Thursday Throwback: How to Save Money on Wedding Programs, Menus and Placecards (and more!)

May 3, 2012 § 2 Comments

In last weeks Thursday Throwback post on how to save money on custom invitations I promised this week I would repost the follow-up on how to save money on your day-of wedding ceremony and reception stationery (something that is discussed much less often).

So, without further ado…

Many couples are so focused on their wedding invitations, they forget that their stationery budget also must include any day-of stationery or accessories required – that could be (but not limited to) programs, menus, table signs, placecards, escort cards, seating chart, general signage etc. So, repeat after me, the first rule for getting the most value for your wedding day stationery is: don’t forget to budget for it.

Notice I said, the most value – while I enjoy the sensationalism of the words “save money” in the title of this post, what I really mean is how to get the most value. It’s not always about strictly saving money, but rather getting the most for the dollars you spend.

Again, the caveat here is that I am talking about working with a designer/stationer, although many of these tips can be applied to DIYers as well. Here’s a tip specifically for those of you who are planning on doing it yourself though…DON’T.

Yes, I hear you thinking it…”here she goes again”. In this case, it’s not about the quality of what you can produce, the material costs involved, matching your day-of stationery to your invites etc. It is strictly about the “cost” *to you* of trying to produce your own day-of stationery. Remember that in most cases the information you need (menu choices, seating plan, number of guests) is not set until 2-3 weeks before your wedding. Which means that all of these are basically being produced “last-minute”. Think you may have some other rather important things going on 2-3 weeks before your wedding? Absolutely.

I can’t tell you the number of stories I hear about brides staying up ’till all hours the night before their wedding working on their wedding programs or place cards etc. In fact, I was that crazy bride too…up till 4am tying beads on to the bottom of ribbon keeping our programs together. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if I had it to do over, I would NEVER attempt to do it myself. I spent way too much of my time (and still quite a bit of money as well) dealing with something that would have been better left to a pro.

But, I digress (as usual!). So, let’s get to the juicy bit, shall we? Here’s my tips on getting the most out of your day-of wedding stationery budget:

Hire a designer/stationer
Not only because of my DIY rant above, but because a good stationery designer can help you to figure out exactly what you need, what will work best for your event, and how to fit all of those items into your overall budget. A designer/stationer’s assistance with these items can actually mean the difference between staying within budget and blowing the budget completely.

Order everything at once
If you think you have a good idea of exactly what you’re going to need and how many, order your day-of stationery (and thank yous, don’t forget the thank yous!) with your invitations. Some stationers and designers may offer a discount for orders over a certain amount, or may be more willing to negotiate a discount if you can commit to ordering your additional stationery at the same time. A word of warning though – this does not apply to every stationer. There are many out there (including Hip Ink) that do not discount at all, so don’t *expect* to get a discount just because you are willing to order up-front (but it certainly never hurts to ask)!

Choose the right items
Make sure you are choosing the right items for your needs. For example, make sure you consider exactly how much information will be going into your ceremony program. If you have a small amount of information, a one-page program will be just fine; but, if you order a one-page program and expect to fit in a tome approximate in length to the Declaration of Independence, well…that’s gonna cost you. Having to upgrade later will likely incur greater costs than if you are realistic at the beginning of the process about exactly what you need. What about seating? If your guests will be seated at large tables and will be able to choose their own seat, you’ll need escort cards (which indicate a table number) rather than place cards (which are inscribed with the guests names and are placed at their specific seat). What’s the difference? Escort cards are per couple/family, which place cards are per guest, meaning you’ll need at least twice as many (and pay twice as much unnecessarily if you order incorrectly).

Don’t over do it
Along the same lines – not every ceremony or reception items needs to be ordered on a per-guest basis. Ceremony programs are almost always wasted when ordering one per guest. Why? Couples or families tend to share their programs as they sit and wait for the ceremony to begin. Having enough programs for each and every guest will almost always lead to a large number of leftovers – a huge waste (of paper *and* money). Menus are a similar situation – while many couples choose to have 1 or 2 menus on their tables, there is a growing trend towards menus at each place setting. While this can be lovely (especially if they are personalized), it can also be a bit over the top (even in appearance, depending on the tablescape). Consider doing one menu for every other place setting and you can cut your costs in half.

Do double-duty
Another way to get more value from your wedding day stationery is to have pieces that are multi-use. What about combining your menus and table numbers/signs on a tented or three-sided card? Or doing personalized menus or favours at each place setting (removing the need for placecards)? Being creative about pieces that can pull double-duty will allow you to stretch your day-of stationery budget, and possibly upgrade the quality of the fewer items you choose.

Keep it simple
Wedding invitations are a standalone, stand-out item that give your guests a glimpse into your big day – with big impact. Day-of stationery is just part of the overall look and feel of your wedding, so don’t feel that you need to have complicated, layered, embellished day-of stationery if it isn’t within your budget. There are many ways to creating striking and beautiful items that will fit in to your overall decor and theme, using a more design-based approach. Again, you’ll want to match your day-of stationery to the formality and tone of your event, but that doesn’t necessarily mean breaking out the ribbon, crystals etc. Well designed items on lovely, thick cardstock can go a long way (and stretch your budget a long way as well).

