Freeform Friday: Tellin’ It Like It Is, via Video Blog

January 28, 2011 § 5 Comments

Hi everybody,

Decided to do a video blog this week – not even really sure why, just thought it might be kinda cool!

So I’m talking budgets, pricing, value and vendor comparison – important stuff for all the newly engaged couples out there.

For more of my views on the above topics, you can check out the following post:

Day 8: Why Are Wedding Invitations So [bleeping] Expensive?

See y’all next week!



From The Studio: Air Mail Inspired Invitations

January 26, 2011 § 1 Comment

Happy Workshop Wednesday y’all!

I’ve been busy, busy, busy in the studio gathering some of our previous work along with some new samples for our big bridal show this weekend (the Burlington-Oakville Bridal Show, if you’re in the area!) – LOVE designing new stuff to inspire our couples.

You may be scratching your head at this point…yes, all of our work is custom for each client/couple; however, we do, every now and then, create some pieces that are “samples”, to show off a particular idea, concept, material etc. Usually this concept gets snapped up by a real life couple pretty quickly, which means it is off the market – we never duplicate the same design for a different couple, because custom actually means custom at Hip Ink.

Today’s little beauty has been getting a lot of attention over the past couple of weeks since it went up on our website, so I thought I’d share it with you!

The concept for this invitation came from the idea of layering papers for a flat invite – in this case a gorgeous cotton letterpress paper on a kraft paper background – and using some kind of angled cut to create something just a little different. Somehow, the angled design reminded me immediately of the blue and red “airmail” border and this air mail/telegram/travel-inspired invitation was created. I wanted to create the feeling of an old letter, telegram, travel journal – all rolled into one. The star here is the found perfect font conveying that old school, slightly off, typewriter-type feeling, which continues on the the telegram RSVP with its slightly skewed spacing and alignment. A little vintage, a little modern, and a perfect invite concept for a destination wedding or for a travel-loving couple!

Next week, Workshop Wednesday will feature a round-up of this weekend’s Burlington-Oakville Bridal Show and some of our most popular and buzzed about invites!

Catch ya Friday,

Invitation Advisor: The Top 5 Wedding Invitation Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

January 25, 2011 § 3 Comments

The Invitation Advisor is back this week for Tips and Tricks Tuesday!

(By the way, we’ll definitely be continuing our series from November on what to expect when working with a custom invitation designer, starting again next week with a post on the process behind designing a custom invitation suite.)

Today we’re talking about the most common mistakes that couples make when purchasing wedding invitations – whether from an online or local stationery store or a custom designer, these are universal issues that we’ve all seen happen too many times.

Without further ado,

1. Working with an unrealistic budget/expectations

Unfortunately, this is a big one. Many couples have no idea what the cost of wedding stationery is (and who could blame you, most people don’t buy stationery for hundreds every day), and most bridal magazines and websites aren’t terribly helpful in providing useful information. Those wedding budgeting tools out there will tell you 3-5% is an acceptable amount to spend on wedding stationery (and that’s not just invitations, but also programs, menus, placecards, and also postage etc.). So, if you have a $15000 budget with a guest list of 150, that’s about $450 – sounds reasonable right? Probably not – that $450 needs to cover about 100 invitations, plus the postage (for both the outer envelope as well as the RSVP), as well as the “day of” wedding stationery. Invariably, this leads to “sticker shock” when actually shopping for wedding invitations and stationery. Forget the budget calculator – do your research. Look at lots of invitations, retailers and designers – decide on the type and style of invitation you want, and then determine what you are willing to spend. A custom designer can come in handy here, to take the feeling/look of an expensive invitation and translate it into something to fit your budget. For a little deeper discussion, check out our post on why wedding invitations are so !@#$ expensive.

2. Not allowing enough time

Second biggest sin, and much too common. Stationery can sometimes be at the bottom of the list when it comes to wedding planning – couples are often concerned with the dress, the venue, the photography etc., and all of those things are important (of course!), but remember that your invitations need to be sent out at least 6-8 weeks *before* your wedding, so you CAN’T wait until a couple of months before your wedding to choose and order your stationery. I get too many phone calls from couples who are cutting it WAY too close (ie. I need 250 custom designed pocketfold invites by next week, can you do that? Um, you can probably guess the answer) and end up stuck with something they don’t like or that costs way too much. You should start thinking about invitations and wedding stationery NO LATER than 6 months before your wedding – which allows you 4 months to find a stationer, decide on your invite and have it designed/produced. We’ve got a quick reference for you here, and more in-depth info in our post on when to start thinking about wedding stationery.

