Friday Rewind: What Are Your Invitations Saying About Your Wedding?

February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment


Happy Friday all – as a follow up to last week’s re-post of our video blog, I wanted to feature this post from last year, which addresses some of the same issues. Enjoy!

Before we begin – allow me to say the following, lest anyone misunderstand what I’m getting at here: There is no shame in having a modest budget for your wedding. None. This post isn’t about convincing you that you need to spend more – it is about convincing you that you need to allocate your budget to stationery accordingly, to avoid confusing your guests. I may be unpopular for putting this in print, but it doesn’t make it less true.

So, you’ve all probably heard it before…your invitation is the first impression your guests will have of your wedding. Stationers, designers, wedding planners – we throw that out there all the time, but what does it really mean?

Straight up? What it means is that your guests will make assumptions, come to conclusions, and judge your wedding based on the invitations you send out . It will affect the decisions they make – how to dress, what kind of gift to give, and sometimes whether or not to actually attend. I’d love to tell you that everyone is just so thrilled for you that your invitations don’t matter – but it just isn’t true.

Before everyone gets all defensive – be honest, and admit to yourself that you’ve been there. Everyone has done it, because it’s human nature – you receive an invitation and you automatically make assumptions about the kind of event it is going to be, about how much fun you think you are going to have, and sometimes about whether or not you really even want to go. If your invitation is inexpensive, the impression your guests will receive is that your wedding will be modest. Send out an expensive invitation and you set the expectation of an all-out event. If your invitation is casual, guests won’t be expecting a reception in a ballroom – and conversely, a formal invitation would be out-of-place for a barn reception. A fun, colourful invite suggests a party-type atmosphere, while a subdued monochromatic invite suggests a more serene and reserved affair. I could go on, but I won’t (for once).

First, the overall quality (which in most cases means price) of your invites – think about the message you are sending to your guests. I’ve said before that you should budget according to how important stationery is to you; however, the caveat is that if you are having a full-on formal wedding, but send out print-your-own invites from Big Box Craft-o-rama, it creates a disconnect between your guests expectations and your event. That’s just one example, but the lesson here is that you need to match the overall budget for your stationery to the overall budget of your wedding to some degree, or else risk your guests having lowered expectations about the type of event you are hosting, and having issues with everything from dress code to rsvps. The opposite is true – you may feel that stationery is a very important part of your wedding, but be having a more modest affair – make sure that your invitations don’t make promises that your event can’t live up to.

Next up, the tone or feeling of your invitations. Seems pretty straightforward: simple event=simple invitation, casual event=casual invitation, off-beat event=off-beat invitation, formal event=formal invitation etc. As obvious as it seems, I’ve definitely received invitations that, in hindsight, did not match the event itself. Remember that the invitation is sent out to your guests not only for you to request the pleasure of their company, but also to inform them – providing them with an invite that doesn’t match the style or tone of your event is just as bad as giving them the wrong address or the wrong date – it makes your guests uncomfortable on your wedding day. How would you feel if you received a very casual invitation to a wedding? You would likely assume it was a simple affair – you’d probably plan on wearing a less formal outfit. Would you feel really uncomfortable if you showed up in a sundress and everyone else was wearing a ballgown? It’s an extreme example, but it is the sort of thing that absolutely can happen.

Now, on to a very touchy subject…DIY. Yes, I know DIY is all the rage, and you know that I love my DIYers, but…what does a do-it-yourself invitation say about your wedding? If it’s well executed, it says that you care enough to do something personal to invite your guests, to share a part of you with them, to have a hand (literally) in creating their invitation. If it’s poorly executed…well…it says you’re cheap. I wish there was a kindler, gentler way to put it, but unfortunately, there really isn’t.

Don’t believe me? If you cooked your own wedding meal and it was terrible, would your guests think you were trying to personalize the experience for them, or just trying to save money on catering? If you decided to strictly play music from your 13-year-old cousin’s iPod at your reception and it was nothing but gangsta rap, would your guests think you were trying to be cutting edge, or you were trying to save money on a DJ? If you made your own wedding dress and it was falling apart as you walked down the aisle, would your guests think that you were trying to be unique, or that you were trying to save money on your attire? Exactly – so you see where I’m going here. DIY can be great – if you can make it look like you either know what you’re doing, or you didn’t do it yourself. Lookin’ handmade = personal, lookin’ homemade = cheap.

