From the Studio: Passport Destination Wedding Invitations

March 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

I sometimes think it’s unfair that I spend so much of the winter creating passport invitations for destination weddings – staring at the photos of beautiful beaches and hotels, crystal blue water and swaying palm trees…all reminding me of how very cold and snowy it is outside and how very far away vacation time is 😉

But, at the same time, I LOVE creating destination wedding invitations for all the same reasons. It always reminds me of lazy days spent on the beach, enjoying the warm sun, cool water and the ocean breezes, and I love working with the beautiful colours of the sea, the sand and tropical flowers.

Recently, Gloria and Matt came to Hip Ink to have passport invitations created to invite guests to their November wedding on the beautiful island of Cuba (for those US-based readers who aren’t aware, Cuba is actually a very popular vacation spot for Canadians!), and it was a blast creating their super-cute invites. How super-cute were they? Gloria’s parents apparently exclaimed that they were, “the most beautiful invitations ever”. So, maybe the fact that they were Gloria’s wedding invitations had something to do with it, but hey, we’ll take it!

So, without further ado, here’s a bit of passport invitation eye-candy:

Back next week with an invitation suite I’ve been dying to share with you…yes, you know the one…

The Invitation Advisor: More Straight Talk on Wedding Invitation Pricing

March 29, 2011 § 5 Comments

So today we’re not talking exclusively invitations, but something that applies to all wedding vendors in general…hopefully, you’ll still find it interesting/helpful/controversial 😉

I had a completely different post in mind for today, but I was hanging around on twitter and someone linked to a blog post by photographer Zack Arias that got me thinking…

As an invitation designer, who frequently talks to other invitation designers, you can imagine that we do spend some of that time complaining. I know, shocking, right? One of the things that frequently gets discussed are people who are new to the business and who drastically undercharge for their services. They are not talked about nicely. In fact, it would be impolite to say some of the things that are said about them in…well…any kind of company. Etsy gets mentioned a lot in these conversations. A lot.

Why do we complain about these vendors? Because they harm our business by de-valuing what we do. Because those stationers out there selling pocketfold invitations on Etsy for $3 each can not possibly be making money – it is literally impossible. I am about as transparent with my clients as possible about how my invitation pricing works (something I know other stationers must think I’m crazy for doing), I have nothing to hide. I charge what I charge because it’s fair for what I do (and gosh darn it, I’m worth it!). I could charge less, I could definitely charge more; I do my best to price fairly for everyone involved. I feel like that’s my karmic duty. So I can tell you, in all honestly, there are people out there making no money because they see making invitations as a fun hobby. I have a business degree, I went to design school, and I have children to feed – so you’ll have to excuse the fact that since I run a business, I expect to actually make money.

(Aside: Here is a link to my post explaining why invitations are “so expensive”, with related details)

You’ve probably read or heard me speak less-than-nicely about big-box craft store print your own invitations and the like. It’s because I’m a snob. I’ll admit it.

My name is Sarah and I’m a paper and invitation snob. I think you deserve $10, $15, $20+ invitations because they are disgustingly, ridiculously gorgeous and all your guests will expire from the sheer glamour and amazingness when they open the envelope (or box, or whatever). There…I said it.


That doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with having a small budget and having $1, $2 or $3 invitations.

I realize, reflecting on my previous posts, that it probably comes off that way. My pontificating posts about the glory of custom invitations, the evil of big-box printables, how your guests will judge your event based on your invites etc…I get it. I probably do come off like a snob. But I’m not the only one out there, and there is truth in every one of those posts, whether it’s what you really want to hear or not.

The reality is that not everyone has a huge invitation budget, or a huge budget for any service, and that’s totally okay. There is a vendor out there for everyone. As much as I like to talk smack about the big-box store printables, you will not find a better value for what you are getting at that price (with a handy 40 or 50% off coupon of course). I can admit that – as much as I hate doing so. And there are lots of perfectly nice album invitations out there in the lower price ranges as well. As long as you understand what you are going to get for the price you are willing to pay, it’s all good. It’s the incorrect expectations that are a killer.

As a stationer, it’s not the low-price itself that bothers me (because Zack Arias is right, those vendors will go out of business, because they cannot possibly make money), it’s what couples are starting to *expect* for that price, because of vendors who are under-pricing. I have couples coming to me with a budget of $500 and expecting 100 pocketfold invites, with mutliple layers, inserts, crystals, ribbon, you name it. When I gently let them know that the style of invite they’re after is $12-15, most realize they were just not well-informed on stationery pricing. But a few will say, “but I can get the same thing (on Etsy, from so-and-so, from my sister-in-law’s-cousin, etc.) for $5”. And I just as gently tell them to go ahead and do so.

Ultimately, it isn’t really a big issue for me. I don’t want the business of every engaged couple out there – just the ones that understand the value of what I have to offer and are able to afford it. I have no problem referring potential clients who aren’t a good fit (whether that’s style, budget etc.) to another stationer, because I want them to have a great experience with their invitations, no matter who they ultimately work with.

You CAN get invitations at pretty much any price, and as long as you are real what you are going to get for that price. Do what you would do with any other big purchase – do your homework, educate yourself. That’s why we’re here!

