Invitation Advisor: Haggling With Your Wedding Vendors – Smart or Stingy?

June 28, 2011 § 3 Comments


Oooooh watch out – it might be a hot one 😉

Today I’m going to address something that all wedding vendors deal with, and that I think it’s important to talk about openly as a vendor.

What is it, you ask? Haggling. Bargaining. Negotiating. Asking for a discount. Whatever you’d like to call it, we’re talking about asking vendors to lower their prices for you.

Is is okay to do so? Are you being smart and frugal, or are you just insulting your vendors? Are you really just going to be paying less, or will you be getting less?

First, let’s look at it from a couple’s point of view. You’ve got your budget – it may be tiny, big or giant, doesn’t really matter in this case – and you are trying to stick to it the best you can. At the same time, you WANT things…you want them bad. What’s the solution? Ask the vendor for a discount of course…makes perfect sense, right? Maybe.

What about the vendor? Most wedding vendors I know price as fairly as they can – after all, I can tell you that most people aren’t in the wedding business because it allows them to come home, strip naked and roll around in $100 bills every weekend. Far from it in most cases. It’s important to realize that most, if not all, of your vendors do what they do because they are passionate about it, they mostly work for themselves or very small companies, and any type of discounting hits them directly in the wallet. Will a vendor discount their product or services if you ask? Maybe. Will they like it? Probably not.

So now it’s opinion time (I know you were waiting for it, right?)…is it cool to ask your vendors for a discount, or are you risking offending them by doing so?

That depends – how are you asking, why are you asking and what are you asking for?

Approaching your stationer and saying, “I absolutely have to have these programs, but I can’t afford $3 each. Could I get them for $1 each? It’s no big deal right? I promise I’ll recommend you to all my friends”, won’t get you very far. The fact that you absolutely must have something that doesn’t fit your budget isn’t your vendors problem, it’s yours. Straight up. I guarantee that no vendor is going to say, “Why yes, I’d love to take a loss on making these programs for you so that you can gloat to all your friends about the deal you got and then they can come and try to stiff me as well. When can I start?”

So, yes…this kind of approach *is* insulting, because it completely disrespects the vendors time and talent. Would you be happy if your boss walked in one day and said, “Hey, how about I cut your salary by 60%, but I promise I’ll consider you for a promotion someday”. Would your landlord be happy if you said, “Sorry, things are really tight right now. What if I give you 50% of my rent without paying you the rest. Is that cool?”. Yeah…thought so.

Approaching your stationer and saying, “I really love these wrap address labels, and I know they would complement our invites so nicely, but we just can’t fit them in our budget. Could we possibly split the cost with you somehow?”, may get some consideration. Asking politely always works. Asking for a discount on an upgrade often works much better than asking for a discount on the base product/service. And asking the vendor to suggest something that they are comfortable with means that they have the opportunity to provide a fair offer, rather than you (even if it’s unknowingly) insulting them with a ridiculous offer that amounts to asking them to work for free.

If you somehow end up berating a vendor into giving you a big discount, you have to wonder a few things. Why? Why are they willing to give you a discount. Is it because they need the work? And why is that? Do they have poor skills, bad reviews, no experience? If they give you a discount, will they really be giving their all, or are they going to be resentful and not perform to their capabilities? We’re all human after all, and everyone wants people to recognize the value of what they do.

I’ve said it before, and I’m going to repeat it here – we’re all on the same side. This isn’t a battle between you as a couple and us and vendors – it’s a partnership. We all want you to have the wedding of your dreams, we’re just not willing to work for nothing so you can have it.

So, should you ask your wedding vendors for discounts? It never hurts to ask – politely, respectfully and knowing full well that the answer may be no.

What’s my personal point of view, as a vendor on discounting?

I can tell you that I price as fairly as possible (in fact, probably too fairly) for what I do, and I never discount. Ever.

Why? Being completely honest, I feel like discounting send the message that my pricing is more than it needs to be, that I need to cut my prices to get your business, and worst of all that it devalues what I put my heart and soul into every day. I’m only speaking for myself here, not other vendors who may discount for other reasons completely, but I personally won’t do it. Value-adds (free upgrades etc.), sometimes. Discounting, no.

I make a deal with my clients – they pay me fairly and treat me respectfully and I do my damnedest to over-deliver. For me, that is the perfect client/vendor relationship.

If that is the kind of relationship and performance you want from your vendors, ask yourself if it’s worth souring that relationship to save a few bucks.

The New Hip Ink: Every Revolution Needs a Manifesto

June 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

From Download your own copy here.

Hope everyone has had an awesome week.