Here’s my best tip: When you are thinking about invitations – whether purchasing from a stationery store, a custom designer or creating your own, imagine what you want your guest to feel and think when they open that envelope. Write it down. Then put your invitation to the test – send it to yourself, put yourself in your guests’ shoes and write down your initial reactions, feelings, assumptions etc. Do they match what you originally wrote down? Then you’re golden. If not, it may be time to re-evaluate your choice.

It’s not strictly about how much you spend – it’s about making sure you choose an invitation that is a true reflection of your big day. A well-chosen invitation is always bound to make the right impression.

Invitation Advisor: Wedding Invitation Wording – What’s In A Name?

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Shakespeare thing will make sense eventually, I swear

Today I’m going to talk about something that can be a source of unexpected drama when it comes to wedding invitations: names. Your names, your parents names, step-parents names, family names – you name it (ok, yeah…that one was bad, I admit it).

Last week we talked about the host line on a wedding invitation, as well as a little blurb on that important line that actually extends the invitation to your guest (ie. traditionally “the honour of your presence is requested” or “the pleasure of your company is requested”).

We did talk about names to some degree last week – proper titles (in fact we’ve got a whole post on this too!), whose name should be included, how to list names etc. Today we’re picking up where that leaves off and talking about names specifically.

In the words of William Shakespeare (from the play my high school English teacher called “full of smut”, Romeo and Juliet), “What’s in a name? That which we call a roseBy any other name would smell as sweet.” Billy Shakes does have a point here, how important is a name really?


When it comes to wedding invitations, you may be surprised.

First, let’s start with *your* names (yes, you – brides and grooms) – here’s some important thing to consider when figuring out how you want to word your invitation:

How formal your invite/event is will likely dictate how many of your names you may want to include. Having a casual wedding with a small guest list? “John and Jane are getting hitched – come celebrate with us” would probably suffice. But if you’re having a grand formal affair, you probably want to use your full names, including middle names – more along the lines of “The honour of your presence is requested at the wedding of John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt to Jane Ann Katz”.

As we discussed last week, this is important because who is hosting does have bearing (at least traditionally) on how your names would appear on the invitation. If your parents are hosting their names should appear on the invitation, which means that technically your last name does not need to appear (since it’s already there, and you would hope that your friends and family know who belongs to who). So, in most cases this means that you would use both your first and middle name in that situation. If instead you are hosting yourselves, you have the choice of including your last names or not. Again, a smaller affair and you can probably get away with last names – a larger guest list and it’s probably safer to include your full names, so everyone is clear on exactly who is getting hitched.

What do your friends and family actually call you? Is it different from your real name, or full name? That’s definitely a consideration when it comes to invites. Let’s say that our good friend John Jacob has been called by his middle name his whole life (for whatever reason, and there are many) – while it might be tempting considering his extra-long moniker to leave our his middle name, that would be foolish. Why? The last thing you want is your guests to receive an invitation and wonder who the heck it’s from! What if you go by a name that isn’t part of your actual name, for whatever reason. A little bit more tricky, but often you’ll see this listed in quotation marks, like Rocco “Bob” Spano – again, if no one knows your real name is Rocco, it’s important to include the name that everyone is familiar with on the invitation. And what if you are having a super-formal wedding but hate your middle name and will cry every time you see the invitation if “Sheila” is on there? Relax…do what makes you comfortable. Hate your middle name? Don’t include it – easy peasy.

This may strike you as strange, but as a custom designer I deal with it all the time. Certain invitation designs can not be created or do not look good with certain names (usually a result of the length); so, especially if you are working with a designer, they may suggest that you add in your middle names, or take away your last names or adjust them in some way if possible, to allow for more design options or to make your chosen design look better. As an example, our friends John and Jane up there in our first example would be a designer’s nightmare, since his name is at least three times as long as hers! If you can be flexible about it, that’s great, but again – you need to be happy and comfortable with the way your names appear. After all, it is *your* wedding!

Some other things to keep in mind?

