The venue has been chosen, the color swatches have been decided upon, the dress has been bought, and invites are on their way. Your invitations and save the dates give your wedding guests their first look into your big day. They set the tone and style for your wedding, so it’s important that they convey the message you want to send.
Keeping that in mind, when choosing invitations, carry out your wedding’s theme and style down to the RSVP and map telling guests where to go. Invites can be as formal and as fun as your want your big day to be, but remember that they give your guests clues as how to dress and prepare for the event.
Start the process early — Save the dates should be sent out 9 to 12 months before the ceremony, so start compiling your guest list and addresses early. I sent out a direct message to each of my friends on Facebook asking for their addresses. While your save the dates don’t have to match your invitations, sometimes you can save money by ordering everything in one place, so start scouting stationers about a year to nine months out, and don’t forget to leave yourself enough time to address and assemble your envelopes.
Shop around – Not only for stationers, but also to get an idea of you want your invites to look like, how elaborate you want to get with your inserts and other wedding stationery and what kind of wording you want.
Work within your budget — The Bridal Association of America says that the average cost of wedding invitations is $659. This refers to invitations that have printed envelopes, reply cards, and printed reply card envelopes. Some wedding budgeting tools say to account for 3 to 5 percent of your budget for wedding stationery, but if you have a $15,000 budget with a guest list of about 150, that’s only about $450 for about 100 invitations, RSVPs, maps and inserts and postage and any day-of stationery, such as place cards. That $450 isn’t going to go very far. Stationery can be a last-minute thought for a lot of couples, but costs add up quickly. See some of the most common wedding invitation types and how much they usually cost for 100 pieces.
Budget for postage — According the InvitationBlog.com, “You’ll need to budget at least $0.88 minimum [each] for postage, since you need a stamp for both the outer envelope and the RSVP envelope. You may also need to include extra postage if you have an oddly shaped, sized or overweight invitation, which happens fairly frequently.” So if you’re sending 100 invites, (at least) $88 of your budget will be spent on just getting the invitations there. And don’t forget to include postage for thank you cards, unless you get your own carrier pigeon as a wedding gift. Check out next week’s blog on postage pointers and addressing the envelopes.
Proofread, proofread, proofread! I always say everyone needs a copy editor in their life. Because this is my job, I can’t stress how important it is to spell your fiance’s name right or not request someone’s “presents” at your ceremony. Get some specific tips for proofreading here. Use this proofreading checklist to check more than just spelling and grammar.
Develop a secret code for replies — In case a guest forgets to write his or her name or if writing is illegible, have a backup plan to foolproof your RSVPs. Number your reply cards and keep a corresponding list of names and numbers to check them off as they arrive in the mail. That way you also know exactly who hasn’t responded yet and can track them down if they don’t respond in time.
Purchase samples — Colors look way different on screen than they do in your hand. This ensures you color swatches are cohesive and correct. Samples also allow you to feel the weight of the invitation paper and give you a hard copy to proofread. Plus, they’re super fun to show off to your friends. (Especially if you design them yourself!)
Leave anything out — I knew a girl who sent out invitations to her 30th birthday party and left out the time everyone should be there. Make sure you have time, date, location, names (spelled correctly!) and when your guests need to RSVP. Also include directions, maps and where your registered.
Forget to include an RSVP date — It’s going to be hard enough to get people to check a box and drop a simple folded piece of paper in the mail; don’t give them a reason to procrastinate even more! This date is usually two to four weeks ahead of the wedding.
Order invitations too late — You don’t want to leave yourself scrambling or guests scrambling to RSVP for the day you’ve probably spent more than a year planning. Use the following timeline as a guide for when to order and mail your invites and when you should expect them back.
9 to 12 months – Send save the dates. Especially if you’re having a destination or an out of town wedding. Start looking at invitations and find what style works for you. Another option is to do an email save the date if you want to save money. Remember: Don’t send a save the date to anyone you aren’t inviting to the wedding!
6 to 9 months – Begin looking for a stationer or printer and get your complete guest list with addresses compiles. Order samples to determine what kind of paper and printing you like.
4 to 6 months – Order your invites, and proofread. Some sites recommend ordering about 10 more invitations than you think you’ll need in case of addressing mistakes or last-minute invites. They’re also nice to keep as mementos. Ordering them earlier also allows your designer and printer time to give you proofs and make any corrections. Another good rule of thumb is to order an extra 1 or 2 envelopes for every 10 wedding invitations. Also, remember you are not ordering invitations for every guest, only by households.
3 months – Start hand-addressing envelopes and/or hire a professional calligrapher now. If you can get your envelopes earlier, do it, and start addressing them as soon as you can. Recheck your guest list and start assembling cards and envelopes. Purchase postage AFTER everything is assembled and weighed.
6 to 10 weeks – If you’re having a destination wedding or an out of town wedding, you want to mail your invites about 8 to 10 weeks out. This gives guests plenty of time to find accommodations, take time off work and make travel arrangements. Wedding invitations need a delicate balance of time. If you mail them out too soon, people are going to forget about them and never RSVP. If you don’t give enough time, people won’t be able to attend. You know your guests, so if you think they need more time, mail them out sooner.
4 to 6 weeks – Mail wedding invitations now if guests are not going to have to travel. One site recommending mailing them on a Friday or Saturday, so guests get their invite in the beginning of the week, when they are more likely to check their mail and it won’t get overlooked or thrown in a pile. (I’m a notorious mail piler.)
2 to 4 weeks – RSVPs should have arrived. Though most final headcounts for wedding venues and caterers are due two weeks before the wedding, give yourself enough time to track down the people who didn’t respond. Also, if you’re having place cards printed, this could take 2 to 4 weeks, so plan accordingly.
Wedding invitations may not be as costly as other wedding essentials like clothes and reception. However, they still require careful planning and budgeting. Remember to start planning early!
Next week: Postage pointers and correctly addressing your invites.
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