As for me…it’s been interesting, to say the very least.

Last week I blogged about my “Hip Ink Corporate Retreat”, and I have to say that it was a great experience – one I definitely plan on doing again. It was amazing to be able to just sit quietly with my thoughts, plan things out in my head, write notes in my notebook (yes, with an actual pen on paper) and it gave me a great sense of clarity when it comes to where Hip Ink is going.

But, it wasn’t without it’s struggles. Whenever I start thinking about the big picture, I start to get that nagging little knot in my stomach, the nervous little ball of energy. It sits, waiting, for me to have a doubt, a second though…and then it pounces. It starts asking the tough questions – what’s so great about that? what makes you think you’re so special? who do you think you are?

Good question. It gets me every time. Who *do* I think I am? It’s when I’m faced with making decisions based on my talent, skills etc. that those niggling little doubts start to creep in. In the past, the doubt has caused me to put off decisions, to think small instead of big, to let fear of success (not fear of failure) get the best of me.

This time…I told it to bugger off. My new manifesto – see above. It’s hanging in my studio, watching over me as I type, ready to remind me of exactly who I am.

While I was writing on this post, serendipity paid a visit. I was taking a break and reading Let’s Talk Stationery, and saw someone had linked to a fantastic blog post: “WE ARE MAGICAL: Know That What We Do Is Not ‘Ordinary’” by Luann Udell.

Part of it spoke to me so clearly:

“What we do isn’t easy, except that we’ve gotten very good at doing it.

What we do isn’t ordinary, except that it is so familiar to us.

What we do isn’t unworthy, because it comes from the skill of our hands, the judgment of our eyes, the passion in our hearts.”

You’re right Luann – we *are* magical, because what we do is born of who we are.

For me, there is no greater calling.




Invitation Advisor: What Is The Cost Of The Average Wedding Invitation?

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

So, you just got engaged and you are struggling to put together your all-important wedding budget. When you get to invitations and stationery, what do you budget?

If you’re like most Hip Ink clients, you don’t, because most couples have no idea what an appropriate amount is to budget for their wedding invitations and day-of stationery. Don’t fret, it’s not your fault…it’s complicated, and those “X% of your budget” figures don’t really help either.

So what is the average cost of wedding invitations these days? Here’s the really short answer (for Americans anyway):

The Bridal Association of America estimates that couples on average spend $659 on wedding invitations and reply cards.

Note that figure does not include postage or day-of stationery – strictly invitations. So now you know the “average”…but *you* aren’t average, right? So what should *you* budget?

So just for you, I’ve put together a quick reference of price ranges for common invitation styles, from high to low:

Important: Invitation pricing will vary based on where you are located (ie. prices will be higher in large metro areas) and who you are ordering from (a pocketfold from an Etsy seller will likely cost less than one from a high-end invitation designer). Also, a number of factors affect invitation pricing (paper choices, printing method, embellishments etc.) – the pricing below reflects a standard invitation of the type listed. This isn’t meant to be some kind of invitation pricing bible, just enough of a idea to get you in the right ballpark!

invitation from

Online/E-mail Invitations – <$1+
Yes, they exist, and you may have already read my opinion on electronic invitations – nonetheless, it is an option that some couples with very limited budgets may want to consider. Online options are usually priced as a flat rate (ie. $79, $99 etc.), so the price per invite will depend on the number of invites you are sending out.

invitation from

Print Your Own Invitations – <$1+
Print Your Own in this instance would refer to the boxed invitations you can find at your local big box store – the kind that come with all of the pieces and you are responsible for designing and printing the invite yourself. These invites range in price, but can often be purchased for less than $1 each (sometimes much less if you have a good coupon).

invitation posted on

DIY Invitations – $2+
Do-It-Yourself is tough to provide an average for, as there are so many options that fall under the DIY category (online printables, DIY kits, designing your invite from scratch) – that said, you can bet you’ll be spending a minimum of $2 for your supplies, tools etc. and possibly much more, depending on the complexity of your project.

invitation from

Standard, Single-Panel Invitation – $2-5
This would be your standard invitation package consisting of a single panel invitation with rsvp card and matching envelopes – the pricing would cover a range of album, online and even some custom options. Again, the simplicity of the design and the quality of the materials is what will dictate pricing in this category.

High Quality, Panel Invitation – $4-8
Here you would be looking at a panel invitation (possibly with backers) made from higher quality papers, possibly featuring embellishments (ribbons, crystals etc.) and again this would include mid-range album invitations, online options as well as custom design options.

