Day 13: Wedding Invitation Anatomy – Insert Cards (Reception, Directions and Maps, oh my!)

December 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

We’ve talked Invitation cards, we’ve talked RSVP/Response cards, and today in our 31 Days (0f Blogging) Hath December series, we’re talking Insert cards.

The traditional wedding invitation is generally composed of just two printed pieces – the invitation card and the rsvp card. But hey, we’re not all about tradition, right? These days, most couples choose to include additional insert cards (whether part of a wrap or pocketfold, or just loosely inserted in the envelope) to provide extra information to their invited guests.

Of course, there are endless options for the info you could choose to impart with your invitation (except registry information, or anything for that matter that spells out the kind of gifts you want – no, never, don’t do it, I don’t care if everyone else you know does it, you don’t want to look tacky), but you do need to use some discretion. You don’t necessarily want your guests to be cross-eyed by the time they are done reading all 14 pieces of your wedding invitation, do you?

Here are some of the more commonly used types of insert cards you may choose to use as part of your invitation suite:

Reception Card – traditionally used for formal invitations, rather than printing reception information directly on the invitation card. Good to use if space is at a premium, but usually only if your reception is being held somewhere other than your wedding ceremony.

Map/Directions Card - great if you have out-of-town guests, you can choose to include a map, printed directions or both. I love the look of a map, but if your location(s) is hard to get to (one-way streets, construction etc.), adding directions is helpful for your guests. Gorgeous map above is by Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Accommodations Card – again, perfect if you have out-of-town guests. Many couples will choose to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel (or two), and this is a great way to to help guests find a convenient place to stay.

Itinerary Card – perfect for a destination wedding or a wedding with multiple ceremonies (as some cultures have wedding that span days of ceremonies etc.), you can list all of the important events/times that your guests need to know about.

Generally speaking, insert cards are flat matching cards to your wedding stationery, but you can choose to use folded cards, booklets etc. A great way to personalize your invite!

Are insert cards absolutely necessary? No, not at all. As long as you provide some way for your guests to get the info they need about your big day, you’re good.

One way many couples are choosing to do that is by using a wedding website. They can upload all the information that guests need to know (with no space constraints) in one handy location, and simply list that website URL on their invitation, directing their guests to visit for details. A fairly new idea as well, is to send out a separate card only to guests who have replied that they are attending, which contains all of the pertinent information.

So, we’ve now we’ve covered your invitation, but there’s a whole other side to wedding stationery – “day-of” items, such as programs, escort cards etc. as well as thank you cards. Don’t worry, we’ll be chatting about those for the rest of the week!

Day 12: Wedding Invitation Anatomy – The RSVP Card

December 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Okay, so yesterday I may have stretched the truth when I said today’s post on RSVP cards would be scintillating…

Would you settle for informational sprinkled liberally with witty comments and cheeky remarks?

Cracking on in our Hip Ink/The Invitation Blog 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December series, we come to the RSVP. Who actually knows what RSVP stands for? Anyone?

Well, since I am Canadian and therefore had to learn French at a young age (and now don’t remember much except how to say “Can I have a beer, please?”, “Where is the toilet?” and “What a lovely pineapple you have Madame DuBois”), I can tell you that I looked it up on the internet and it stands for “respondez, s’il vous plait”, or in English, “reply, if you please”. Of course, there’s really no “if you please” about it, now is there? You expect your guests to let you know if they are coming or not, and it is, of course, the polite thing to do.

Once upon a time, way back when (you know, in the Dark Ages, before the internet), there was no need for the lowly RSVP card. When you received an invitation, the proper etiquette of the day was to whip out your personalized stationery and hand-write a repsonse to your gracious hosts, accepting their invitation with delight, or expressing your regrets at having to decline.

These days, since apparently everyone’s brain has turned to mush and their hands are incapable of picking up a pen, we have devised the RSVP card with its fill-in-the-blanks, checkbox, tick-here, circle-there, fail-proof spoon-feeding response method. Yes, people still !@$% it up anyway. We got three RSVPs back for our wedding with no names on them whatsoever – um, thanks for that. Luckily, I had devised a way of figuring out who the offenders were, and I will offer that tip later for your guest-list management pleasure.

What are the basics of the RSVP card? Generally speaking, the standard RSVP is 3.5 x 5″ (I like to use a larger 4.25 x 5.5″ myself, depending on the size of the invite) and includes a matching envelope, which you would handily address with your information and stamp so all your guests need to do is drop it in the mail. It is becoming more popular these days to have guests RSVP by email or online, which saves the cost of postage, but may confuse some of your older guests. Also becoming more popular as a cost-saving option (or just something different) is the RSVP postcard, which doesn’t require an envelope.

So, what exactly do you put on your RSVP card? As always, that question has many answers…

If you want to be traditional about it, but still include an RSVP, you can simply provide a card that says “the favour of a reply is requested” or “please reply by October 1, 2029″ and let your guests write in the rest. This can be really fun, as many guests will write you cute little notes etc., and hopefully also tell you whether or not they are attending and who is coming. Some guests may decide to just call you or email you, which is fine too. It gives guests a bit more flexibility to respond in whatever way they see fit and is the closest thing to the traditional RSVP method.

