start designing: 7 months to a year before the wedding


Mail by: 8-10 weeks before wedding (mail is unreliable, give more than the 3 weeks for reply!)

Design time: 1 month
Print time: 2 weeks
What info you need:
·      Date
·      Location (at least city and state)
·      Idea of the wedding formality
·      Idea of number of invitations you’ll need  
·      Whether you’re doing buffet or seated dinner

When to start designing: 4-7 months before the wedding

If you’re a bit behind schedule, that’s okay. Click here to schedule an appointment with us, and we’ll help get you back on track. We are currently working on late spring and summer weddings, along with a few fall…let’s get rolling together!