And now, as wedding season is now in full-swing, a big shout out to all of you getting married this summer and fall (especially our Hip Ink brides and grooms!). Congrats!

Thursday Throwback: How to Save Money on Custom Wedding Invitations

April 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

You’ve probably all seen articles advising you on the ways to save money on your wedding invitations, and they are often along the lines of “send invitations by email, do-it-yourself or by print-your-own boxed invitations”. Yes, each of those is a valid way to save money on invitations, but what about those couples that are looking for more value rather than just less cost?

I’m pretty sure there are a number of people who think this blog exists solely to help part engaged couples with their wedding budget. The fact is that I wouldn’t be in this business doing what I do if I didn’t love high-quality, unique, beautiful, gorgeous, over-the-top wedding stationery – and yes, often it’s pricey too. But I certainly have lots of couples who come to us with very specific budgets, and whatever that budget may be, the are looking to maximize the value they are getting. So, the title of this post may be a bit misleading – some of these tips will help you save money, but some will help you get more value out our your wedding stationery dollars.

Today I’m going to share my tips for getting the most value when choosing custom invitations/working with an invitation designer:

Get a head start.
If you’ve chosen custom invitations, you’re already off to a good start. Believe or not, working with an invitation designer can actually help save you money in the long run – designers can be much more flexible than many of the invitation companies out there, and can and will often handle requests that larger companies will not even consider, or will charge a hefty premium for. With a custom invitation, you can control the budget very easily, and make changes on the fly to help ensure that your invitation suite stays within a price range you’re comfortable at. If you’re in love with a design that way over-budget, a designer can also often simplify the design, keeping the elements that you love, but cutting out the ones you don’t need – giving you a similar look, for a much lower cost.

Avoid making those common mistakes.
Oh yes, we’ve talked about them a lot, haven’t we? Pretty much every big mistake covered on our Top 5 list will end up costing you money – make sure you learn as much as you can about how to avoid those mistakes, and your budget will definitely thank you!

Less is definitely more.
While it’s lovely to have multiple paper layers, pockets, ribbons, crystals etc., all of those embellishments come with a fairly high price tag – both due to the cost of the actual item as well as the labour cost involved in assembly etc. The best way to get great “bang for your buck” is to hire a great designer who can work with you to create a gorgeous invitation that is big on design and small on fancy accoutrement (that’s French for bling). It can be challenging to find a designer who can pull of this look – your best bet is to look for someone that has a strong background in graphic design and ask to see their portfolio of work that is simple with no embellishment whatsoever. A great designer should able to produce a stunning flat panel invite, as well as more embellished looks.

Pay attention to printing.
Printing costs can make a huge impact on the bottom line. While you may love the look of an engraved or letterpress invite, it may be necessary to consider digital printing instead – no, it’s not quite the same, but you may not feel the additional costs is really worth it. If you do choose an option like letterpress, understand where the costs are – setup. If you have a small number of invitations (say 50), letterpress is not terribly cost-effective because of the high set-up costs. If you’ve got a large number of invites (say 200), the cost becomes much more reasonable on a per invite basis. And stick to one ink colour, rather than going for 2 or 3 colours – each additional colour requires it’s own plate and pass on the press, so it raises the costs substantially.

Choose “high-impact” upgrades.
If you’re looking for something more than a flat card, consider the impact vs cost of some common upgrades. As an example, you may find that an envelope liner may be the same cost as a crystal embellishment – while crystals are certainly pretty, the envelope liner will have far more impact on the overall design and feeling of your invitation, and allows for more opportunity to add some unique flair. If you’re working with a tight budget, ask your designer for their advice on what choices will offer the most bang for your buck!

Ditch the RSVP envelope.
Unless you are having a very formal wedding, it’s completely acceptable these days (and can even be a much nicer option in some cases) to include an RSVP postcard which can be dropped in the mail as is, rather than the traditional RSVP card with return envelope. RSVP postcards are definitely growing in popularity, and you’d be surprised how much those tiny envelopes can cost! And while we’re at it – if you were considering using both inner and outer envelopes, forget it. Outer envelopes are quite unnecessary these days, and are generally only found on the most formal of invites.

Ditto for the Reception card (and other inserts).
Again, only formal wedding invitations these days usually have separate reception cards. While it’s traditional to include the reception information on its own card, it really isn’t necessary. You can also eliminate the need for other insert cards like maps, directions and accommodation and guest information cards by setting up a wedding website. They are easy and quick to set up, available for free from a number of sources, and allow you to simply direct your guests to your wedding website for more information – rather than including everything in printed form.

Consider postage carefully.
One way you can easily reduce your invitation costs is to make sure you consider the impact of your choices on the cost of postage. Your best best is to make sure that you choose a standard-sized invitation, and one that does not have lots of additional layers, pocketfolds etc. The heavier your invite is, the more you’ll pay in postage, and ditto for oddly-sized invites as well. Also, make sure that any embellishments that you’ve chosen don’t impact the post office’s ability to process your invitation normally, which will also result in additional non-machinable charges. Unsure? Make sure you take your hard copy sample to the post office so you are aware of any issues before your invites are produced.

