by sarah prye

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming if you're just starting out and are unfamiliar with this territory. There are things to do before, during, and even after the wedding, so where do you start?

Listed below is a brief overview of each piece of stationery that a bride or couple might need for their big day. This is one of the most important experiences of a couple's life, so get involved and really enjoy it. Stick with traditions or throw them to the side; the main thing is to have fun, be creative, and really put your personality into it!

before the wedding

_____ Engagement Announcements/Party Invitations
Hosting an engagement party is a great way to announce the big news to your friends and family and include them in your celebration. Engagement party invitations can take on a style of their own and do not need to reflect the colors or theme of a couple's upcoming wedding, as most couples will not know these details at this early point in time. When considering the wording of the invitation for your engagement party, it is nice to include some of the actual engagement details (be creative!), then lead into the party specifics. Be sure to include all of the information that pertains to the event itself, such as the date, time, place, city, state, and attire request, if any. If you have had your engagement photos taken, it is nice to include one of these with the invitation or announcement. Be sure to only invite those guests who you plan to invite to the wedding.

_____ Save the Date Cards
A "Save the Date" is a card that is mailed to and informs your guests ahead of time of your chosen wedding date. This also signifies to the guest(s) that they are invited to attend your event and should "save the date". This allows for your guests to make preparations in advance so that they are able to attend your event.

Generally, this information is mailed out 6-12 months prior to the wedding and is in the form of a card, but Save the Dates can also be in a more creative form of a magnetic keepsake, which guests can remove and hang on display until the formal invitations arrive months later. If the bride and groom have their invitation colors or theme chosen already, it is a nice touch to have the Save the Dates coordinate with those colors or theme. This is a hint of what is to come when the formal invitation is mailed. 

The amount of information that is included with a couple's Save the Date is dependent on how much they know at that point. Sometimes they send only the basics involved with the upcoming wedding, such as the date, the location, city and state. For destination weddings where the guests will be traveling a far distance, it is recommended that the couple send as much information as possible to allow the guests to make their travel arrangements ahead of time. This information could include, but is not limited to, travel, accommodations, activities, times, events, and more.

Formal wedding invitations are then mailed 6-10 weeks before the wedding, which gives all of the information pertinent to the big day.

_____ Bridal Shower Invitations
Bridal shower invitations generally hint at the shower's theme or colors and include all of the information pertaining to the party, such as date, time, place, and location. Hosts may also include small "memories" or "wishes" cards, which can then be presented to the bride as a collective gift from the group.

_____ Bachelorette (Bachelor) Party Invitations
Bachelorette parties are tons of fun and usually have some sort of a theme to them. Carry this theme through to your invitations and get creatively funky with the designs! Invitations can be wild, vivid colors and should be a wonderfully fun keepsake for the bride (or groom) and her/his closest friends. These would contain all of the information that is needed for the actual bachelorette/bachelor party (date, time, place, etc.), plus any additional information needed for the party goers (travel, accommodations, instructions, etc.) This is (usually) a once in a lifetime experience, so go all out!

_____ Bridesmaids' / Groomsmen's Day Invitations
The bridal party is generally an intimate group of your closest friends or family and an important part of your big day. A nice way to show your appreciation for their love and support is to host a special luncheon or outing for them. This could be anything from a girl's day at the spa to a boy's day on the golf course. Invitations can be colored and themed to match the special event and should include all of the information needed for that day (date, time, place, attire, etc.)

_____ Bride's Thank You Cards / Personal Stationery
During the months leading up to a wedding, there are ample opportunities for a bride to send out personal thank you cards. This might be in response to bridal shower gifts or even just a helpful friend. This is generally the last set of stationery that a bride will use with her maiden name, so this set of cards should be designed to be as fun and elaborate as she wishes.

for the wedding

Wedding Invitation Set
The wedding invitation is a card or set of cards that formally invites a person, couple, or family to a wedding. They are typically mailed out 6-10 weeks prior to the event date. Wedding invitations can be as simple as one invitation sent in a hand-addressed envelope or as detailed as a set of embellished matching cards sent out in a presentation box. The level of formality and detail really all depends on the couple's event, style, taste, and budget.

_____ ♥ Invitation: This card is the formal portion of the set and informs the guests of the details pertaining to the ceremony itself. Couples generally choose wording that flows well with their distinct personalities, the level of formality of their event, or the event's theme. This wording will let the guests know who is hosting the event, the names of the bride and groom, plus the details of the ceremony (date, year, time, venue, city, and state). If the reception is held in the same venue, a line is usually printed at the bottom of the invitation that states "Reception to immediately follow" or something similar.

_____ ♥ Reception Card: A reception card is generally used if the wedding reception does not immediately follow the ceremony or if the guests will need to travel to a different location. The card will list the address of the new location, the time that the event begins, and any details about the reception itself (cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, etc.)

_____ ♥ Wedding Website Card: A wedding website card notifies the guests of a couple's wedding website. These are very popular for destination weddings, as it allows the couple to post their detailed and current travel and accommodations information on the website. Guests can then easily access their webpage to find everything in one place. Guests can also visit the wedding website after the event has passed to view any wedding photos that the couple posts following their big day.

_____ ♥ Weekend Events Insert: This card lets the guests know if there are other activities planned prior to or following the wedding ceremony and reception. This could include such events as a Welcome Party, a Golf Outing, a Wedding Day Luncheon, a Late Night Barbeque, or a Goodbye Brunch. Generally, the specifics of each event are listed with it so that your guests can plan their travels accordingly.

