des moines, iowa and beyond

workflow & systems strategist

When Should You Order and Mail Your Wedding Invitations?

For Brides, Sweet Beginnings

Wedding Invitations – one of my favorite details to work with couples on! One of the most common questions I get is when to order and send them. Have no fear, lovelies, Jessica is back to share her expert advice on the very topic.

Jessica and I have become friends over the past three years and when she and Zack moved to Dallas this year, we finally met in person! Let me tell you, if you are looking for some custom amazing art and wedding stationery, she is your girl! I’m so honored to be able to share her expertise with you a few more times as a featured guest blogger the next few months.

When couples get engaged, naturally some of the first vendors they think to research, meet with, and book are their venue, photographers, and wedding planners. By reading the information below, you’ll quickly realize that booking your custom wedding stationer should be one of the initial vendors you consider as well, in order to keep your mailing dates timely!


click here to download & print a PDF version of this guide

Before delving into the specifics, I do want to note that this is the timeframe I would recommend if you choose to work with me as your custom wedding stationer! The designs I create for my brides are always very detail rich and full of beautiful custom details, which take time to create.

Other custom wedding stationers might have a faster design process, or they might have a longer design process. So, the above chart is specific to my design services and turnaround time! If you are working with another stationer, I recommend inquiring as early as possible, and asking them about their design and production timeline. If you would like to work with me, I’d love for you to read more about my custom design process here!

In order to help break things down a bit further, I have created month-by-month charts below for reference! We’ll chat through the specifics even more below each chart. This post is quite long to help explain these details as thoroughly as possible for you – so stick with me, love!

click here to download & print a PDF version of this guide

It might seem a bit crazy at first that I recommend ordering your custom wedding stationery almost a year prior to your wedding date. However, the reasoning behind this is because we will want to get started on your save the dates as soon as possible, to allow you to mail them between 6-8 months before your wedding!

My custom design process on average takes between 2 months for custom save the dates, and between 2-4 months for custom invitation suite design depending on how extensive the design is for your suite. This timeframe includes creating and reviewing your custom design look book, presenting initial concept sketches and allowing time for revisions, painting your custom designs, digitally editing your designs, creating a beautiful layout with your watercolor elements and text formatted for print, presenting digital proofs to you for review, and making any revisions necessary before print within our revision round parameter.

Once we have your designs perfected, it is time to send them to print! I work mostly with digital flat printing, which takes on average one week to be printed and mailed to my studio. If we are using a fine print method, such as gold foil stamping, it will take an additional 10-15 business days for my foil stamping partner to add your gold foil details and mail your finished printed pieces to me. Envelopes are ordered at the same time as we send your designs to print, which also take about one week to arrive to my studio from my envelope supplier.

After I receive your printed designs, it is time for assembly! Here is a quick breakdown of average assembly times, depending on what you have ordered:

  • Save the dates with envelopes, no envelope liners: 2-3 business days
  • Save the dates with envelopes and envelope liners: 1 business week
  • Invitation suites: 3-4 business weeks
  • Envelope calligraphy: 2-3 business weeks (completed during the same timeframe as your invitation suite assembly – or as an add-on if you are only ordering envelope calligraphy to complement a different invitation suite!)
  • Mailing from the SJM Studio to your home: on average 3 business days
  • Your assembly (adding postage stamps, sealing envelopes, and taking them to your local post office): I love leaving you at least 1 week for your portion of the assembly, so it is as stress free as possible for you!

So, as you can see from the description above, save the dates from start to finish on average take 3 months to design, print, and assemble. Invitations on average take about 5-6 months from start to finish to design, print and assemble. Hopefully that helps to make sense of the ordering timeline, and why I recommend contacting your custom wedding stationer as early as possible!

You’ll also notice the the order and mailing guide above has recommended timeframes for custom thank you cards and day-of details. The reasoning why I recommend ordering your thank you cards before your wedding, is so that we can use the same design elements from your invitation suite on the cards! If we order your thank you cards prior to your wedding, it will allow you to begin writing them as you receive gifts, to eliminate stress after your honeymoon! You can begin mailing thank you cards as you write them, and I would recommend mailing them no later than 1-2 months after your wedding for gifts you receive on your wedding day!

Day-of details require a much faster turnaround time. This is because we will need to wait until you receive your response cards and have a final guest list before we can finalize items such as escort cards, place cards, and table numbers. I personally prefer to begin the overall design layout for these details 1-2 months before your wedding, and then add in the details such as guest names and table numbers about 3 weeks before your wedding, once the guest list is final. For items that are not guest-list specific, such as cocktail signage and ceremony backdrops, we will begin the process as early as possible as well, after your invitations are finished!

click here to download & print a PDF version of this guide

When you are considering your timeframe for ordering and mailing your custom wedding stationery, one of the most important things to take into account is if most of your guests live locally to your wedding venue, if most of your guests are traveling in from out of town, or if your guests will be traveling overseas for a destination wedding.

If the majority of your guests live locally, it is okay to err on the side of mailing your save the dates closer to 6 months before your wedding and invitations closer to 6 weeks prior. However, I always recommend mailing as early as possible, just to be safe! But, you do have a little wiggle room if necessary. If the majority of your guests will be traveling in from out of town, it is suggested that you mail your save the dates closer to 8 months before your wedding date, and invitations 8 weeks prior to your wedding. It is polite to do so, to allow your guests ample time to book travel and hotel accommodations.

If you are planning a destination wedding, which will require your guests to likely save a little bit extra money for higher travel fare and hotel accommodations, I recommend adding at least two months to the timeframes shown above. Therefore, I would recommend ordering your save the dates 13 months before your wedding and mailing them 10 months prior, and then mailing your invitations 10 weeks prior! The same could be true for popular wedding destinations, such as Charleston, which may require guests to reserve hotel rooms months prior to your wedding date.

Ordering and mailing your custom stationery early (but not too early – you don’t want guests to forget to save your date or to rsvp!) is a polite sign of hospitality and love to your friends and family! Make sure to communicate these guest travel details to your custom stationer from the beginning, so she/he (or I!) can factor those details into your design and production timeline!

Now I know, you might be thinking – but Jessica, what if I do not have a year long engagement or if I am reading this blog post a little bit too late? It might still be okay sweetie, don’t fret! Contact your favorite wedding stationer(s) as soon as you possibly can, and discuss your personal wedding timeframe and guest travel details with them. They/I might have availability in our design calendar (rush fees may come into play depending on how quick the turnaround is!), can potentially recommend ways to save time in your design timeline if possible (with a more simplistic design or print method), or would be more than happy to provide other wedding stationery alternatives if we are not the best fit!

If you are interested in beginning your custom wedding stationery design process with me, I would love to hear more about you, your sweetie, and your wedding! Please complete the Custom Design Questionnaire on this page, and I will be in touch shortly after reviewing your responses. I can’t wait to get to know you two better soon, and create beautiful heirloom wedding stationery for y’all to cherish for years to come!

xoxo, Jenn (& Jessica)

Photo credit: Blue Barn Photography


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