Invitation Advisor: Wedding Invitation Pricing – You Get What You Pay For

August 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s probably no secret that many of the topics that I feature on The Invitation Blog come up as a result of situations with my own clients, and discussions with other designers, stationers and wedding professionals about their experiences.

Something that has been coming up a lot lately (again) is pricing. We’ve definitely talked pricing before. A few times. For sure. Even in video form.

I wanted to talk today about a specific situation that seems to be happening more and more frequently lately, both with my own potential clients and those of my fellow designers.

Here is the scenario:  A couple go to a stationer/designer and say, “I LOOOOOVE this invite, can you tell me how much it is”. Upon hearing the price they say, “But, I can get that same thing for $X at ABC, why are you trying to rip me off?”

There is only one answer to that: You get what you pay for.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to pay a lot, but it means that you need to understand and accept that price and quality/service (generally) go hand-in-hand (with any purchase you make). Think of it in the terms of buying a car. I don’t think anyone will argue that a Mercedes is superior in quality to a Kia, so would you berate your local Mercedes dealer by telling him you can go buy a Kia for third of the price down the street? Probably not.

So why does this scenario occur so frequently?

Couples come to stationers and invitation designers frequently with unrealistic expectations of what invitations really cost, and there are a couple very simple reason for that – they just don’t know, or they have been misinformed. Add to that the fact that there isn’t a great source of information out there that is realistic (Budget calculators? Forget it. Bridal mags, nuh uh. Wedding blogs…it’s getting better, but there is still a ways to go). And to be honest, as the Rolling Stones would say, “you can’t always get what you want”, and for some couples it can be very stressful to try and fit all of their wants into their budget.

One tip I can definitely share – this is one instance in which asking your family, friends or random people on the internet is not a good idea. Why? Because generally speaking they either don’t know, haven’t bought invitations in twenty years, don’t necessarily place the same importance on invitations that you do, or live to boast about how little they spent. I’ve definitely heard, “But my mother said it shouldn’t be more than $XXX” or “But my friend said she only paid $XX”. You are YOU, not your mother or your friend, so you have to consider your budget, your event, your desires – not what others tell you it *should* be.

There are two really big offenders as of late though – online wedding communities and Etsy.

Don’t get me wrong, online wedding communities (like the message boards at The Knot, Wedding Channel, Wedding Wire etc.) can be great, but there are also times when they will lead you down the garden path without you even knowing it. One thing that is great about online communities is they level the playing field – geographically, economically, etc. – great, right? Not so much when it comes to talking about things like pricing. First, let me say that having read and participated in message boards myself, there are two types of people who like posting about how much they spent on something – the ones that want to brag about how much they spent, and the ones that want to brag about how little they spent…you won’t find that much middle ground.

These days, it seems that most brides participating on these types of forums are of the DIY/frugral/smaller budget variety – which is totally fine, except that not only do some brides who have larger budgets feel that they don’t fit in, but they are frequently shamed by others eg. “You paid $4000 for a wedding dress? OMG! I would never do that, you only wear it once. I only paid $150 for mine”. This behaviour results in a community that is skewed towards the “dominant” participants, rather than reflective of the general population.

And geography is an issue too – you’d better believe that a bride getting married in New York City is going to be spending a lot more on florals than a bride in rural Idaho, even if they are the exact same flowers and arrangements. Like it or not, pricing is geographically sensitive, so just because someone else paid $40 for their centerpieces, doesn’t mean that it’s a workable price in your area.

When it comes to invitations specifically, Etsy is a great place to check out and I know lots of wonderful designers who have Etsy shops – so it’s not Etsy itself that I have a problem with. Esty is a fantastic marketplace for artists and handmade crafts, and I use it myself all the time. The issue is more that it’s incredibly easy to set up at Etsy shop and start selling product with almost zero investment – which means there are a lots of newbies and hobbyists, especially when it comes to invitations.

Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Absolutely! The issue is that those that may be new to stationery, or that don’t make a living doing it, tend to under-price, sometimes severely – whether it’s to get some sales and feedback or just because they don’t know any better. Why should it matter to you if you’re getting a deal? Well, maybe it doesn’t, but it should.

Take the example I saw recently of an Etsy seller who listed 5×7 metallic pocketfold invitations w/rsvp cards and envelopes for $2.75. Additional cards? $0.25 each. So using a common example of 3 inserts, that would work out to $3.25. Which is at best HALF of what the minimum price of a pocketfold should be. I can say with absolute certainty that this seller can not possibly be making a penny at that price, and will not be able to run a viable business with prices anywhere near to what she is currently charging. Again, you need to ask yourself, WHY would someone be charging less than half of the going rate for something, and do you really want to be working with a vendor who may be inexperienced, desperate for sales, using low quality supplies or undercutting their competition?

So today’s tip really applies to any of the wedding professionals you come in contact with when planning your big day – do your research. Find out some standard pricing for your area, have an idea of the maximum you are willing to spend, and go into your meeting with an open mind. Wondering why the cost is what it is? Ask…politely. Most wedding pros will be happy to discuss what makes their product or service unique, their quality, guarantees etc.

Above all, with very few exceptions, you get what you pay for. So make sure you are willing to pay for what you expect, or willing to lower your expectations to what you can pay.

Unsure what that actually is when it comes to invitations? Start with this recent post on the average cost of various types of wedding invites.

Following the above advice will actually help ease your stress and make your interactions with your wedding vendors much more efficient, effective and pleasant!

Happy planning 🙂

From The Studio: Tropical Leaf Boarding Pass Pocketfold Invitations

August 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Hey all, back for post #2 today!

I thought it would be fun to showcase an invitation that was heavily based on a previous design (something we don’t do very often) – just to show what a few changes can do give a design a completely different look and feel.

Leah and Rob just got married this past Saturday (congratulations guys!), in a beautiful beachfront wedding on the shores of…Mexico? Cuba? The Dominican Republic? Nope. Lake Erie!

In our first meeting, they mentioned that although they had really wanted to plan a destination wedding, they didn’t want any of their friends and family to miss out, so they decided to create their own tropical paradise on the beach at their cottage on Lake Erie – a great compromise, right?

Along those lines, they wanted to have an invite that made their guests feel like they had been whisked off to a tropical destination, and were enamoured by this design:

But, although Leah loved the colours of the invite, they weren’t exactly what she was looking for – she was thinking something softer, brighter, more fun – and coral!

Using the original as a model, we chose a bold leaf pattern in a dark coral on ivory with accents in a warm brown and light coral. We stuck with the typography and graphic elements of the original, with a few changes to make the overall look a bit softer and more casual/beachy (is that a word? well…it is now!).

We sealed the pocketfold with a simple monogram tag, to let the bright leaf pattern take center stage on the front of the invitation.

We had fun with the inserts too, allowing Leah and Rob to communicate all the info their guests would need – from accommodations and transportation, right down to the kind of footwear was required for their unique ceremony on the beach!

While I love coming up with new designs (and most of our clients do come to Hip Ink looking for a 100% custom design), it’s nice sometimes to revisit an old favourite and give it a new look to fit a totally different couple. In this case, we went a from dark and dramatic tropical look to a soft and bright one, and I’m happy to say that Leah and Rob couldn’t have been more pleased with the results!


Attention DIY Brides & Grooms – Need Invitation Supplies/Tools? It’s Garage Sale Time!

August 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Whew! Things have been a little hectic this week, so today’s first post was really supposed to be yesterday’s post, and today’s second post is actually today’s regularly scheduled post. Make sense? Didn’t think so.

To kick things off today, I know that my DIY invitation couples are thinking it’s been a while since I posted any specific DIY stuff, right? It’s true…I’ve been remiss and I apologize, but I think today will make up for it.