Hey, if you can find someone selling quality, well-designed and assembled pocketfold invitations for $3 each, go for it. But be quick, they probably won’t be around long 😉

Vendor Love: ShutterBrugs Photography

March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

I have to admit it: I love sharing the Vendor Love with you.

It is SO much fun to share with you some of my fave wedding industry peeps – some are friends, some are colleagues and some I just admire, but they are all awesome 🙂

Today, it’s Niagara-area photographer Mandie Charlton from ShutterBrugs Photography.

First, allow me to let some pictures do the talking:

Hello gorgeousness (is that a word?)…seriously.

I love that the ShutterBrugs website features some of Mandie’s polaroid photos from “back in the day” where her passion for photography began – it says a lot about her commitment and love for her craft.

“It is not enough to capture your day with a series of snapshots,” says Mandie. “Instead, I believe my photography to be a collection of defining moments which will arouse in you the intense emotions, the spirit of happiness and the memories that you never want to fade.”

I love Mandie’s creative style – the unexpected shots, the perfectly staged details; but, where Mandie shines is in capturing those small fleeting moments that really tell the story of your big day!

And did I mention her fab engagement shoots? LOVE!

I am thrilled and honoured to be working with Mandie on the invitations and paper goods for her upcoming wedding in 2012, and you’ll be seeing more of Mandie’s work on the Hip Ink blog as well, as she’ll be photographing some our work (thus saving you from my very poor photography!).

And here’s the very chic Miss Mandie herself:

Vendor Love is here to hook you up with the best of the best in Southern Ontario and beyond – and ShutterBrugs is definitely one of them 🙂


What I’ve Learned Working for Myself (other than the fact that I need 36 hours in every day)…

March 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

So, it’s true – I pretty much never post on Thursdays. And I don’t post a whole lot of personal stuff either. So I guess that makes today a special day 😉

I had to post this tonight because I think there are many people out there who, like me, need a reminder every now and then.

I was checking my twitter feed earlier tonight (yes, that is my goofy twitter avatar to the left) and came across a link to an amazing article on a great website, It was exactly what I need right now, for a multitude of reasons, and it really got me thinking.

I decided to post it to an online community I’m part of, full of women (mostly women I should say) exactly like me – self-employed, designers, moms, etc. And within an hour or so there were so many responses, that all basically said the same thing…”I needed this”.

Anyone who knows me will tell you – I don’t read self-help books, I’m not Ms. Positivity, and I’m not much of a motivational speaker either. But, I felt the need to post something personal, to reach out to these other women and tell them that they were right – they did need it, we *all* need it sometimes. That pep talk that you have to give yourself, because sometimes everyone else is too blind to see what’s going on with you, that internal struggle.

So I posted the following, and I wanted to share it, because I think it’s important:

Every now and then, I need to give myself the pep talk:

“I am brave, I am strong, I am talented. I am living my passion. I am a good mother because I am teaching my children the value of hard work, sacrifice and being the person you really are. What I sometimes must take from them in time, I give to them in teaching and leading by example. Every mistake is a lesson learned, criticism is a gift, there is joy to be found in small victories. I CAN do whatever I set my mind to, because I am willing to do whatever it takes. I am successful, because I am happy and fulfilled. The future is limitless.”

I am not a self-help book, positivity kind of person (are you shocked? LOL), but I do believe that one of the most important things that we can have as designers, as business owners (especially in our industry) is confidence and belief in ourselves. And sometimes, you need to sit down and remind yourself that what is important is all that you ARE, not all that you AREN’T.

It is so easy to fall into that pit of thinking every one out there is “better” or “more talented” than you, that you’ll never be as “good”, as “connected” as “famous” as they are, but “they” were all where we are now once.

It is so easy to let small things get you down: horrible clients, people copying your work, what the competition is doing etc. But the reality is, they are just small things. Those clients shall pass, the copycats have to deal with karma eventually, and the competition is not your enemy, they are your friends. Keep your eye on the prize.

I believe every word of it to be true – I have to. It allows me to do what I love, what I’m passionate about, what I’ve built my future on.

Maybe it’s time you had a talk with yourself too.

From the Studio: Modern Minimalist Pocketfold Invitations

March 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

Okay, so I have good news and bad news…

The bad news is that I promised you Alice in Wonderland invites today, but the weather combined with my total lack of decent photography skills has made that an impossibility for today.

The good news is that the Alice invites are in the capable hands of Mandie Charlton from Shutterbrugs Photography (she’ll be featured this Friday for Vendor Love!), who is going to work her styling and photography magic. Yay!

The better news is that Workshop Wednesdays still rolls on today with a favourite design of mine, with the very modern, minimalist couple in mind.

The idea for this invitation sprang from the concept of doing a very modern, clean, high contrast design, but incorporating a very strong graphic element. I knew I wanted to use a very small amount of text and let the white space and the graphics do the talking, as well as the strong colour contrast of the paper/pocketfold/envelope.

The result is what I think of as Hip Ink’s signature look – you’ll see a bit more of this kind of thing when our social occasion line is launched in the fall!

