You’ve heard it before but it really is true: Your invites set the tone for your wedding and it sets the expectations as well. They are the first glimpse your guests will receive of this special day that you and your betrothed are slaving over to create a perfect reflection of your love and commitment. Don’t skimp out on the most important preview of this spectacular day.
The world of paper and invitation etiquette is vast and varied, traditions and trends certainly change, but my custom invitation boutique, Lion in the Sun, coordinates invitations for hundreds of couples each year, so I’ve compiled a list of some common miscalculations and my favorite secret stationer tips to help guide you through the process.
1. Be sure to send an invite if you’ve sent a save the date: The save the date is a courteous heads-up about your wedding date, but it is not an invitation. Keep careful track of who you send save the dates to and make sure they all receive an invitation. I have heard a lot couples tell me that their invitation quantity is going down after they receive responses to the save the date, because some people can’t attend. Nothing is more confusing or heartbreaking than receiving a save the date and then never receiving an official invitation. Also, make sure to send an invitation to guests that cannot attend. Not sending an invitation implies the guest is no longer invited.
2. Be timely and create a sense of urgency: Technically, invitations should be mailed 6-8 weeks prior to a wedding. In these busy times 10 weeks has become the norm. However, more than that is too early and can backfire. Instead of making sure people respond promptly, this tactic actually causes most people to put the invitation on the “to-do later” list. Also be careful not to confuse your need for deadlines on the room blocks with the final head count for the caterer. You don’t need an official head count until about a month before the wedding for the caterer, seating chart and rentals. It is your guests’ responsibility to make travel arrangements and hotel accommodations, so try not to stress too much about that in terms of timing for your replies.
3. Think Ahead: depending on your invitation choices, you may need as much as two months more for design and printing time, so be sure not to cut it too close. Ordering your invites early really saves on stress and money for rush fees and expedited shipping. In the long run, if you can, it is really worth it not to put off printing until the last minute. Also consider all of your components when ordering your invitations. Work with your stationer to maximize your $$. For instance, if your are ordering from a larger printing company we recommend ordering announcements, maps, thank you notes and even placecards at the same time if you can. You save money on proofs and then you also save on one-time shipping for all parts.
4. Count Carefully: Be sure to count mailing addresses — not invited guests! Remember, many guests are invited as couples or as a family. If you have 150 total invited guests, you may only need 100 invitations. Add approximately 10 to 15 extras for last minute guest-list additions. If you have to reprint additional invitations after the order is completed, the printing company will treat it as a new order and it can be very costly. It is always safer (and much less expensive) to have a few left over!
5. Consider different printing options: While letterpress is all the rage it can be an expensive process. Thermography is a modern alternative for attaining the raised printed effect of engraving and is generally half the price. This is achieved with a heat process which causes powdered ink to expand, resulting in a raised letter with a beautiful sheen. Flat or off-set or digital printing is a photo process resulting in a modern, sleek look. Generally this process is about the same price as thermography, but with digital printing you can print multiple colors at no additional coast. For those looking for a more matte or contemporary feel, flat-printing may be the alternative you are looking for. It also works well for reproducing photograph half-tones, sketches and maps.
6. Save with creative reply cards: Reply postcards are a really popular and great way to save money. They can be well designed with a vintage emblem to look like an old postcard or leave the back blank for your guests to decorate and with a note to send back a “creative reply”. Another great way to save money is a tri-fold invite with perforated reply postcard that your guest tears off and sends back. Your invitation can then have one continuous detailed design and lots of information across three panels on each side, but by printing just one piece it cuts down costly components. Just remember that the postcards will not arrive back to you pristine. The USPS can give postcards a beating.
7. Develop a secret code for replies: Some people are so excited to send their reply card back that they forget to write their name on it or their writing is illegible. A great fix is to number your reply cards so that when someone rsvp’s with no name you’ll know who it is. The most discreet way to do this is to write a small number in pencil on the backside of the rsvp card and keep a corresponding list of guest names and numbers so you can check them off as you receive them. You may be surprised at how many guests forget to write their own names on the rsvp cards!
8. Avoid using address labels: Try not to, you really don’t want your wedding invitations to look like a corporate mailer. There are several ways to address your invitations without turning them into something that looks like an office mass mailing. Lion in the Sun offers hand calligraphy as well as computer-printed calligraphy services. But my best suggestion is to hand write them yourself or consider asking someone in your family or your bridal party to address the envelopes for you. You can always order extra envelopes just in case, and who doesn’t love to see a hand-addressed envelope waiting for them in their mailbox? It feels really personal.
9. Don’t lick one hundred envelopes: The safest way to seal your invitations is to use a glue stick. If you use a water sponge, you risk getting important cards wet and wiping the adhesive away. We provide glue sticks to our clients so there are no accidents a la Seinfeld or paper-cut tongues. Don’t lick — use a glue stick!
10. Be neurotic about postage and mailing: Make sure that your invite has the correct postage. Nothing replaces a conversation with the Post Office. Have it examined and weighed, buy proper postage — don’t save money here! Be careful about addressing: light colors and elaborate calligraphy can interfere with mailing. Also be sure to mail one to yourself before the rest go out. This will confirm that you used proper postage and give you a keepsake with a postmark from your local post-office.