WITH A CONSTANT BARRAGE of inspiration from Instagram and Pinterest, it is natural that deciding on a direction for invitations can be overwhelming and daunting. Stationery tends to be one of those "unknowns" when it comes to budgeting for your big day. As with every element of wedding planning, there is large variations in price range, but here are a few budget items to consider and tips that will help determine which route you should go when designing.
SEMI-CUSTOM VS. CUSTOM
One of the greatest options on the market today for brides and grooms who are looking for a quality invitation with a hint of pizazz are semi-custom sites like Minted and Wedding Paper Divas. These sites have designer templates that you can use and include your own wording. Often times, there is a limited color scheme that you can choose from to best suit your wedding theme. Because these sites can print in bulk and have the systems and stock in place to mass print designs, they are able to provide luxury features like foil for a low cost. However, because the plates are already made, you are unable to make changes to the core features of the design and are often restricted in where the foil is placed (usually not on a customized area).
With custom printing, the sky is the limit. Different print methods can be combined to seamlessly create the design of your dreams. As every design is a one-off, the cost per piece is higher than semi-custom sites offer. To achieve foil or letterpress printing, a special plate is first constructed and then every invitation is individually pressed. Because of the added labor and time that it takes to order material, the turnaround time on production is usually 10 business days (as opposed to 1 or 2). For an invitation with foil printing you may expect to pay $4.50 each as instead of $2.00 from a semi-custom site. Kindly note that the price fluctuates based on things like volume, paper thickness and variety, special order foil or ink colors, and number of print methods per piece.
DIFFERENCE IN PRINT METHODS
Different print methods have their own distinct features and associated costs. Below is a brief overview with average costs, pros, and cons. While the most common methods are listed, there is a world of possibility that exists in combining methods, using silk screen printing, and adding "bells and whistles."
Digital, or flat, printing is one of the most accessible methods. Large ranges of color can quickly be translated to variety of card stocks. Because paper is run through a printer, there is a limit on the thickness of stock. To achieve a thicker stock, paper must be duplexed (glued together) or matted onto another piece of paper after printing. This could be a great option when combining digital graphics with another method, like letterpress or foil printing. Digital printing is also great for printing variable information, like addresses, because special plates are not required.
AVERAGE STARTING PRICE: $1.50+
PROS: ECONOMICAL, UNLIMITED COLORS, VARIABLE DATA
CONS: LIMITED TO LIGHT COLOR AND LIGHT WEIGHT STOCK
Letterpress is one of the oldest methods of mass printing. A specialty plate is etched and pressed into stock with opaque ink, creating a beautifully rich and tactile result. Because the inks are opaque, the color of the paper must be considered for the final effect, (lighter colored papers will be more effective than dark papers). Metallic inks tend to be more muted and with a dull shine. As ink colors must be applied one at a time and require different plates, this method is best suited for invitations with 1 - 3 colors. To create additional effects, inks can overlap for a blended color.
AVERAGE STARTING PRICE: $3.50+
PROS: INCREDIBLE TEXTURE AND FINE DETAIL CAN BE ACHIEVED, WORKS BEAUTIFULLY ON THICK PAPER STOCK
CONS: LIMITED NUMBER OF INKS CAN BE APPLIED PER DESIGN, NOT SUITED FOR DARK PAPER STOCK
Thermography, or heat embossing, is a method that produces a raised effect with a plastic-like finish. Invitations are first "printed" with a clear, sticky ink before being sprinkled with and cleared of excess embossing powder. The invitations are then hit with hot air, which melts and permanently adheres the powder to the paper. Thermography is best suited for a single-color print on any color of paper as the powder dries with rich hues.
AVERAGE STARTING PRICE: $3.50+
PROS: METALLICS AND LIGHT COLORS SHOW WELL ON DARK STOCK
CONS: LIMITED TO ONE COLOR PER PIECE
HOT FOIL PRINTING
Similar to letterpress, hot foil printing involves a specialty plate that is heated and pressed into thin foil sheets and adhere the design to stock. Unlike letterpress, the results provide a full color coverage and shine, (pun intended) when using metallic colors. Foils are available in matte, satin, and metallic options.
