One of the most critical elements of your wedding is the invitations. They give your guests all of the crucial information about your big day and are the first thing your guests will see from your special event, so you want to get started on the right foot.

But inviting guests to your wedding isn't as simple as choosing your favorite stationery. And while there isn't a strict set of rules when it comes to your ceremony and reception, for wedding invitations there are some things to remember before you drop your invites in the mail.

Here are some answers to all your questions:

bride in white wedding dress holding a bouquet of white flowers

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When Should I Send Save The Dates?

You typically want to send out save the dates at least six months before your wedding, but if you are planning a destination wedding or have guests coming from long distances, the more time you give them, the better. No one will complain about you giving them extra time, so try to send save the dates for destination weddings about nine months to a year in advance.

When Should I Send The Invitations?

When it comes to the invitations, you want to send them out around six to eight weeks in advance, with an R.S.V.P. request. Set your R.S.V.P deadline at least two to three weeks before your wedding day, and include the return address or website URL if you are having your guests R.S.V.P. online. This will allow you enough time to get a headcount for the caterer and put the finishing touches on your seating chart. Pro tip: be sure to include a self-addressed stamped envelope that guests can use to reply quickly.

If some guests haven't responded by the deadline, give them a quick call and ask for their R.S.V.P. so you have their information.

wedding invitations on black background

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What Information Should Be Included On Your Invites?

While save the date cards are more general, invitations must include all the information your guests need to know. This includes the times and locations of the ceremony and reception, hotel information for out-of-town guests, menu options, etc.

Do not put an incorrect start time on your invitations. Wedding guests know to show up early, so even though it is tempting to indicate an earlier start time than you've planned to make sure everyone is there on time, don't do it. People will arrive 15 to 20 minutes early. So, if you put a start time of 5 p.m. on your invite, they will arrive by 4:45 p.m. Don't make them wait longer by putting down an incorrect earlier start time.

If your reception will be at the same place, add "reception to follow." If your reception is taking place at a different location, print a formal reception card with the time and location and include it with your invite.

wedding invitation and wedding bands on black background

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How Do I Communicate My Requests To Guests?

Dress Codes

The easiest way to communicate the dress code is to include it in the lower right-hand corner of your invitation. "Black Tie," "Cocktail Attire," or "Casual Attire," are all acceptable.You can also direct guests to your wedding website, where you can go into more detail about the dress code in a more informal manner.

Adult-Only Weddings

If you are having an adults-only wedding, the best way to do let your guests know is to address your invitations correctly. Try naming each guest specifically on the invite instead of "and guest," or "plus one". This way, people will understand that the invite is for those mentioned.

If someone responds with a child's name added, give them a call and explain that your event is only for adults and you hope they can still attend. Avoid putting "no children allowed" on your invitations.

Plus-Ones

You don't have to include a date or plus-one with every guest. If you are having a small, intimate ceremony with just close family and friends, it is entirely acceptable to send out a solo invite to someone who isn't married or in a serious relationship.

If they do R.S.V.P. with two names, call them and explain you are having a small wedding and you are not able to invite everyone with a guest. However, if you know that the majority of your guests will be coupled up, extend a plus-one invite to your single friends and family.

wedding ceremony groom placing a ring on the bride

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Ceremony-Only Invites

If you are having an immediate family-only reception, but want to invite more people to the ceremony, is it okay? Not really. Traditionally, everyone who attends the ceremony, bridal shower or engagement party should be invited to the reception.

If you invite someone to the ceremony but not the reception, you are telling them that you aren't willing to pay for their plate at your party, or you don't care enough to have them there to celebrate your newlywed status.

Transferring Invitations

If you invited your friend and her boyfriend to your wedding by name on the invitation and they break up before your big day, you have every right to tell her "no" if she wants to bring someone else.

When you invite people by name, an invitation is non-transferable. Just because your friend wants to bring someone else doesn't mean she can. It's entirely up to you. Explain that you want your day to include only very good friends and family, and you've invited all your single friends so that she won't be the only one flying solo.

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