Generally speaking, invitations for important larger events such as weddings, fundraisers or bar/bat mitzvahs should be mailed at least 10 weeks prior to the occasion with an RSVP about 2 weeks before the event. You will want to give plenty of notice for such an important occasion, especially if you have many out of town guests who will need to plan their travel arrangements if they want to attend. Related invitations for events such as an engagement party, bridal shower and rehearsal dinner can be sent out 4-6 weeks prior to the occasion.
If you are planning a smaller yet equally important occasion such as a first communion, baby shower, graduation party, anniversary party or a holiday party (holiday weekends book up early for people!) consider sending those type of invitations out 6-8 weeks prior to the event, less if it’s a small local group of guests, and more if it’s a bit larger guest list with many guests who are out of town or you feel have many obligations, to allow enough time for planning.
For adult birthday parties, kid’s birthday parties, sweet 16 parties, housewarming parties and backyard bbq’s, you will want to send those sort of invitations out about 3-5 weeks prior which should be sufficient.
Remember, if you are planning any sort of large important event like a wedding on a “busy weekend” such as 4th of July weekend, Labor Day weekend or Thanksgiving weekend – or during the busy holiday season, you might want to consider sending out a Save the Date announcement about 9-12 months prior. Many people plan family trips and have other commitments during those time periods. If you want your guests to be able to plan their schedules to attend your event, you will want to send out a notice of the date to give ample time for planning.
In terms of planning your schedule, first know how many weeks prior to the event you will want to send out your invitation. Then add the time to produce and ship your invitation. And finally add in the time to address your invitation. The more formal the invitation the more lead time you will need.
Production for complex invitations with many layers can take many weeks. At The Stationery Studio, most of our invitations are printed within one week. Then allow about one week for delivery, depending on what is ordered and where it needs to ship. Plus, allow time to address the envelopes. The more elegant the party, the fancier you might want the addressing to be. Many skilled calligraphers offer an elegant option for addressing envelopes. Their styles will all be very different so ask to see samples and don’t be shy about asking for pricing. Some calligraphers even offer more than one style. For instance, they may offer an elegant wedding style and also a more casual style.
Other options include computer calligraphy and of course simply addressing the envelopes yourself if you have pretty hand writing or by someone you know. We strongly feel that using stickers to address the envelopes should never be used as it’s very impersonal and destroys the beautiful look of an invitation. However, given that, the style you finally select really depends on your budget and your preference. Certainly hand calligraphy for a wedding invitation is our preference if possible as it will lend the overall presentation of the invitation to be beautiful and romantic. Depending on the manner in which you address your envelopes, and the size of your guest list, the time for addressing can be anywhere from a few days to 1-2 weeks. Many calligraphers will ask for 2 weeks or more as they are usually working on a number of events at any given time.
Also, if your invitation is for a very special occasion, bring one stuffed envelope to the post office to be weighed and then select a beautiful stamp to use that matches the feel of the occasion. Once all your envelopes are ready to go, return to the post office to ask them to hand cancel the invitations so they don’t go through the post-office machinery which will provide a nice clean look to your beautiful envelopes.
Selecting the invitation that will create the look and feel of your special event is one of the most important first steps to planning your party. And ordering early enough to accommodate production, delivery, addressing and mailing in time is equally as important.