Hope y’all found this week’s Thursday Throwback helpful – next week, I’ll be reposting on a similar subject you’ve probably NEVER seen mentioned: how to save money/get more value when it comes to your ceremony and reception stationery and accessories!

 

 

Thursday Throwback: No, Your Wedding Invitations Do Not Need To Match Your…

March 15, 2012 § 3 Comments

Today’s throwback post looks at something that I hope is slowly changing in the wedding industry – matching every dang thing to your bridesmaids’ gowns or flowers or [insert details here]. It’s just not necessary and sometimes it can actually be crazy-cheesy looking too. My advice – choose what you love, don’t be limited by “matching” every single thing. Your guests probably won’t notice anyway (truth).

We’re going to talk about a phenomenon in the wedding industry in general, and definitely in the stationery business…let’s call it, “Matchy-Matchy Syndrome”.

I will agree that they heyday of “Matchy-Matchy-ness” has passed (the ’80s anyone?); but, like the stink of an old piece of gorgonzola, it lingers long after it’s time has passed.

Need proof? I still have clients who come to me and insist that their invitations match their insert-wedding-detail-here exactly. Usually it’s bridesmaids dresses, sometimes flowers, sometimes linens, and yes, they bring swatches. Lots of swatches. And they insist that it NEEDS to match exactly. No amount of coercion on my part will convince them.

Yes, I expect that cut-rate big-box wedding dress retailer to sell invitations that match their bridesmaids dresses – not a big surprise. But, when I’m running a business called “Hip Ink” and have clients who come to me with their strict “Matchy-Pants” on, you’d best believe that it is still a rampant issue in the wedding world.

Who was it, I wonder, who determined that everything needed to match exactly? Because if I catch him, I’ll tell you right now, I can’t be held responsible for what I’ll do.

I’m gonna be straight about it ladies (and gentlemen):

Your wedding invitations do NOT need to match your bridesmaids dresses. Or anything else for that matter.

I don’t really have an issue with someone who *really* wants to incorporate the same colour into their invites; but, it seems to be the easy go-to thing to just say, “well, let’s make them match the whatever“.

Believe me when I tell you that no one is going to receive your invitation and say, “Oh wow, chartreuse, can’t wait to see the matching bridesmaids dresses”. No one is going to show up at your wedding with their invite, pick up the tablecloth and say, “Tsk tsk, this is clearly royal blue, not cerulean!”. No one is going to gasp, “Oh, the horrror”, when they realize that your ranunculus centerpieces aren’t the same shade of pink as your invitation envelopes. And if by chance they do, trust that therapy is in order.

Yes, your invite should evoke the same feeling as your event, the same general tones, but they don’t have to match in every aspect exactly. In fact, there is something to be said for the element of surprise – no need to give away your whole colour scheme with your invitations. Maybe you are having a bright yellow, fuchsia and deep purple colour scheme (yes!) – why not choose one of those colours to show off on your invites? Yellow and Grey anyone? Maybe sneek in one of those other colours in a small way – just a hint. Or maybe go for shades or tones of those colours – more or less intense than the colours you’ll be using in your decor etc.

No, you are certainly not breaking the cardinal rules of invitation design by wanting your invitations to match your ________, but consider the all the possibilities you are shutting out by not at least considering something just a bit different.

And hey, while you’re at it – consider the fact that the pieces of your invitation suite don’t need to match either. Yep, I said it…and lots of people are doing it these days. And if everyone else is doing it, then…wait, nevermind.

Keep watching this space and you’ll see some of own clients who have shed the mantle of “Matchy McMatcherson” and embraced being just a little bit different!

Thursday Throwback: Are Custom Invitations Right For You?

March 1, 2012 § 1 Comment

It’s true – Friday Rewind is now Thursday Throwback (which pleases me greatly, for you know how I love alliteration!). Enjoy this post from last year on how to figure out if custom invitations are the right fit for you…

So, in the past we’ve touched on deciding what type of invitation is right for youdetermining 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:

+ YOU WANT A UNIQUE INVITATION THAT NO OTHER BRIDE WILL HAVE (EVER)!

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’VE SEARCHED EVERYWHERE, BUT HAVEN’T FOUND AN INVITE YOU *LOVE*

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.

+ YOU FEEL LIMITED BY YOUR CHOICE OF STANDARD INVITATIONS

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 ARE PRESSED FOR TIME AND NEED FULL SERVICE

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.

+ YOU NEED A DIFFERENT FORMAT/STYLE/LANGUAGE ETC. THAN WHAT’S AVAILABLE

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.

+ YOU WANT EVERYTHING TO MATCH (DON’T WORRY, WE GET IT!)

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.

+ YOU WANT TO WORK WITH AN ACTUAL PERSON, NOT A BIG COMPANY

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.

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