– The bride’s name traditionally goes first (yes ladies, its true!) in the western world; however, in some cultures the groom’s name is listed first. What should you do if you’re unsure which format to use – go with what feels right…or, choose a custom design that balances things out, like placing both on one line. For same-sex couples, the general rule is that names should go in alphabetical order; however, this is also affected by factors like hosting. For example, if John Adams and Jacob Zane are getting married and the Zane family is paying – Jacob’s name should be listed first, under his parents.

– If you have ethnic names but go by anglicized versions, which should you use? Truthfully, whatever makes you most comfortable, but remember that if the ethnic and English versions aren’t similar, you may need to include both to ensure that there is no confusion amongst your guests.

– Check spelling before you submit your wording and proofread carefully. I’ve heard numerous stories of bride’s spelling their fiancé’s name wrong and not realizing ’till after the invites were printed.

– Check with your parents! They aren’t just necessarily picky about their own names; in fact, they may have views on yours as well. You should at least hear them out, even if they *really* want you to use “Sheila” on your invite. You owe them that much, right?

Speaking of parents, not only do you need to deal with your own names on the invite, but you may need to deal with your parents (and multiple sets of parents at that).

Do me (and yourselves) a big favour and swear the following:

If our parents’ names are to be listed on our wedding invitation we solemnly vow to ask them directly exactly how they want their names to appear and how to spell them if we are at all unsure.

Seriously, make sure you know this information, or run the risk of some major family drama. And there is already enough opportunity for that, right?

And with that admonishment, we wrap things up for the Invitation Advisor this week.

Next week, it’s a subject wrought with controversy: How to write the date and time on your invitation.

Really, don’t miss it!😉

Friday Rewind: Tellin’ It Like It Is, The Invitation Blog Style – A Video Blog

February 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Soooo…been hearing crickets on this blog on Fridays, huh? Yeah…I know. It’s not you, it’s me. The will is strong but the time management is weak😉

Now that The Invitation Blog is rockin’ over 200 posts, I though it would be great to bring back posting on Friday by re-posting a past gem every Friday – after all, who want to dig through pages of archives for the good stuff, right?

So, to kick things off, I’m reposting a video blog I made last year, below.

I’m talking budgets, pricing, value and vendor comparison – important stuff for all the newly engaged couples out there.

If you’re looking for sugar coating, you won’t find it here. But you will find some solid advice *pinky swear*.

For more of my views on the above topics, you can check out the following post:

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

See y’all next week!

Invitation Advisor: Wedding Invitation Wording – How To Indicate Who Is Hosting

February 14, 2012 § 1 Comment

Among other things, this invite is completely missing a host line – if only that were the only issue…

I’m always looking for new topics to blog about, and after last week’s blog on how to properly use titles on an invitation or outer envelope it occurred to me that there are so many little things that I may have mentioned here or there on the blog that have never gotten their full due. So, I’m starting a bit of a series today on the small details when it comes to wedding invitation wording/etiquette – the details that I get the most questions about!

Wording is a big one, and while I’ve covered the topic broadly a few times, and provided a bunch of links (frankly, just ask Uncle Google to search for “wedding invitation wording” and you’ll come up with more resources than I could ever link on this blog!); but, I haven’t really looked at each part of a standard invitation individually. So…it’s about time, right?

And where do I always say is a good place to start? Why, the beginning, of course😉

Traditionally speaking, the first line of a wedding invitation is the “host” line ie. who is doing the inviting (and traditionally who is doing the paying). While certainly you may see some kind of opening quote or statement before the host line, it’s the first important part of the invitation, and the part that may cause some confusion for couples these days.

Why? To put it simply, because times have changed. It used to be that in 95% of cases a bride’s family would host, and therefore there was no wondering how the invitation should be worded – it always began, “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the honour of your presence at the wedding of their daughter…”, or something very similar. These days, there are SO many different possibilities (bride’s parents hosting, groom’s parents hosting, bride and groom hosting, all of the above, divorced parents, step-parents – it goes on) that it can be a daunting task to figure out how to word this part of your wedding invitation.

Here’s a quick rundown of both traditional and modern methods of tackling this conundrum…

Aside: As a bonus, I’ll throw in a quick discussion of  what comes after the hosts names. Generally speaking “request the honour of your presence” should be used for ceremonies taking place in a house of worship (church, synagogue etc.), while “request the pleasure of your company” can be used for ceremonies taking place in secular locations (ie. everywhere else). That said, there are many other ways of asking your invitees to join you, so unless you are having a very formal wedding or want very traditional wording, feel free to use different wording entirely!


