What is the Difference Between a Save the Date and A Wedding Invitation?

bright orange colorful wedding invitation suite with daisies
Orange Floral Invitation Suite – Available from Loud Bride on Etsy

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From save the dates, to RSVP cards, to outer envelopes, there are probably a lot of wedding stationery terms you didn’t know before. As a stationery designer, I find myself explaining to brides and grooms what all of this paper is for and what it’s meant to communicate. A top question I get is what is a save the date and why is it necessary? Keep reading to learn all of the ins and outs of how a save the date differs from an invitation. And when you need to include save the dates in your budget.

How are save the dates different from invitations?

Save the dates are different from wedding invitations in the information they contain and the purpose they serve. They are meant to serve as an announcement that an invitation is coming so guests can hold or “save” the date, not a way to get RSVPs.

Save the dates usually have less information on them than wedding invitations. They usually contain your names, the date, and a general location where the wedding will take place. For example, save the dates usually contain the city where the reception will be held. This is so guests know if the wedding is out of town.

An example save the date for a wedding on May 15th, 2024 in Huntington, New York would say something like:

Save The Date

Jaime Hoerbelt & Michael Coast

May 15th, 2024

Huntington, NY

You may also include a wedding website, if you have one. And keep it updated with more information closer to your wedding date.

An invitation usually contains more detailed information about the wedding. It also asks guests to reply with whether they plan to attend or not. Wedding invites typically provide the time and location of the ceremony, time and location of the reception (if in a different location from the ceremony), a wedding website for more details or a physical details card, and a preferred method to RSVP (which can be on the website, by email/phone, or with an enclosed response card with envelope and return postage.)

An example invitation for the same wedding above would say something like:

Please join

Jaime Hoerbelt & Michael Coast

in celebrating their upcoming marriage

on Saturday, the fifteenth of May, two thousand twenty four

at two o’clock in the afternoon

St. Mary’s Church

Huntington, NY

Reception to follow

at the Wadsworth Homestead

For additional details and RSVP please visit toastthecoasts.com

As you can see an invitation is a lot more detailed than a save the date. And it asks your guests to respond with a “yes” or “no” about their attendance.

Not sure when to send out your wedding invitations and save the dates? Check out this article on when to send wedding invitations. And this one for when to send out save the dates.

What is a save the date?

A save the date is a notification by email, phone, or mail when your guests should reserve the day for your wedding on their calendars.

Save the dates are pretty self explanatory when you think of what the term means. You’re asking your guests to “save the date” of your wedding in their calendars. This is so they don’t book any vacations, appointments, or other conflicts if they plan to attend your celebration. They should only be sent to people you plan on inviting to your wedding. Anyone who receives a save the date expects to be invited. You can read more about save the date expectations here.

bright orange colorful save the date
Orange Floral Save the Date Postcard – Available from Loud Bride on Etsy

Are save the dates necessary?

Save the dates are not necessary for local weddings or ones that are planned quickly. If you’re planning your wedding in less than six months you can skip the save the dates. They are necessary for out of town or destination weddings, which require guests book travel and hotel stays.

If you want your guests to book flights, drive a long distance, or take off from work, you should send out save the dates as soon as you have a date and venue booked. This will give guests time to plan and save up money to travel.

You may also want to send save the dates for weddings that occur over holiday weekends or on weekdays that require your guests to take time off from work. Both of these require that same advanced notice for planning.

If you’re planning a wedding in less than six months, skip the save the dates. You can go straight to the invitations and send them out as soon as you’re able to. If you’re planning a wedding on a tight timeline, I have other tips for you on when to send everything out:

Can you ask for RSVPs on a Save The Date?

You shouldn’t ask for RSVPs when sending out save the dates. The purpose of a save the date is not to collect information about guests. Typically, save the dates are sent out too far in advance for people to reliably commit to attendance.

Some people may choose to tell you when they receive a save the date that they can or can’t make it based on the date or location of the event. If someone tells you that they can’t make it, then you can cross them off of your list for invitations and guest count. You can send them an invite anyway for formality’s sake but it’s not necessary.

If someone does tell you they are coming, they still need to formally RSVP when invitations go out for them to be counted as a guest. You may need to remind some of your guests that they need to formally reply when the time comes.

Can I send digital save the dates and paper wedding invitations?

Many couples looking to save money on wedding stationery ask if it’s okay to mix and match digital save the dates with paper invitations. It’s completely acceptable to send out a digital save the date then follow it up with a formal paper invitation. You can also mix in online RSVPs instead of mail-back ones.

Here are some additional ways to save money on your wedding invitations.

Where to find the best save the dates

One of my favorite tips to cut down on costs is to use an affordable wedding stationery option. Zazzle has some of the best quality and beautiful designs for the price. You can check out my favorite styles on Zazzle here. And don’t forget to check out my review of Zazzle to see why I recommend them.

Not sure how much you can afford to spend on save the dates?

You can check out my free budget guide if you sign up for my newsletter. It automatically calculates what you should spend where based on your budget and guest count and helps you stay on track. It’s like the fairy godmother of numbers.


Jaime is the owner of Loud Bride and Coast Designs LLC. She got married in 2017 in Geneseo, NY and designed her own wedding invitations and programs for the occasion. Now, she designs bespoke wedding stationery and affordable templates for other couples. She lives in New York city with her husband and two children.

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