Thursday, March 4, 2010

What you need to know...Invitations

I love getting mail! Not so much when it is bills, but when something comes addressed to me I get SO excited!  That little spark of excitement is what you want keep in mind as you plan your celebration invitation. Party invites (besides providing the basic who, what, when, and where) offer guests a sneak peek at what's to come.
Since this is the first impression of your gathering there are many things to consider: when to order, how many to order, who to order from, cost and so on and so on. Here are some tips to help get you through this process:

When to Order

If you're going with custom-made invites, aim to order your invitations when your guest list is final (about five to six months before the party). To reach that point, follow this game plan: Dream up your design concept about eight or nine months before, start to scout out stationers at the seven-month mark, and nail down specifics during all subsequent visits.

How many to order

Don't order the exact number of invites you'll need -- get about 25-percent extra, and for envelopes order even more to leave room for addressing errors. It's better to have leftovers than to have to reorder more later, which can get pricey.

Where to Order- Pros & Cons

Stationery Stores

  • Pros: Mainstream stationers work with major-league printers (who deal with gazillions of customers), so prices most likely will be competitive and they'll have the service down pat.
  • Cons: You're restricted to the catalogs they carry, in most cases. Some shops may be willing to special order invites, but any cost advantage might thus be offset. If you're thinking ultra creative or personal, you may want to look elsewhere.

Independent Stationers/Printers

  • Pros: Indies are all about personal service -- feel free to ask loads of questions! You generally also have more stylistic leeway. That may mean choices like multicolor invitations, several ink colors, interesting shapes or papers, and customization .In addition, some independent printers might specialize in high-quality letterpress printing or engraving if that's a look you're after.
  • Cons: Customized work is typically more expensive. Also, a small operation usually takes longer to fill your order, so you may not want go this route if you're pressed for time.

Graphic Designers

  • Pros: Artistic flair; originality; endless options -- it's pretty much the ultimate in customization. You'll end up with one-of-a-kind stationery, and they can usually hook you up with a print shop they trust.
  • Cons: Unless the design work is being done gratis, you'll have to pay two people -- the graphic artist and the printer -- which could wind up being more expensive than the other options. Since this process can take a while, get started early. Also beware of sensitive issues: If you are picky, be certain to offer up your criticism of your friend's design carefully.

Online & Mail Order Stationers

  • Pros: These sites & catalogs are accessible day or night, so you can compose your invites at home whenever the mood strikes, in your PJs if you so desire. Proofs are often available within 24 hours of your order, and most orders are shipped in less than two weeks. Because you're usually ordering from the printing company directly, these catalogs offer unbeatable prices, convenience, and quick turnover. If you're having a theme party, you'll often find ready-made designs to match, along with matching thank you notes.
  • Cons: Same problem as ordering anything online -- you can't touch the goods while you shop. Examine the styles closely before you buy. If seeing the design up close or feeling the paper quality is important to you, know that many sites offer to send product samples, usually for a nominal fee. Proofread your wording carefully. Your order will be processed exactly as you have entered the information, and if something is incorrect, it's your fault -- not the online stationery company.


Think of your invitation as a tool kit of the day for guests. So you'll want to provide them with all the information they'll need. (Names of the hosts, day of the week, date, time, address of the party place, and RSVP info). Although, you're not expected to include enclosures, response cards tend to save trouble and maps are an ultra-considerate touch. Choose only what makes sense for your party.
Super Tip: Mark lightly, in pencil, a number on an upper corner on the back of each response card. Keep a numbered list with corresponding names. That way when you can't read someone's handwriting, you can use your code to uncover the mystery attendee.


Prices depend on the kind of invites you choose, where you order them, the ink, the typeface, the printing process, and, of course, how many you need. You'll spend anywhere from $1 to $50 per invite. If you're hiring a calligrapher to handle envelope addressing and more, account for that extra cost in your invitations budget.

Ways to Cut Costs

Keep it simple. Top-of-the-line papers, color ink, and custom designing will jack up the price. So will decorative envelope linings and multiple enclosures. Use response postcards instead of cards and mini-addressed envelopes, or just have guests reply via e-mail. If you're concerned about postage, stay away from oversize or bulky styles, and opt for thermography over engraving or letterpress. Paper boutiques have beautiful wares, but working with a mainstream house or mail-order outlet will save you cash.

Own Your Skills, Know Your Limits

If you've got more guests than your writing hand can handle or if the term "chicken scratch" applies to your penmanship, enlist some friends to help address envelopes or hire a calligrapher. Be sure to inquire about written errors, will you have to pay for the correction or are re-dos done free of charge? Give your calligrapher a typed address list And be sure to check your list twice and make sure that someone else familiar with the names takes a careful look as well.

Read Twice, Print Once

You know what they say measure twice, cut once, this also goes for printing. Just before your invitations go to print, the stationer/designer will forward you a proof of the actual version for review. Be sure to not only check the text for spelling errors and confirm the accuracy of date, time, but also for colors, graphics, alignment, resolution, etc. As you carefully review, double-check the date, just to be on the safe side! Always have someone else with hawk eyes take a look, too.
Super Tip: When you order your invitations, see if you can take the envelopes home immediately -- or at least request that they be delivered ASAP if you're having a return address printed on them -- so that you can start addressing these while the invites are at the printer.


Are your invites big, bulky, or even just an unusual size? Go to the post office and weigh a complete invitation so you know exactly how much postage to put on each one; your mailing costs might be relatively high if you have lots of inserts. Having your invites returned for insufficient postage can throw your party-planning schedule for quite a loop!
While you are there look for specific stamps for your invites. There are a lot more options out there than your standard American flag, and chances are there's a stamp that fits your party's theme perfectly. Don't have time to run from post office to post office. Just visit the U.S. Post Office online ( and browse through their entire inventory of stamps.

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