First and foremost, it’s important to note that traditionally formal etiquette dictates that the “hosts” are the ones who are paying for the wedding. Period. For example, if the bride’s parents are hosting, there is technically no requirement for them to even list the groom’s parents names (if listed, their names should only appear under the groom’s name ie. “son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson”, unless they are contributing to the wedding itself).

Here are some examples of traditional wording for different scenarios:

Bride’s parents hosting – Mr. and Mrs. John Smith request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of their daughter Jane Marie to Mr. Jeffrey James Johnson son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson…

Groom’s parents hosting – Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson request the pleasure of your company at the marriage of Jane Marie Smith to Jeffrey James Johnson…

Bride and Groom’s families both hosting – Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson request the pleasure of your company and the marriage of their children Jane Marie and Jeffrey James…

Bride and Groom hosting with both families – Jane Marie Smith and Jeffrey James Johnson together with their parents Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson invite you to celebrate their marriage…

Bride and Groom hosting – Miss Jane Marie Smith and Mr. Jeffrey James Johnson invite you to share in the celebration of their wedding…

Bride’s divorced parents hosting – Mr. John Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Thompson invite you to share in the marriage of their daughter Jane Marie to Mr. Jeffrey James Johnson…

Bride and Groom’s divorced parents hosting – Mr. and Mrs. John Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Sam Thompson together with Mr. Jack Johnson and Mr. and Mrs. Mark Adams request the pleasure of your company and the marriage of their children Jane Marie and Jeffrey James…

Honouring a deceased parent – Jane Marie daughter of Tess Smith and the late John Smith requests the honour of your presence as she joins in marriage Mr. Jeffery James Johnson son of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Johnson…

Phew…getting woozy yet? I could probably go on because there are so many more scenarios out there, but hopefully this is a good start on what a traditional/formal invitation host line would look like.


Because there has been such a renaissance in weddings in the past 15-20 years, these days anything goes when it comes to who is hosting. As more and more older couples are getting married, especially those who may already be living together and settled on their own, it has become much more common for couples to foot the bill for their own weddings, or to contribute towards it. And as mixed families are becoming more common as well, it becomes difficult to determine exactly who should be listed on the invitation – it’s not uncommon for four sets of parents to be involved in a wedding, and that can make for a very long and confusing invitation!

These days, I think that the idea that the host line needs to be very formal is relaxing a bit. I know with my own clients, many of them are hosting on their own or together with their families and this is often reflected in the wording of the invitation. Some have such complicated family dynamics that they feel it’s just much easier to say “together with their families” than to list each parent, step-parent etc.

As long as what you’re doing makes sense, feels right, and isn’t going to offend – then go for it!

Tip: Always ask all parents what they are most comfortable with when it comes to the invitation *before* finalizing your wording. I have had more than one frantic phone call from a couple after providing their final approval because their parents saw the invitation and were unhappy that they weren’t listed, how they were listed, where they were listed or…you get the idea.

Yes, it’s your wedding – but it’s a big day for your family too, so make sure you are being respectful of their feelings as well!

Okay, so we’ve talked about those first few lines – the host line, the request line – what’s next?

Why, more about names of course – too much to fit into this post, so next week we’ll talk about the bride and groom’s names as well as more about parent/host names and some of the pitfalls to avoid when wording your wedding invitation!

Oh, and before I forget, Happy Valentine’s Day❤

Invitation Advisor: What’s In A Name – Using Titles on Wedding Invitations and Envelopes

February 7, 2012 § 1 Comment


One thing that confuses a lot of our couples is how to use proper social titles on their wedding invitations, and especially when addressing their envelopes. So, today, let’s take on titillating and titular world of titling.

First things first – what the heck am I talking about when I say “titles”? I’m referring, of course, to things like Mr., Mrs., Ms., Dr., Rev. and Viscount of Canterbury. Okay, so maybe the last one isn’t used very often, and the others are actually abbreviations of titles, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

Before we dive in, there’s one other thing to mention. I’ve definitely blogged about the use of titles before (like in this post mostly ranting about “and guest”, or this one about addressing), and you may be wondering – why bother? Do I really need to use titles and make my life that much more complicated? The answer is no, of course you don’t NEED to – if you want to address your invitations using names only, go for it.

