Don’t overspend on invitations – Ten tips and tricks for how to make the most of your invitation budget

Has anyone out there noticed a trend with how I feel about how much stuff costs?  Like most people, my family lives on a budget (a budget that has gotten even smaller since two kids have joined our family)  But even before having kids, and going down to one income, I have always been on a budget. I epitomized the stereotype of “starving art school grad” back when I was in NYC. There were weeks where I would live on popcorn, grilled cheese, and um… beer.  So, I have always been sympathetic to people on a budget.

Nothing makes me feel worse, then when couples come to me looking for wedding invitations, and say they had found their dream invite, and then realized it is waay out of their financial reach. It is probably WHY I started doing custom work.  I can always figure out a way to make invitations work for people at a cost they can afford. I understand that compromise with your wedding plans is inevitable, but your invitations shouldn’t have to be one of the compromises.

Invitations are the first impression of the wedding. I have always said that couples should make the save the date reflective of your personalities (have fun with them!). Make the invitation reflective of the wedding itself, set the mood. But even if you are having a totally fancy, black tie event, you don’t have to over spend on your invitations.

Some of the best tips I have for couples are as follows:

  • Don’t bust the budget on the pieces that don’t really matter.

Think about it.  What piece is the most important? The invitation itself, right? The other pieces are, for lack of a better term, throwaways. The response comes back to you, and any enclosures, like accommodation cards, directions, or extra event info cards, are the ones that people bring with them and shove in their bag, or glove compartment. If you have your heart set on engraving, or letterpress, but the cost of the entire suite to be done in those methods busts your budget (because they are EXPENSIVE processes!). Do just your invitation in your dream printing method, and then flat print everything else. (please, do not do engraving, and then thermography. It will appear that you were attempting to pull a fast one). Do a very intentionally different print method – flat is the best option.

  • Don’t go crazy with colors

If your wedding theme is based around two or more colors,  you probably want to incorporate those colors. There are better ways to do that then a multiple colored invitation. If you can, use the paper as one of the colors, or print different pieces in different colored inks. Many printers will charge more for two or more ink colors on one piece. The reason is that it often will require either an additional printing plate or an additional run through the printer.

  • Do your homework and triple check EVERYTHING

Research the best printer you can find that can work with your budget. It often, will not be the big box store, or even the little mom and pop store in your neighborhood. Don’t fear going to small printers, or printers you find online (Etsy, HERE, etc). BUT, what you need to do is get samples. Get not only a sample of what their papers are, but also their printing. Most printers will send you a sample suite for a small charge. Then what you absolutely must do, is mail it to yourself. I remember a bride that came to me because she had gone to a woman who did invitations out of her home, and everything looked fantastic. Then when she mailed them, the ink smeared everywhere to the point that people couldn’t read them! She had to re-do all of them. How awful! The $20.00 or so that you will spend on the sample can save you hundreds if not thousands. Another tip? This is going to sound so obvious, but triple check and have multiple people triple check everything on the invitation for spelling. Your printer is not responsible for spelling your venue name correctly, or your names even. When you look at something so much, your brain can often auto-correct errors. Once you sign off on that proof, you own it. “Satarday” and all!

  • DIY as much as possible

If you have your heart set on lined envelopes, but don’t want to pay the 1.50 per envelope (minimum!), there are templates you can buy to cut the liner yourself, or you can make your own template by just steaming open a blank envelope, and trimming it down. It brings your cost down to probably between .25 and .75 per envelope depending on the paper you choose.  When I got married, I had my heart set on a completely custom style… so I did it myself. I paid for someone to the actual printing (letterpress) for me, and then, I did all the assembly myself. It was so worth it!

  • Forget the envelope!

Well, you do need an actual envelope for the invitation itself, but forget about the double envelope. Definitely forget about the reply card envelope! Do a postcard instead. Not only are you saving on the cost of having the reply envelope printed with your address, and the cost of the envelope itself, but you are saving on the cost of the stamp. Postcards are less expensive to send, and not having a card and envelope to pack into the invitation envelope, saves on the weight, and therefore the cost to mail the whole thing out.  (Bonus? It’s “greener” to do this too! Less paper waste)