In addition to the above, most formal RSVP cards these days have a line for guests to write their names (usually shown with an “M” before it, so they can write “Mr & Mrs Smith” etc.) and a space for them to accept or decline the invitation. In the recent past, it has become popular for couples to choose more interesting, fun and personal wording for their RSVP. Again, as with invitation wording, a good-old Google search for “RSVP Wording” will bring up more websites with wording examples than you can shake a really gigantic stick at, so I advise you to open up a new tab and get to work. Here, I’ll make it easy for you – Google :)

Other useful tips & tricks for RSVP cards?

  • To make your RSVPs more personal, have them pre-printed with your guests names (rather than the M line) – it adds a really nice touch and saves you from having people write in uninvited family members
  • Speaking of guests – some will write their names illegibly or not at all. The solution? Number your guest list, and then write the corresponding number for each invitation in very small text on the back of the RSVP. This way, when you get one back with no name, you can simply turn it over and cross-reference the number to the guest that invite belongs to
  • If you have a choice of entree for your wedding reception, the RSVP is the place to find out who’s having chicken, beef or fish
  • You may choose to include other information you want to collect from your guests as well – eg. a song they would like to hear the DJ play, if they are attending a pre- or post-wedding event etc
  • If you are having a destination wedding, you may have a number of events planned that you require guests to RSVP for – include these all on one card, unless you are sending out separate invitations

I usually have a (very) strong opinion on invitation matters (you may have noticed), but actually, I think the RSVP is one place where anything goes. I try to suggest, to my own clients, an RSVP style and wording that fits with their invitations, event and personalities – everything from the traditional formal response card to “mad libs”-style, fill-in-the-blank RSVPs.

Tomorrow, we’re moving on to the veritable plethora (a cornucopia even) of possible additional insert cards – from reception cards to deception (er, directions) cards, we’ve got it covered ;)

Cheers!

Day 11: Wedding Invitation Anatomy – The Invitation Card

December 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

Hey, hey, it’s Saturday :)

Today we begin a new week in our 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December series. Last week we gave you our “invitation buying guide”, the who-what-where-when-why-and-how (um, and what again) for newly engaged couples. This week, we break it down and talk in-depth about the various parts of your invitation suite and wedding day stationery – invitation anatomy, if you will. Kinda like Grey’s Anatomy, but more paper and less drama ;)

And we’re going to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start (at least according to Julie Andrews). When you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with do-re-mi, and when you choose (or design) an invitation, you begin with T-I-C (The Invitation Card). *Groan*…I know, I couldn’t resist!

Below is a gorgeous example of an invitation card, designed by the fabulous Julie at The Invite Girl:

The invitation card is the main printed card of your invitation, and while it would usually be printed on paper, these days you can find invites printed on wood, fabric, plexiglass and other non-traditional materials. Traditional formal invites generally are presented in script-only and do not include graphics, but these days, both typography-based and heavily graphics-based invitations are popular. As well, traditional engraving has given away to a number of print-styles: thermography, offset, digital printing and the uber-trendy letterpress. No idea what I’m talking about? Don’t worry, we’ll get to printing styles at the end of the week!

Traditionally the invitation card includes the following details:

The Host Lines (eg. Mr. and Mrs. John Smith etc.): provides information about who is hosting the event (ie. who you are being invited by). For weddings, this could be the bride’s parents, groom’s parents, bride and groom, bride and groom with parents…and the list literally goes on and on (and on). You can find examples of pretty much any situation in this Martha article.

Request Lines (eg. request the honour of your presence etc.): the hosts’ request for their guests to join them in celebrating. Traditionally, “the honour of your presence” is used for ceremonies taking place in a church or other place of worship, while “the pleasure of your company” is used for all other locations. These days, anything goes really – if couples are hosting themselves or it is an informal event, they typically will choose a more personalized ‘request’.

Bride and Groom Lines (eg. Gina Louise to Mr. James Patterson): lists the bride and groom’s names and/or titles. Traditionally, the bride’s name is always listed first and in a formal invitation, the bride’s first and middle names are used, while the groom’s full name and title are used. Today, couples will often choose what they feel fits them best (first names only, first and middle names or full names). Consider the formality of your event and the people who you are inviting (will every know who Gina and James are if no last names appear anywhere on the invite?).

Date and Time Lines (eg. Saturday, the seventh of December, two thousand twelve / at one o’clock in the afternoon): lists the date and time of the event. Traditionally, all aspects of the date are spelled out in full (as in the example), as well as the time. Most formal invitations still do follow this rule, but informally abbreviations and numerals are totally fine.

Location Lines (eg. Christ the King Cathedral, 245 King Street West / Hamilton, Ontario): lists the venue for the event. Technically speaking, an address is not actually required if all of your guests are local or you include directions; however, most couples do include the street address, along with the city and province/state. Postal codes or zip codes should not appear on an invitation.

Reception Lines (reception immediately to follow etc.): give information regarding the reception portion of the event. For formal invitations, a separate Reception Card is often included; however, many couples do choose to include the information on the main invitation card itself, especially if the reception takes place at the same location as the wedding ceremony.