AVERAGE STARTING PRICE: $4.00+
PROS: RESULTS SHOW WELL ON ANY COLORED STOCK, WELL-SUITED FOR METALLIC EFFECTS
CONS: LIMITED COLORS PER PIECE, DOES NOT WORK AS WELL AS LETTERPRESS FOR SUPER-FINE DETAILS, DOES NOT LEAVE AS DEEP OF AN IMPRESSION AS LETTERPRESS
One of the more innovative methods of printing is using lasers to cut or etch into material. The results are incredibly tactile and allow for "printing" to exceed the limits of paper. Acrylic and wood are two of the most popular medium because of their unique qualities. Laser cutting is priced based on the time taken to create, so it is difficult to quote accurately without a sample being created. Typically, designs with less detail will "print" quicker and be less expensive.
STARTING PRICE: $10.00+
PROS: ABILITY TO WORK WITH MEDIUM BEYOND PAPER, ALSO GREAT FOR DAY-OF GOODS
CONS: HEAVIER PARCEL, WITH LASER ALONE - NO COLOR PRINTING
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Packaging an invitation can be just as exciting as the invitation itself. These are a few luxury details that can elevate the overall appearance of your invitations:
- Calligraphy addressing
- Envelope Liners
- Handmade paper
- Wax seals
- Twine and metallic wire
- Silk ribbon
- Custom tags
- "Boxed" invitaitons
- Duplexing and matted paper
- Vellum (clear paper) overlays
- Hand-painted details
POSTAGE AND SHIPPING
Sadly, there is no magic guide to pre-determine the cost of postage until invitations are packaged and complete. Postage costs are determined by weight in ounces, unusual vs. usual envelope sizes, and international vs. national destinations. To accurately determine the real cost of sending, an invitation must be taken to the post office from where you intend to send your invitations, (somehow, not all USPS scales weigh equally...). Typically, the invitations that we create weigh 3oz. and require an additional stamp, (a standard, 1oz letter requires one postage). Unusually shaped envelopes, like squares, or large envelopes, like A9s, will require additional postage, too.
To be safe, we recommend assuming $1.00 each per invitation for national destinations and non-specialty packaging, and $3.50 for international. Additionally, if you are sending a formal RSVP, add another $.50 per invitation so that your guests do not need to stamp their return envelope.
Beyond the USPS current selection of stamps, there are options to buy retired collections from sellers on Amazon, or vintage stamps from marketplaces like Etsy. When buying from USPS the value of the stamp will equal the cost you pay. When you buy vintage or retired stamps, you will pay more than the value of the stamp, (for example, a retired Forever Stamp, now valued at $.49, can cost $.75 depending on the image and seller). Other options include customizing postage from sites like Zazzle.com.
We have all fallen victim to the rogue letter. Sometimes, the workings of the USPS are mystical and infuriating. To safeguard against any invitations that may get lost in transit or wrongly delivered, we require an additional order of (5) invitations, but recommend (10). Once your invitations are printed, it is very expensive to re-print in a smaller quantity. For this reason, we highly recommend over-ordering, regardless of where you order from.
FINAL TIPS ON BUDGETING
Before determining what method and from what resource you wish to get your invitations, it is helpful to start with an overall budget. For example, if you have a budget of $2,000 and an invitation list of 100 guests, you can assume $20.00 per invitation. In that cost, you will want to consider a few things other than the methods of printing.
Will you want to include a RSVP? If so, don't forget to budget for the return stamp in the cost per piece.
Will you want your envelopes digitally addressed or with calligraphy? Here, you may want to assume $2.50 - $4.00 per piece. If you intend on hand addressing your own invitations, there are tools to help expedite the process that are available at a lower cost. (See below for some DIY recommendations).
How many pieces do you want to include? Not only will the pieces have their own individual costs, they may affect the overall weight.
Will you stuff and send your invitations or pay for a service to prepare them for you? While we are delighted to offer complimentary stuffing of your invitations, most services will charge a price per piece to stuff. If you intend on doing it yourself, clear an evening, invite over some friends with the promise of wine and cookies, and turn on Bridesmaids, (it is a surprisingly tedious task).
Paper Source has some of our favorite DIY stationery tools. Click below for the links.
WE HOPE THAT THIS has provided help for brides, grooms, and planners alike! As everything we do is entirely custom, we are happy to provide a more detailed quote after a complimentary consultation. However, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or your favorite tips, below!