In Germany, where I live, sending out Save the Dates is not standard operating procedure like it is in the States. This one of the few areas where I don't mind indulging in a little cultural imperialism. Sending out Save the Dates benefits both the couple getting married and the guests (or the party throwers and guests - why limit it to weddings!) Here's why:
Why it's good for the party throwers/couple:
- It's a downer when people can't come because they didn't get enough warning
- You're making it clear that this is an important event and you want people to come
- If travel is involved it gives your potential guest time and information to decided if they can come
- If your guests already know they can make it, they'll usually tell you which helps you get a better idea of head count (read: party costs)
Why it's good for the guests:
- Also a big downer, is when you can't go to a wedding/party/graduation (whatever) because you've made previous commitments that you just can't break
- You have time to prepare - get time off, book tickets, shop for clothes, etc
Well obviously I think the best format is a printable save the date. But if it's easier you can send an email version (full disclosure: I actually did this for our wedding, you can see it here, and view a tutorial here and here) If push comes to shove, just send out a damn text email, letting people know is the most important thing. There are also great online invite and save the date services like Glö (which also has, ahem, lovely designer templates to chose from) which allow you to get the word out fast and classy and without any postage.
The rule of thumb for sending out Save the Dates is 6 months to a year. I concur, but you could probably push it to 3 months out, if need be. For smaller events like a big birthday or anniversary a month to six weeks is probably fine too.
What do you think? Did you send out save the dates? Are you planning to?