THE BLOG
11/24/2014 05:58 pm ET Updated Jan 24, 2015

An Invitation Etiquette Primer for the Newly Engaged: When and How to Share Your Wedding Information With Your Guests

The proper etiquette and timing of wedding invitations and responses can be confusing to some brides and grooms. While some of the old traditions remain, there are so many new things to consider when putting together your timeline for sending out the Save the Dates, travel information and determining the deadline for the RSVPs. My goal here is to break it down and make it easy.

There are different rules and guidelines for wedding invitations based on where you're getting married. And the birth of the online invitation has made life simpler for brides and grooms but more confusing, in some cases, for the guests. Check out the guidance below for a smooth and painless process.

For weddings at home:

- You can mail the Save the Date information to your guests anytime within 12 months of your wedding date. You can include travel information for your out-of-town guests, or post it on your wedding website later (as long as you tell people your web address in the Save the Date).

- Wedding invitations should be mailed out 12 weeks prior to the wedding date, with an RSVP deadline of six to eight weeks from the mailing date. Here's a trick: If you think you might run behind schedule in getting everything addressed and mailed, give them eight weeks to respond. That way, you have two weeks of wiggle room in completing the envelope stuffing, addressing and mailing part of your responsibilities.

- You may begin to contact those who have not responded by the deadline as soon as 48 hours after the drop dead date. Your venue will determine your actual deadline for dinner orders and head counts, but you need a little bit of time to create placecard charts and organize yourself, so you shouldn't feel guilty if you need to put a little pressure on your invitees who are MIA.

For destination weddings:

- Save the Dates may be mailed as far out as 18 months prior to your wedding date as long as you have the location nailed down and a contract for your venue. You don't want to accidentally invite everybody to the wrong island or mountain because there are some guests who will begin plane ticket shopping (and buying) as soon as they've heard your happy news.

- Travel Information Packets are critical for destination weddings. Whether you've arranged package deals or everybody needs to choose their own accommodations from the list you've provided, the travel information you provide in this packet will help some of your guests determine if they can actually afford to participate in your wedding weekend. Travel info packets can be sent out as early as 18 months ahead too, but they should follow the Save the Date by at least two weeks unless you've combined them into one mailing with the date and travel information all rolled into one. And that's a popular thing to do to save time and money.

- Wedding invitations may be mailed to guests as far out as one year prior to your actual wedding date. A lot of my clients get a kick out of mailing the invitations on the actual wedding date one year before they're getting married. It's fun to see if anybody notices the postmark (other than the bride and groom and their parents). The RSVP deadline rules are the same -- six to eight weeks to respond. Yes, it may sound a little crazy to think that you're asking people to commit to your wedding 10 months before the actual date. But when you're asking folks to fly thousands of miles and all of the activities you're planning are dependent on a budget that hinges on how many acceptances you receive, there's nothing wrong with planning this far ahead. Many guests say they've enjoyed having an entire year to save and plan for the trip. It also gives them the opportunity to turn your wedding into a vacation of their own.

For doing all your invitations online:

- The digital wedding invitation is growing in popularity worldwide. I can honestly say that I'm not a fan. Mostly because I think it's so lovely to receive a real invitation, but on a practical level, I worry about whether people actually open wedding invitations sent via email. Guests often think that an email sporting info about the wedding website is just an informational page and don't realize they're actually supposed to go online to RSVP.

- To ensure your guests who receive online invitations actually understand that's the ONE AND ONLY real invitation they're getting, a separately-written email asking them to kindly make sure they go to the website to see the REAL INVITATION is a very good idea. I'm going to be completely honest and say that even as a wedding planner, I don't always creep my friend's wedding websites -- I skip them entirely unless I need information. Many of your guests may do the same thing, especially if you're getting married at home and they already know most of the details.

- Send a follow-up email -- not a batch-send because it could end up in their Spam folder -- a week before acceptances are due online, perhaps reminding them the deadline is important in order for you to have their dinner preferences. This will tip off anybody who didn't realize they weren't waiting for a paper invite to go to the website and fill out the critical information.

- Remember, some of your older guests may not be as Internet savvy and a hand-written invitation from you may be worthwhile so they aren't confused. You can certainly update the online information for them. But not every grandmother will grasp that the Evite is the actual wedding invitation so do a preemptory notification to save embarrassment later on.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events. It's engagement season -- time to start paying attention to all these tips to make your life easier for your wedding planning!