I can’t wait to be able show y’all the amazing stuff we’re working on right now – rustic elegance in cottage country, winter destination wedding in Quebec City, Hawai-themed bridal shower – so much good stuff!

And I swear, those Alice invitations are worth waiting for 😉


Invitation Advisor: Are Custom Invitations Right For You?

March 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hey there, thanks for stopping by!

First, let me say that after an experiment with a truly wonky theme, gone horribly awry, The Invitation Blog is back with a newly re-designed theme – not sure about you, but *I* am loving it 😉

So, in the past we’ve touched on deciding what type of invitation is right for you, determining if DIY invitations are right for you, etc. But today, we’re going to look specifically at custom invitations (after all, that is my bag, baby), and why you might want to choose a custom designer to help you bring your invitation vision to paper.

Okay, so I’m biased. I think everyone deserves what a custom invitation can offer – a completely personal and unique way to set the stage for your big event. But why should *you* choose custom invitations?

Here’s just a few reasons:


Custom designs are unique and tailored specifically to each client and event. Your invitations are designed just for you, incorporating your personality, style and vision of your big day. Having an off-beat event? Even better! Many clients who choose custom invitations are looking for something that is a real reflection of themselves or their event, not something that has been mass-produced to appeal to a wide variety of audiences and situations.


You deserve to have an invitation that you will be excited to send out to your guests, one that sets the tone perfectly for your special event. Custom invitations don’t have to be expensive, and in almost every case they will be of a higher quality (both in design and paper/construction) than the standard ‘book’ invitations out there. You’re already spending money on your invitations – you should be able to have what you REALLY want, not the next-best-thing. Working with a designer can actually help you stay within budget, as they can work with you to achieve the look you are after, while keeping your overall budget in mind.


Every custom invitation suite is created from a vast array of available papers, embellishments, styles and graphics. There are literally millions of options when it comes to custom designs, so if you’ve looked at invitation books and just aren’t finding anything that fits your vision, custom is a great way to allow you to pick and choose the colours, textures and style that you love and combine them into a one-of-a-kind show-stopper!


You’re a busy bride with lots on your plate and no time to do it. Many designers can provide full service invitations – from design to assembling, stuffing, stamping and mailing – the only thing you’ll need to do is collaborate with your designer on your idea of the perfect invitation and then leave the rest up to them. If you’d like to be more involved, it’s always an option, but choosing custom invitations can actually save you time in the long run, although you will need to make a time commitment up-front to meet with the designer and share your ideas etc., as well as review proofs etc.


Destination, unique/personalized and multi-cultural weddings can often require elements (inserts, enclosures, multiple languages etc.) that many catalog companies can’t (or won’t) deal with. Enter your trusty custom designer who can help you create an invitation that suits your specific needs with all the style and flair you deserve.


Many standard invitation catalogs offer very few matching items for their invitations, and you may be stuck having to track down and purchase items that “sorta” match from a number of sources. Most designers can customize just about anything for you (table numbers, seating charts, favour tags, guestbooks, out-of-town guest bags, water bottles, luggage tags…you get the idea!) and everything will match exactly.


Many custom designer work on their own, or with a very small staff, so your invitations are handled by a minimal number of people from start to finish and you’ll get the opportunity to create a relationship with the person who is responsible for every aspect of the creation and production of your invitation. Questions, comments, issues? You know who to call (or email). You’ll get a much higher level of truly personalized service when working directly with a custom designer.

Sounds great, right? Well…I happen to think that it is!

But, and there is always a but, working with a custom designer is not for everyone – couples who find decision-making overwhelming or who are on very short timelines, I’m looking at you here – so make sure you consider all the possibilities before choosing the type of invitation that’s right for you.


For Japan With Love – Bloggers Day of Silence

March 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

We don’t regularly post on Thursdays, but today is different. Tomorrow, there will be no Friday post on The Invitation Blog, as we join many other bloggers in the wedding industry and beyond in a day of silence, For Japan With Love.

Today we want to share something that can make a real difference in the lives of people who are truly suffering and who need our support, our compassion, our assistance, and our love.  I’m sure you’ve all seen the devestating photos and videos of earthquake and tsunami damage in Japan, and can imagine the stress and hardship faced by thousands upon thousands who have lost loved ones, have been left with no homes to return to, have been affected by shortages of clean water, food and gas, and are facing cold temperatures and increasing hardships. While the immediate danger has passed, the people of Japan affected by this natural disaster have a long battle ahead.

Please help by donating to ShelterBox through For Japan With Love.

ShelterBox provide emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies for families around the world who are affected by disasters at the time when they need it the most. Each large, green ShelterBox is tailored to a disaster but typically contains a disaster relief tent for an extended family, blankets, water storage and purification equipment, cooking utensils, a stove, a basic tool kit, a children’s activity pack and other vital items.

You can also help by sharing this information on social media: tweet this link, post it on facebook, let your friends and family know about this amazing opportunity to help people in need, right now.

Please join us. We know it won’t save the nation, but we strongly believe every little helps.  Whatever you can contribute, we truly appreciate.



Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for March, 2011 at The Invitation Blog @ Hip Ink.