Planning a wedding is stressful. I should know — I'm getting married, like, now. There is a lot of pressure surrounding the big day, but thinking about the way you want to get the word out to your guests is just as important — and honestly, there are an awful lot of things I wish I'd known before making my wedding invitations.
While you may have visions of what your event should be like in the early planning stages, the little details like setting up your wedding website and designing a save-the-date-card and official wedding invite don't often get the same amount of attention. After you book the space, set the ceremony and reception times and confirm the guest list, invites are the next big hurdle in the planning process — and for those of us who are not graphic designers by trade these creative details come with their own set of challenges.
As a first-time bride, no amount of wedding magazines will tell you everything you need to know. Your attention is being pulled in a million directions at once, so focusing on something like invitations often comes with a load of other decisions, such as picking your wedding's theme (or not), deciding on your colors (or, again, not), and figuring out how much DIY work you want to commit to (deep breath).
The demands of planning a big important party can get a little overwhelming, so organization and decisiveness is key. I read countless blogs trying to glean information and avoid pitfalls, but I found that hitting a potholes or two is par for the course. There are quite a few things I wish I knew before making my wedding invitations and I hope my bumbling journey to the alter can be of help to other spouses-to-be. The most important thing to keep in mind amidst planning craziness is that no matter what happens, at the end of it all you get to share your life with your favorite person; and that makes all the stress worth it.
For those entering into the planning process, here's what hindsight has taught me about the second most important piece of paper (after the marriage license, that is):
1. Get A Head Start, Because Time Speeds Up
I'm not the most decisive person, and my time management skills are lackluster at best; as such, you can imagine creating a wedding invitation was a challenge. Minor decisions like choosing what I want to eat for dinner are a daily struggle, so selecting something to send to all my friends and family was nearly impossible. It should come as no surprise that I put off the whole thing. I tabled selecting a vendor for months. My save the date cards, designed by a friend, went out two months late due to some unforeseen printing issues; my invites were not timely either. While most people didn't notice that I had messed up the "official" invitation timeline (save-the-date cards are typically sent six to eight months prior to the event and invitations are sent six to eight weeks in advance), it still fed my stress. To avoid my folly, start thinking about your "invitation suite" early... like, before the bridal magazines recommend. That way, you won't feel pressed for time when it matters.
2. Online Invites Come With Restrictions
If you want to go for a greener and economically-friendly route, consider sending invitations online. Tasteful options from sites such as Paperless Post are great, but they do have their limits. If you are using one of their set formats and do not have a "traditional" day planned (whatever "traditional" even means at this point), you may find that you are not able to fit all the necessary info in the existing invitation template.
I used one of these sites to make my rehearsal and rehearsal dinner invitation and ran into trouble when it would only allow me to list one time and one location. I needed to send separate invites for both the rehearsal and dinner, which was not my preference. One of the nice things about working with a designer and printer is that they will hold your hand through the process and help you correctly format your invitation so it clearly designates the timeline of events for your guests.
3. Figuring Out The Wording Takes Research
Many of us are familiar with what the typical wedding invite looks like, but the wording and spacing can vary drastically. You will need to figure out every last detail, from whether it says "Together with their families" to "The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of" — and that's even before you get into things like "action lines" and "party lines." Online invitation wording templates can be extremely helpful when making these calls. Ask yourself: What's the feel of your event? Do you want a formal or casual tone? Then make several drafts and discuss them with your partner before heading into the printer.
4. Collecting Addresses Is The Worst
Once you have your guest list, it's time to start gathering addresses. The first thing I did was gather people's email addresses (which took a lot longer than anticipated) and entered them into my wedding website. Most wedding websites can send out requests for addresses; however, that doesn't guarantee people will open the email or respond (turns out, people are surprisingly lazy!). This is why it's important to start the address hunt early. You need to verify all the home addresses you have, and hunt down the ones you don't. It helps to be organized as you go, and create a spreadsheet with people's names (and their relationships), emails, and addresses clearly laid out. If you decide to hire a calligrapher, this sheet will become invaluable.
5. The Tiny Details Add Up
There are countless ways to spend money when getting your invites made, so it can be helpful to weigh your options and price out vendors to see what things cost across the board. If you have decided to go the paper route and have any budgetary restrictions, comparison shopping is key. Details such as getting specialty stamps made, wax seals, envelope liners, double-thick paper, letterpress printing, and calligraphy can get pretty pricey, so think about what you need versus what you want before setting foot in that tempting paper store.