Pocketfold Invitation – $5-9
Pricing on pocketfold-style invitation can vary greatly, based on the quality of the pocketfold and the type of invitation design – more inserts, embellishments etc. equals higher costs.

Standard Boxed Invitation – $8-12
Boxed invitations can also range greatly, based on exactly what’s inside the box and what it’s made of – this would reflect pricing for a standard type of invite in a cardstock-based box.

Luxury Invitations – $15+++
When it comes to luxury invitations the sky is truly the limit – but don’t expect to pay anything less than around $15 per set. This category would include things like large crystal embellishments, engraving, silk boxes or folios or uncommon materials (acrylic, metal etc.).

The important thing to understand is that invitations work exactly like pretty much everything else when it comes to weddings – you get what you pay for. What’s important in the above information is really the minimum costs – if someone is out there selling $3 pocketfolds, you can bet that you’ll probably be unhappy with the quality, design etc.

There *is* an option out there to suit every couple, every style and every wedding budget.

Now you just have to go out and find the one *you* love!

Vendor Love: The TreeSpace Studio

June 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Vendor Love is back with a vengeance this Friday, featuring an amazingly talented artist who will absolutely knock your socks off!

First, the background:

On Wednesday, I posted some photos of a French-inspired Save The Date created for Danielle & Stephen, getting married this winter in Quebec City at the historic Chateau Frontenac. I teased a bit about how fabulous their wedding invitations are going to be, and a big part of that reason is…

Amy Tan from The TreeSpace Studio!

Amy is an amazing artist and she was the very first person I thought of when my clients said they wanted an invitation based on our Paris-inspired invite, with custom illustrations depicting their venue (Le Chateau Frontenac) and a quaint Old Quebec street scene.

Why did I think of Amy first? Allow me to let the pictures do the talking:

Gorgeous, right? I first came across Amy’s work on Etsy, and then connected with her on Let’s Talk Stationery (the best resource out there for stationers and designers, of course). I was so impressed by her unique style, stunning use of colour, and just how very *different* her creations were. I jumped at the chance to be able to collaborate with her on our upcoming project!

The TreeSpace Studio offers handmade custom stationery art and cards for weddings and events, but Amy offers so much more as well – the sky is the limit to what she can do. All of her work is highly personal, and it absolutely shows – that’s my kind of girl 😉

Amy says, “The TreeSpace Studio began as a hothouse for my myriad ideas, interests and experiences. With a background in architecture, a passion for art, fashion and craft and a deep appreciation for the tactility of materials, I wanted to find a way to combine them all under one shady tree. The Studio became then, the ideal creative laboratory of sorts, inspired by childhood notions of reading or playing under a tree, conjuring up fun and crazy ideas to take over the world.

The philosophy behind The TreeSpace Studio is that we embrace art and artisanship, functionality, materiality and activism all at once and we are serious about providing it to people with affordable personalization, great customer service and last not but least with the least imprint on the fragile earth.

I want to be able to create {functional} and accessible artwork for everyday uses, whether it is invitations, packaging for hand-made goods or gift-wrapping-everyday objects that are often disposable, and design them as miniature art pieces, something to treasure and keep because it is just too darn cool. To me, making something beautiful for keeps is the greatest form of sustainability.”

Amy was intrigued by art from an early age. “My mom still has drawings I made of little eyes when I was just 2 1/2 years old”, says Amy. “Growing up, I spent hundreds of hours on my belly on the floor with a thick stack of recycled papers, pens and pencils-drawing from imagination, inspired by the stories I read in books.” Soon her love of art took a backseat to her love of architecture, and she spent 7 years working in the industry after getting her degree. But, a simple request from friends to create their wedding invitations brought Amy back to the world of art she loved so much as a child.

“I love coming up with unusual ways to marry my illustrated artwork with the wabi-sabi world of wood, handmade papers, nature, old things and interesting personal stories.  Each project I take on is a multi-dimensional study. Having lived in 3 continents, my travels and adventures in the natural and man-made world keep me inspired, humbled and in love with life.”

What’s Amy’s favourite part of her job?

“My absolute, most favorite part is when a bride (or groom) tells me how meaningful my invitations or wedding stationery have been to setting the mood and exciting guests for their wedding.

Make it Precious. That’s what I love to do the most. I love that I am making an often overlooked part of their wedding day precious, creating something they and their guests would love and hold on to for a long long time. I still feel giddy every time I see or hear that a client has framed the original artwork that I created for their wedding invitation or stationery and it makes me feel really really lucky to have created something for their wedding that they cherish as much as their wedding photographs or memories.”

So why are you still reading this blog when you should clicking as fast as you can over to to check out more of Amy’s fantastic work?

