It's engagement season! I love this season because love is around every corner, or below the next image on Instagram! As a stationery designer I'm always interested in hearing my couple's love stories. No story is ever the same! And just like no story is ever the same, no wedding is the same either. Which is what prompted me to write this post. I realize not every couple wants to commission an artist to create a customized wedding suite for them; some brides/grooms are extra crafty and want to have fun creating their own invitations; other's are on tight budgets and maybe creating your own invitations will help you afford that dream dress of yours. No judgement here loves, you do you and what makes sense for your big day! And I'm going to be right here cheering you on!
If you are going to go down the design and print your own path, then I have a few professional tips for you that will hopefully help you if this whole 'stationery design thing' is completely new to you. These are definitely good things to keep in mind when it comes to timing or simply buying postage for your wedding invitations. I highly recommend creating a calendar or spread sheet that you plan out your timeline for your wedding invitations. That send by date creeps up fast. But if you designate each week in between to a different task then you're sure to have all your ducks in a row when it comes to that final assembly and mailing date.
Order more than you need
My recommended overage is 10-15%. This allows extras to make mistakes or try different techniques and ink colors on. Having extras is handy should you have late additions to your guest list or an invite or two gets lost in the mail— having a few extras to send out right away will help save you reordering headaches later too if you end up printing through a vendor.
Also remember to add one or two additional sets for your photographer. Your photographer loves capturing all the unique details that contributed to your wedding and they will love having a set that hasn’t been well loved by the dust on your mom’s refrigerator to photograph with your detail shots. And of course be sure to save yourself a set so you can cherish it forever.
Take your time
I know DIY'ing your wedding can take up a lot of your precious time, but this is my friendly reminder that starting early on your design will save a ton of stress. Planning your wedding invitation design early gives you time to explore what you really want from your invitation suite rather than jumping into something that you may not be completely happy with. Printing can sometimes take longer and unexpected weather, holidays, etc can make your order arrive later than expected. I always recommend to attribute 2 weeks in your schedule for printing, whether this is at home printing or sending off to a trusted local printer. Budgeting in this extra time now can save you tons of headaches and late nights later. Also, remember to take your time with proof reading. Double, and triple check all dates and times and spellings. My recommended project starting time? About 3-4 months before your mail out date. Give yourself hard deadline dates to meet, such as finishing your design, sending to print, or just simply proof reading. Hold yourself accountable but also remember to have fun!
Sketch out your design first
With my personal clients I always start their wedding invitation design process with a sketch. It’s one of the most important steps to me. The sketch gives you a framework for your design to follow and sets the stage for all the elements you want. Dont be discouraged if your sketch is a hot mess, these do not have to be perfectly shaded and accurate. The important thing is that you capture what details you want. Do you want florals all over? Draw some squiggly vines and some oblong circles and leaves to showcase where you want them. Want large “Reply” on your RSVP just sketch in the letters for now in the angle and approximate size you want. Save accuracy and beauty for the final design stages. Having a sketch will help later when you are creating final artwork and layout for your pieces, look back at your sketch often to ensure you’re capturing your vision. Another part of this step would be to create yourself a mood board and color palette. These two things will ensure you dont go down the rabbit hole of too many ideas. Pick a theme and palette you love then create a board of images that evoke the mood and feeling you want your suite to have, maybe a few examples of suites that portray the elegance you want. Then when you find yourself questioning your design decisions, take a look at your mood board and ask yourself, is this aligning to my original concept?
Order materials and think about printing early in the process
I merged printing and materials into one, because they kind of go hand in hand. As soon as you have your counts, order your supplies. Leave about a week in your timeline for this step to cover the actual sourcing and purchasing of the supplies and any necessary shipping times. This should also happen at least two to three weeks ahead of your printing timeframe, should shipping be delayed or you receive the wrong product, or you thought you would just love ecru and you end up really hating it, having some buffer time in-between this step gives you time to fix any discrepancies and stay on track. Remember tip number 1, of ordering slightly more than you will need, and you’ll be covered if you have an additional 5-10 people are added to your guests list—because those third cousin just HAVE to make the list.
Another professional tip is to order your paper in bulk if possible to save on costs, I know that 40% off craft store coupon makes you think you're getting an amazing deal on that cardstock, but dont be afraid to splurge a little for heavy weight and nicer paper. A bulk pack of 100lb 8.5x11 cotton paper should run you around $35-$50 for 100-120 sheets, depending on brand and where you’re ordering from. I highly recommend Cranes (Blush and Blue Designs studio preference) for their traditional elegance and lovely cotton feel, but Neenah and Mohawk brand cotton papers are elegant and sturdy choices as well.
If you're choosing to print with your home printer run a test print beforehand on the appear you want before ordering everything to ensure your printer can handle the stock and that it produces the quality you're looking for.
Opting to have a local print house print your invitations? Call ahead of time to prepare them for your order and get an estimate on their turn around times, costs and file acceptance. Having this info early will help you prepare your design timeline and ensure there are no snafus later when you try to handoff your Indesign (or your software of choice) file and your printer will only accept PDF files.
Also order any ribbons, wax seals, waxes and address stamps at least a few weeks before you plan to mail your invites. I like to have these items ordered before my materials go to the printer, this way I can assemble everything as soon as printing is done. Having these little things on hand now while you have the time to shop for them will save you from running around later when your time may be taken up by other wedding duties and plans.
Talk to the post office.
This is a big one. Once you ordered in your paper supplies etc create a mock suite. This doesn't have to be a final printed version, but at least have all your papers cut to size and assembled with any wax seals, ribbons, or other adornments and stuffed in your envelope. bring this mock suite to your post office and haveTHEM weigh it and test it through their standard letter slot. They will then tell you if you need extra postage for mailing your suites. If it doesn’t fit through their letter slot you will need additional postage, which is super common for a lot of wedding invitation suites. Now you know the exact amount of postage to order per suite. When you’re ready to mail your invitations, personally go to the post office to hand deliver the invitations and ensure that they will be hand canceled. This will save your precious work from going through the machine sorter where it runs the risk of getting caught or ripped due to the internal ribbons and seals you may have inside.
Dont be afraid to call in some help.
Designing your invitations should be a fun step to your wedding planning, but if you find it being anything but fun, or maybe you suddenly dont have as much time to dedicate to your invitation creation as you thought you had, remember you can always call a friend! See if a bridesmaid or maid-of-honor wants to help tie the invitations together, or have an addressing party at your home with wine and munchies! ( shameless plug-I also teach at home calligraphy parties if you and your girls want to learn calligraphy to help hand address those envelopes!)
If you decide your DIY invitations just are not coming together like you planned you can always call around a few of your preferred stationery designers to see if they still have room on their schedules to take on the rest of your suite. There's absolutely no shame in this! We are here to help you have the invitation suite of your dreams. If you would like to see what Blush and Blue Designs can create for you let’s chat about your wedding invitations or save the date designs! And if you have any questions about any of the tips below shoot me an email using the button below. I'd love to chat with you!