We’ve come a long way in the stationery industry from the traditional black on cream engraved script invitation, and I think that is incredibly exciting. While there are times when I think a true formal traditional invitation is in order, there are so many other options out there to personalize your invitation (with your own wording, different materials, bright bold colour etc.), why not do something truly *you*.

We’re back tomorrow with a discussion on the scintillating RSVP card…you won’t want to miss it ;)

Day 10: What *You* Need to Know About Wedding Invitation Etiquette

December 10, 2010 § Leave a comment

Thought I went soft on ya with yesterday’s post about how many invitations you need to order? Not so! Today we dive right back into the frying pan for one of the most controversial subjects out there when it comes to wedding invitations – etiquette (or lack thereof!).

Can’t say that we’ve got any lords a’leaping, but we are on Day 10 of our 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December series, and this is gonna be a hot one ;)

Now, I know that in some circles I’m probably known as “that chick who thinks that blog posts are novels”, and I will admit I am prone to long bouts of narrative exposition, but…where was I? Oh yes, there is no way that I could fit in everything there is to discuss about invitation etiquette in this one post. Not gonna happen. There are a zillion resources on the ‘net that can elucidate all the subtleties of wedding etiquette, and I will defer to them for long-winded explanations (for once). I’m here to jump up on my soapbox and “tell it like it is”.

Aside: I think “tell it like it is” is going to be my new catchphrase. You know how Tim Gunn on Project Runway says, “make it work”? Or Jeff Probst on Survivor says, “the tribe has spoken”? Or, my personal fave, RuPaul on RuPaul’s Drag Race says, “don’t !@#$ it up”? I totally want a cool catchphrase too!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about two of my big pet peeves when it comes to etiquette: addressing invitations with the phrase “and guest” (or “and escort”) and addressing married women as Mrs. Husband’s Name. I’ll kindly refrain from rehashing that post, but feel free to click on over there if you want the skinny.

I will, however, reiterate something I think is very important from that post: my feeling is that the formality of your event should be the deciding factor in how closely you stick to the Miss Manners/Emily Post version of wedding invitation etiquette. Unless you have strong opinions either way on the subject, using the formality level of your wedding as an indicator is a good way of determining what you must, should and shouldn’t do when it comes to down the the big E.

But, to save you from a social faux pas or two, allow my to present for your consideration, some of my DON’Ts of modern invitation etiquette:

DON’T forget to send an invitation to everyone who is attending your wedding – including your parents and bridal party. They are the ones that will appreciate them the most!

DON’T send out invitations later than one month before your wedding – if you must have a B list, make sure you send your invites out early and request an earlier than normal rsvp date.

DON’T assume you must address your invitations formally – for a backyard wedding, it isn’t necessary to address the invitation to “Lady Millicent Astor von Buckingham, Duchess of Sheffield”. “Aunt Millie” should suffice.

DON’T get caught up in invitation wording based on who is paying for what – talk it over with the parties involved and do what works for you.

DON’T send gift registry information or ask for money on your wedding invitation – I don’t care who says this is okay, it isn’t. Allow family members to spread this information via word of mouth, or use social media (tactfully ie. don’t tweet, “y’all bring cash now, ya hear!”)

DON’T include “no children allowed” or similar – if the invitation does include the children’s names (or “and family”) they aren’t invited. If someone is presumptuous enough to rsvp for people who are not named on the invitation, feel free to call them and put them in their place (nicely of course).

DON’T forget to include return postage on your RSVP card – guests still expect it, and return postage is not the place to try to economize on your invites.

Have more to add to this list? Disagree? Feel free to comment and let me know!

As for me, I’m just tellin’ it like it is ;)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 9: How Many Wedding Invitations Should I Order?

December 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring ting tingling too, come on, it’s lovely weather for Hip Ink‘s 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December too!

One of the questions we get asked constantly is, “how many invitations should I order?”.

There are two answers that I can give you straight up:

First, you don’t need as many invitations as you have guests! Sounds like common sense, but I often have clients tell me they need 200 invitations for their event when they really mean they are expecting 200 guests. Not the same.

Second, a good rule of thumb is to start with 60% of your guest list. For most events (not things like bridal or baby showers where many of the invitees will be women-only), you are inviting couples, who only need 1 invitation between the two of them. Families with children and singles generally even out, but just in case we’ve got that extra 10% added in. Let me quickly say that traditional etiquette states that all guests over 18 should receive their own invitation and all single invitees should be invited with a guest or escort, but we’ll talk etiquette on Friday!

Do I think you should use the 60% rule and then just go out and order your invitations? Um, no. But it is a good way to get a general idea of the number of invites you need, so you can determine what you’ll need to budget for invitations.

What is the ideal way to determine how many invitations you need? I recommend the following:

1. Use a spreadsheet program (like Excel, Pages etc.) to manage your guestslist. You’ll thank me when it comes to printing labels, keeping track of replies etc.