Just remember the magic phrase: does it fit the tone and level of formality of my event?

For those that *are* using titles, I present a healthy serving of useful info with a side of etiquette and a dollop of history – good times!

Let’s start with a fun history/etymology lesson, shall we?

The title “Mister” (or Mr.) was really originally “Master” (referring to the master or head of the household). The feminine version of “Master” is actually “Mistress” (Mrs.), but of course we now know that term to mean something else entirely than a man’s wife. Over time, the term mistress began to refer to a “paramour” or “kept woman”, so most respectable married woman stopped ever using the full title, and stuck with the abbreviation “Mrs.” And did you know that it’s never correct to call a woman “Mrs. Betsy Jones” (you’ll find out why later!).

Of course, the most common title we use socially are: Mr. (married man or bachelor), Mrs. (married woman), Ms. (general formal title for women, can refer to married or unmarried women) and Miss (unmarried woman). There are also academic, professional, religious and political titles as well, that may be used in social situations – such as Doctor, Reverend, Senator etc.

Aside: If you are really bored, you can check out the extensive (and I mean, extensive) Wikipaedia article on Titles. Also this Wiki on styles of address – really interesting actually!

Here are answers to some of the burning questions you may have about using titles:

How can I address invitations including the woman’s name in a married couple? I don’t like the idea of using the man’s name only?
This is a big one these days, and to be honest when it comes to etiquette there really isn’t a tidy solution. Traditionally you would refer to a married couple as “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith”, which I know really irks many young women out there who don’t appreciate being addressed as “Mrs. Husband’s Name”. And when you have so many women keeping their maiden name or both names, hyphenating etc., it gets even more complicated. I’ve had clients want to use things like “Mr. John and Mrs. Mary Smith” (wrong for a number of reasons) or “Mr. and Mrs. Mary and John Smith” (better, but still not right), but truthfully there is no formal, correct way of using both titles and names for a married couple. You could technically use “Mr. John Smith and Ms. Mary Smith”, similar to the way you would address them if a woman uses both last names, hyphenates or keeps her maiden name; or, you can do with more and more of my clients are doing – do away with the titles altogether and address them as “Mary and John Smith”. Yes, you read that right – in this case the woman’s name always goes first because the man’s first and last name should not be separated.

What if I don’t know a woman’s marital status?
Always use “Ms.” if you are unsure, as it works for pretty much anything (including divorced or widowed). Note that many married women use the title Ms. (including yours truly) and it is becoming more common these days to refer to all women as Ms. when addressing something to them directly (say for a bridal shower or similar situation). Why? Because technically speaking (by traditional etiquette rules) the title “Mrs.” should only be used in conjunction with a woman’s husbands name/last name, but never with her full name (because it really means “Mistress of”). So for instance, it’s technically correct to refer to me as Mrs. William Spano (ugh, not okay by me though to be honest) or Mrs. Spano, but never Mrs. Sarah Spano. But you can definitely call me Ms. Sarah Spano, and that’s what I call myself.

Aside: There are a number of etiquette experts (including Emily Post) who are now softening on the use of “Mrs.” when using a woman’s full name ie. “Mrs. Sarah Spano”. As traditional etiquette is followed less (or you) could say changing with the times), people are becoming both less aware of what is traditionally correct and also just care a lot less. Again, you know your guests and your event, so do what feels right.

What titles should I be using when addressing my guests? Professional, Military, Religious?

As a matter of etiquette, generally speaking you would use titles only for Doctors (which doesn’t mean just medical Doctors, but PhDs as well), members of clergy, military officials and political figures. Technically speaking, many people have titles (Chef, Captain, Chief etc.), but they usually are not used when addressing invitations. This is also true of professional designations or terms (CPA, Esquire etc.) – they should only be used on business correspondance. Ultimately, you know your own guests and what they prefer – when in doubt, it’s best to err on the formal side.

