Ah, the first sweet rush of being engaged, there's nothing like it! Such an exciting time where dopamine levels are off the chart and you're thinking of venues and cakes and flowers and a killer party! It's only a little later you realise you've signed up to plan a large event that will see you host a large section of your family and social circle! So in this ultimate guide, we'll look at all the different pieces of wedding stationery there are, and I'll give you some advice on whether a) you actually need it and b) if it's your responsibility or not!
While I can't help you with a lot of the ins and outs of planning a wedding (there are plenty of talented wedding planners out there should you need help though), I can walk you through each bit of stationery you may (or may not) need for your wedding day.
So rather than give you a terrifyingly long list and letting you sort out what you might need, I'm going to break everything down into four sections, outline what each piece is, and give you some thoughts as to whether you need all of it.
Before the Wedding Stationery
So this is where not all the ins and outs of the wedding day have been planned. You might have a venue, but are still talking to a bunch of other vendors, are still fine-tuning your guest list and figuring out which of your friends, as much as you love them, are going to be helpful in the planning and admin phase of your event planning, and which are not!
Engagement Party Invitation
Someone has popped a question, the other person has accepted, sparkly bling has been given, and now it's time to let everyone else know!
If you are having a proper party, it's common for these party invites to have a picture from your engagement shoot. It's a very sweet idea and a good way to get some mileage out of those photos!
Not everyone has a party when they get engaged, so don't feel pressured to do so if that's not your bag! But it's a nice idea to get word sent around your family and friends; they'll be delighted for you, and there might even be some champagne-shaped gifts coming your way (which is always a delight no matter who you are).
You don't necessarily have to get fancy with this either. Some couples decide on a handwritten note to their nearest and dearest (for those who aren't on WhatsApp). Others rely on text or letting the most gossipy people in their circle know and giving them reign to tell everyone they might get around to chatting within these first heady days.
Save the Date
You've got a date and a venue nailed down, but you are still a way out on finalising numbers, and you need to get a note around so people can start thinking about their diaries and whether they'll have to book a babysitter.
I will be the first to say you do not need a Save the Date card, but it's a good idea to have one. People's lives get busy, and as soon as you are able, getting people to mark a date in their diary so you're not fighting for that time is an excellent idea. This is especially important if you're having a destination wedding or if you have friends and family coming from abroad. These guests have a larger logistical headache if they want to attend, and giving them loads of notice so they have plenty of time to get things sorted is kindness itself.
Bridal Shower Invitation
This one is usually arranged by members of the bridal party. Even though it's not something the couple getting married will worry about, it does neatly lead us into...
Bridal Shower Thank You Cards
For those delightful people who brought a gift to the bridal shower, you should send them a thank you note shortly after the event. These don't necessarily have to be fancy and overly designed, but they're a thoughtful gesture nonetheless.
Hen & Stag Party Invites
Again, not something that the happy couple themselves will usually think about, but another one that will be falling to the Maid of Honour or Best Man.
Rehearsal Dinner or Welcome Party Invitations
Rehearsal Dinners or Welcome Parties are a great way to meet up with a select group of your guest list, especially if it's a whole weekend or destination affair. These are usually hosted by a third party (think parents or guardians), and they don't necessarily go in with the wedding suite, but they can if you want all the stationery to match (and to save on postage). Either way, these invitations should say who these events are hosted by along with the usual dates, times and locations.
The Wedding Suite
The venue is booked, the guest list finalised, all the other vendors needed for a wedding are lined up, deposits have been paid, the Maid of Honour has turned out to be an organisational ninja and the Best Man is working on his (hopefully not too indecent) speech.
I think it's fair to say this is the most important bit of stationery I'll be talking about, and the one that needs least said about it. Let your guests know where and when! Go classic, go modern, go colourful, go bold... the world is your oyster! The invitation should be the most substantial part of the wedding suite, leaving no doubt about what's happening! If you're holding the reception in the same place, add a line to the bottom of the invitation to this effect, including any dress code that you'd like your guests to observe.
If you're holding the reception at a different venue you'll also need a reception card. Another benefit of the Reception Card is if you're unable to invite everyone you'd like to the wedding (due to seating capacity issues for example), you still have the option of inviting more people to the reception (aka, the after-party).
RSVP & Stamped Addressed Return Envelope
Because you need to know who's attending! Make sure to put a line on the RSVP about when people should reply by (allowing you to confirm final numbers with the venue). You can also add a bit where people can indicate the numbers attending and any dietary restrictions. If you're so inclined, allow people a way to RSVP online as well.
Let's be fair, Google Maps has mostly done away with the need for a direction card or map to go in with the wedding suite. However, Google Maps isn't accurate 100% of the time. So if your venue is a bit off the beaten track, this card is a good idea! It can also be a fun way to inject a bit more personality into your suite with the addition of a designed or illustrated map with key landmarks highlighted.
A thoughtful gesture for weddings requiring an overnight stay or a destination wedding is for you to do a bit of research so you can make some good recommendations of where to stay in the surrounding area. This is also a nice gesture if you're having the wedding local to you, but you have guests travelling from further afield. Try and get a range of price bands for those on different budgets, and you get bonus points if you can negotiate a discounted rate for your guests! Make sure any discount codes or booking references are mentioned on this card too!