6. Set A Budget And Stick To It
This may seem like an obvious one, but it's surprisingly difficult to do. Most of us who do not work in the stationary industry are not familiar with how much specialty invitations and printing costs before pricing wedding invitations. If those photos on Pinterest came with price tags, our vision boards would probably look quite different. When talking to designers and printers, sometimes you need to let go of a previous vision and find a more budget-friendly workaround. The (often inaccurate) mentality of "you only get married once" can put undo pressure on the invitations, so be sure that double weight cardstock and those lined envelopes are truly worth the cost to you.
7. Limit Confusion By Being Specific About Plus Ones
When I created my guest list, plus ones were indicated on our wedding website. The only problem? Hardly any of our guests looked at that function and expected clarity on the paper invite. If you're struggling with how to indicate plus ones, the easiest thing to do is to put it in the response card. Think about using the language "We have _ seats reserved in your honor" and put a "2" when a guest is allowed. Standard RSVPs (like the one I sent) usually say "Person(s)" with a space to fill in names, but this may confuse guests wondering how many names they are allowed to write in. If you do not wish to indicate plus ones on your RSVP card, you can address the outer envelope to the invitee "and guest" or put the names of both partners on the envelope. Trust me, it's better to be safe than receive a bunch of confused texts a month before the wedding.
8. The Tiny Decisions Can Be Overwhelming
From typeface, color, and paper weight, to the whole letterpress or digital conundrum, there are a million little decisions that have to be made to make a wedding invitation your wedding invitation. Stressing over each little thing will make it impossible to move forward and can turn something creative into a stressful experience. Remember to breathe and tap your partner for advice when it comes to the minutiae. Of course you want your to be personal, but don't put too much pressure on that poor piece of paper to reflect you as a couple. As long as it has your names, the date, and the location, everything will be fine! I went through four proofs testing different images, colors, and font sizes (I know, I know) before making my final decision and dragged out the process for so long that I had to pay for expedited shipping. Don't be me!
9. Always Review A Printed Proof Before Placing An Order
Things look different on paper than they do on a screen, so it's important to try to get a clear sense of how the invitation will look before it goes to print. Even if you're pressed for time, reviewing a proof will help you catch any glaring typos and give you a chance to make last minute changes so the result is exactly what you want. True story: The time of my wedding was listed incorrectly on one of my early proofs, which would have been a very expensive mistake to fix. Get a proof!
10. Order A Few More Than You Think You Need
Only inviting 75 people? I recommend splurging for the full 100 invites. If you're shipping them by mail, Murphy's law states that Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Expect invitations to get lost in the mail, be returned with wrong addresses, or that you will need to amend the guest list later on and invite your boss after all. The last thing you want is to have to print more invites, so while it may seem like an extra expense, err on the side of caution when deciding on your order number.
11. Get Your Invites "Hand Cancelled"
I had no idea what "hand-cancelling" was before I started researching the proper way to mail my oversized wedding invites. Hand cancelling versus machine cancelling means that a post office worker will stamp the envelope over the postage. Feeding the envelopes through the cancelling machine means they may be banged around and the stamp may be wonky (especially if you have a thick or oddly-sized envelope). When you drop your envelopes off at the post office (try and go to your city's main branch if possible), all you have to do if ask for your mail to be "hand cancelled." Sometimes there is a fee of a couple cents after 50 envelopes, but trust me, it's worth it.
Bonus tip: Seal the envelopes firmly so they don't open during transport — a handy glue stick works wonders.
12. Some People Don't Know How To Find A Website
It may sound unbelievable in the age of high speed WiFi, but no matter how many emails or links you send, some people just don't know how to open a website. And I'm not just talking about some of the older members of your family — plenty of computer literate people will just not click on your links or the website or the email will get lost in their inbox. Be aware that sending notifications through your wedding website site may wind up in your guests' promotions or trash bins. To curb confusion (and for your own peace of mind), be sure to send follow-up emails from your own email address to double check that everyone knows where to find your wedding details and how to RSVP (if they are doing so online).
13. People Will Tell You It's Supposed To Be Fun, But It's Not Always
The one phrase I heard the most during the course of planning my wedding was, "Why are you so stressed? This is supposed to be fun!" The reality check here, people, is that I'm not on an all-expenses-paid vacation, I'm planning the biggest party of my life. Just because the party I'm planning happens to also be my wedding doesn't make the process automatically "fun." You're allowed to be stressed if that's what you're feeling.
Weddings are wrapped up in deadlines, financial pressure, and complex emotions — so next time somebody says that you should enjoy the months of endless planning because it's "supposed to be fun" you have my permission to give them a dose of reality.