The first official communication with your guests means it's time to get serious about your guest list! Luckily save-the-dates aren't all business: They can be a fun way to give your guests a glimpse into you as a couple, and into the kind of wedding you're planning … think mark your calendar AND get excited!

For many guests and engaged couples, a save-the-date makes upcoming nuptials seem "real" as it's the first time the info-date and place-appears in one spot. It's a sign everyone can start making plans to attend, booking hotels and vacation dates. Along with sharing need-to-know details, it's a great way to get people excited. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you start spreading the (amazing!) news.

1. Decide to send one!

Wondering whether a save-the-date is really necessary? It is-especially if you're planning a destination wedding, a summer wedding, or a wedding that falls on a three-day weekend. Part of what makes your wedding day magical is having so many of your friends and family together in one place. Scheduling conflicts occur, but if you give your guests a decent heads-up, more of them will attend, and you will be merrier!

2. When to send.

Aim to send save-the-dates four to six months before your wedding, if you're tying the knot in a far-flung destination. Any longer, and your date might go on the backburner and be inadvertently forgotten when a conflict does arise. But, if you're having a small wedding and most attendees are local, mailing invites six to eight weeks ahead offers enough notice and chances are you don't need a save-the-date at all. For a destination affair, send one at least six months before the bash so guests aren't scrambling to make arrangements.

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3. The recipients.

Everyone on your "A" guest list-even your maid of honor who found out the second you booked the venue-should receive a save-the-date. (Due to budget and venue restrictions, you may have a "B" guest list-people you would love to have at your wedding but can't invite until regrets come in). If plus-ones and kids are invited, remember to specify "and guest" or "and family" when addressing save-the-dates. Address cards accordingly-and that means waiting until your guest list is set.

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4. The details.

You don't need to have to wait until your entire weekend is planned to send these out. Just make sure invitees are aware of when and where the nuptials are taking place. Your save-the-date should include your first names, the date, the venue, and its location (city/state or city/country; save the exact address for the invite). Make sure to include your last names somewhere, like on the envelope-a "Katie and Tom are getting hitched!" postcard may lead your parents' friends to ask "which Katie and Tom?" You can include the phrase "formal invitation to follow" or "invitation to follow," but it isn't a must. Don't forget to include your wedding website-if you're going to create one, it's best to launch it in time for the save-the-date.

5. Get creative.

This is the fun part! Your save-the-dates can match the rest of your wedding stationery, or you can go totally left field and dream up something super creative. Play with fonts, prints, colors, and wording to reveal the tone of your wedding … and a little something about the kind of couple you are! Announce an elegant soiree with an ornate script that matches the rest of your wedding stationery, or a seaside celebration with a bold tropical palette or a prim nautical motif. Filmstrips are popular, as are magnets because they go (and stay) right on the fridge, but a garden-party save-the-date might come in the form of a flower seed packet, and a luggage tag could help guests keep track of your destination wedding date and their suitcase.

6. Request hand-processing or hand-canceling.

If you do go the creative route and DIY mini easels, messages-in-a-bottle, or paper airplanes, make sure the processing machines at the post office don't crush them. Keep in mind that the larger and weightier your save the date is, the more postage it will require, which ups expenses.

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