How do I address an invitation if one of both of  the couple are Doctors or Reverends?
The easy answer is that Doctor or Reverend “outranks” social titles, so they would be listed first (regardless if they are male or female) eg. Dr. Jane and Mr. John Smith, or The Reverend Mr. and Mrs. Michael Johnson (in this case “The Reverend” is used in addition to the social title, not replacing it as it does with “Doctor”). If both parties are Doctors or Reverends, you can use The Doctors Smith or Drs. Jane and John Smith and similarly The Reverends Johnson or The Reverend Mrs. Mary Johnson and The Reverend Mr. Michael Johnson.

How do I address an invitation to a same-sex couple?
The same way you would address any other unmarried or married couple with different last names – Mr. John Smith and Mr. Michael Johnson or Ms. Jane Smith and Ms. Mary Johnson. What if they are married and have the same last name – hyphenated or otherwise?  Then you can use the plural titles: Messrs. John and Michael Johnson and Mesdames Jane and Mary Smith.

How do I address someone who has two titles? A military doctor, a reverend who holds political office etc.?
Good luck with that! Kidding, kidding. Generally speaking in North America we don’t use multiple titles – you would either use the most current title or the highest “ranking” title. In Britain, as an example, they would tend to use both titles. The best thing to do is to do a search for the specific situation you’re dealing with, and you’ll likely come up with an answer! Just how many titles can you have? Well…the father of a friend of ours was technically a reverend, a military officer, a doctor and a judge. Luckily he wasn’t invited to our wedding – I don’t think that The Honourable Reverend Captain Doctor James Morgan would have fit on the envelope😉

Still have questions? A great resource is author Robert Hickey’s blog (he’s from The Protocol School of Washington and has a book out called “Honor and Respect: The Official Guide to Names, Titles and Forms of Address”) – lots of great info on really specific situations!



Invitation Advisor: Weddings Pros – Will Work For Free?

January 24, 2012 § 4 Comments


Okay, so today is a big day for The Invitation Blog – this is our 200th post! Not sure when I started I thought I’d be hitting 200 posts in 18 months, but here we are – and we also just surpassed 50,000 views last weekend (although we’re up around 53,300 already) and have had over 6200 views during the month of January so far (that’s on track to almost double our busiest month previously). Oh, and we even smashed our one day view record on Jan 18th, with 462 views – the crazy part being that I didn’t even post anything that day! Yay for wedding season:)

The numbers themselves though are really meaningless – what is amazing is that everyone has been and continues to be so supportive of The Invitation Blog and the idea of a putting some straight-up truth out there about weddings, stationery and the like. Thank you!

And so, that brings me to today’s post…

Every now and then, a fellow stationer or wedding pro will say, “you really need to write a blog about this”. And usually they are right, about whatever it is they are talking about. And usually it’s something that is an issue that comes up with clients due to lack of knowledge or understanding. And usually it causes friction. And this is one of those things.

Aside: My high school English teacher just expired after reading the above.

Straight up, so there is no misunderstanding: I do NOT work for free. Never. I may work for payment in something other than cash every now and then (ie. trade, advertising etc. – something of tangible value, not just “exposure”), but never for nothing.

And yet, as clear as I am with potential and current clients about that (as are, I’m sure, most vendors), it still comes up every now and then. And based on what some of my colleagues have to say, quite frequently for them as well. Clients who feel it’s okay to ask us to do work for them for free, for whatever reason.

There’s a few different flavours of this phenomenon as well: some of the requests can be fairly innocuous while some can be just brazenly ridiculous, sometimes just based on lack of knowledge or thought and sometimes based on people being willing to take advantage of anyone just to save a few dollars.

Luckily, I would say that mostly it’s the former, in both cases.

Commonly what may happen is something like this:

A client comes in to chat about a custom project – we look at my past work, we chat about colours, papers, look at samples etc. and put together an idea that appeals to them. I then send off a quote that clearly states our policy – we require a $250 design deposit to begin work on a project. That’s actually generous compared to many in the industry – in most cases it’s 50% of your total order. I do what feels right to me – something that protects me (ie. I get paid for the design work I do) and the client (they don’t stand to lose more than $250 if we can’t come up with a design they like – which has never happened, at least so far).

Then, I may receive an email from the client that says something like, “Can you put together a proof for us so we can see what it’s going to look like? We just can’t visualize it and want to make sure we like it before we go ahead.”

