Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this piece back when I was getting married, and have updated it to reflect any postage changes, etc. All these tips still DEFINITELY apply!
Yes, I have FINALLY sent my wedding invitations off. Don’t even get me started at how long this process took, or how anxious I was about them. But, it’s that drama that allows me to share with you some valuable advice I’ve learned along the way. If everything went smoothly, I certainly wouldn’t have as many pointers! Here are my top 5 tips for creating, printing, and eventually mailing your wedding invitations.
1. Don’t be overly ambitious with the design
As someone who likes to dabble in graphic design, I started off the wedding invitation process with a “vision” in mind. That vision ended up costing me pretty much double what I would have initially spent had I not been so focused on the design and being “out of the box.” Here’s a very long story made short: When it came time to do my invites, I had found a vintage graphic that I wanted to use. I began working with the designer who did my save the dates, and the poor girl really tried to make the invites look great using this VERY old graphic I found that she had to clean up and try to fit all our text in. I thought I was happy with the results, but a trip to the local printer who gave me the final product did not turn out well. The quality of the printing and paper was not good, and honestly neither was my beloved “design.” Thankfully, because the printing quality was so poor, I was able to get my money back for that, but I had still already paid for the design. On top of that, I had to start from scratch with a little over a week to do it!
I contacted a lovely Etsy designer that I had originally wanted to work with, and thankfully she was able to create a somewhat custom design (mixing together elements from a couple of her stock invites to match my wedding colors) , and have it shipped to me JUST IN TIME for me to send out my invites within the 8 week timeframe. And, I couldn’t have been happier with the end result. However, my flightiness with the entire design process ended up costing me a fortune. Here’s how it broke down:
Original custom design: $250 (this is another blog post…but don’t ever pay this much!)
New design: $50
TOTAL: I don’t want to know.
LESSON LEARNED? If you’re the creative type, don’t try to create the next masterpiece with your wedding invite. Ideally, you should pick an already-made design that you can customize the colors for and that’s it, or work with one that is not overly complicated. You’ll thank me later.
2. Go with high-quality paper
If you are a bride who would rather print the invites at home (and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that), then ignore this part. If you’re going the other route and are getting them professionally printed, either by a designer or local printing press, be sure to ask them what kinds of paper stock they offer if they don’t bring this up (some do, some don’t). Personally, I’m a big fan of HEAVY paper, which (shocker) is more expensive than your average paper stock. If you want your invitations to have weight to them, ask for 100% cotton paper or 90 lb. acide free paper. I used 100% cotton for my actual invites, and 90 lb. Reeves paper (art paper) for the info and reply card (which saved me around $80 by not doing every piece in the cotton.) I love the way they feel.
LESSON LEARNED: If you can budget an extra $100-$150 to spend on the invites and you’re picky about the way invites feel, go with the higher quality paper.
3. Have your return address pre-printed on the envelopes
Months ago, I had ordered a wonderful Etsy return address stamp to use on our wedding invites. I’m not saying I don’t like the stamp, but it was a bit of an ordeal to use it. First, I had an issue with the ink pad I was using. I couldn’t use my regular black ink pad from Staples because, well, it was ugly. So, I made a trip to Michael’s and picked up several different colors to experiment with. What followed was like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, with my internal dialogue going something like this: This red is TOO red. This ink pad has TOO MUCH ink. This yellow is GROSS. You get the point. After realizing I would need a very fine-inking stamp in order to get a crisp, legible return address stamp, I made about five more trips to Michael’s. The day I sent out the invites, I FINALLY found the perfect ink pad. It’s the Versafine Archival Instant Dry Pigment Ink in Vintage Sepia. It delivered a slightly worn, fine detail imprint that didn’t make me freak out that our invites, if returned, wouldn’t make it back to us. BUT! Even with the new ink pad, it didn’t mean that some envelopes didn’t come out blurry (only 3 or 4 out of 100, which isn’t bad.) Plus, the time and effort you can put into making sure the “position” of the stamp is just right or that the pressure you use when you’re stamping is “just so,” can make you go a little mad.