3. Ordering too few (or too many) invitations

This happens much more often than it should – the couples that at the last minute need “just a few more” invitations. It may not sound like a big deal, but it is a huge amount of work to produce “just a few more”, both for custom stationers as well as more traditional big stationery companies. Make sure you go through your guest list thoroughly and add a minimum of 10-15% more invitations than you think you need – it is much better (and less expensive) to have a few extras, than to be forced to buy 25 extra or incur rush fees for “just a few more”. We’ve got info on calculating the number of invitations you need in our post, aptly titled, How Many Wedding Invitations Should I Order? What about ordering too many? If you are working with a good stationer, you should be able to avoid this issue, but if you are ordering online etc., make sure that you are not counting an invitation for every guest. Remember that most of your guests will be couples (of course you will have some families and singles as well), so you do not need 150 invitations for 150 guests. You will probably end up ordering a number equivalent to about 65-70% of your guest count.

4. Not proofreading carefully before approving your invitations

While this is number 4, in some ways it should be number 1 on this list. This is one of the MOST important aspects of the process of purchasing invitations. Nothing looks worse than an invitation sent out with the groom’s name misspelled, or one asking guests for “the honour of their presents”. Never good. Do not assume that your stationer will proofread for you – they can’t, they won’t, and if they offer to, politely refuse. Only YOU know if the information is correct or not. If there is a mistake present in your proof and you approve it, you will be responsible for the (usually substantial) cost of fixing it. So, make absolutely sure that you thoroughly proofread your invitations – it can be really exciting to see them in print, and you probably have a million other things to do, and it is so easy to just give it the once over and say “print it”, but trust me when I tell you that you will be saving yourself a lot of possible pain (and money) down the road by following our excellent proofreading tips. Another tip – make sure you show your invite to those close to you, especially your parents, and make sure they are okay with the wording – you don’t want your mother calling you in tears when she finds out her name isn’t on your invitation and she expected it would be.

5. Forgetting to budget for postage, additional stationery etc.

We touched on this already, but I wanted expand on it because it is a very common issue. Remember when setting your invitation budget that you need to not only consider the cost of your invitations, but the cost of postage as well as any additional stationery you may need for the day of your wedding etc.  Using our example budget of $450 for 100 invitations, consider that you’ll need to budget at least $0.88 minimum (if you are in the US) 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. Even using the minimum calculation, $88 of your $450 budget is already gone, just for postage. That leaves $362 for your invitations – or does it? You’ll definitely need Thank You cards, and probably programs, table numbers, menus, favour tags, escort cards….you get the idea. How is that $362 looking now? Probably not like its going to go very far. So, while originally you may have thought, “great, I can look at invitations that cost $4.50 each”, you are probably realistically looking at invitations that cost $2 each (and considering the cost of the average greeting card is $4, you can probably imagine what a $2 invitation will get you). Make sure you take all the wedding stationery you need into account, so you don’t blow the budget on invitations, only to realize you’ve forgotten about everything else!

Extra-special bonus tip for online shoppers:
If you are shopping online, remember to compare apples to apples. The way retailers and designers structure their prices varies greatly, so make sure you are looking at pricing that is specific to your requirements. If, for example, you need 80 invitations, make sure you check how the retailer sells their invites – can you order 80 invitations, or will you be stuck ordering 100 (since many retailers sell in quantities of 25 only). Does the pricing per invite include an rsvp card or any other inserts, or is it for the invitation card only? I’ve even seen pricing that doesn’t include envelopes, so make sure that you are pricing a full invitation suite with all the parts you need, and then comparing. If you can, order samples – quality of paper and printing can vary greatly as well, and the only way to know for sure is to order a sample. Lastly, if a price seems to good to be true, it probably is. You know it, and I know it, you always get what you pay for.

Hope we’ve helped you avoid some of those major invitation-buying pitfalls, and we’ll catch you tomorrow for our weekly peek inside the studio and what we’ve been working on!




Freeform Friday: Say Yes to the (Paper) Dress!?!