If you're having a bunch of different events with different dress codes, an attire card is a good shout. On this card, you'll also be able to prepare guests in advance to dress for inclement weather if a portion is held outdoors or to wear comfy shoes if there's likely to be a lot of standing around. If there are elements that are black tie only, or if you'd like your guests to dress to a particular colour scheme, this is the place to let them know.
Of course, if you're not having a multi-faceted event, you can add a line to the bottom of your invitation about what attire you'd like your guests to wear.
Again, you don't necessarily need a gift registry card. If you have a wedding website you can add a link to the site directly, and that saves any finger errors! But if you want to spare yourself from being asked repeatedly where your guests should go then a card is a good idea.
There are many situations where you can combine directions, accommodation, attire and gift registry and any other information into one Details Card. This allows you to cut down on print costs and keeps all the important bits on one card that can be kept safely, rather than a bunch of cards that might be difficult to manage for the less well-organised of your guests.
Belly Bands, Wraps and Folders
All of those bits of card need to be kept together somehow! Invitation suites get sent out in a particular order, and it's nice to give all of these pieces a fighting chance of arriving at their destination in some semblance of the order they were sent in! Vellum wraps are always popular, or you can get something printed and fasten it with ribbon or twine depending on your look. Belly bands are much the same, but rather than covering the whole of the suite, are just a strip around the middle in whatever paper or card you like. These can also feature a print or a wax seal.
Outer envelopes should be sturdy; no flimsy paper here! There's a surprising amount of weight in an invitation suite, and Royal Mail isn't going to baby your invitations as they go through the postal system! The worst thing would be for your invitation to arrive at its destination where the envelope has busted a seam and half the contents are missing. Envelopes can, of course, be handwritten; if you're fancy you can call on a calligrapher to give your envelopes the 'wow' factor, and of course, there are plenty of options for getting your envelope printed.
While not often seen, the inner envelope does double duty by giving your invitation suite a double layer of protection as it's going through the postal system. As it's protected by the outer envelope it won't get anywhere near as ratty as the outer in transit. If you are having an inner envelope, it's a good idea to have your embellishments on this envelope rather than the outer, so any calligraphy, liners or wax seals can go on the inner rather than the outer envelope.
On the Day Wedding Stationery
Ding dong! The bells are ringing, the guests are arriving, you've put together the event of the century (of course) and now it's your chance to celebrate with friends, family and of course, your other half!
Certainly not a must-have, but a delightful keepsake for all your guests. Include the names, venue, date, order of service and any special readings. If there's someone who couldn't be with you on your special day, this is a wonderful opportunity to remember them as well.
Escort Cards/Table Plan
Because your guests need to know where to sit! Table Plans are a tried and tested way of letting your guests know where you're putting them for the wedding breakfast. Another approach are Escort Cards, which can go in simple racks by the door to where the wedding breakfast will be served, or if you've let your imagination run wild, you might have a statement installation.
Table Plans feature sections for each table number or name and a list of guest names underneath. Escort Cards will feature the guest's name and which table number/name they've been seated at.
One card for each table bearing either a number (standard) or sometimes a name. If you're naming your tables they could either go along a theme or be named for important places shared between the two of you.
If Table Plans and Escort Cards get your guest to the correct table, Place Cards get them to the right seat. These can be in various styles depending on your theme, from simple cards to acrylic blocks, shells, leaves, ribbons... the list goes on! Keep in mind that if you choose an 'unusual' surface you won't be able to get the names printed on to them, and you may have to call in a calligrapher or lettering artist to make these happen for you!
Menu Cards are another addition to the wedding breakfast table. These show the choice of food on offer (this is where pre-emptively asking about dietary restrictions at the invitation stage pays off) as a starter, main and dessert along with any other courses and may also show wine pairings. A menu card is less common for a buffet-style breakfast but can still be a helpful addition in this scenario.
There's no problem with getting your menu card to do double duty as a place card too! The place card can be an addition that's attached by design with either a rivet or wax seal or simply write the guest's name straight onto it.
Whether you're having the traditional sachet of sugared almonds or something more contemporary, a tag featuring the couple's names, the date and maybe even the venue is a usual addition to the wedding breakfast table. And they're not always tags either! Get creative with stickers, engraving or some other sort of decoration.
After the Wedding Stationery
You're newlyweds! Bask in the glow of the best wedding on earth (naturally, as it was your wedding), and hopefully, there's some champagne to go with breakfast!
Farewell Dinner Invitation
Another one that could go in with the wedding suite itself if you want it to match the rest of the pieces, but not necessarily. Again, these are usually hosted by a third party. More commonly seen for whole weekend and destination weddings, this is a lovely way to see a select portion of your guest list again if you didn't get as much time with them on the day itself as you would have liked.
As before, these invitations should say who's hosting, as well as the date, time and venue.
Thank You Cards
Try to send these within three weeks of receiving your gift. They should include the name of the gift-giver, note the item that was sent (if a contribution to, for example, a honeymoon fund, no need to mention the amount given) along with a note of thanks. Wedding photos can either be included here or even used as artwork!
And there you have it! Hopefully, this list has answered some questions, given you some insight into what you do and don't need, and maybe sparked some ideas for your invitations too. Remember, if you're feeling at all stressed out about the magnitude of getting the right things in the right order, talk to your stationer, it's what we're here for!
And if you're looking for a wedding stationer of your very own, you can head over to my contact page and drop me a line!