Save the Dates vs Invitations vs Announcements
Maybe you haven't been to a wedding in a while and are lost on the differences between these things that people may or may not mail out before the wedding. These things all serve a different purpose, though only the invitation itself is necessary.
Announce the fact that you are engaged. That is it! You can include a photo, some wording about yourselves or how the engagement happened, but that is it. The sole purpose is just to let people know that there is a new bride and groom.
Engagement Party Invitation:
The engagement party invitation is to invite friends and family to a party that is being thrown to celebrate the engagement. Usually these also announce the engagement- it's rare for someone to send out engagement announcements and engagement party invitations, but, it could happen.
Save the dates:
The sole purpose of save the dates is to let future guests know when your wedding will take place. Send these ONLY to people that you two are sure to invite. You might also let them know what city/state the wedding will take place in, but you could leave it at just the bride's name, groom's name, and date. If you haven't sent out engagement announcements, obviously these announce the fact of it! A lot of couples are choosing their date so quickly after an engagement that save the dates are now a lot more common than engagement announcements.
The one necessary item among these is the wedding invitation. If you are throwing a big event, you need to invite people! You need to include the date, your names, the street address of the ceremony, information about the reception. And of course, this is the one where you also ask for an RSVP.
Technically, Post Wedding:
There is actually one other type of invitation. There are special cases where couples have a small wedding, perhaps away from their home state or country, or, maybe they eloped! They then throw the reception to celebrate sometime after they actually get married. Reception invitations are very similar to wedding invitations, just with slightly different wording. The newlyweds may or may not include note about what date they got married. You would also ask for an RSVP in this case.
It is worth mentioning that there are also a few cases where there just wasn't a big party, but couples still want to let people know that they got married. Close friends and family should know already, but maybe you still want to send out something fun.
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