January 21, 2011 § 3 Comments

Ooooh, so excited to share with you today what I’ve been teasing about all week…our bridal show “secret project”. If you were at Mix Mingle Marry you saw it, and if you are coming to the Burlington-Oakville Bridal Show, you’ll see it.

Otherwise – a picture (or three) will have to do!

So, the secret project was…a paper wedding dress. Yes, a dress made entirely from paper only. Why? Not entirely sure, to be honest. I had seen a few attempts at paper dresses in stationery store windows and figured it would be a fun thing to do to dress up our booth. Also, I thought since I had never even made a fabric dress, why wouldn’t I be great at making a paper one (are you wanting to throw something at your monitor right now? are you wondering how it is possible that I could pontificate on so many occasions about need skill to do-it-yourself, and then going and making something I’ve never made before for a big event? you are totally right…not the smartest idea)?

Wow…that was a mistake. It took me a long time to figure out how I was going to do it, and mostly I just guessed, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. That said, I was pretty happy with how it turned out, and am hoping to make an entirely new design for next year. Don’t fret though – after the bridal show season is over, this one will have a permanent place in our client meeting area 🙂

A few disclaimers: Yes, the dress is made (almost) entirely of paper – Japanese tissue to be exact. The only non-paper bits are the black ribbon and the crystals. No, it isn’t wearable – this time. Next time I tackle a paper dress, I hope to make it something that could actually be worn.

Even though it was sometimes an exercise in frustration, it was actually really super fun to make!

If you’re in Southern Ontario, come and visit us at the Burlington-Oakville bridal show (booth #45, right by the fashion show stage) to see it in person. We’d love to meet you 🙂


Workshop Wednesday: What We’ve Been Up to at Hip Ink (and a Special Offer)

January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yes, I seem to have recovered from my post bridal show daze and I’m back in full blogging mode again!

So, this will be a slightly different Workshop Wednesday – rather than feature one design, this is more of an update on what we’ve been up to, with lots and lots of eye candy and even a special offer!

First, let me say that we had a blast at Mix Mingle Marry at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto this weekend. An amazing space for a boutique bridal show, and a chill atmosphere to meet and chat with engaged couples and other vendors without the hustle and bustle of a traditional show. Thanks to Jessica from Jessica Laine Celebrations for putting MMM11 together!

We had our cute little table display working, with a very special “secret project” we had been working on to showcase both at Mix Mingle Marry and the upcoming Burlington-Oakville Bridal Show. So special, in fact, that I’ll be dedicated a whole post to it on Friday, so be sure to come back and check it out!

This past week I also tackled the huge task of photographing tons of our past and current work and samples for our website. While I didn’t get to everything, we got a good chunk up there for your viewing pleasure. Stuff like this:

And this:

and even this:

If you’d like to check out all of our newly photographed work, just click here to visit our wedding gallery.

As well, we’ve hooked up with another fantastic blog to bring you an exclusive special offer!

I finally had the chance to meet Chantale of La Belle Bride (a fantastic blog for brides on the vintage/DIY tip) on Sunday at Mix Mingle Marry, and what a pleasure it was. Love her blog – fantastic ideas, features and even a dude’s point of view every now and then.

We’re teaming up with La Belle Bride to bring you an exlusive FREE Thank You Card offer!

For more details you can check out La Belle Bride and our special offer here:

See y’all on Friday for our big “special project” reveal!

Modern Invitation Etiquette: The Dreaded “And Guest” or “+1” (Re-post)

January 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ok, I can admit it – the bridal show this weekend kicked my butt and I am tired. Like I need to go eat something and get some rest tired. And I know you appreciate quality over quantity, and I would prefer not to churn out a half-arsed blog post with a sad attempt at witty remarks etc. due to sleep deprivation. So…I am re-posting one of my fave posts from October which I think will be of great use to all those newly engaged brides out there.

Enjoy! I’m going to go upstairs and ge…..*thunk* zzzzzzzzzzzzzz

So, let it be known – I am not a stickler for old-school etiquette. I think many of the articles out there on etiquette stressing people out how to address their outer envelope versus inner envelope are just a lot of unnecessary hot air. Have you ever received a beautiful invitation only to open it and be horrified at the lack of inner envelope…thought not. For the record, 95% of Hip Ink brides choose *not* to have an inner envelope, even for the most formal of weddings, and those that do often choose the additional envelope to protect the invite and make sure it arrives in good condition, and do not even bother to address it!