One of the hardest things about DIY is sourcing the right materials and tools for the job. I’ve talked about some of my favourite sources on The Invitation Blog before, but what if I told you that for one day only, you could have access to stock and tools that the pros use for heavily discounted prices? Exciting, right?

That’s exactly what’s happening at the LTS Online Garage Sale this Saturday, August 20, 2011 – so mark your calendars!

LTS is short for Let’s Talk Stationery, a fabulous resource for those in the stationery & invitation biz, boasting over 400 members. And those members have A LOT of extra stock, used and new tools, odds n’ ends etc. that they would love to get rid of. It’ll be priced to move, so it’s a great chance to get your hands on discounted stock and tools for your DIY projects! There may even be some finished stationery items up for grabs as well.

Word to the wise – better get in on the action early for the best selection (as they say in Australia, “first in, best dressed”).

You’ll be able access the LTS Garage Sale through the following link (on Saturday only):

Note: This is not an auction. Items will be listed similar to a craigslist or kijiji-type listing – when it’s gone, it’s gone.

Happy shopping!


Workshop Wednesday: Hawaiian Beach-Inspired Bridal Shower Invitations

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oooh, another favourite today (can you tell I love all of them?)…

A few months ago I showed you Diana’s bridal shower invites, inspired by Alice in Wonderland. If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, now is your chance (especially because the post has been updated with a link to some amazing photos of the event)! Today’s invites were actually created for Diana’s future sister-in-law, Rachel.

Working with event specialists Anna McCusker & Co., Rachel wanted a Hawaiian-themed bridal shower (since that’s where she and fiancé Joey got engaged!) and beachy invitations that weren’t too cliché. She was looking for something simple and elegant, with the a casual feel, incorporating bright colors and tropical graphics.

So how did we do?

The first thing that came to mind for me was woven bamboo paper (called “basho”), and we decided on a custom-made pocketfold (my first time creating them by hand!) and luxurious textured 100% cotton paper. To hold everything together, we added a wide vellum band (with a palm print) that featured a nod to the reason for the Hawaiian theme, “She said I’ll Marry You on the island of Oahu”.

There were two original concepts – one featuring beautiful line-drawings of hibiscus flowers and one featuring various sea-life in an engraved style. As you can see, Rachel chose the sea-life graphics, and I loved that it was a bit out of the ordinary – not just the standard shell or starfish, but also coral, sea anemones and more. A metallic backer and coloured envelopes gave the suite that tropical pop of colour, to get guests in a beach-party mood!

We originally considered letterpress printing, but couldn’t make that happen due to time constraints. Instead, I focused on the idea of creating an invite that had as much of the look and feel of letterpress as possible, which we achieved with the use of a cotton letterpress paper and a style of graphics that is well-suited to letterpress. While, of course, the suite doesn’t have the beautiful deep impression of letterpress, I think we did capture a bit of that style in the finished product.

Rachel and Joey’s stunning wedding invitations will be going out this week (think silver and white, foil and deboss, hand calligraphy and…amazingness!) and I literally can.not.wait to share them with you. But I have to…till October!

Good thing I’ll have lots more eye candy to share ’till then to keep us all occupied 😉

The Invitation Advisor: How To Avoid Singing The Postal Service Blues

August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

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Okay, I admit it…it’s a long one today. You might want to grab a drink or something 😉

So – you read The Invitation Advisor regularly, you’ve heeded the warnings, you’ve embraced the tips and now you’ve got your wedding invitations in your hands and they are nothing short of perfection.

You stamp them with care and send them off into the big, wide world…the question is, will they arrive safely? Will they arrive at all? And will they arrive without you having to mortgage your first-born to mail them?

Postage concerns are an often overlooked part of the invitation process that can cause BIG problems and produce some nasty surprises if not given proper attention. After all, your invitations may be spectacular, but if none of your guests receive them (or they are damaged, delayed, overpriced etc.), you’ll definitely be singing those postal service blues.