LESSON LEARNED: Stamps are tempermental. Safe yourself the time and hassle and just have your return addresses printed on the envelope beforehand. Or, think about using a self-inking address stamp.
4. When in doubt, add extra postage
After I received my invitations, I was in a super-rush to get them out in time. I carefully glued and lined my envelopes with liners, FH organized the invites/info/reply cards into neat little piles, and I hand-stamped our return address onto every calligraphed envelope. On Thursday morning, I took one fully assembled invite to my local post office, complete with a peel-n-stick wax seal on the back, to be weighed. Once I was at what I think has to be the least stressful post office known to man (there is almost never a line in this downtown Nashville post office), the extremely nice woman behind the counter weighed my invite, and said that luckily I was just at 1 0z, the maximum weight for a $0.49 cent stamp. She also told me that while she thinks it’s wise to hand cancel them (which she wouldn’t charge for…again, super nice), she wanted to let me know they still have to go through a sorting machine, and that’s just how mail is done these days. However, the hand-canceling would eliminate those black-tar type markings that usually go across the top right of an envelope to cancel your postage stamp (if you haven’t heard of that term before, “canceling” means placing an official USPS ink stamp over your postage stamp, so it can’t be used again.) When it’s hand-canceled, it’s typically just a round date/location stamp instead of wavy lines. Below is an example of a hand-cancelled envelope and a non hand-cancelled.
The postal worker said they normally charge for hand-canceling, but if I do it myself I wouldn’t have to pay. So, I set up my work station and stamped away. TIP: Be sure to stamp OVER the postage stamp. Since I am clearly a genuis, I stamped some of them to the “left” of the stamp. Don’t do that. When I was done, I asked again if it was the correct amount of postage, and indeed it was. So, off they went. UPDATE: As of 12/16 the Post Office should not be charging a fee for hand-cancelling items.
While about 98% of the invitations arrived safely (and neatly) to the intended recipients, my mom and a couple of her friends had a “postage due” stamp on their envelope, telling them that they owe $.21 cents. I have no idea why that happened on some and not all, but I’m a little embarrassed about it. I think it was because I had a seal on the envelopes, which made them “irregular” in some post offices’ eyes. I just can’t figure out why they were stamped with that when I was given the O.K. by the outgoing post office. At the end of the day, I’m just happy they got there and weren’t returned to me. And, I’m sure every guest will understand. Who collects that fee, anyway??
LESSON LEARNED: If you have any irregularities on your envelope, such as an object that causes a raised bump, ask your post office directly about this. Also ask them if the receiving post office could possibly have a different take on it then they do. When in doubt, go ahead and add an extra $.20 cent stamp just to be safe. Always take them to the post office to be weighed BEFORE you put any postage on them, and do not under any circumstances just drop them in the mail yourself!
5. If you’re using a calligrapher, have your B-list done at the same time as your A-list
I was lucky enough to find a local calligrapher that I loved who only charged me $1.50 an envelope. After looking around, that was one of the lowest prices I found online for quality work (even on Etsy.com). What I didn’t think about, however, was the time crunch there would be if B-list people were going to eventually be invited as well. Given that calligraphers need a couple weeks to get the work, you can estimate they’ll need at least 4-5 days for any B-list addresses you’ll need after. Wouldn’t it just be easier to have them done at the same time? This revelation suddenly dawned on me last week when I had to hand-address an invite to a distant relative, and it ended up looking like that non-cancelled envelope, above. Another important tip? Order way more envelopes than you think you’ll need. The rule of thumb is to have 10% extra. I would go above that (especially if you’re doing things like lining your own envelopes or hand-stamping your return address. You’ll make some mistakes.) and order 15-20% more.
Do you have any wedding invitation tips?