2. List each household you need to send an invitation to on a separate line (row). In other words, list both names of a couple in one row (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), all family members in one row (The Smith Family) and singles (with or without guests) in one row.  I like to use columns following to list each guest individually (Guest 1, Guest 2, Guest 3 etc.), as this will be important for certain aspects of your planning, but not necessarily for invitations.

2.5. Make sure you add yourselves, your parents, and your bridal party to the list. Don’t try to save money by skipping out on sending invitations to them. These are the people that will be the most excited to receive them and that will cherish them the most!

3. If you’ve done this correctly, the number of lines on your spreadsheet will equal the number of invitations you need based on your current guestlist.

As an example, you may have 200 guests on your list, but only 120 rows. You will need an absolute minimum of 130 invitations. That’s not a typo. You really need to order an absolute bare minimum of 10 extra invitations, unless you enjoy stressing yourself out later.

Fact: Ordering extra invitations will save you money in the long-run. How is that possible? Read on my friends…

At Hip Ink, we recommend ordering a minimum of 10-15% extra with your invitations. “Phssst” you say, “I won’t need them”. Hmmm, you sure about that? Let’s use the example above.

Dick and Jane need 120 invitations, and order 10% over and above their guestlist total, giving them 12 extra (132 invitations total). They’ve ordered their invitations 4 months in advance of their wedding to make sure they have lots of time (good Dick and Jane).

In the two months between ordering and needing to send their invitations out the following occurs:

  • Jane’s mother insists on adding 4 extra guests to the guest list
  • Dick’s mother realizes that she forgot to invite long lost Uncle Vito
  • Jane and Dick decided they should invite some friends from work
  • Aunt Millie insist that she needs an extra invitation to keep for posterity, and so does Aunt June
  • Dick’s father insists that they really should send invites to their family in Timbuktu, even though they aren’t coming

And we haven’t even considered the invitations that will get lost in the mail, the ones you’d like to keep for yourself etc. Want to take bets on how many invitations they will have left over? If you bet on zero, you’d be a winner. Actually, if you bet on “they may need to go get some more invitations”, you might also be right.

Still think 10-15% is crazy? Yeah…that’s what I thought you’d say.

So, you’ve got your guestlist sorted out, you’ve got your invitation number plus 20% just to be safe (yeah, I said it!) and you’re good to go, right?

Probably.

The last thing to consider is how you are addressing your envelopes. If you are addressing your own invitations by hand or sending them out for professional calligraphy, you will want to order extra envelopes only (again, 15-20% is probably a good number) for those inevitable spelling mistakes, ink splotches, crooked handwriting etc.

So, I promised to explain how ordering extras up-front can save you money, right? Well, here’s the explanation:

Stationery companies big and small work the same way any production business works – economies of scale. There are intrinsic costs to every order, no matter the quantity. That’s why as the number of invitations you order goes up, the price per invitation goes down. If you suddenly realize you need extra invitations, you’ll be stuck purchasing the minimum quantity (usually 25, even if you only need 5), at a much higher cost than if you just added 25 to your original order, and possibly with addition of rush printing fees (depending on when you figure out you should have listened to me in the first place).

See, I know what I’m talking about every now and then, really. I should seriously write this stuff down ;)

Day 8: Why Are Wedding Invitations So [bleeping] Expensive?

December 8, 2010 § 26 Comments

Every now and then, I like to stir the pot a bit, and ask the questions I *know* you brides out there are thinking, but would generally never ask. This is one of them.

Today, our 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December series goes to the dark side…the side where we talk…money.

Money is kinda like religion and politics. One shouldn’t really discuss it in polite company. Then again, we’ve been at this together for a week now, so I’d like to think we can be honest with each other, right? Good.

I have a confession to make…Hip Ink‘s invitations are not “cheap”, not in price and certainly not in quality. I also don’t think they are, on average, expensive. I do think that they offer a great value (at least in my humble opinion!).

There is a big difference between price and value, and while I will answer the question of why invitations are so expensive (or why you perceive them to be), the moral of the story lies in understanding the difference between price and value.

First let me say that “expensive” is, of course, in the wallet of the beholder. The truth is that one bride’s expensive is another bride’s pocket change. What people really mean when they ask why wedding invitations are “so expensive” is that they had no idea what the cost of wedding invitations was, and it surprised them (and to be honest you can substitute dresses, cakes, DJs etc. for invitations). Fair enough, most people don’t go out and buy stationery to send to hundreds of people every day. In fact, most people only ever do it once – for their wedding – so you are most definitely excused for not knowing whether $50, $500 or $5000 is the appropriate amount to budget for invitations. By the way, the “accepted” amount to budget for wedding invitations is 5-8% of your total wedding budget – that is what most bridal “experts” will tell you, and it would make a fine starting point, but I’ll tell you what I really think of that a bit later…

There is a large range in cost of commercially available invitations, but there is a minimum cost – realistically it’s around $2 for a set including rsvp card/envelope (that’s for a minimum of 25 invitations).

We’re going to stop right here for a little aside:  How much do you spend on the average greeting card? $3? $4? $5 or more? Is it totally mass-produced? Yes. Is there anything particularly special about it? Probably not. Is it personalized? No. Do you think its expensive for what you’re getting? You might. Do you buy it anyway? Most of the time. So why is it that there are people out there (probably lots of them) that think $5 for a custom invitation set is “expensive”? Food for thought.