So, what can you do to avoid les faux pas postale (that would be “postal screw-ups” for those who don’t parle français)? Read on…

Note: In fairness, I can’t go through the specifics of both the Canadian and US postal systems, never mind the UK, Australia etc., so much of this advice is generalized. I urge you to familiarize yourself with the postal regulations in your own country, and how they relate specifically to your invitation size, shape, weight, thickness etc.

Plan ahead. No really, do it.

Does this sounds familiar? I may have said this once or twice before, at least. I’ve probably actually said this nine or ten times before to be honest. It is EXTREMELY important that you factor in postage when planning and selecting your invitation suite – whether you purchase from a stationer, do-it-yourself or hire a custom designer. Often your stationer/designer can tell you if the features of the invite may cause it to require additional postage (as an example, things like string envelopes or invitations that have hard embellishments may be non-machinable, and will incur an extra charge), but it’s important to ask and double-check, especially if you have any concerns.

It is especially important to plan ahead if you are creating your own DIY invitations or if you have a very tight budget (or both, as is often the case). If you are creating your own invites, start with the envelope and work backwards, to make sure that your invite is a standard size for mailing. Consult the postal rules and check for things like minimum and maximum dimensions, thickness, weight, rigidity, embellishments etc. If you have a small budget, make the most of it – don’t spend it on postage! Make sure you are aware of exactly what could cause your invitation to incur an additional postal charge and avoid at all costs. Yes, that may mean no cute string envelopes or impressive oversize 7″x7″ square invites, but challenge yourself to work within the limits – there is still a lot you can do for the standard postal rate.

It’s also very important if you are purchasing your invitations FROM another country or sending a large number of invitations TO another country. For example, Canadian gals, if you are cross-border shopping for those invites, make sure you understand that what is sold in the US is created to fit their postal requirements, not ours. Love those gorgeous boxed invites? While our US friends can send those out for less than $2 each, if that box is over .72″ deep (which almost all are, at .75″ or 1″ minimum), you’ll be paying a minimum of $7.20 to mail them within Canada. Ouch! It pays to make sure that your invitations meet your own postal service’s requirements.

Oh, and just in case you think stationers (although I use the term very loosely here) never make errors, check this out – a Wilton DIY Printable set, cute enough, but check out the reviews…yep, included rhinestone embellishments make it non-machinable (there’s an extra $0.24) and worse yet, the RSVP envelopes don’t meet US postal service minimums – what a nightmare for those poor brides trying to figure out how many RSVPs were returned to sender or lost in the mail etc. Now I could say something about what one should expect when buying 25 wedding invitations for $35.00 from a cake decorating company, but…nevermind. The moral of the story is that it is ultimately your responsibility to check your invites before you send them out.

Go to the source. Ask, then ask again. Maybe even get it in writing.

Earlier I mentioned asking your stationer or designer to give you advice on postal issues etc. While they can be a great resource, you can’t expect them to know the ins and outs of the postal service as well as the people who actually work there. While your stationer/designer is a good starting point, ALWAYS double-check with the post office BEFORE you order your invitations. As we all know, things can change, and second-hand information is…exactly that. Get it from the source.

So, you’ve talked to your friendly local postal worker, and you’ve got your answers, right? Well…maybe. I have actually heard numerous stories from brides and other stationers about getting varying answers at different post offices about postal rules, machinability, even the weight of their invitations (which obviously is going to result in varying prices as well). The last thing you want is to be told your invites will be $X.XX, buy your stamps and have a big old stamping party, and then show up to mail them and be told you’re short.

Here’s three good options to avoid any issues: first, go to the main post office in your city, rather than a satellite post office or postal outlet (you will likely get more experienced service); then, get a second opinion (just to confirm – you may even need a third if there is a discrepancy); last, get it in writing if you can – ask the postal worker to provide you with a written quote that you can use as backup if necessary.

