Know the Rules: UK Postal Regulations Ahead of Christmas 2019

With the festive season rapidly approaching, everyone from large-scale retailers to Auntie Sue will be looking to utilise the postal service this month. With that in mind, today we’re bringing you something a little different - breaking down Royal Mail’s postal rules and regulations ahead of the holiday rush to ensure you can continue to send deliveries hassle-free, all with the peace of mind that your item will arrive in time for the big day.

Red letterboxPhoto by Dele Oke on Unsplash


No doubt the most commonly sent item across the holiday season is letters - after all, Santa sends children over 80,000 letters in East Anglia alone! So, whether you’re sending off your Christmas wishlist to the North Pole or a festive card to family and friends, it’s important you know how much it’ll cost you and when it needs to be sent by.

Of course, normal letters in standard envelopes can simply be popped in a letter box, assuming that they’re accompanied by a 1st or 2nd Class stamp and addressed in the correct format. As a rule of thumb, Royal Mail aims to deliver all 1st Class post the next working day, with 2nd Class post being delivered in 2-3 working days.

Tracked or recorded delivery is recommended if sending particularly important letters such as cards that contain monetary value. How much you will pay to send these is subject to Royal Mail’s regulations surrounding envelope sizes and weight:

  • Standard letter - Standard letters are defined as envelopes with a max weight of 100g and dimensions of 24cm x 16.5cm or smaller. This size typically includes cards, postcards and personal letters
  • Large letter - Large letters are defined as any envelope size that is between 24cm x 16.5cm and 35.3cm x 25cm while weighing 750g or less. Typically, this size includes items such as CDs and DVDs, magazines and some larger greetings cards


With online retail accounting for 20% of all retailing in December last year, it’s clear that ecommerce is only going to continue to grow year-to-year as a popular means of consumer Christmas shopping. Of course, this will lead to businesses big and small sending parcels galore over the next 6 weeks, in addition to all the families and friends exchanging those precious Christmas gifts. As such, it’s important to understand the regulations surrounding sending parcels across this busy festive period.

Much like with letters, the amount you’ll pay for sending a parcel is dependent on its size and weight:

  • Small parcel - Royal Mail UK packaging regulations define a small parcel as any package weighing 2kg or less and having the maximum dimensions of 35.3cm x 25cm. Typically, this will include items such as shoes, speakers and mobile phones
  • Medium parcel - A medium parcel constitutes a package weighing up to 20kg with the maximum dimensions of 61cm x 46cm. As such, a medium parcel often includes heavier and bulkier contents
  • Large parcel - Large parcels are delivered up to the maximum weight of 30kg with a maximum length of 1.5m. These larger parcels are delivered via Parcelforce Worldwide and will typically only constitute significantly sized items such as TVs
  • Postal tubes - If you’re looking to package an item in a postal tube, the length of the item plus twice the diameter must be less than 104cm, with the maximum dimension being less than 90cm

Parcels can be sent 1st or 2nd Class (with tracked and recorded options), as well as Special Delivery Guaranteed - that ensures next day delivery by 9am or 1pm depending on the sender’s preference.

This year, Royal Mail’s last posting dates to guarantee delivery before 25th December are as follows:

  • 1st Class mail - Friday, 20th December
  • 2nd Class mail - Wednesday, 18th December
  • Special Delivery mail - Wednesday, 23rd December

It’s important to understand that, given the sharp influx in post during this period, posters should look to send items before these stated dates to guarantee delivery before Christmas day wherever possible.

Important regulations to remember

With all sorts of gifts being sent over the festive period, it’s vital that you’re aware of the regulations surrounding valuable and prohibited items.

Valuable items such as money and jewellery should be sent securely, ensuring no contents are visible from the outside. As with any package, ensure the parcel is appropriately wrapped to prevent damage or compromise during transit.

To ensure the safety and legality of the postal system, certain items are prohibited from being sent via Royal Mail. It’s key that you’re aware of the full list of prohibited items over the Christmas period, as it includes popular festive items including Christmas crackers, alcoholic beverages (in some cases) and certain perfumes. For the full list of items restricted or banned by Royal Mail, click here.

Is there an easier way for businesses?

If you’re a small independent retailer experiencing large quantities of orders this season, the thought of regularly enduring long post office queues and constant packaging measurements can be enough to turn anyone into Ebenezer Scrooge.

Luckily, Royal Mail have introduced a new Drop & Go system to help businesses cope with the busy holiday season. This enables retailers to pay for deliveries by topping-up a prepaid Drop & Go card and answer all the necessary questions before postage, meaning they can fast-track orders without having to face the busy post office counters.

Packing up an item

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

With Christmas almost in full swing, ensure you know the ins and outs of what to expect from postal deliveries during this typically busy period. To guarantee you’re adhering to all the rules and regulations when sending letters, parcels and more, explore our range of postal products today.

Know the Rules: UK Postal Regulations Ahead of Christmas 2019