What goes into the cost of an invitation? If you’re looking at traditional invitations (ie. from a large stationery company), there is the actual paper itself (better stock than your local copy place), the designs (although the cost is spread out among the hundreds or thousands of people that order the same design), the set-up costs for printing (remember that the invitations are personalized with your information, which takes time) etc.

But what about custom invitations? I would hate to speak for my fellow stationers, so I’m going to be honest about my own pricing (my views do not necessarily reflect those of your friendly neighbourhood custom stationery designer).

Custom invitations really are in a different category from your standard traditional invites. Custom invitations are created specifically for you, and just you, not designed and sold over-and-over to a multitude of couples. They are handmade, one-of-a-kind and never to be duplicated. They are created by an artist as a reflection of you, your event and yes, they can be pricey.

The average Hip Ink client will pay between $6 and $12 per invitation suite. That price is based on many factors – the style of invitation chosen (flat layered, pocketfold, boxed etc.), the printing method, the number and types of papers involved, any additional embellishments etc. Every invitation is designed personally (by me!), printed individually and assembled by hand. We use the finest papers and embellishments out there, we guarantee your invitation will never be duplicated for another client, we work hard to make sure you are getting the best value possible for your invitation dollars. On any given invitation project, I spend probably 15-30 hours (often more) personally involved – whether that is meeting with the couple, answering emails and phone calls, working with vendors, designing, editing, printing, assembling…the list goes on. The reality is, when you choose Hip Ink custom invitations, you are paying for my training, my talent, my personal attention, my passion and my dedication to making sure you love your wedding invitation. I believe that there *is* great value in that.

Brides will often ask me my option on custom vs traditional vs DIY. I like to use the wedding dress analogy, because most brides can understand and appreciate the differences. Picture it: you fall in love with the perfect wedding dress, Vera Wang. It is $6000 (because it is made out of the finest materials, sewn and embellished by hand, and created especially for you with multiple fitting to make adjustments and ensure it is exactly what you want. You go to Big Chain Bridal and see a similar dress. It is $600 (because it is made out of lesser quality materials and mass-produced in a factory, and you will have to pay for alterations to ensure it fits properly). Then you go to Big Box Fabrics and see that you can buy fabric and embellishments for $60 (because you will have to sew the dress and do all the embellishments and alterations yourself). Each of these dresses has its merits, but most people brides can agree that the Big Chain Bridal dress will never be the same quality as the couture gown and that they probably aren’t Vera Wang ;)

That said, lots of people fall in love with beautiful mass-produced gowns or are very successful in sewing their own wedding dress – but, it is important to compare apples to apples. In stationery world, custom is apples, traditional is oranges and DIY is kumquats. The best advice I can give you is to determine your budget for stationery, check out our handy post on what type of invitation is right for you and compare prices within the type of invitation you’ve chosen. Look for value – beware of hidden costs (for example, some companies will quote their price with rsvp cards and envelopes, whereas some will quote pricing for the invitation only) and make sure you compare the quality, not just the price.

Oh, and that 5-8% of your budget thing? Poppycock! Those budgets are all well and good to start with, but all couples have things that are more or less important to them, and you should budget accordingly. Absolutely love paper and design and must have gorgeous custom letterpress invitations – you may be spending 12-15% of your budget on invites. Not really that into it (although I can’t imagine there is anyone who doesn’t love invitations, right? right?), or planning on going DIY, you may be at 1-2%.

As for me, I’m probably not the right person to ask, because I believe that your invitations are the most significant stationery purchase you will ever make and an extremely important part of your event, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make an amazing impression on your guests.

I know and am in contact with many custom stationery designers. We almost all work for ourselves or for very, very small companies. Making invitations isn’t our hobby, it is our livelihood – it may feed our passion for creativity, but it also feeds our families. We do it because we love design, we love paper, but most of all, because we love people. We love seeing the faces of our brides when they see their finished invitations for the first time. We love to hear what their friends and family think. We take pride in our work. And we want you to understand exactly how much of *us* goes into what we do for *you*.

Yes, I may be biased, but I would choose the Vera Wang.

Day 7: When Do I Start Thinking Stationery? A Wedding Invitation Timeline

December 7, 2010 § 1 Comment

6 down, 25 to go in our 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December feature…whew! Still with me? Great!

Today we tackle one of our most-asked questions at Hip Ink – how long before my wedding do I need to start thinking about buying my wedding invitations? The answer is probably a bit more complex than you may have initially expected, but allow me to make it easy for you…if you read nothing more of this post, read the statement below and move on with the knowledge that you will not be scrambling for invitations:

Order your invitations 6 months before your wedding.

If you follow the advice above, you can’t go wrong.

Let me be slightly more specific. Work backwards from your wedding date – you’ll want to send your invitations out 6-8 weeks in advance, 12 weeks if your wedding is during the summer or over a holiday weekend, and even earlier if you are having a destination wedding or many of your guests need to travel. For those who are not great without a calculator (guilty as charged) that means you need to add the turnaround times below to the estimates above. Determine your mailing date and work from there.

