{Advice} Strategy for Writing Thank You Notes

Salmon Pink and Light Oatmeal Thank You Card

So the celebration is over and you’ve had your first non-planning weekend in months!  Yay!  You’ve got one final task at hand, though, and you might be thinking it’s the most daunting: writing thank yous for those fabulous wedding gifts you received…

Don’t fret!  With a little time and with a strategy on hand, writing thank you notes can become very easy.  Don’t over-think it; be sincere and grateful.  Remember, a thank you note need not be longer than a paragraph.

Some easy guidelines:

  • Introduction: Say thank you and state (specifically) what you’re thanking them for:
    • (Wrapped gift) “Thank you for the beautiful Waterford vase.”
    • (Registry contribution) “Thanks so much for contributing to our honeymoon registry.”
    • (Cash) “Thank you for your generous wedding gift.”
  • Body: Give them some details about how you will/are using the gift (shoot for 2 to 3 sentences):
    • “The vase looks great on the mantle filled with fern fronds. It matches our décor perfectly.”
    • “We had a great time scuba diving in Bermuda; the water was perfect.”
    • “We’re planning to use the money towards a down payment on our first house!”
  • Closing: Reiterate your gratitude that they shared your day, and let them know they’re an important part of your life:
    • “We’re so happy that you made it to South Dakota for our wedding.  It was so great to see you both.”
    • “Every time we look at our honeymoon album, we’ll think of you.  We had a great time!”
    • “We’ll let you know when we finally find the perfect place; we’d love to have you visit.”

Hot tips:

DEFINITELY hand write a genuine, short thank you note in a timely manner.  Try to mail your thank yous within 3 months of your event.

DO get creative in finding time to write your notes, if needed. Bring a copy of your gift list and a small stack of thank you cards with you anywhere you might have to wait: the doctor’s office, the airport, even waiting on hold on the phone. It only takes two to three minutes to write one thank-you; you can squeeze five notes into a fifteen-minute wait.

Brides, DO enlist the new hubby.  Assign him half the list and hand him the above guidelines.  Even if he refuses to write the note itself, it’s often nice if each note contains his true signature.

DON’T create an “all-purpose template” for your thank you notes. Canned and generalized thank yous are not only obvious and insincere, but can feel worse than not receiving a thank you at all.  Be specific and personalize each note.

DON’T stress over your handwriting! Do your best to make the note legible, but don’t ever use bad handwriting as an excuse to not send a thank you.

Good luck writing!

 

The folding thank  you card in the photo above was created using light oatmeal and salmon pink cardstock.  Inside, the card is lined with a white writing liner.

Thank You Card: Dogwood Blossom Stationery & Invitation Studio, LLC

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{Advice} When to mail your wedding invitations?

Coral and Jade Green Save-the-Date

The date you mail your wedding invitations is important.  Send them too late and your guests won’t have adequate time to book travel.  Send them too early and you risk (dare I say it?) being forgotten amidst the chaos of the rest of life.  And how does sending a save-the-date affect your invitation mailing date?  Here are some guidelines for mailing wedding invitations:

1.  If the majority of your guests are local:

Mail your wedding invitations 4 to 6 weeks prior to your wedding date.  This is the traditional mailing timeframe, and because local guests won’t need to book travel, this should leave adequate time for them to put your wedding on their social calendar.

If you sent a save-the-date and most of your guests are local: Still mail your wedding invitations 4 to 6 weeks prior.

2.  If a significant number of your guests live out-of-town:

Mail your wedding invitations 6 to 8 weeks prior to your wedding date.  This gives out-of-town guests time to book travel, but it isn’t so far in advance that your wedding will be overlooked.

If you sent a save-the-date and many of your guests live out-of-town: Still shoot for mailing your wedding invitations 6 to 8 weeks prior, but since your guests have been well-informed, if you can only manage 4 to 6 weeks prior, don’t fret.

TIP for inviting out-of-town guests:  Be a hero to out-of-town guests by including information about lodging near your wedding venue.  Let them know how far the suggested lodging is from the nearest airport, and give them some idea of the transportation situation:  will they need to rent a car?  Is there public transportation available?  Are you providing a shuttle service between the suggested lodging and your wedding venue?  Include this information on an enclosure with your wedding invitation, if possible.  Otherwise, include this information on your wedding website, or ask family members to share it with others.