My personal view is that etiquette is really dictated by the formality of your event. A formal wedding probably calls for invitations that arrived addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Elvis Presley” (er, or not – see below). Conversely, if you are having a casual, informal wedding, you may want to address your invites to “Uncle Elvis and Aunt Priscilla” and I think that’s just fine.

Aside: I have a personal disdain for being addressed as “Mrs. William Spano”, since personally I’m Sarah Quadrini Spano, thank you very much. For my own wedding I chose to address the older couples we were sending invitations to in the above traditional manner, but most of the younger couples as simply “Priscilla and Elvis Presley” (and yes, this is the correct order – a man’s first and last name should never be separated apparently). And of course we had a few “Mr. Elvis Presley and Mrs. Priscilla Beaulieu Presley”s as well. If you are aware that a woman does not use her husband’s name personally or uses both (hyphenated or otherwise), then please address the invitation in that manner. If you want to try and please everyone, you can always just include both names as “Mr. Elvis Presley and Mrs. Priscilla Presley”…or…do what makes you comfortable, but it is always appropriate to take into account the person you are inviting and what their preference may be. Rant over. Back to our regularly scheduled blog!

But…I must admit that there are a few things that do bother me a bit when I see them on clients’ guest lists, and generally it involves the use of “and guest”.

I will leave the discussion of whether you should or shouldn’t invite single people with guests to someone else. That is a personal decision that only you can make, and it can be a touchy subject. There are probably 1.35 gazillion articles online about that very topic, so if you feel the need for guidance, check out the interwebs. Forums on popular wedding planning sites are a good way to find out what other brides are doing these days and how they are handling this sticky situation.

Notice I said “single” – married, engaged and cohabiting (that’s a fancy word for living together) couples should *always* be invited together! Priscilla would probably be persnickety if the invite was addressed to “The King” only 😉

Miss Manners and Emily Post and lots of other people who know something about proper etiquette will tell you that it is never acceptable to use the term “and guest”; every person who is invited should be named specifically on the invitation. If you care enough to invite someone to your wedding, you should care enough to find out who they would like to bring with them. In this particular circumstance, I agree. Yes, if you are having an absolutely huge wedding with 800 guests of whom 100 are single and you can’t be bothered to call them all and find out, I guess you’re forgiven. But, for the average bride these days, there really are few people who would be invited with an “unknown” guest anyway, so its always appropriate to at least *try* to find out who they might be bringing.

If finding out in advance isn’t an option, you could always include a handwritten note with the invitation along the lines of “Dear Alistair, you are certainly welcome to bring a guest to the wedding if you’d like. Please let me know who you’ll be escorting to our soiree, and we’ll have a glass of champagne waiting. All the best, Petunia”. Well okay, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea.

For me the worst faux pas has to be using “and guest” on day-of wedding stationery, such as placecards, escort cards, seating charts etc. Alarm bells go off in my head when I see this on a client’s guest list. Newsflash ladies and gents: it is not cute to show up at a wedding and grab an escort card that says “Frannie Bigglesworth and Guest” (and by the way, double-wrong – for single ladies use “and Escort” not “and Guest”). How do you think Mr. And Guest is going to feel about that. Probably pretty lousy to be honest, unless Frannie just grabbed him off the street so she wouldn’t have to go to the wedding alone.

If you must address your invitations with “and Guest” or “and Escort”, I guess I can let it slide, but *please* try to find out who your guest is bringing to *your* wedding (don’t you want to know anyway so you can Google or facebook stalk them to make sure there are no photos of them dancing with the punchbowl on their head at someone else’s wedding!?!). Its a small thing, you can probably send a quick email or text message rather than call, but it does make a big difference to how you are perceived: and, it’s just plain-old nice.

What do you think? Is it totally fine to refer to someone’s guest generically, even the day of the wedding, or an extreme breach of etiquette that will reserve you a place in the naughty bride corner? I’d love to hear *your* thoughts!

Freeform Friday: Don’t forget, DIY means Do-It-YOURSELF! That means YOU.