_____ ♥ Travel Information Insert: This insert contains any pertinent travel information for the guests, including directions to a hotel, from an airport, or to a reception venue.

_____ ♥ Accommodations Insert: This insert informs the guests of the couple's hotel and lodging recommendations. This is a great way to notify and instruct the guests on any type of room blocks or discounts that are reserved with a specific hotel.

_____ ♥ Map Insert: Maps sometimes accompany a directional insert and are helpful for guests that are unfamiliar with an area. This provides even more detail about the wedding and reception location and could also include the locations for other venues being used for weekend activities.

_____ ♥ Response Card (with envelope): This card is used to gather information from your guests. The amount and type of information that a couple gathers is up to them and could be as simple as just asking whether the guests are attending or not. Couples that are hosting a large wedding or an entire weekend of activities prior to and following the wedding might want to make their planning easier by asking for more information, such as: the number attending, a choice of entrée, what day the guests are arriving, where they are staying, whether they will attend any of the extra activities that are planned, etc. These details are quite helpful when finalizing plans with caterers and vendors. A response date is determined by the couple; this date guides the guests and informs them by when to reply. Inevitably, there will be some who do not send it back on time. Generally, a quick phone call will solve this problem.

_____ Rehearsal Dinner/Welcome Party Invitations
Rehearsal dinner or welcome party invitations can either match the style of the wedding, or they can take on a look of their own, so as not to upstage the wedding invitations. If an event is being held at a themed restaurant such as Italian, Moroccan, or Greek, the invitations can reflect that theme with colors and style. All information pertaining to the event itself should be included, such as date, time, place, and location. It is also helpful to include directional information for your guests in case they are not familiar with the area. These invitations are generally mailed out after the wedding invitations and 3-4 weeks prior to the wedding.

_____ Ceremonial Wedding Programs
A wedding program is a wonderful way of including and informing your guests of your order of ceremony, plus it provides them with a beautiful and memorable keepsake from your big day. These can range from very simple to very elaborate with the amount of information that is included. The purpose of a program is to let the guests know the exact order of the ceremony, but it can also acknowledge those friends and family that are particularly special to the couple.

The basic information includes the couple's names, wedding date, ceremony location, and order of events. Additional information that could be added to make the program even more memorable could be: the names, relationships, and bios of the bridal party, special quotes or poems, family history, name of the officiant, directions to the reception, a thank you to the guests, "in memory of" tributes to loved ones who have passed, and a thank you to the hosts of the wedding.

_____ Reception Menus
A reception menu is generally placed at the plate of each guest in attendance and informs them of the details of the meal they are about to enjoy. These can be as simple or as elaborate as the couple would like. Adding details to the names of the dishes not only gives your guests something to read and discuss with the other people while waiting, but also adds to their lovely set of keepsakes from your wedding.

_____ Wedding Favors
Reception favors are a perfect way to show your appreciation for your guests' attendance to your ceremony or reception. These can be anything from handmade trinkets to homemade candies and cookies... the possibilities are endless!

_____ Escort Cards
An escort card escorts your guests to their designated table. These are generally placed somewhere near the main entrance to your reception room. Guests look for their names, pick up their card, and take it to their table. These are a wonderful way with which to carry on your wedding theme, as they can be styled and decorated to match the rest of your wedding stationery. Escort cards can also be combined with the wedding favors so that they serve two purposes!

_____ Place Cards
Place cards are placed at the seat of each guest and inform him or her where to sit. Place cards are also a great way to signify to the servers the guest's choice of entrée. This can be done subtly with varying colors, embellishments, or symbols. These cards can also be combined with the wedding favors, so guests would not only know where to sit, they would also have a small gift waiting for them with their name on it!

_____ Table Cards
A table card is used to identify the table to your guests, so that when they pick up their escort card, they can immediately recognize a table card that matches it. Traditionally, tables are numbered, but couples can also be more creative with their naming system by using flowers, sea shells, places traveled, pet names, and more.

_____ Wedding Guestbook/Scrapbook
A wedding guestbook gives guests an area in which to leave their best wishes and congratulations. These books can range from basic sign-in books to elaborate wedding scrapbooks, which hold not only the guests creativity, but also candid wedding photos, keepsakes, and wedding memorabilia. When all is said and done, this is one of the most treasured keepsakes a bride and groom will have in their collection.

after the wedding

_____ Thank You Cards
Thank you cards are the perfect way to let your guests know that you appreciated their attendance to your wedding and any gifts that you may have received from them. This is also the couple's first stationery that includes their newly shared last name. When designed to match the rest of the wedding stationery, these are a wonderful way to finish out your guest's collection of keepsakes from your wedding. Combined with their save the date, formal invitation, program, menu, and wedding favor, the personalized collection is a gift in itself!

_____ Wedding Announcements
Wedding announcements are generally needed for couples who hosted a small and intimate wedding and were not able to invite all of their family and friends. Announcements are only mailed to family and friends who were not invited to the wedding. These announcements inform people of the couple's recent marriage and they are generally sent out the same day as the ceremony or the following mailing day (if married on a Sunday). Wedding announcements should include the day, month, and year on which the ceremony took place and also the name of the city and state.

_____ Personal Stationery
After the wedding is over, personal stationery for the married couple is a nice gift, either ordered by the bride and groom for themselves, or given as a gift from a loved one. This stationery generally does not match the couple's wedding theme and takes on a style that represents the newly married couple and their new life together.

Sarah Prye is an artist, invitation designer, and creative enthusiast.
( http://www.Prye.Com/ )