Wedding Wednesdays: Save-the-Dates and Invitations

Wedding invitations are a necessity when you’re wanting to invite people to your wedding (duh). Save-the-dates, though growing in popularity, are not necessarily a necessity (ooh, so alliterative!). However, if you anticipate a lot of out-of-town guests, or if you just want to formally announce your engagement (and the fact that you’ve set a date) then they are a great, fun way to do this.

So if you decide to do both, or just opt for the invitations, one thing’s for sure: a wedding stationery is an easy way to spend A LOT of your wedding budget. And we don’t like that. Invitations can be as much as $1,000 if you opt for the envelope-within-the-envelope-sheet-of-velum-calligraphy-metallic-paper-hoop-de-doo; depending on the size of your guest list, this price can be even higher. Considering that you’re spending this much money on paper — paper that your guests will eventually throw away or recycle — this definitely seems like an area where saving money would be wise.

That’s what I’m here for! I had this realization with my own wedding, and researched nearly every option out there until I found the best deal. But like I said, I researched nearly every option out there. It took some serious time and energy. (I also did Save-the-Dates, too — so we’ll talk about those as well.) To save you some time, I’ve got a few tips, websites, and other resources to make this aspect of your wedding planning as painless as possible. (Because seriously, it’s a few pieces of paper!)

First things first: you can’t really start seriously shopping for wedding invitations until you’ve come up with a guest list. For some of you out there, that may be a very short list, especially if you’re having a smaller wedding. In our case, we invited about 250 people (and nearly all of them came) so we need lots of invitations.

Remember, the number of people on the guest list does not equal the number of invitations you need; you’ve undoubtedly invited some families who live in the same house together, so they would need just one invitation.

Once you’ve taken into account the number of households, add twenty to that number and you have the number of invitations you’ll actually need (I say twenty extra in case there are any mess-ups when addressing the envelopes –wedding invitations are not really the place for white-out).

From that point, you need to decide how much you’re willing to spend on invitations (count on $1-2 per invitation as the lowest price you will probably find out there). If this number is already a little higher than you’d care for, you can probably figure that the whole envelope-within-the-envelope-velum-paper-blah-blah-blah thing isn’t in the cards for you. (And who needs it?) Of course, if you find a place that has a sale or you have a hook-up with a stationer, then maybe you can swing it. (Or if you check out a Michael’s Arts and Crafts store or the Target wedding section, you can always find SUPER discounted stationery on clearance, so if any of that is to your liking, grab it because it will be gone the next day!)

When budgeting for stationery, you also want to take into account how much postage will cost — for the invitation and the included response card (you should definitely include pre-stamped response cards — don’t expect your guests to have to do postage themselves).

If you want to save some money with postage (and you do!), don’t forget the following:

  • It costs more to ship a square envelope than it does a standard rectangular one
  • As of this writing, it costs $0.45 to ship a 1 oz. or less rectangular envelope. When putting your invitations and response cards together, make sure you’re within this weight limit, otherwise you’ll be paying more.
  • Sometimes people like to put a map or hotel info in the envelope, thereby adding to the weight of the envelope (and therefore upping the cost of postage). Unless you think it’s absolutely necessary (like, you’re having a hoedown on a farm and there are no street signs for miles), chances are your wedding guests can figure it out based on an address. However, if you think there may be some logistical difficulties like finding the location, but you don’t want to add to the weight of the envelope, try just doing a small slip of paper or include on your invitation the URL to your own website. (You can make free wedding websites with a variety of companies, including My Wedding, eWedding, and The Knot, and these websites are a great place to put wedding details like venue and hotel info and registries — and they’re free with easy to use templates.)
  • When picking invitations, find packages that include small postcard response cards (no more than 4.25″ X 6″), this way you save on postage (as of this writing, postcard stamps are only $0.32 each).

