Good morning, my Washington DC area wedding lovelies! We have loads of practical wedding planning advice for you, so grab a pencil and some paper because you’ll want to take notes, quite literally! Today, we are talking about wedding invitations, save-the-date cards, and all of those little pretties that you’ll need for the day of your wedding like ceremony programs and escort cards. When should you order your wedding stationery? What about the menu cards? When you should send out the wedding invitations to your guests? How many invitations should you order? All of the wedding paper goods questions are are answered by local Baltimore-based wedding stationery designer Madeline, owner of mlc designs. Madeline is walking us through the wedding stationery and day-of-the-wedding materials timelines as well as providing some insider tips and advice that only a wedding professional would know! Take it away, Madeline…


Photo courtesy of mlc designs

The wedding invitation is the first glimpse of your wedding that your guests will receive. Consider it a sneak preview that will set the stage for what they can expect on your big day. How formal or coordinated you want to get with your wedding invitation is up to you. This is our handy guide that will help you to sort through the basics of your printed wedding design items.

Custom or DIY? 

Once your overall wedding budget it set, it’s time to decide if you’ll be working with a designer for custom wedding invites or purchasing a pre-made invitation design. Working with a custom invitation designer will allow you to create a completely one-of-a-kind wedding invite, and will ensure the printed elements for your wedding will all complement each other perfectly. If custom designed invites are what you’re looking for, contact a stationery designer about 6-12 months prior to the wedding – giving you plenty of time to meet and start the creative process. If you want to order a pre-made design from an online shop, there is certainly more flexibility on time. You may want to consider ordering up 6 months out from your wedding. Remember, you will want to mail your invitations 6-8 weeks from your wedding, so you don’t want to count that time in your planning.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for a custom wedding invitation concept. A good stationery designer can use anything as a jumping off point: the lace of your dress, your city’s skyline, a color palette or from your favorite dress, you and your partner’s mutual love of Star Wars, you name it! 


Save-the-date mailings have become quite standard in wedding planning these days. While they are not absolutely necessary, they are definitely a must for destination weddings or weddings that will be celebrated over a holiday weekend. A save-the-date invitation should include your names, date, location, event website and hotel info only. You can keep it fun and simple – just what people will need to ‘save the date.’ Do not include your wedding registry details on your save-the-date – that’s what your wedding website is a great place for. Save-the-dates are typically mailed at least 6 months out from your wedding, or 8-12 months for destination or holiday weddings. As a custom stationery designer, I like to pick out my client’s wedding invitations first, so we can see what the main event will feel like – then we go back and decide if we want a complimenting design for the save-the-date, or if we want something fun and different for the save-the-dates.

Tip: Do you want to feature a cute photo of the two of you on your save-the-date mailing? Factor in extra time to schedule a photography session and for you to pick out your favorites. Your wedding engagement photo session is a great option for these types of photos as long as you plan far enough in advance. Also, don’t forget to coordinate your photo session attire. We’ve had couples that want to use their wedding colors in the design and then they are wearing colors in their photos that don’t match at all of their wedding palette.


Showtime! After the wedding invites have been printed and you’ve spent at least one day dreamily ogling your gorgeous pieces, it’s time to get these babies in the mail to your wedding guests. Traditionally, the wedding invitation is mailed 6-8 weeks before the big day, 8-12 weeks for destination or holiday weddings. Your RSVP date should be 3-4 weeks before the event – this will give your wedding caterer enough time for a firm headcount as well as you (or your designer) time to prep any day-of-the wedding details, such as ceremony programs and escort cards. If you’ll be having a calligrapher professionally address the outer envelopes of your wedding invitation suite, don’t forget to find out their deadline for the mailing list and make sure that you factor in time for their work. Also, there are some custom wedding invitation designers (like myself!) who offer the wedding guest addressing and mailing services for you – just think of all of those hours stuffing and licking wedding invitation envelopes that you could use to Google for honeymoon destinations (That’s way more fun!).

Tip: Order 10-12 extra wedding invitations for keepsakes and for last minute changes or address errors. Also, before you send out your wedding invitations, consider adding a little number in pencil on the back of the RSVP card. You will be surprised how many of your wedding guests will return their RSVP card with out a name! Keep track of the numbers in your guest list file. You also want to make sure you take your sample wedding invitation suite to the Post Office to confirm the weight and cost of mailing your invitations.


Photo courtesy of mlc designs

Day-Of-The-Wedding Details

Ceremony programs and wedding menus and escort cards, oh my! While all of these items that will be used on the day of your wedding will have one clear cut due date, you’ll want to factor in time for assembly and production of elements that require wedding guests’ names and other variables. For example, you won’t have names for your escort cards until the wedding invitation RSVP’s are in. Weaving a cohesive theme throughout these components will really make your event shine in the eyes of your wedding guests. Here are some other ideas to consider getting printed for the day of your wedding: Custom welcome bags to greet your guests in their hotel rooms, signage for your caterer or bartenders, tags for your wedding favors, cocktail napkins, and a unique idea for a wedding guestbook. If your wedding is in an outdoor or remote locale, consider well-placed signage to help point your guests in the right direction such as from the parking lot or to the restrooms. The possibilities really are endless on your wedding day! But like all wedding decisions, don’t let the possibilities overwhelm you! Decide what’s most important to you and your partner and go from there.

Tip: Don’t forgot to have your wedding photographer capture all of these day-of-the-wedding details for you, Unfortunately, on the wedding day you may not get a chance to see them all! If your photographer knows what details and items are available ahead of time, they can plan accordingly and look out for these special items. If possible, you might want to set aside the day of the wedding materials, such as a program for you to save and also for your photographer to photograph. Lastly, make sure your photographer knows about any end of the night wedding elements that are important to you, such as a “just married” sign on your get-away car. You’ll want to make sure that your photographer sticks around until the end of the night and knows to take those photographs – this will ensure the photographer stays to the end to capture!

Thank You Notes

You might think that thank you notes for your wedding are something you don’t need to think about until after you get back from the honeymoon. Not so fast! Do yourself a favor and order your wedding gift thank you notes a couple of months before your wedding or along with all of your day-of-the wedding details. You’ll likely get some wedding gifts sent to you well before your big day (especially around bridal shower time!) and it’s absolutely okay to send a prompt thank you note when the wedding gift arrives, even if your wedding hasn’t happened yet. You’ll thank yourself later for this head start on thank you note writing. If you work with a wedding stationery designer, you can match your thank you notes to the look of your wedding invitations or even use a cute photo from the wedding day! (What about holding up a bunting or banner that says “thank you” and then having it made into thank you cards?) If you go with notecards that match your wedding stationery, I always suggest using your names or initials rather than a general “thank you.” Also, consider ordering extra cards – won’t it be nice to have personalized stationery on-hand to use when giving a gift or writing a note to someone after your wedding?

Tip: Contrary to popular belief, married couples do not have a year after the wedding to send thank you notes for gifts received. According to etiquette expert Emily Post, thank you notes should be sent within three months of receiving the wedding gift. Plus, won’t it feel good to get them off your plate and enjoy the honeymoon phase without more wedding details?


Photo courtesy of mlc designs


Wow, thank you so much Madeline! That is such great advice for planning for and ordering wedding stationery. Timelines of any sort make me happy and I know that our engaged couples here in the Washington DC area will love this advice too. Don’t forget that you can check out Madeline and her gorgeous, custom designed wedding invitations and paper goodies for your wedding at mlc designs based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Be sure to check out all of the other DC area wedding advice that we have put together for you or look through our list of the best Washington DC area wedding vendors!

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