Take a sample to the Post Office. Yes, right now, before you break out the stamps.

Yes, you’ve probably heard this before too. Believe me when I tell you I would not be repeating it elevety-billion times (or thereabouts) if it wasn’t true.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard a bride say they were going to go buy stamps when they didn’t even have an invite sample…I’d be sitting on a big pile of money. Probably about as much money as they wasted when they realized they bought too many/too few/the wrong kind of stamps.

You absolute, positively NEED to take a sample of your invitations (or one of your finished invitations if that’s not possible) to the post office and have them weight it, check it out, give you the pricing (see tips above) and THEN buy your stamps. You don’t want to show up to mail those beauties and have to stick some ugly additional stamp on there, do you? Nor am I guessing do you want to have your invitations returned as undeliverable due to insufficient postage (or have you guests be required to pay the additional postage on delivery, which I have heard of as well).

Even better – if you have time, mail yourself a completed invitation, so you can get an idea of what will happen when they go through the mail. There are sometimes issues you may not have foreseen (coloured papers bleeding against lighter papers, embellishments causing your envelope to tear etc.) that could come up, and if you catch it before those invites go out, you have a much better chance of being able to do something to mitigate the problem.

Don’t forget the RSVP postage…it’s the right thing to do.

Yes, you need to stamp your RSVPs. You do. Really.

I can’t say that I care how small your budget is – either put postage on those RSVPs or (if it’s really a big budgetary issue) ask for your responses via email, but do not send out RSVPs with no stamps* – it really just leaves a bad first impression for your guests. If you can’t bother to provide for postage for them to send their replys to you, what do you think they are assuming about the level of your hospitality at the wedding? Yeah…exactly.

You’ll be saving yourself some phone calls as well, as guests will be much more likely to reply (and in a timely fashion) if all they have to do is pop their reply card/envelope in the mail.

* One situation in which this is acceptable is sending invitations to another country (you can’t, for example, mail something from the US into Canada with a Canadian stamp). Your guests will understand.

Got a problem? Blame the messenger. Sort of…

Last thing – you know I love you guys right? I do. But if I had a dollar for everytime a bride has blamed their stationer/designer for postage issues, I would be sitting on a REALLY big pile of money (which would be awesome in the “big pile of money” sense, but not in the “stationers/designers getting the short end of the stick” sense).

It’s true – we get blamed for postage being too expensive, more than the bride thought, invites being non-machinable, invites that are damaged in transit, invites that don’t arrive…you name it. Why? Maybe because it’s easier to blame us, instead of the nameless, faceless national postal service, but remember that once you’ve got your invitations, your stationer or designer has done their job. Then it’s up to the postal service to do what they do. If your invitations are damaged in transit, it’s certainly possible that it is a design flaw, but more likely – it’s just been mishandled. Envelopes show up soggy? Blame mother nature. Every invitation arrives in horrible condition? Then it may be time to have that talk with your stationer.

When it comes to postage issues, you have to know that we do our best to advise you, but ultimately we can’t be responsible for what happens after those invites leave our hands. We aren’t postal workers, we’re stationers. It’s important to take responsibility (and not to be harsh, but that seems to be an issue these days) and double-check everything with your post office directly – it’s a small investment of time to make sure that you don’t get any nasty surprises later on.

Oh, one final tip – if you have a few hundred invites to seal and stamp, you may want to break out a damp sponge – unless you like the taste of glue 😉


Invitation Advisor: Who Owns The Rights To Your Invitation Design?

August 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

So, who feels like talking about the scintillating world of copyright?

Hey wait, where are you going? No really…it may not be thrilling, but if you are working with a custom designer, it’s important for you to understand your rights when it comes to your invitation design.