Sadly, you’ll have to wait until the end of the year for the big reveal of our current Hip Ink/TreeSpace Studio project, but I hope there will be many more to come!

DIY Tips And Tricks: Choosing The Right Adhesive For Your Wedding Invitations

June 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

A special Thursday Tips and Tricks edition today for my DIY peeps out there (I know I’ve been neglecting you lately!)…

Today, I’m going to share with you what I think is actually one of the most important aspects of successful DIY when it comes to invitations – adhesive (that would be what you use to stick things together). I know, I know, it doesn’t sound terribly glamorous, but the having the right tools for the job will not only ensure the best finished product possible, but also save you time and money in the long run as well.

One of the most fun aspects of our DIY workshops here at Hip Ink is the part where I give each of our participants a three pieces of cardstock and give each a different type of commonly used adhesive and ask them to layer the three pieces of cardstock. As you may well imagine, the results can be pretty interesting (both in structural integrity and in visual appeal), and it is the best way for me to illustrate my point about how choosing the right adhesive can make or break your project.

I won’t give away *all* our workshop secrets today, but I will give you a quick run-down of adhesive types and our recommendation (and indeed the industry standard) that you can now easily get your hands on as well. So, what adhesive options are out there? We’re going to look at widely available options only (those that are available from big box craft stores etc.) to make it easy.

The adhesives I hear of couples using most often are standard white glue, glue sticks, spray glue, adhesive dots and adhesive tape runners.

Here’s a quick run-down of why these options aren’t the greatest for your invitation project:

(One caveat – I’m referring to a typical layered style invitation, adhering paper to paper. These types of adhesives may be useful for other aspects of your invitation project, depending on the exact details.)

White glue
DON’T…put the white glue down and back away slowly. This is *never* a good idea. This really applies to any kind of “wet” glue or adhesive – be it white, clear, whatever. Paper + moisture = bad news. Every time. What you will end up with is a warped and curled invitation – not cute. You’ll also have very little control of where the glue ends up, and often it will seep out the sides of your layers. And because most wet adhesives dry hard or brittle, your invitation will not last the test of time (and sometimes not even the test of mailing). It may be inexpensive, but it’s not worth it!

Glue stick
Better than white glue, but still not recommended. Again, because a glue stick is still a “wet” glue that dries brittle, there will still be issues with possible warping and/or plain falling apart. Also, if you are using a light coloured or light weight paper/cardstock, there is a real chance of the glue “showing through” your invitation. If you insist on using a glue stick, make absolutely sure you buy a brand name, well made version – those cheap store brands stick about as well as a quickie Hollywood marriage. A quality glue stick will be a middle-of-the-road option price-wise.

Spray Glue
Oh my…this is one of those “seems like a good idea, but not so much” scenarios. First, you’ll have to deal with the ridiculous mess (the best option is to use spray glue inside a box, otherwise you’ll have sticky…well…everything) and then you’ll have to deal with the exact same issues as above, based on the fact that again, spray glue is a “wet” glue method.  Back in the day, I thought I was very smart using spray glue to assemble our wedding invitations. What do I have to show for it 8 years later? Not one invitation that actually stayed stuck together. Enough said.

Adhesive dots
Now we’re getting somewhere. Adhesive dots are a “dry” and flexible adhesive, which makes them a good option for sticking paper to paper. The issues arise in choosing exactly the level of tack (how sticky it is), right size, thickness, knowing how many to use etc. Personally, I find adhesive dots to be great for certain aspects of invitation assembly (adhering embellishments and tags etc.) but not for layering, due to the fact that there will invariably be gaps between the layers where there is no adhesive, which can cause an uneven appearance and just seems generally unfinished. Adhesive dots can also be quite expensive, based on the number you choose to use for your project.

Adhesive tape runners
Your best bet. Adhesive tape runners can generally be found in the scrapbooking section of your local craft store, and are usually aimed at the scrapbooking market. They consist of a small plastic mechanism that houses a roll of adhesive tape (generally different than double-sided tape, as there is no middle plastic layer, just purely adhesive) that you can dispense directly. The aim is to run the adhesive tape all around the edges of each layer, to get clean adhesion all the way around – avoiding any gaps and allowing flexibility when necessary to insure your invitation stays together. A great option, but again, can be pricey based on the amount you may need – especially if you are putting together a large number of invitations.

So what do the pros use, and what do I recommend?

Almost every custom invitation designers I know uses the exact same thing: Scotch/3M ATG tape guns with ATG adhesive tape – think of it as an adhesive tape runner on steroids. Until recently, it was not that easy to find this option as a regular consumer – mostly ATG tape and guns are used by stationers, framers and for industrial packaging etc.