3.  If you’re having a destination wedding:

Mail your wedding invitations 2 to 4 months prior to your wedding date, depending on whether your wedding will be held in this country or another country.  Mailing your invitations out early allows guests to obtain a passport, if needed, and arrange for travel.

If you sent a save-the-date and you’re having a destination wedding: Mail your wedding invitations 2 months prior if you included travel information with your save-the-date.  If you did not include travel information with your save-the-date, mail destination wedding invitations at least 3 months prior to your wedding, and include travel information with the invitation.

TIP for destination weddings:  Consider using the services of a travel agent to help your guests book their travel.  A travel agent will ensure that all your guests understand your weekend itinerary and know when to arrive and when to depart.  She’ll also help your guests get the best rates, prepare properly for travel, and serve as a singular point-of-contact during their trip.  Send your travel agent’s contact information in your save-the-date or with your wedding invitation.

So when should you order your invitations?

After you’ve determined the appropriate mailing date for your wedding invitations, the next step is making sure you order your wedding invitations far enough in advance to get your invitations in the mail.  Here’s a quick guide for turnaround time on wedding invitations, from first thought to mailbox:

Online/Mail-Order Invitations: Order pre-designed invitations from online and mail-order sources 1 to 3 months in advance.  Expect delivery of your invitations in 3 to 8 weeks, depending on the company you’re ordering from, and the type of printing process you select.  You’ll need at least week to address your envelopes if you’re doing it yourself.  If you hire a calligrapher, give her at least 3 weeks to address your envelopes.

Custom Invitations: Contact your custom stationer at least 3 months in advance to allow time for a design consultation, sample creation and revisions, and order fulfillment.  If time is an issue, ask your custom stationer to send your mailing envelopes in advance so you can have the addressing done by the time your invitations are complete.  Custom stationers will often arrange for calligraphy services on your behalf, also.

Save-the-Date: Dogwood Blossom Stationery & Invitation Studio, LLC

The save-the-date in the photo above was created in a coral and jade green palette.  It uses multiple layers, including textured white, pearlized coral, a custom modern geometric wallpaper design in jade green, and a final printed layer included a circled-date calendar.

{Advice} How much to budget for wedding invitations?

Wedding Budget Example

One of the first and most important questions I ask people who call my studio is, “What is your budget for invitations and paper goods?”  I ask this question because the work I do is custom, and as such, I can recommend invitation styles, papers, and embellishments that work within the client’s budget.  I like working with the positive:  “This is what we can do with your budget.”  I feel like there’s nothing more cruel than getting a bride hooked on an invitation adorned with loads of freshwater pearls, for instance, and then telling her, “Sorry, that’s not going to work out for you,” so I avoid that scenario if at all possible.

When I ask about budget, though, many people don’t know how to respond.  They tell me they don’t know what to expect, and ask me to advise them.  The quick answer is: you should spend about 5% of your overall wedding budget on invitations and paper goods.  But things are often a bit more complex than, so today’s post offers an overview of wedding budgeting, and some tips for getting the most bang for your buck.

Most bridal magazines and websites out there provide a budget planning worksheet of some sort.  Some are very specific and outline every possible item or service you could ever have at your wedding.  But in the graphic above, I’ve kept things pretty simplified and grouped things into major categories.

I used a $25,000 budget for the example above, and as you can see, if you put 5% of this budget towards wedding invitations, favors, and other paper goods, you have $1,250 to spend on wedding stationery.  This includes your invitation ensemble (invitation, envelopes, and all enclosures), thank you cards, wedding programs, menus, escort cards, table numbers and other signage (“Reserved”), and favor tags/packaging.

All of the above is simply a basic, non-personalized guideline, though.  Here are a few ways to squeeze everything you love into your wedding budget:

Budgeting Tip #1 Adjust your wedding budget to fit the thing(s) you love most into the plan.  Every bride has something they just must have at their wedding, and for all brides, it’s a different “something.”  Maybe you can’t live without the designer gown, but could care less about extravagant centerpieces.  In that case, transfer some of the money allotted to flowers to your attire.  Maybe you feel invitations play an important role in exciting your guests, and you have a very small bridal party to purchase gifts for.  In that case, allot a larger percentage of your budget to invitations, and a smaller percentage to gifts.

