Just getting started with your wedding invitations? Find out everything you need to know to get them ordered, sealed and delivered.
Define Your Wedding Style
The invitation is your guests' first peek at your wedding style. You should have an idea of the type of event you're throwing -- classic and elegant, or glam and modern -- before you start shopping for stationery, so you can choose an invitation style that hits the same note. Then browse wedding invitation photos and stationers' websites and gather inspiration so you can give your stationer an idea of what you like.
Know Your Colours
Choose a colour palette that will reflect your big day. Again browse along for inspiration. You may want to incorporate your colours into your wedding invitations and then carry both through to the rest of your wedding paper (like the escort cards, menu cards and ceremony programs) for a cohesive look. While ivory, cream or white card stock paired with a black or gold font is the classic choice for formal wedding invitations, you can also brighten your invites with colourful or metallic fonts, paper stock, envelopes and liners. Stay away from colour looking too playful... make sure your colour palette is fresh and tasteful.
Think of the Shape and Size
A 5"x7" inch rectangular card is the traditional size and shape for wedding invitations. But couples are also channeling more playful or modern vibes with circular, scalloped and square invitations. Keep in mind: Veering away from the standard envelope size can increase the cost as well as the postage of each invitations -- bulky or extra-large invites may cost more to send.
Legibility is Key
As you consider colours and patterns, don't forget about the text -- the information you put on the invitation is the whole point of sending it out in the first place. Your local stationer can help, but in general, avoid light ink on light backgrounds and dark ink on dark backgrounds. Yellow and pastels are tough colours to read, so if you're going with those, make sure the background contrasts enough for the letters to pop, or work those colors into the design rather than the text. Also, be wary of hard-to-read fonts like an overly scripted typeface -- you don't want to sacrifice readability.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Learn the rules to wording your invitation. Traditionally, whoever is hosting is listed first on the invitation. Customarily, you should spell everything out, including the time of the ceremony. On classic wedding invitations, there's always a request line after the host's name -- something like so and so "request the honour of your presence." (Read Wording Invitation Samples for all the details.)
Don't Crowd the Card
List only the key points on your invitation: ceremony time and location, the hosts, the couple's names, the dress code (optional) and RSVP information. Trying to squeeze too much onto the invitation card can make it harder to read -- and it won't look as elegant.
Get an Early Start
Your save-the-dates should go out six to eight months before the wedding. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks -- or longer, depending on how fancy you go -- to print them. While your save-the-dates don't have to match your invites, ordering everything from one stationer can save you money and make the invitation process easier on you. So start scouting stationers 9 to 11 months before the wedding. Aim to order your invitations about four to five months out so they're ready to mail six to eight weeks before the wedding. If you're having a destination wedding or marrying over the holidays, send out your invites even earlier (10 to 12 weeks before the wedding).
Get Your Dates Straight
Include your RSVP information on the bottom right corner of your invitation or on a separate enclosure, and be sure to make the deadline no more than three or four weeks after guests receive the invitations -- check with your caterer first to find out when they'll need the final headcount. The more time you give guests to reply, the more likely they are to forget, and you'll need time to put together the seating chart.
The price per invite can vary widely -- anywhere from $1 to more than $100. It all depends on the design, ink, typeface, printing process, paper and quantity. Top-of-the-line papers, color ink, formal printing techniques (like letterpress and engraving) and custom design will add to your costs, as will decorative extras like envelope liners and multiple enclosures. That's why it's important to research your options ahead of time -- so you can pick your priorities, whether it's sophisticated printing and a custom design or multiple enclosures.
Triple-Check the Proof
Before your invitation order is printed, your stationer will send you a proof (either a hard copy or an email attachment of the invite mock-up). Don't just have your fiance and mom read it over. Ask your English-major friend or a grammar-savvy bridesmaid to check the proof before you okay it. You'd be surprised at the things you may miss (pay special attention to details like date and time and spelling). Borrow a tip from copy editors and read the proof word for word from right to left so you don't accidentally gloss over any mistakes.
Count Your Households
You don't need an invitation for every guest. Take a look at your guest list and figure out how many houses need invitations before you give your stationer a number -- you might be able to cut your order in half. Cohabiting couples get one invitation; for couples living apart, you can either send one invite to the guest you're closer with (and include both names on the inner and outer envelopes), or you can send out separate invitations. Families get one invitation (addressed to "The Smith Family," for example). The exceptions: Children who don't live at home (like college students) or anyone over 18 who lives at home should get their own invitation.
It's expensive to go back and print more invitations after the fact. Order enough invitations for your guest list , plus 25 extra in case you need to resend an invitation, want to put some aside as keepsakes (trust us, your moms will want at least a few) or plan on sending invitations to a "B-list." Tip: If you have a lengthy B-list, consider ordering a second set of invitations with a later RSVP date. And even if you're hiring a calligrapher to address your invitations, ask for extra envelopes in case of returned invites or addressing mistakes (calligraphers generally require an extra 15 to 20 percent).
Don't Forget Day of Stationery
Order your menu cards , programs and thank-you notes with your invitations. That way, your stationer can include all of the pieces in one order, which may save you money and time. It's also a good way to ensure all your stationery has a cohesive look, even if you want to vary the design slightly for each element (by switching the dominant color or alternating between two patterns, for example). Also, don't forget those little items like favour tags and welcome bag notes.
Remember Your Thank-Yous
Track RSVPs as they come in using a guest list manager tool or spreadsheet. Include a column where you can note what each guest gives you. Then, as the wedding gifts start rolling in, begin writing your thank-you notes so you don't fall behind. For any presents received before the wedding, you should send a thank-you note within two weeks. For those given on or after the wedding day, give yourself a month.
Put a Stamp on It
It may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget: If you want guests to mail back their reply cards, include stamped (and addressed) envelopes. That way guests don't have to pay for the postage. Traditionally, the return envelopes should be addressed to whoever is hosting the wedding; however, if your parents are technically hosting, but you're keeping track of the guest list, you can use your address instead.
Do a Weigh-In
While you probably can't wait to drop those wedding invitations in the mail and check another thing off your to-do list, weighing a sample invitation (enclosures and all) at the post office first could save you many more to-dos later. Trust us, you don't want to deal with the hassle of invitations being returned because of insufficient postage .