Ordering traditional invitations from a large stationery company or online vendor etc.? 6-8 weeks before your mailing date minimum, 10-12 weeks is optimal. Custom Designs? 4-6 months is preferred, but the sooner the better – in most cases, designers’ schedules can fill up quickly, so you’ll need to make sure your selected vendor can fit you in. DIY? This will vary greatly depending on how complicated your design is, how much time you have and how much help you can get. My rule of thumb is to take the amount of time you think you’ll need and then *TRIPLE* it. You heard correctly. Trust me when I tell you (from experience) it will take much longer than you expect, there will be bumps in the road, and mistakes happen when you don’t have the time to fix them.

Is it possible to get invitations completed within a few weeks if you are in a super-rush? The answer is yes, it’s possible. Will you be happy with selection, the results or the price? To be honest, probably not. Your best bet if you are totally stuck for time is to try a local printer (who can hopefully turn your project around quickly) or purchase printable invitations (from a stationery store, or big box craft store). There are some online retailers who also offer RUSH printing and delivery, so it is worth doing some research. Remember ye olde triangle of value: there’s fast, cheap, and good. You can generally only get two of those things at once. You will likely have to settle for a very limited selection, a lower-quality invitation and/or a big rush fee.

So, how do you avoid realizing 8 weeks before your wedding that you haven’t thought about invitations (and yes, it happens, and I’ve had a few brides call me in a panic to prove it)?

Follow our handy-dandy timeline below and you’ll be good to go (ooh, I was a poet and I didn’t even know it!):

9-12 months before your wedding

  • Put together your guest list to determine the number of invitations you’ll need
  • Start gathering photos, inspiration items etc. to help clarify your personal style and your vision of your big day (if you haven’t already!)
  • If you are sending out Save The Date cards, start to consider what type of Save The Date you’d like

6-9 months before your wedding

  • Purchase and send out Save The Date Cards, especially if you are having a wedding during the summer, holiday or destination wedding
  • Start looking at invitation options to determine the type and style of invitation you are looking for
  • If you’ve decided on custom-designed invitations, find a designer you’d like to work with and book them
  • Start giving some thought as to the wording of your invitation, what additional inserts you may need (reception cards, accommodation cards, map/directions, itinerary etc.)
  • Determine the day-of stationery you will require (menus, escort cards, programs, thank you cards etc.)

4-6 months before your wedding

  • Finalize your guest list and make sure you have full and correct names and addresses for all guests
  • Determine your invitation style, additional inserts and wording and place your invitation order
  • Don’t forget to proofread!

3-4 months before your wedding

  • Begin addressing your envelopes if you are doing so by hand or sending them out for calligraphy
  • Begin assembling all the parts of your invitations and stuffing them in the envelopes (keep them unsealed, just in case)
  • Order any day-of stationery if you haven’t already

8-12 weeks before your wedding

  • Take one complete invitation to the post office to be weighed and purchase postage
  • Seal your envelopes, apply the postage and take them to the post office to be mailed (ask for them to be hand-canceled if possible)

3-4 weeks before your wedding

  • Keep a running tally of your RSVPs as they come in, make sure you keep track of both yes and no responses
  • Mail any additional invitations for events surrounding your wedding (rehearsal dinner, day-after brunch etc.)

2-3 weeks before your wedding

  • Follow-up with any guests who have not yet replied to ensure you have an accurate headcount for your venue

1-2 days before your wedding

  • Make sure you have all of your day-of stationery together and determine who will take care of the items (ie. who will hand out programs, who will set up escort cards etc.)

1-3 months after your wedding

  • Send out thank you cards to your guests

This timeline doesn’t apply to every situation, of course, but hopefully it will help you plan and stay on track (at least where your wedding invitations are concerned!).

Tomorrow, we turn up the heat on a subject that hits close to home for me, and many of my stationery-designing friends…

You’ll just have to come back and check it out ;)

 

Day 6: Where Should I Buy My Wedding Invitations? Choosing a Stationer

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

It’s the most wonderful time of the year at Hip Ink…what time you ask? Why, 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December time, of course!

Week 1 is upon us and we’re bringing you our Invitation Buying Guide. We’ve talked who (finding your personal style) and what (choosing the right type of invitation), so now we’re on to where.

Where, oh where, to find your perfect invitation?

First, you need to find the right person (or people) for the job. Determining what type of invitation you want makes finding an appropriate stationer that much easier. For example, if you are looking for a large selection of invitations that you can customize, going to a stationer who specializes only in custom invitations will be a waste of your time (and theirs). Of course, there are also stationers out there that specialize in more than one type of invitation , so if you’re unsure, it may be best to find someone who offers the types of invitations you are considering (eg. custom and DIY, like Hip Ink) and taking advantage of their expertise to help guide you in the right direction.

