Wedding Invitations: A Step By Step Guide
Out of all your wedding tasks you have to accomplish, ordering and organizing wedding invitations may seem like the biggest headache. It may not be the most glamorous task (oo la la, dress shopping!) or the yummiest (cake tasting for the win!), but it’s a really important one. After all, how else are your guests going to know when and where to show up on your big day? It’s the foundation of your wedding day and can even set the tone for what guests can expect.
Want the scoop on the process? Here’s a breakdown before you have a breakdown.
Before you even have to pick out your invitations, you have to pick out the people you want to receive them. Start early and start collecting addresses once you’ve finalized your guest list. Keep an organized spreadsheet and have it handy because once you receive your invitations, you’ll need to mail them out… and the last thing you want to do is catalog addresses because it’ll slow your process down.
If your wedding is in the Fall of 2012, you might think you have tons of time. (It’s only May!) What’s the rush? The wedding is the end of October! You have six-ish months, right? WRONG! Work backwards. You need to mail out the invitations six to eight weeks before your wedding date. (Late August/early September.) Prior to that, you’ll need to assemble the invitations (which may take a week.) Before that, you’ll have order the invitations and they will take some time to come in (sometimes four to six weeks depending on the vendor or manufacturer.) That brings you to ordering in early July. Searching for the perfect invitation won’t be an instant task, either. You’ll look at many samples, visit many boutiques and check out several designers. Take your time to shop. Give yourself at least a month. So, now you’re looking at starting in June. And it’s May…need I say more?
Play it extra safe and assume something will go wrong. I know, what happened to the optimistic Yenta?! You never know! The manufacturer could go under (yay economy!) or there could be a typo on your response card. You never know. Don’t wait until the last minute to place your order in case you have to make a quick reorder.
Search According To Your Budget:
Invitations work the same way as shopping for your dress: don’t fall in love with something out of your budget. If you can’t put down the cash for the Monique, by all means, don’t try on the Monique. (I know, it’s so hard, but this is for your sanity.) It’s no different with your invitations. If you know you can’t have letterpress printing in your budget, don’t even look at samples with such deliciously beautiful and drool-worthy fine details. Be up front with your invitation consultant about your budget and be sure to stick to it. If the consultant or designer tries to upsell you, it’s disrespectful and you should not continue with their services.
If you have no budget to speak of and money is of no object, well, by all means, why are we not friends? I like Marc Jacobs and I wear a size 8 shoe.
Shop By Feature:
Ask yourself: what’s the one element your invitation absolutely must have? A specific color? A design? A paper size or shape? Pick that one element and shop by that one element. In a perfect world, that one element complements your overall wedding style. Let’s face it, there are lots of pretty invitations to choose from, but if you select all the ones you like, you’ll never pick THE one. If it’s a turquoise and white color theme you’re going for, that means you will shop for invitations with only that theme. If you’re working with a designer who’s making a custom suite for you, feel free to bring pictures with you to share the features you like. Many wedding invitation websites allow you to search by feature as well, so utilize that convenience. A personal favorite is Wedding Paper Divas™. Don’t get sidetracked and distracted by other — Oooo!! Shiny invitations with rhinestones!!! Do that and you’ll be married before your invitations even go out. Get it?
Invest In Samples:
Once you’ve narrowed down your top picks, and I mean, tip top tippy-top picks (top three?), order samples. This way, you can touch your paper, feel the print, smell that fresh new paper smell — mmmmmmm. This is your invitation test drive. Get to know and love it because once it’s out of your hands, it’s hanging on someone’s fridge.
Overall, you’ll just feel better about your order because you courted before you committed. Hopefully you did the same thing with the fiancé, yes?
Decisions Beyond Invitations:
Remember, you’re not just mailing an invitation. You’re mailing an envelope, a response card, maybe a directions insert, and so on. Oh yes, and are you choosing to line your envelopes? What about an outer fancy shmancy envelope? These are the big decisions, people! Don’t forget to weigh your priorities. That outer envelope with the guests’ name and address contains another big envelope which has the real good inside that one. Do you really need the outer envelope? It’s formal, it looks cool and who doesn’t like opening multiple envelopes from one mailing? But, not only does it give you more glue to lick, it will also mean more to pay! The add-ons and extra components require you to do a little more research, so just when you think you’ve selected the invitation itself, you still have to settle on a couple more choices.
But wait! There’s more! Many designers also happen to have paper for other uses in each invitation line. Everything from table numbers to escort cards to thank you notes. Do you want to tie in your entire suite with what your guests see at the wedding? Some may say, “Oh, who’s going to remember the invitation once they’re at the wedding anyway?” I can’t answer that question for you, but you can at least weigh in and make that decision. This can be seen as a convenience or as an added expense. It’s up to you.
Decide On The Amount:
Here’s where you do some math. Remember your guest list that you compiled at the beginning of this exercise? Count up your guest list by household. Not people, but each address. Yes, Aunt Ruthie and Uncle Murray count as two people for your caterer, but they are really only one combined person — or household — for your invitation order. Don’t assume the guest list equals the amount of invitations you should order. You’ll end up ordering about double of what you actually need!
Then, you’ll actually order about 15% more than the actual amount of households that will receive invitations. You may have last minute additions you want to invite or you might want to activate the [gulp] B List after you find out those who can’t make it from the A List. Hey, it happens. The good ol’ trusty USPS® may lose some in the mail, or your friend may have moved and didn’t bother to tell you her new address, so you’ll have to resend a few. Also, you or your parents may want to keep some invitations for scrap books or photo albums, so you’ll need some extras.
There is absolutely nothing more atrocious than placing your order, receiving your invitations a month later, and finding out that you are apparently marrying Wilma instead of William. Oy vey. Proof the invitations before you give the OK to print. Proofreading does not mean reading them over and giving a nod of approval. Proofreading is executing the following tasks:
- Read it to yourself.
- Read it out loud.
- Take a sheet of notebook paper with holes and slide the hole over the line of print so as to isolate every. individual. word. on. the. invitation. Any mistake that’s there will stand out at you!
- Double check that the names and places are spelled correctly, addresses are listed correctly, numbers are ordered correctly, and basic English mechanics (commas and apostrophes) are used correctly. It’s also a good idea to quadruple check that your wedding date and time are correct as well. You know, it’s just a little important.
You have placed your invitation order! Make another check on your list and breathe because this one was a doozy.
And then it’s time to move on to the next item.