It may *seem* obvious, but you may be surprised to hear the real answer to the question of who owns the copyright on your invitation design (and therefore who controls its usage)…

Here’s a scenario that happens frequently with custom invitation designers and couples:

You’ve hired a designer to create your invitation, which includes a monogram created specifically by the designer for you. When it comes time to create your day of stationery, you decide to DIY and ask the designer to send you the monogram, so that you can attempt to match your day-of stationery to your invitations. The designer replies they will be happy to do so, at a cost of $XX.XX.

Here’s where you may get confused – didn’t you already pay the designer? Why are they asking you to pay them again for something that has already been designed? What kind of business are they running?

The straightforward answer is that the designer owns the rights to their work and unless explicitly stated in your contract, anything outside of what you initially agreed upon and you will need to pay an additional usage fee, at the designer’s discretion. The fact that you’ve paid them already only covers the right to use the work as intended in the original contract (in most cases this covers creation and use of the artwork on your printed invitations – NOT providing you with digital files for your own use). Contracting someone to design your invitation (which is considered “work for hire”) does NOT grant you copyright or ownership of that work.

The next question (even if unspoken) is often “Why are they charging $XX.XX. How did they come up with that number?”.

Each designer will arrive at their pricing differently; so it’s difficult to answer the question of why your designer may be charging a specific amount; but, I can explain *why* they are charging you a fee, rather than simply providing it to you at no cost.

When you decide to use a designer’s work to create something on your own, you are in essence taking your business elsewhere. It only makes sense that a designer would much rather have you order your day-of stationery items from them, then lose out on hundreds of dollars of revenue by just handing over their work to you for free. You may claim you are just going to be creating your own stationery, but certainly there have been cases where a client requests artwork that they then take to another, generally less expensive, designer to have them use to create additional stationery items.

Not only is lost revenue part of the equation, but so is risk – once that digital file is handed over, the designer no longer has control over how and where their work is used.

Variations of this exist as well – a client may ask a designer to provide them with the fonts used on their invite, or with a stock illustration or photograph. In this case the designer does not own the rights to these items, they themselves have paid another artist for usage, and they would be violating that copyright by providing you with those works, whether free or paid.

Similarly, there are issues that may not violate a designers copyright, but infringe on their business “secrets” – whether it’s a client asking a designer to tell them the names of fonts used on their invitation or their supplier for paper or other items. Again, these are situations where, bottom line, a client is trying to save money by taking their business elsewhere (whether that’s DIY or another designer etc.), so it’s understandable that your designer may not want to share this type of information with you – in fact, your other vendors won’t want to either. Your florist isn’t going to tell you where she gets her flowers, your cake designer is not going to hand over the recipe for your cake and your decorator isn’t going to tell you where she shops – trust me.

Finally, there are some designers who do not ever provide artwork to clients for their own use. They choose to do so to protect the usage of their art – for example, a poorly designed or printed item that uses their artwork lessens it’s impact and it’s worth, and therefore there are many designers who will not allow clients to use custom artwork outside of their own designs. It’s important to be aware that, as the artist, your designer retains the right to refuse to sell the artwork created for, or used in, your invitation.

When it comes right down to it, I have no problem with my clients deciding to DIY their day-of stationery (although I certainly don’t recommend it, for a number of reasons), but I also don’t feel it necessary to give away my work to help them do it. Would you expect your DJ to burn you a CD so you can play it at your after-party? Or ask your florist to give you some flowers so you can make your own arrangements for your rehearsal dinner?

If you choose to DIY, whether to save money or otherwise, that’s great – but remember it means “Do It Yourself” not “Ask Your Vendor To Help You So You Don’t Have To Pay Them To Do It”.

Here’s my advice:

If you are having your invitation custom designed, make sure you talk to your designer about these issues, even if you don’t think you will be planning on using the work elsewhere. Knowing what the options and prices are up-front will allow you to may better, more informed decisions later on and will save you the stress of being surprised later on by unexpected costs etc.

Remember, the wedding professionals you hire want you to be happy and want you to have a fantastic wedding day – show that you respect them and their work and you will undoubtedly get 110% in return.

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