Not to ruffle any feathers, but…my recommendation will always be to deal with a local stationery vendor. Why local? Dealing with a local vendor means you are dealing with a stationer who understands the local customs, trends etc. when it comes to invitations (and believe me, there can be quite a variance in etiquette etc. depending on where you live), one that you can deal with face-to-face and create a relationship with, and one that will be easily accessible if you have any issues. Proximity becomes more important as you move from less vendor-involved methods (DIY) to more vendor-involved methods (Custom Design). It is much easier to justify purchasing papers and embellishments, or even “off the shelf” invitations, from an online stationer than it may be to purchase custom invitations from a stationer from across the country. That said, technology is a fantastic thing, and through email and services like Skype you can connect with online vendors in a way that just wasn’t possible even a few years ago!

Buying online definitely has its advantages too. The most important one: selection. Even the biggest stationery store in your area can’t hold a candle to the sheer variety available online from the many stationery retailers (both big and small) and artists that sell via the internet. If you are considering traditional or DIY invitations, there are enough options to make your head spin. Many online stationers are also using technology to make customizing your wedding stationery online easy, with interactive proofing that can show you your wording in various fonts and colours, exactly how it will look on your finished product. There are also some very successful custom designers who work with clients from across the country (and around the globe) that manage to still offer personalized service, even though it may not be face-to-face. Have I mentioned that Hip Ink has worked with clients from as far away as Italy? Just sayin’ ;)

My advice: shop online but buy local (if possible). Start your invitation search online and look at lots of different stationery companies, stationery stores etc. online, to get a good feeling for what’s out there that you like, that fits your needs and budget. If you find the invitation you love from an online-only vendor, should you pass? Of course not, that would just be silly, now wouldn’t it? There’s nothing to be scared of, go ahead and buy with confidence, but keep our tips below in mind. If the invitation you see is from an established stationery company, contact them and find out what stationers in your area carry their products, so you can see them in person. If you are thinking of custom-designed stationery, make appointments with local designers and see what they have to offer. Not what you’re looking for? Back online you go, and check out some of the multitude of fantastic designers out there creating gorgeous custom work.

So how do you choose a stationer? Whether you’re looking to purchase from a local stationer or online, there are two things that are very important to consider (above all else) when determining who should provide your wedding stationery. First is reputation – check out potential vendors on major wedding sites, or even better, on local sites (like yelp.com etc.). See what other brides are saying about their experience with the vendors you are considering. Ask your friends and family for ideas or if you’ve received an invitation you like, ask the sender where they got it. Don’t be shy – ask vendors you are thinking of working with for testimonials from previous clients! Second, and most importantly I believe, is attitude/chemistry – do you feel comfortable with your consultant/designer, do they seem knowledgeable, do they provide good service – does it feel “right”? If you’re buying online, check out their customer service policies, email the company any questions you may have, see how timely and thorough their response is. Do they seem like a company you want to do business with?

If you’ve chosen custom invitations, it is obviously very important that you find an invitation designer that “fits” you. We addressed that exact topic on the blog a few weeks ago (The Invitation Advisor: How do I choose a custom invitation designer?), so check it out if you feel you need some guidance. Much of the information can apply to choosing any type of vendor for your wedding as well.

Found a stationer that you are thrilled with? Great! Now, what?

Tune in tomorrow for the answer – same Hip time, same Hip channel ;)

Day 5: What Type of Invitations Are Right for You? Traditional vs Custom vs DIY

December 5, 2010 § 2 Comments

Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!!

Tonight’s cage match [presented by 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December, sponsored by Hip Ink] features Traditional versus Custom-Designed versus Do-It-Yourself in a winner-take-all, no-holds-barred, invitation smack-down. Three enter, one leaves.

Er…or does it?

When it comes to choosing invitations, there is really no clear winner in the battle of what type of invitation you choose. Which type is for you? It all comes down to a few things key things: personal style, budget and timeline. And over-riding all of those things – desire.

The easiest way of solving this dilemma is go with you heart – which do you really *want*? Do you like the security of picking your invitation from a number of choices and knowing exactly what it will look like? Do prefer the idea of hiring a designer to put your personality on paper, and come up with a one-of-a-kind design? Are you dreaming of sending out handmade-by-you invitations with tons of personal details?

Or are you totally lost? No worries, we’ve got a handy little primer on your options!

Traditonal: We’re not talking style here, but rather traditional in process. With a traditional invite, you can visit a stationer (in person or online) and view invitations from a huge array of companies offering all kinds of styles and price-points. Generally speaking, when buying in person, these invitations are arranged in albums, which allow you to look through and get a good idea of the finished product. Sometimes, traditional invites may be customized (see below), allowing you to choose a from a small number of colours, or fonts, or possibly even graphics, that can be used to create your final look. If you have a modest budget, a tight timeline (4-8 weeks), don’t have a good sense what your style actually is or are stressed by a lot of decision making, this is probably the way to go.

[Aside: Before we start talking custom, let me say that I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the over-use and misuse of this word in stationery land lately. "Custom" means made from scratch, designed from the ground up just-for-you, unique and never to be duplicated. It does not mean letting you choose from a bunch of options and putting them together. That would be "customized" - see above - and do not let anyone fool you into thinking any different. Custom is not necessarily better than customized, but it seems like there is some nefarious usage of the term out there to try and convince couples that they are getting something they really aren't. End of rant.]

