When it comes to wedding stationery, budget and design style are the two most important factors to consider. It’s good to have a sense of where you place your wedding stationery in the context of your overall wedding priorities; not every couple needs letterpress invitations, and if your budget doesn’t allow for custom design, that’s totally okay too.
Couples should start looking for a stationer soon after setting a wedding date, particularly if they plan to work with the same stationer for both their save the dates and wedding invitations. For custom invitations, it’s generally a good idea to get on a designer’s calendar around 6-8 months before the wedding. For wedding invitations selected from an album in your local stationery store, 3-4 months should be sufficient. Try to find a designer that suits your overall wedding style and aesthetic, and then work with that stationer to achieve a wedding invitation suite that fits your budget — it’s a more positive experience than trying to force a designer to work outside of their comfort zone due to budget considerations.
Stationery budgets depend on a number of factors, including the number of invitations ordered, the number of individual pieces within an invitation suite, printing method, number of different ink colors in the design, and even the region or city where the stationer lives, as material and labor costs vary across the country. In general, for custom letterpress wedding invitations, couples should expect to pay around $10-$15 per individual invitation suite – again, depending on the number of pieces in the invitation suite and the number of ink colors in the design, as well as any other embellishments such as envelope liners and edge painting. During the letterpress printing process, each color is run through the printing press individually and must be cleaned between color runs, so labor costs add up pretty quickly. Digitally printed invitations are less expensive, and couples can often save money by having some of the “extra” pieces, such as maps and accommodation cards, digitally printed.
Save the dates aren’t a hard requirement, but they can be really helpful – particularly if your wedding will take place on a holiday or popular travel weekend, or if most of your guests will need to travel to attend your wedding. Save the dates typically inform prospective guests of your wedding date and location so they can reserve that date on their calendars, and should be mailed out 4-6 months before the wedding.
Engagement announcements are a formal announcement of a couple’s intent to marry, without mentioning a specific date or location. These days, it’s most common for engagement announcements to be made in a local newspaper by the bride or groom’s parents as a way of sharing the happy news, while save the dates are mailed to people who will later receive a formal wedding invitation.
The invitation itself is traditionally from the wedding host, which can be anything from the couple to the parents to everyone all together, and indicates the wedding date, start time, ceremony and reception location, as well as a little note about attire if the wedding will be semi-formal or black tie. Invitations are typically mailed 6-8 weeks before the wedding, with an RSVP requested no later than two weeks before the wedding. For destination weddings or weddings on popular holiday weekends, it might be a good idea to mail invitations 10-12 weeks prior to the wedding.
Traditionally, the RSVP was a blank card with a pre-addressed envelope to be sent back to the wedding host, where guests could write a little note graciously accepting or declining the invitation. Today, the RSVP card typically includes a place to mark either a positive or negative response, along with a line to indicate the number and names of guests attending the wedding. Couples can also choose to offer meal choices on the RSVP if they are planning a formal plated dinner reception.
Couples may choose to enclose a separate reception card if the wedding ceremony and reception will take place at different locations and involve separate guest lists. Maps, accommodation information, and direction cards are often a nice touch for destination weddings or when a majority of guests will travel to the wedding location and may be unfamiliar with the area. Still, the only “required” elements of a wedding invitation suite are the invitation and an RSVP card with return envelope (or RSVP postcard). Everything else is optional! Just remember, registry information should never be included in the printed wedding invitation; that information is best conveyed by word of mouth or reserved for your wedding website.
I love it when couples choose to incorporate calligraphy into their wedding stationery, either through escort cards or hand-addressing for their wedding invitations – each envelope becomes a work of art. I’m also a big fan of the hand calligraphy from Angelique Ink. For tips on working with a calligrapher, I asked my friend Michele of Meant to Be Calligraphy for advice. Here’s what Michele had to say:
“Since all calligraphy work is done by hand, I would recommend getting in touch with your calligrapher as early as possible during your wedding planning process so that you can be best assured of getting on his or her calendar during your preferred time frame. I book my calendar on a first-come, first-served basis and forecast as far as nine months ahead at any given point. I tell potential clients that I don’t need their address lists until just before I’m about to begin writing out their envelopes, but I do need to have time blocked off well in advance for them if they plan to engage my calligraphy services.”
Couples often forget to budget for day-of wedding stationery. This can include ceremony programs, seating cards (escort cards or place cards – or both), and menus. Ceremony programs are helpful for religious ceremonies where some guests might be unfamiliar with some ceremony rituals or traditions. Menu cards are a nice touch for plated dinner receptions, and many designers offer printable options, like e.m. papers. Seating cards are a must for large weddings or any assigned reception seating. Escort cards are placed at a central location near the reception entrance and contain the guest name and table number to help guide the guest to his or her assigned table. Place cards work in tandem with escort cards and are located at the individual guest place setting to indicate a guest’s assigned seat at a particular table.
Finally, couples should absolutely include thank you cards in their budget. It can be really fun to order custom stationery with a couple’s new married monogram for use after the wedding, but non-custom thank you cards are also 100% appropriate. Just make sure to have enough thank you cards for each guest (or anyone who sends a gift) no later than a month after the wedding.