@carnivaltheme: The big appeal of “Save the Date” cards is that they are one of the first things a bride can do, that puts her name and her fiances name down in official print together, and make the wedding seem real. The are (sometimes) cute, and if you make them yourself they help burn up the nervous excitement of being newly engaged so that you can focus on other things, like remembering to wash the dishes and filling out your timesheets.
But they are fraught with social danger. They are a new fashion (in fact, I strongly hope they are just a fad), not proper protocol. They are not only not required, they are in fact somewhat improper. And brides often send them before the realities of budgetting and planning have set in and before the actual guest list is finalized, and then find themselves wishing they could strike people off the list despite having already — ahem — “given them an STD.”
What could possibly be improper about a “Save The Date” card? Well, for one thing, you are asking people to rearrange their plans around yours. Even if you remember to say “please”, do you not think that is a little presumptuous? Sure, you need your grandma and sisters (and your grand-Auntie Aspasia) to be there for you, but should your second-year college friends and dad’s third cousin that he hasn’t seen since 1982 really be expected to book their scarce vacation days now around your life events? And grandma and your sisters (and grand-aunties) deserve something a little more personal than a mass-mailout, don’t they?
In my day, people sent letters. A girl who got engaged would take out actual paper (she kept a box of it for just such purposes) and wrote on it in pen (my Auntie Vespasia insisted it had to be a fountain pen because ball-point pen was “rude”), to tell her closest friends and family the special news, and incidentally let them know which weekend to set aside. By the nineteen-seventies I was largely ignoring Auntie V’s strictures about ballpoint pens, especially so when those lovely rolling-ball liquid ink pens from Pilot came out in the nineties. I happen to know that Auntie V’s mother insisted on india ink and a dip-pen for social notes and that Auntie V had moved on from that old-fashioned stricture, so I don’t feel guilty in the least (I recently received a high-quality fountain pen that neither blots nor skips — but when I don’t use it I don’t feel guilty!). To my mind there is no more difference in choosing email (or text-message!) over ballpoint-pen than there is in choosing fountain pens over india ink. What makes it gracious is that it is a personal individual communication rather than a mass mail-out. Giving someone an STD is WAAAYYY more “tacky” than sending them a personal note. (Aside — since you are a Canadian bride I am sure you would say “please”, so to prevent peurile misunderstandings I unitlaterally declare that in Canada at least, Please Save The Date cards shall henceforth be abbreviated to PSTDs)
In business the modern axiom is “if you are not on the internet you don’t exist.” With modern social networking something similar could be said about your social life. Still, I do tend to think that wedding websites are rather silly. Like PSTDs they give you something to burn time on while waiting for guests to reply and vendors to submit quotes. But all that effort has a short life expectancy. Most households I am connected with have household websites that are their internet presence. If I were planning a wedding, I think I would put my nervous energy into buiding a household website for my new married household, the current focus of which might be my wedding planning, but which might be expected to survive into the future and focus on other things as my household matured.
Favours, by the way are another modern fashion/fad. The traditional favour is a slice of wedding cake, wrapped in a scrap of pretty paper. When American-style white cakes started to usurp the traditional fruit cake, stationers started making little card-board cake boxes to hold the more delicate cakes. Traditionally, single female guests would take these home and sleep with the cake under their pillow to evoke dreams of their future mate. I never dreamed of anyone, which may prove that the old superstition actually works. Little clusters of Jordan almonds tied up in a scrap of tulle are also traditional, but most people don’t actually like the taste Match-books with the couple’s name printed on them were popular back when social smoking was a norm, but those are fairly useless nowadays. No-one really cherishes the cute engraved-marble coasters (!) or cloth-covered trinket-boxes. If the traditional cake doesn’t work for you, and you really want favours (which no-one misses when they aren’t there), offer chocolate.
Since you are brand-new to wedding planning — the perfect time to catch you before you find yourself in over your head — here is one more free bit of early advice:
Read up on inner envelopes and outer envelopes before you decide you don’t need them. You really don’t need two envelopes, but if you decide to skip the inner envelope (that’s where the individual names of who is invited are to be written) then you need to leave a write-in line on the invitation itself where you list who is actually invited. Most brides discover the problems of addressing invitations AFTER deciding to forego inner envelopes, by which time they’ve already had the invitations printed with no write-in line.