  • Multiple use pieces are your ticket to saving

Do you have a lot of information to get across? Destination wedding, with a lot of extra festivities? Or do you just have a lot of info you want to include? Try utilizing a tri-fold or bi-fold card. The cost of doing one card with basically two to six sections is much less expensive then doing two to six cards. Printers will charge less to print a second side then they do for an extra card, so if you have a lot of information to get across, do an extra card, but utilize every section. If your invitation is a 5×7, you can take a card that is 10×7 and fold it in half, then you have 4 sections to print on, or even better still, if your printer offers stationery as well, you could ask to use a folded correspondence card stock to print information, then it is already folded. (it may be smaller then the invitation itself though)  One other thing you can do, is a bi-fold card with a perforation where the fold would be. Use one side for your info, and the other as the reply postcard. Your guest keeps the info card, and tears off the postcard and mails it off to you. Even cheaper! One printing charge for two pieces!

  • Don’t box yourself in

One thing that I always made sure I told clients, is when If you go to a stationery store, and are looking for an invitation, don’t think you have to limit yourself to “Wedding” books. You are buying PAPER. What is printed on the sample is irrelevant. Look in all of them! Look in Bar and Bat Mitzvah books, party books. Those invitations are often less then the ones in the wedding books – don’t ask me why. Even with some printers, you can look at stationery books. For an additional cost, you can often use that paper for an invitation as well, it may still come out less expensive, even with the additional cost. Find the size, color, weight that you are looking for. Just because the invitation is shown with pink script with an ivory ribbon, doesn’t mean it needs to come that way. Just like buying a house, you need to look beyond the “cosmetic”

  • Just like fashion – less is more

Don’t go overboard with embellishments. Ribbon, script, colors, layers, liners, monograms, foiling, Pantone colors, etc etc etc. All of these are great and fun options, but don’t go overboard with them. You need one or two additions to your invitation before it gets way too crowded and takes away from the actual invitation. Just like you wouldn’t wear a lot of jewelry, with a scarf, and a hat, and a bow in your hair, and a print shirt with striped pants (But, um… if you would… then more power to you!) You don’t want to overdo it with your additions to your invitation. Less is more, and more is NOT more unless you are talking about the cost. Every extra you add, adds up in the cost. Make your invitation classic and timeless, and you will always be able to go back and look at it with a smile. And just for the record, classic and timeless does not have to mean boring!

  • Hand Cancel!

Okay, so this doesn’t always save you money, though it can.  It also doesn’t cost you money.  It can save you money if you send an invitation that gets destroyed in the mail (therefore requiring you to send out another invite) What is hand cancelling, you ask? All you have to do, is take a full invitation, packed up and ready to go to the post office, have them weigh it, and tell you the cost. Then, apply your stamps as you normally would, but stop there. Do NOT just shove them into the mailbox. Take them to the post office, and hand them over the desk. Ask them to please “Hand Cancel” them. The only reason to do this, is if they hand cancel them, they will not be run through the machine that they use to cancel out your postage (those swirly black lines that go over your stamp).  Because wedding invitations are often larger and heavier then most other mail, they tend to get caught and even mangled in that machine. By hand cancelling, they take a rubber stamp, and by hand, cancel out your postage. Yes, it is an extra step to take, but it may save you money in the long run. Just make sure you call ahead to the post office. Not all do hand cancelling!

  • Know your numbers!

Don’t go crazy, and order a TON of extra invitations, but if you need 73 invitations, don’t order 75. I like a buffer of at least ten. So, order the next available quantity up. Sometimes it will be a full 25 more, sometimes ten…. it will depend on the printer. I can promise you though, it will be a minimal charge compared to ordering 25 at a later date. Look at the pricing your printer has listed. If you order 75, the cost could be, let’s say $198.00. To order 85, the cost would be about $215.00. If you were to realize later that you need a few extras (someone always wants an extra one for something, or one may get lost in the mail, you just never know) 25 invitations could cost you 96.00! Let’s see $17.00 or $98.00… tough choice, huh?  Also, make sure you count properly. You are sending invitations to households, NOT people.  Your invitation count is not your headcount. Just think of it this way: both your best friend and her husband don’t each need an invitation, they get one together.  It is the only time during the entire planning process that this applies, so it’s an easy mistake to make.

Well. how’s that for a list of tips and tricks? I am a firm believer in not spending more then you need to. Weddings are so expensive! Save your money where you can, for other FUN stuff… ahem… open bar, photo booth, etc. And if you have any questions, or need more tips, be sure to contact me! Obviously, I like talking about this stuff!

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