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Calligraphy, save-the-dates, invitations, thank-you notes. If any of these wedding elements or the etiquette surrounding when and how they are supposed to be handled confuses you, we are here to make it crystal clear! The Tulsa-based, two-woman calligraphy team Laurel & Marie answer all in this when-to-send etiquette guide you’ll definitely want to bookmark for later. Read on for a Q&A that will clear up any confusion you might have!

invitation etiquette

Photo // Wendy Bobarkin Photography

At what point in the planning process should a couple begin working on their invitation design?

This is a moving target that will be different for each couple! A few questions to consider:

Are you going for a custom or a semi-custom design? Fully custom designs can take up to 3 months to develop, as there’s lots of back-and-forth with your designer as you nail down the designs, paper choices and printing methods. Semi-custom designs are much quicker to see proofs (usually 1-2 weeks) because you’re not starting from scratch — you’re choosing a previously-created design and having the wording and colors tweaked to fit your event.

Are you choosing a specialty printing method or hand-calligraphed envelopes? Digital printing has a turnaround time of just a few days, whereas letterpress, foil printing and calligraphy will all add 2+ weeks to your timeline. (Don’t forget to factor in shipping time, too!)

How far in advance do you want to send your invitations? We recommend about 8 weeks before the big day for most weddings. If you haven’t sent save-the-dates or are having a destination wedding, you might tack on an extra 2-4 weeks to make sure everyone has time to make travel plans.

Add all of these considerations together, and you’ll see that it’s prudent to start working on your invitation design anywhere between 3 to 12 months before your wedding! Consider booking your stationer even further in advance (especially for custom design and/or calligraphy), as we limit the number of clients we can accommodate each month.

When should save-the-dates be sent out?

If you’re having a large wedding or a destination wedding, we recommend sending save-the-dates 9-12 months in advance so guests can ask for time off work and book accommodations if needed. For smaller weddings, six months should be plenty!

When should wedding invitations be sent out?

We recommend about 8 weeks before the big day for most weddings. If you haven’t sent save-the-dates or are having a destination wedding, you may need to tack on an extra 2-4 weeks to make sure everyone has time to make travel plans. It’s tempting to send invitations out 3 or more months in advance, but remember, you don’t want guests to lose your invitation, forget to RSVP or lose track of hotel/registry/directional information before they need it!

How far before the wedding should the RSVP date be?

Start by asking your venue and caterer when they need final numbers! Most will say 3-4 weeks before the wedding. Don’t forget to tack on at least an extra week to track down stragglers — you’d be surprised at how many people forget to RSVP! If you’re ordering day-of stationery items (escort cards, seating charts, etc.) that will be affected by your guest list, be sure to communicate the RSVP date to your stationer/calligrapher as well.

After how long post-wedding should thank you notes be mailed?

Many people insist that you have an entire year to send thank-you notes, but come on! Miss Manners requests that you write them immediately. Emily Post will give you up to three months. We think it’s the perfect post-honeymoon activity to settle into married life. Hop to it! Pro-tip: order your blank thank-you notes, envelopes and postage stamps before the big day so that you already have them on hand after the wedding ready to go.

Any other deadlines couples should be aware of in regards to their invitations?

If you have your heart set on hand-lettered or calligraphed envelopes, inquire with your calligrapher as soon as possible (even if you don’t have all of your wedding details nailed down yet). Most calligraphers take on a very limited number of projects each month, and envelopes for a large guest list can take several weeks to complete by hand. We’re happy to hold space for you in our calendar, even if you’re not ready to commit to a certain ink color or calligraphy style just yet.


Thank you to the Laurel & Marie team for answering these need-to-know questions about wedding calligraphy and invitation etiquette! To connect with this vendor directly, visit their vendor profile here. Cheers!

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Wendy Bobarikin Photography