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A save the date announcement is a type of custom invitation that announces the date, time, and location of an event, and most importantly allows guests who must make travel arrangements to be prepared for the affair. These can be sent several months in advance so that guests from other states or countries are able to schedule flights and time away from work.
Scheduling concerns such as catering and decorations do not have to be sent prior to the save the date announcement (the save the date announcement is a rough draft, so to speak, of the affair). Printed save the date announcements can be very simple plain cards that announce an upcoming affair. Printing facilities like VistaPrint.com offer very inexpensive save the date announcements. Remember that these are not the actual invitation, and therefore do not have to be fancy. The save the date announcements are simple pre-invitations that let traveling guests know ahead of time when and where to make travel arrangements.