However, recently Scotch introduced an Advanced Tape Glider aimed at the consumer/crafter market (and it’s hot pink!):

This consumer ATG retails for around $35.00, with 2-roll packs of acid-free adhesive tape refills coming in at around $10.00 each.

No, it’s certainly not a “cheap” option, but it absolutely the best option out there for paper crafts – including invitations, scrapbooking etc. It’s an investment worth making, and if you feel like you may never use it again, something that you could quite easily resell to other DIY brides out there!

Oh and for you Canadian DIYers out there – I just saw these at my local Michael’s for the first time, so you’re not missing out either!

So, if you take away anything from today’s post, let it be this: friends don’t let friends use white glue.

From The Studio: French-Inspired Letterpress Save The Dates

June 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

Woo hoo – busy week around here, so we’re doing a little switcheroo – this weeks Tips n’ Tricks Tuesday will actually now be Tips n’ Tricks Thursday, along with our regularly scheduled Friday post. And since I’ve been neglecting my DIYers lately, this will be a post just for you on the scintillating topic of…

Adhesives. No really, it’ll be good. I swear!

Now back to the eye candy…

Danielle and Stephen are getting married December 30th of this year at the gorgeous and historic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in beautiful Quebec City. As their guests are coming from all sorts of places, this will be a destination wedding, with lots of important info they needed to share with guests – including the date!

I’ve been working with Danielle’s mother and sister on their wedding stationery, and they have put together a great wedding website with all the pertinent details, so we were free to do a very simple, to-the-point Save The Date, featuring just the necessary info. And what better way to do it than letterpress on cotton paper with hand-torn edges? Done. Add some gorg metallic backers in wintery steel grey and light blue? Done. Letterpressed envelopes too? You bet.

We wanted to mix something very formal, with something very French-inspired (it is Quebec City after all!) and a little dash of whimsy. I was searching for inspiration when I happened to come across this sweet Envelopments invitation, and inspiration hit:

One of the great things about being an Envelopments dealer is access to many of the illustrations etc. used in the fabulous samples, so I was actually able to use some of the same elements to create our own version (shown here “naked”, before the backers were applied):

And now with backers:

And finally a close-up of the letterpress printing. I’m swooning over here. I just love the look of letterpress, and we have a number of letterpress projects on the way in the last half of 2011, which has me really, really excited (can you tell?).

Next up, wedding invitations, and I could *not* be more excited about them!

Can you say custom architectural illustrations by a ridiculously talented artist? Gorgeous textured pocketfold? More letterpress loveliness? You will fall in love…but all in good time.

A Hip Ink Corporate Retreat? Well…Sort Of…

June 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

We’re slowly but surely coming up on Hip Ink‘s 5th anniversary in July, and this past year has been one that included lots and lots of changes (including The Invitation Blog, which coincidentally turns 1 in July as well!).

And even though it’s only June, I’m already thinking ahead to the end of this year and into 2012. Well, at least I’m trying to…with the all the craziness of wedding season, 2 young boys, 1 big boy, 2 cats and and all the rest, it’s been impossible to sit down and start really making concrete decisions about the future of Hip Ink – who we are and where we’re going. After all, it’s pretty difficult to consider branding changes when you’ve got soggy cheerios stuck to your forehead (seriously, take it from me).

So, a couple of months ago I had the idea of taking off for a few days to just be able to strictly concentrate on Hip Ink. Three glorious days away from it all. I know most people would think if I were going to take 3 days “off” from my home and family that it should be spent relaxing, getting pampered etc., but that’s just not me, not who I am. I can’t relax when a million ideas are rattling around upstairs…no way. Time to get those ideas organized, planned and implemented – now *that* is satisfying.

And I’m doing just that – next weekend is officially what my BFF calls The Hip Ink “Corporate Retreat”. I’m going in with nothing but disorganized thoughts, crazy ideas, half-formed plans and I’m coming out with a fresh, new and improved Hip Ink. There are definitely lots of things in the works and big plans to make some major changes, but ya’ll will just have to wait for the big announcement in a few weeks time. ‘Till then, trust that I’m going to be working my tush off to make it happen!

Now, it won’t be all work and no play, of course. Friday night my wonderful husband and I are actually going to get to have a date night (which hasn’t happened in…um…years) and Saturday night my best friends are coming over for a sleepover (with pajamas, pizza, card games and adult beverages galore). In between, magic is going to happen – I’m counting on it.

Get ready world, Hip Ink is coming hard in 2011/2012. Believe it.

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