In a word…NO. I’m not being a hard-ass, but that’s how custom anything works – that’s why it’s custom. Because it’s just for you, created from scratch. I get the idea of a client being a little apprehensive, but that’s life – whenever you hire a wedding vendor you are taking a risk to some degree. If you had a designer making a custom gown for you, would you ask them “can you just make me a dress so I can see what it’ll be like before I decide if I want to pay you?”. Obviously not. Again, I would hope that usually this is just a result of a couple not realizing that what they are basically asking is “can you do some work for free on the off chance I’ll be happy with it and hire you”.

There’s a (dirty) word for that in the design industry – spec work. Even AIGA (American Institute for Graphic Arts) thinks it’s uncool (you can read more on their stance here:

It always stings a little to hear that too – after all, it comes down to a trust issue. After spending 60-90 minutes with a couple talking to them, getting to know them, showing them my portfolio of past work, giving them ideas of what I would do for them…it kinda sucks to hear them tell me that basically they don’t trust me with $250, that they aren’t sure I can come up with something that will be “good enough”. Ouch.

It happens outside of custom design too though – it could be clients asking for free proofs (“we just want to see it with our names first”), additional items that weren’t originally included in an order (ie. custom illustrations, maps, additional inserts etc.), even things like rush orders or reprints at no cost (due to delays or mistakes that the client themselves are responsible for).

And let me be clear: the examples below may be stationery related, but this happens to all sorts of wedding vendors as well. While I think maybe it’s an issue that is most prevalent with invitations, I know that those same couples would have no issue asking another vendor to do the same for them.

The one that makes me scratch my head the most is the “please donate XXX for our wedding in exchange for free publicity”. I’ve gotten a few of those emails in my time and it makes me laugh uproariously. It usually starts out with a story about why or how the couple can’t pay for the wedding of their dreams, and then asks us to donate invitations completely for free and in return we’ll get amazing publicity because all the wedding guests will see it. Ummmm…you’re joking right?

I can absolutely understand wanting things you can’t afford (trust me), but when did that become my issue as a vendor? You’re asking me to work for free (worse than that, as paper, printing etc. are still things I have to pay for), so that you can have the wedding of your dreams? I get it, the big bad wedding industry is at fault for telling couples they need to have this or that…blah blah. That doesn’t fly on this blog – I have never suggested that couples spend outside of their means (the mantra here is “make sure your invitations match your event”), and I never would, so let’s have a little respect and common decency, shall we? I have bills to pay and kids to feed too!

Aside: It’s not just those with no budget asking – it’s people with huge budgets too. It would probably sicken people to know how many of the goods and services that made up Kim Kardashian’s wedding were “donated” in exchange for publicity. Hope those vendors thought it was worth it. Let’s just say that next time KK wants to get married, she better not be knocking on my door asking for something for free😉

Do I think there are legitimately couples out there who deserve to have weddings that they can’t afford.? Yes, I do. So too do many other vendors – that’s why organizations like Wish Upon A Wedding exist – and I fully support their mission and the couples they help. If you feel you are a couple who could use assistance, based on extenuating circumstances, I’d urge you to contact your local WUAW chapter, or one of the other similar organizations out there.

So what’s the takeaway advice today?

Consider what you’re asking of your wedding vendors, *before* you ask them. Are you asking them to work for free? Would *you* work for free? If your boss came in at 5pm and told you that he decided you should work all day tomorrow for no pay, would you be happy?

Asking a vendor to go above and beyond is one thing, but just consider what it really means for them, and make sure you ask appropriately, respectfully and accept the answer with dignity. You’re much more likely to get the same in return.

Re-post: When Do I Start Thinking Stationery? A Wedding Invitation Timeline

January 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Okay…needed a bit of time off there to recover from our 32 Days of Blogging Hath December (the series formerly known as 31 Days of Blogging Hath December: The Redux), but we’re back at it this week!

It’s “Engagement Season”, and I’m guessing there are a number of you out there who are just starting the wedding planning process (at least our blog stats would suggest that’s the case, as they have been through the roof the past few weeks!) – so, think of this as a Hip Ink/The Invitation Blog public service announcement.

Today is a mash-up of our best advice on one of our most-asked questions at Hip InkHow 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:

Yes, everyone loves a visual, right?

But I can actually simplify it even further – 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.

Okay, 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!).



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