The air is turning crisp, fall is here, and for many people, that means the highly anticipated holiday season is coming. For wedding professionals, however, it also means that engagement season is coming (insert the confetti toss here!). Shalese Kocher, a photographer and editor of Richmond Weddings recently shared at the Wedding Stationery Collective Retreat that roughly 50% of couples get engaged between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. In the past three years in my own business, the first week of the year is slammed with messages from newly engaged couples wanting information about wedding offerings. Before I know it, my calendar is booked and my desk is flooded with invitations and envelopes. It’s a truly magical season, but this year more than ever, my aim is to reach out to couples ahead of the curve to encourage booking far in advance, in order to provide the most thoughtful, intentional service to my clients.
If you’re getting married next year, there may be the temptation to fully indulge in the holidays and coast the planning wave until you have time off after the New Year. However, if you are currently engaged, getting married in the new year, and you haven’t yet inquired about wedding paper, this series will help you begin making decisions about your wedding stationery options. This step in your planning is critical to getting your loved ones to the festivities, and quite often pushed to the last minute. My goal is to save you heartache and hassle.
In this series, I’ll introduce most of the pieces of the wedding invitation suite and break them down by item. I will share broad information that will help introduce you to the ‘what’ and ‘why,’ of each element of the suite, and then I’ll provide some common misconceptions, etiquette challenges, and frequently asked questions.
And last but not least, a disclaimer: I know from working with brides for several years that many folks are not motivated by the "rules" for weddings. While some couples want to follow the rules of etiquette and tradition to a T, some brides want to do what works best for them. The information in this series represents my best thinking about wedding stationery given my personal experiences. The goal is to share the broad rationale behind what you may see online and in wedding guides. Please know that this information is a reflection of my opinion, and it’s always great to reach out to a variety of sources to learn the complete picture!
If you read this post and want to learn more about wedding paper with Prairie Letter Shop, be sure to reach out to me via my contact form so that we can schedule a 1-1 consult. I'd love to chat further!
WEDDING INVITATIONS: UNDERSTANDING THE BASICS
The invitation is perhaps the most obvious and critical piece in your suite. From a logistical standpoint, the invitation is vital in terms of getting guests in their seats. However, with the advent of so many digital and even email options for wedding invitations, it’s important to understand the keepsake, heirloom value of the wedding invitation itself. At minimum, the wedding invitation communicates the following:
-Names of the couple getting married
-Depending on the family and cultural traditions, the host(s) of the wedding
-The time and date, including year
-The ceremony venue name and city/state
-A note about a reception, unless further details are articulated on another card
SETTING THE TONE:
Outside of personal notifications and/or a save-the-date, the wedding invitation is the first point of contact with your guests. I can’t emphasize enough how the wedding invitation sets the tone for the entire celebration. Does this mean that stationery needs to be the highes budget line item in the entire wedding? Absolutely not. However, I argue that beautiful stationery makes guests take note of your wedding, makes them feel special and cared for, communicates that their presence truly matters, and even has the power to get folks to prioritize travel plans and arrangements to ensure that they don’t miss your special day. After I’ve delivered paper goods to a client, my favorite thing to hear is how many complimentary calls and texts my clients receive as invitations arrive in their guests' mailboxes. A mailed invitation suite is an awesome contact point with the people you love most in the world.
WON'T IT JUST BE TOSSED AWAY?
There’s also a common assumption that paper goods are always tossed away after the wedding--but that’s simply not true across the board. The families of the bride and groom are very likely to keep your hard copy invitations as a keepsake. I remember being amazed the first time I ever saw a hard copy of my parents’ wedding invitation. Even for those who many not view your invitation as a family heirloom, people tend to value paper mementos of the happy times in their lives, weddings of loved ones included. Even before I was a wedding calligrapher and stationer, I started a personal photo album that now houses every single save-the-date, wedding invitation, and program that I've ever received. The likelihood of guests keeping wedding stationery increases tenfold when the envelope is personalized by hand, mostly because a beautifully written envelope is so rare these days. I can’t tell you how often I show up at friends’ houses and find that they’ve left a beautifully calligraphed envelope on the fridge--months, even years, after a wedding date.
SOME ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS:
One of the most important "rules" of the industry: The invitation is typically the largest, most substantial piece in your suite. According to wedding etiquette, it is not appropriate to include details about registry or travel on the invitation itself. This helps maintain the keepsake value and adds to the romance and intention of the entire suite.
What else do I need in my invitation suite? Other pieces in a wedding suite are typically the response card and envelope, and often, a details card. Traditionally, wedding invitation suites would include separate cards for information surrounding travel, accommodations, and wedding weekend festivities. Many couples now choose to capture that information on a details card or website, and therefore instead invest in stylistic upgrades such as envelope liners, ribbons, calligraphed envelopes, wax seals, watercolor maps and crests, and more (read about this in future posts!).
What about printing methods? Can't I do it myself? Printing methods and paper options are another important factor in understanding cost. Many couples believe that they can save tons of money by attacking the printing of their invitation suite themselves, but stationers often have wholesale-only access to the best stationery printers on the market. I've heard of many examples of couples spending more on their printing by attempting to DIY. When working with a stationer, digitally, flat printed cards are the most straightforward and cost-effective option for printing. Digital printers can transfer designs onto beautiful papers for a lovely final look (think textured, cotton, and thicker papers). Other options such as foil stamping and letterpress are considered luxe favorites and come with a higher price tag given the artisanal, labor-intensive processes for both.
How many invitations should I prepare for? It's imperative you know your guest list before you can order your invitations. Remember that each couple/household should receive an invitation. Adults over the age of 18 living at home should receive their own invitations. Be sure to order an overage of at least 15-20 extra suites. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this, as I would say that 70% of my brides end up adding guests or needing address adjustments by the time we’re in the addressing stage. You’ll want at least two fresh and clean sets for your wedding photographer, several for keepsakes, and several just in case of an unexpected emergency. Due to paper and print minimums and timelines, it can be extremely costly to rush order extra invitations or envelopes at the last minute.
AND FINALLY, THE TIMELINE:
WHEN SHOULD MY PAPER GOODS BE MAILED?
Save-the-dates should be sent to guests 6-8 months prior to your wedding date (and sometimes even sooner if you’re having a destination wedding). Wedding invitations should be sent at least two months ahead of the wedding date, and responses are typically requested one month ahead of the wedding date. Venues and catering companies often require a final headcount 2-4 weeks before the wedding day, so you’ll want to ensure that you give your guests ample time to reply ahead of your own personal deadlines. Remember that in every wedding, there may be some response stragglers, so it may be wise to ask for a response date that is up to a week ahead of your own deadline for headcount. This will give you plenty of time to track down missing responses or incomplete information.
Over the next four days, I will be releasing the remaining posts in this series, so keep a look out for those! Next up: "The Role of a Response." See you tomorrow!
Other posts in this series:
Part 5: Special Details and Accessories....coming soon!
I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU
Do you have any questions related to what you see here? I'd love to continue the conversation!
Have you been through the wedding planning process yourself? What advice do you have for a newly engaged couple?
Special thanks to Monica Burgess Photography for the beautiful snapshots featured in this post.