Custom Designed: Custom invitations are generally-speaking only available through smaller stationers (most large stationery companies do not offer custom options). Custom invites are created by a designer specifically for you, based on your personality, style, preferences, event details etc. You will not begin with a complete idea of the final look, but you will be involved in the process along the way, allowing you to tailor the invites to exactly the look and feel you want. If you have a flexible budget, a very strong idea of the look you want, a desire to have something different or unique and a few months (4-6) before your wedding, custom is a great option.

Do-It-Yourself: DIY invitations are growing in popularity every day, with many couples choosing to make their own invitations for various reasons. DIY is exactly what it sounds like – you create the design, you buy the materials, you print and assembly your invitations. It can be a sweet way of doing something very personal for your big day, and many guests will love receiving your hand-made creations. If you have a very modest budget, a good idea of the look you want, a love of crafting and some time on your hands, DIY can be a good option. Word of warning: DIY can sometimes be a very “not good” option. I’d encourage you to read our post on determining if DIY is right for you (along with the other posts in our DIY series) for more information.

Yes, of course there are variants outside of these options, and combining options can also be a possibility, just to make this more complicated. Hopefully our little primer has given you the quick-and-dirty lowdown on which type may be right for you.

Now…um…where do you find it? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post and all will be revealed…

Day 4: Who Are You? Finding Your Personal (Invitation) Style

December 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

In the immortal words of Back Eyed Peas (a Hip Ink fave), “Let’s get it started (y’all)”…

It’s Week 1 of our 31 Days (of Blogging) Hath December feature, and we’re bringing you an invitation buying guide – the who, what, where, when, why and how of wedding invitations.

Today we tackle WHO…as in Who Are You? (cue CSI theme music: “Who are you? Who, who, who, who?”)

Before starting your planning (and not just for invitations), it’s always a good idea to sit down with your signficant other and really look at your personal style – both individually and as a couple. Are you modern or traditional? Do you like vintage? Rustic? Do you like comfortable muted tones? Or are you a fan of clean lines and bright colours? Determining your style can help immensely in giving you direction and making decisions about many of the elements that go into your big day, including your invitations.

I could quite likely write a college dissertation on why invitations are so important to your event, but for now let me just say this:

Your invitations are the first impression your guests will have of your wedding. We all know what they say about first impressions right? Like it or not, we all know that it’s true – your guests will form opinions of your wedding based on the feeling and information they get from your invitation. Does that mean you have to go out and spend the GDP of a small Central American country to get the “perfect invitation”? Not at all!

What it *does* mean is that you need to find an invitation that speaks to your personal style as a couple, that feels like it “matches” you, and one that reflects the kind of event that your wedding will be.

Put yourself in your guests’ shoes: if you received a swanky, crystal-embellished black and white invitation to a wedding, what would you think that wedding would be like? Where would it be held? What time of day? How should you dress? Would it be strange if it came from a couple who was known to be low-key flea-market-loving hipsters? Probably. It would be especially strange if you then found out that the wedding was being held in a converted barn on a farm in the middle of the afternoon, and everyone was expected to wear overalls. It may be an extreme example, but it illustrates how important your “first impression” is.

So how do you figure out your personal style? I read something that said your personal style is an amalgamation of your taste , lifestyle, interests, desires, inspirations, aspirations and history. If you are lucky, you already have a great idea. If not, here are some tips that can help you out:

1. Ask someone. Ask your family and friends – they know you best. Ask them what they think your “style” is and you may even be surprised by the answer.

2. Get some magazines. Not just wedding magazines either! Look through them and pull out anything you think that visually speaks to what you like, who you are etc.

3. Get online. There are so many great wedding (and style) blogs out there! Go through them and look for images you love, ones that are representative of the kind of day you want to have, ones that feel like “you”.

4. Keep an eye out. Maybe its a flea market find, a scrap of fabric, a piece of fruit at the grocery store – anything can be an illustration of your personal style or an inspiration for your wedding.

4. Keep a journal/scrapbook. Keep your images and inspiration items in a journal – consolidating them helps you to see what all the visuals have in common, which allows you to define your personal style.

Once you’ve figured it out – tell everyone! Make sure all your vendors know your style and what your vision is for your big day. Be as specific as you can be. Maybe you are super-outdoorsy Canadian history buffs who want a national park wedding complete with lumberjack plaid, antlers, meat pie and beaver tails and Hudson Bay Company blankets for all. Maybe you are hip urban club-lovers who want an out-of-this world blinged-out modern fantasy, with all white interiors, signature cocktails, minimalist munchies and a DJ spinning tunes all night.

Whatever your style, there is an invitation out there to fit. Well, okay, maybe if you are one of the couples above, custom invitations are the way to go (but we’ll cover that tomorrow!). Determining your personal style will make the task of choosing an invitation (one that really reflects you as a couple) that much easier, and help you make that all-important first impression a great one!

Tomorrow we tackle WHAT – what kind of invitations are right for you? See

(now if only I could get that song out of my head…”Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Tell me who are you…you…”)


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