January 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

Freeform Friday is back and this week it is vaguely invitation related, but it is really important in light of the huge trend of DIY weddings…

Yes, I’m back tellin’ it like it is, what can I say – I can’t help myself. Everyone is entitled to my opinion 😉

DIY brides, remember this, first and foremost: DIY means Do-It-YOURSELF! That means YOU. Well, and your fiancé maybe.

I’ve read a number of horror stories lately from people feeling that they are being forced to assist in their friends/family’s DIY wedding extravaganza against their will, or being taken advantage of, or just plain unhappy that they are being asked to help.

If you are looking for someone to coddle you and tell you that your family and friends should all be willing to help make your day special by helping you save money, move on sister, ’cause you won’t find that here. This isn’t about whether or not your family/friends/bridal party/neighbours/random folk should want to help you, this is about making sure you know where to draw the line, that you manage your expectations and that you think before you act.

There are lots of people out there trying to have the awesomest (ya, probably not a word) wedding out there, for the least amount of money possible. Nothing wrong with that at all. And DIY *can* be a great way to cut costs, but ONLY if you are realistic about what you can and can’t do, how it will turn out, and how much help you are going to need and can expect to actually get. Make sure you plan on doing everything yourself, and then work from there. Any help you get should be a bonus, not a rule.

Let’s be realistic – no one cares as much about your wedding as you do. It’s true – sorry to burst the happy wedding bubble, but none of your guests are on Style Me Pretty spending hours trying to decide between succulents and ranunculus for their centerpiece. If, and that is a big IF, family or friends offer to help you with your DIY projects, you should expect they are doing so out of the kindness of their hearts and immediately take them up on the offer – BUT – make sure you are clear about what you need help with and when, and DO NOT take advantage of their kindness. Everyone has busy lives these days, and you should not *expect* anyone to take time away from their work, family, lives, whatever, to help you.

Should you ASK people to help you? I won’t say NO, but I will say that it is a slippery slope. My feeling is that you should put it out there in a general way that you could use help and see who volunteers. If you ask someone directly, they are most likely to say yes (wouldn’t you?), but may secretly (or not so secretly) mean, “no frickin’ way”. What is more important to you – hundreds of handmade tissue poms for your reception or the love and respect of your family and friends. Be honest. If you answered the former, you need to check yourself ASAP.

What about the bridal party – isn’t it their job? Well…yes and no. Make sure you think about all your bridal party is already doing for you – planning, attending events, spending money on everything etc. Do they really have time to help you? Do they have the skill to help you? Will they want to help or will they be resentful of being asked? Think before you act.

For me, the biggest no-no is asking family and friends to help you on your wedding day. Guests are guests, they aren’t slaves or errand-runners or temporary workers. Can you ask Aunt Judy to hand out ceremony programs – sure, its a small task that will be over quickly and will not hamper her enjoyment of the day. Should you ask Aunt Judy to cater your wedding, DJ or be your bartender. Probably not – Aunt Judy deserves to enjoy your day as much as you do. Always remember that your family and friends are still your guests, and you need to treat them with the respect that guests should receive.

So what can you do – you have a list of wants a mile long and a rapidly shrinking budget? Here’s my advice:

– Be realistic about your budget. If you have a modest budget, you will need to have a modest wedding – that is a harsh reality, but it is what it is. It doesn’t mean your wedding can’t be an absolutely wonderful event that you and your guests will remember for years to come (but hundreds of tissue poms probably won’t have anything to do with that).

– Don’t get sucked in to wanting *everything*. There are so many wedding blogs publishing gorgeous weddings daily that no one would fault you for wanting everything you see. But make sure you take a hard look at what is really important to you and fits in with your vision of your day.

– Make sure you keep your guests in mind, and what will make the day the most fun for everyone. Don’t skimp on food or music or anything that makes guests *really* happy. At the end of the day, you won’t remember every little detail, but you will remember the great time everyone had.

– Determine what you are going to DIY, and then budget your time wisely. Make a list of projects in order of importance, and identify which small projects you could hand off to other people, if they volunteer their help.

The best tip for maximizing your budget…invite less guests. This is by far the easiest way to make your budget go farther – do you really need to invite *everyone* you know? Take a hard look at the kind of event you want to have and go back to the first tip 😉

So, need some tips on DIY invitations specifically? Check out our previous posts on DIY for some great tips.



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