Budgeting Tip #2 Remember to factor in the cost of taxes and tips.  When you receive quotes from vendors, ask if tax is included in that quote, and if not, ask how much tax to expect.  Here’s a great article on wedding tipping.

Budgeting Tip #3 You will most likely spend more than you originally plan because small details have a tendency to add up.  If you really want to stay within your budget, I suggest leaving a 10% window for “unexpected details” and things you didn’t think of.  So if you’re willing to spend an absolute maximum of $25,000 on your wedding, then enter a $22,500 budget into your wedding budget worksheet.

Happy budgeting!

{Advice} 6 Things to think about before buying wedding invitations

Tips for buying wedding invitations

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

{Etiquette} Addressing Your Wedding Invitations

Grace Edmands CalligraphyCalligraphy by Grace Edmands Calligraphy (thanks Grace!)

Today I wanted to share some outer envelope addressing etiquette with you.  I’ve been collecting this information for years from various sources as different scenarios have come up for my clients.  Family situations have grown more complex in recent years, so I’ve tried to include the basics as well as the more complicated scenarios.  Though I’m not a bonafide etiquette expert (as proven by my personal story at the end of this post), if you need help with addressing an invitation to a family whose situation is not covered in this post, let me know, and I’ll see if I can track down the answer for you!

FIRST, a few basic tips:

  • Always use proper titles for doctors, PhDs, military officers, etc.
  • Address the invitation to all who are invited, by name
  • Medical doctors should be addressed using “Doctor” and PhDs should be addressed using “Dr.”
  • Address both active duty and retired military officers with their proper titles
  • Always spell out names of cities and states, and words like “Street”, “Avenue”, “Suite”, “Apartment”, etc., with the exception of “Washington, D.C.”

 

MARRIED COUPLES
Same last name: Mr. and Mrs. John Smith

Wife uses her maiden name, use “Mrs.” and place her name on the line above his:
Mrs. Jane Jones
Mr. John Smith

Same last name, but wife has a proper title and the husband does not, place her name above his:
Doctor Jane Smith
Mr. John Smith

Husband has a proper title and wife does not: General and Mrs. John Smith

Both the husband and wife have the same proper titles: Drs. John and Jane Smith

Husband and wife have different proper titles, put wife first:
General Jane Smith
The Honorable John Smith

 

INVITING CHILDREN UNDER 18
Place children’s names on a separate line below their parents.  If children have the same last name as their parents, only write their first names.  If children have different last names than their parents, include their last names.  Invited children over 18 should receive their own invitations, whether or not they reside with their parents.  For them, use the rules for “single guests.”

Invited children under 18 with the same last name as their parents:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Mary, Elizabeth, and Joseph

Invited children under 18 with different last names than their parents, use separate lines:
Mr. and Mrs. John Smith
Mary and Elizabeth Jones
Joseph Smith

 

SINGLE GUESTS & UNMARRIED COUPLES
Single guests use Ms., Miss, or Mr., or their proper title: Ms. Elizabeth Rogers   -or-  Doctor Henry Jones

Unmarried and/or same-gender couples living at same address should be addressed alphabetically by last name:
Ms. Mary Jones
Ms. Elizabeth Rogers

 

SO NOW FOR A TOUGH ONE
How do you address an invitation to a military husband with a medical doctor wife with five kids under 18 (who are invited) who all have different last names?
Doctor Jane Smith
General John Jones
Mary, Elizabeth, and Ryan Smith
Joseph and Henry Jones

 

AND NOW MY EMBARRASSING STORY
When I got married, I addressed my own invitations.  (I didn’t have the pleasure of hiring a great calligrapher like Grace Edmands.)  I researched proper etiquette for addressing, of course, but I still made an embarrassing error:  I addressed the invitation to my husband’s boss as “Mr.” when it should have been “Dr.”  Now that I think about it, his wife might be “Dr.” too!  I feel badly that I didn’t show the proper respect for his title.  I simply forgot that he had a proper title, because I usually just call him “Bob.”  But you know what?  I don’t think he ever held it against me.  He’s never mentioned my error.  And my husband still has a job, lol!

So the lesson is twofold:  First, do your best to address your invitations properly.  Second, if you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up.  Reasonable people will forgive you for your oversight.  In the end, we’re all just human.