With so many options available for buying wedding invitations these days, I want to offer some tips on avoiding pitfalls before, during, and after your wedding invitation purchase. Whether you have a tiny budget or a huge one; whether you plan to work with a custom stationer, buy online, or do it yourself; these tips are worth reading:
- Know your budget and your quantity. Is your budget for invitations and paper goods $200 or $2000? And more importantly: how many invitation ensembles need to fit into that budget? The biggest mistake I see couples make when they shop for wedding invitations is not knowing their quantity. Buying the appropriate quantity of invitations is so important to making the most of your stationery budget. Many couples accidentally count guests when they should be counting addresses. Remember that you’ll be sending only one invitation to families and couples. A good rule of thumb if you’re in the beginning-stages of invitation shopping and you haven’t yet verified your address list is to get quotes for 60% of your guest count. For example, if you’re inviting 100 guests, you’ll probably only need to send invitations to about 60 addresses. So if your invitation budget is $1000 in this scenario, your per-ensemble budget just went from $10 per ensemble if you buy based on guest count to $16.50 per ensemble if you buy based on address count. That’s a really significant increase, and you now have room in your budget for lots of invitation “bells and whistles.” Be sure to verify your actual address count before purchasing your invitations.
- Calculate all costs before deciding to buy. Many online sites that sell pre-designed invitations break down pricing by invitations, envelopes, enclosure cards, and address printing costs. The reason for this is that some brides need three enclosure cards sent with each invitation and some only need one. Some don’t want to pay extra for return address printing, and some choose to. That makes sense. The problem is, some sites advertise “$349 for 100 invitations” (and pocket invitations, too!) and that’s where the problem starts. Great deal, right? Well, yes, but not as good as it sounds. It is $349 for 100 pocket invitations, but by the time you buy envelopes ($25), return address printing ($20), response enclosures ($55) and 2 additional enclosures ($49 each), your total is now $547 – $200 more than what you thought you were getting into. So take that into consideration while comparing prices of invitations from site to site, stationer to stationer.
- Always get a sample. A few years ago, a local bride hired me to create her wedding programs, table numbers, and favor tags. She told me she wanted them to coordinate with her wedding invitation, which were created by another stationer so I asked her to bring me an invitation to reference. She did. I brought the invitation back to my studio, and as I removed it from the envelope, it literally fell apart – no assistance from me. It was a three-layer flat invitation and the layers were held together with photo splits – one tiny square in each corner – and I guess they didn’t feel like holding on anymore! Honestly, the design was beautiful, but the quality was horrible. When you receive a sample from your stationer before buying, you know what to expect: you know the quality, the feel, the weight, the smell, the everything. This protects you from buying invitations that look gorgeous online but fall apart in your hand, smell like Raid (that’s another story!), or are poorly cut or printed.
- Work with a professional whenever possible. In the above story, some of you might be wondering, “Why didn’t the bride purchase her programs, table numbers, and favor tags from the original stationer in the first place?” Here’s why: the original “stationer” was her friend who is in college for graphic design. As I said, the design was beautiful, but it ended up taking her friend days longer than expected to assemble the invitations (which might account for them falling apart) and in the end, she just ran out of time to make the accessories. So what started as an inexpensive alternative to invitations and paper goods ended up being a last-minute scramble and an unbudgeted expense for the bride. When asking or allowing friends or family to create part of your wedding day, come into it with a clear understanding that the end result might not be what you expect, and that your friend or family member is not contractually obligated to complete your “order” as requested or in a timely manner. If you’re okay with that, go for it. If you’re not okay with everything being just the way you envisioned, work with a professional.
- If you DIY, know why you DIY. I know that DIY brides all have different reasons for going the DIY route. For some, it’s cost. For others it’s the need to have control of design and creation. For more, it’s the desire to have a highly-personalized wedding. I understand those reasons and relate to them myself. I was actually very much a DIY bride. The thing is, you (one person) don’t have unlimited time, money, and resources to plan this wedding. If cost is your reason for DIY, then do a cost analysis of the materials, supplies, and equipment you’ll need to buy to manufacture your own paper goods. I often hear brides laugh that they went so overboard on materials, or had to buy this new whizbang gadget or the other to get the job done, that they didn’t save any money in the long run (and some go over budget, too). A cost analysis will help you determine if you should DIY or opt to buy inexpensive invitations through a catalog or online. If control is your reason, then to you I suggest prioritizing. As I said, you don’t have unlimited time before your wedding arrives. So determine what things are most important to you to make yourself, and then make those things first. Don’t be too disappointed if you have to buy, borrow, or rent some of your lower-priority items in the end. And if your reason for DIY is personalization, then consider hiring someone to do some of that personalization for you. You can bring your ideas, your personality, and your style to a professional (stationer, baker, decorator) and have them make it your way. (That’s kind of what we do!) And that way, you save time in assembly, you save money in equipment and supplies, and you save stress in trying to get it all done on time.
- Know what wedding stationery items you need. Have a plan not only for invitations and enclosures, but for all paper goods. Do you want custom wedding programs? Do you have a need for table numbers, seating cards, and menus? Would custom favor tags make your reception perfect? And don’t forget you’re going to need to thank everyone for all those gifts. Knowing what items you need can save time and money, especially in the custom world, since your custom stationer can order all materials at once and save on shipping costs and procurement time.
There you have it! Six things to think about before buying your wedding invitations. I hope you found this helpful!