Once you’ve determined an invite number and a budget range, it’s time to go stationery shopping! You want to keep in mind that while the save-the-date should be pretty casual, the wedding invitation sets the tone for what type of wedding it will be. Obviously, you wouldn’t send an invitation to a hoedown that was decorated in scrolls and calligraphy, and you also shouldn’t send a neon yellow, Comic Sans font bedecked invite if you’re having a steak-and-lobster sit down dinner, either. Give your guests an idea of what to expect, both in the wording of the invitation (“Tea reception to follow” or “Following the ceremony, enjoy barbecue and dancing in the barn”) and in the actual presentation of the invitation itself.

After much research and price comparisons, we eventually decided on seal and send invitations. We knew we wanted to keep postage costs and paper waste down, and this seemed like the easiest way to guarantee this. Here’s how they work: The invitations are one long piece of rectangular paper with a perforated bottom for the response cards. When sending them, you fold them in thirds (already creased for you), attach a seal to the outside (it resembles and envelope), and then add regular postage and a mailing address (you can get them to come pre-printed with your return address). So not only are you saving on postage, but there’s no need for the envelope-within-the-envelope-thing.

The company we used was called Seal-n-Send.com, however it looks as if they are now carried on the Ann’s Bridal Bargains website — this was three years ago, after all. (Here’s a link to the Seal-n-Send section of their website.) Three years ago, there were not nearly as many options as there are now, however it looks like their selection has grown a lot since then. Here are the invitations Josh and I ended up picking:

Shelby - Seal and Send Invitation

Click on this image to redirect to the webpage.

They were ideal for us because, aside from the price and the prospect of saving on postage with response postcards, they were pleasantly formal enough but still slightly unconventional (like our wedding). And did I mention they only cost $119.99 for 100 invitations? Yeah, we liked them just fine.

Here are some other great seal and send choices I found — all with personalization options including font and font color choices:

Dreamy - Seal and Send Invitation

These are only $99.99 per 100 -- click on the image to go to the webpage.

Bright Blooms - Seal and Send Invitation

Only $119.99 per 100

Damask Arch - Ebony - Seal and Send Invitation

$119.99 per 100

Oooh… I especially like those damask invitations! And if you’re not sure which one you want based on the picture alone, you can order samples for free and see for yourself in person.

If you’re not into the whole seal and send thing, here are some more resources that have affordable invitations (and sometimes they’re on sale!):

  • Target
  • Michael’s
  • JoAnn
  • Wal-Mart
  • Costco
  • Sam’s Club
  • And a slew of websites — Google it!

As for save-the-dates, we went the postcard route, and I found the best deal on Vistaprint.com (kinda like we did for our Christmas postcards this year). We did our own backyard photo shoot, then stuck in our three faves for “save,” “the,” and “date.” Here was our finished product:

Save the Date postcard (front)

Save the Date postcard (back)

Awww…..

At the time, there was a special for first time customers, so I got 100 postcards for free — which was all we needed! However, we did have to upload our own photos, so we paid a few more bucks (like $10, I think), but being able to personalize these was important to us, so we were willing to spend this teensy amount of money. After buying a roll of postcard stamps, we weren’t out more than $30 for all of our save-the-dates (but this was three years ago, so prices have gone up a little since then).

Of course, there are numerous ways of getting cheap postcards made (including making your own using cardstock, a paper cutter, and whatever else you might use to decorate them). However, we went with Vistaprint specifically because of the free postcard special, but make sure you do your own Google search to find the best deals (or put your name on some mailing lists so you’re the first to know about any sales or specials).

I always love a little (or a lot) of DIY, but in the case of wedding invitations, I found that I couldn’t get the price at or under $1 an invitation when making them myself (accounting for the cost of supplies and printing), so to me it wasn’t worth it. But if you don’t mind the labor (and potential additional costs), or maybe you have a friend who can get the supplies or printing for you wholesale, then have at it! These will definitely be personalized to your wedding and give your guests a good idea of what to expect.

How about you folks out there: Do you have any tips or tricks for saving money with wedding invitations or save-the-dates? Did you go the DIY route? Anyone else try the seal and sends? Let me know in the comments below!

And you can check out the rest of the wedding series here…

Wedding Series Preview

Setting the Date

Finding a Venue

Saving on a Caterer

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