The Invitations Expert

Free Advice on Wedding Invitations, Announcements, and anything in any way related

The RSVP Card

July 13th, 2010 by mrcolj
Lady GaGa live
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I feel like much of my job is matching a package to each bride’s level of budget and etiquette.  Those are two different variables, however.  I have many brides who are comfortable spending $10/card and many (most!) who want to spend $1/card; likewise many want to be as formal as the Queen of England, and many want to be as casual as Lady Gaga.  In the end my job here is to allow anyone to look however they like, which includes teaching them how to cut corners.

So in an effort to save money, many brides try to skip having an RSVP card.  That can be okay.  At my own wedding, I didn’t have an RSVP card…

The real question here is “where is your break-even point?”  That’s the only math.  You’re not really going to call everyone to find out if they’re coming, so it all boils down to:

  • Are you having an event where you are paying per person? (i.e. a dinner?)
  • Are you having an event with limited space?
  • How much are you paying per person?
  • Will you or your mother not be able to relax unless you/she knows precisely who will be there?
  • Is your family political/dysfunctional enough that people veering off the seating chart will be a big deal?

Then simply do the math.  If you’re paying $25/person, then being two people more accurate will probably pay off the expense of RSVP cards.  Maybe it’ll take 3, or 4, people, but if you’re having any kind of per-person cost spending money on an RSVP card will save you a lot of money very quickly.

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How much do invitations cost?

March 9th, 2009 by mrcolj

The first time I wrote this article, the answer was as little as 55 cents, but definitely under a buck.  But the price of oil has affected the price of thinly sliced wood (paper), and so the answer is now “generally under 1.35 apiece.”  As always, threre’s a large variance based on

  • how thick the paper,
  • how many you get,
  • which invitation you choose,
  • from which brand, and
  • how rushed your printer is.

I’ve mentioned before that I am personally in the southern end of Marin County, California, where wishing to crank the variables above most brides spend $5-8/apiece.  I’ve done multiple at $12-15.  High-end invitations in San Francisco and Marin all come to my store.  But nationally, the average is about $1.35 (and a lot of them come to me too.  ;0)

As discussed in another post, square invitations aren’t really any more expensive.

Call me if you have any questions.  (415) 827-5630.  I can get you anything from any brand.

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Where do I start? How do I choose?

February 28th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

Looking online or at huge binders of sample invitations can get really overwhelming.  Here are some tips to help you focus and enjoy the process:

  • Go somewhere comfortable. Choose a quiet store where you’re welcome to sit on a couch and look at invitations for six hours in a row if you want to.  Don’t try to do it in an uncomfortable chair or somewhere that has inadequate lighting.
  • Take your time and break it up into more than one visit. Most brides we’ve seen like to look at nearly ALL the samples, and since that’s hundreds of pages, it takes lots of time.  Try to give yourself plenty of time.  Many brides like to choose a couple of favorites, then go home and sleep on it and come back the next day to order.  A few spend three or more sessions looking at samples.  Don’t go to a store where the salesperson rushes you.
  • Feel free to bring someone(s) to look with you. Take your mom or bridesmaids or sisters or girlfriends along if they have similar taste to you or if you like to get their advice, but if you know they’re going to stress you out leave them home.  Do you bring your fiance along?  For your first visit, I’d say leave him home unless he expresses a desire to come.  Most men like vetos, not choices.  That means he wants to be there to help choose from the top five, but not from the top 500.  If he squirms at all at the idea of looking at hundreds of invitations, don’t pressure him to come or he will be miserable the whole time, which will just make you miserable.  Ask if he has any preferences or requests, then keep them (if any) in mind as you narrow the list to a man-manageable size.   Set a second appointment and bring your fiance along to finish narrowing down to “the one” and complete the order.
  • Bring a piece of paper and pen and write down your “Top 10” list. Actually, it can be more or less than your top ten, but people usually end up choosing close to that many favorites to narrow down from.  Write down the binder name, color (they’re usually easily identified by color), page number, item number, and a short description of what you think is noticable about the invitation (i.e. “green stripes” or “celtic knot corners” or “big calla lillies”).  You may also want to include the price per invitation on the list (see below).
  • When you look at samples, know that they are showing you what your PAPER will look like. Try not to pay attention to ink color, font, or format, because those are all things you can change.  You can even rotate most papers sideways, so just pay attention to the card itself, and nothing that’s printed on it.  If you do happen to notice a font, ink color, or format you really like, note it on the back of your Top 10 list to come back to later.
  • Bring swatches or pictures of fabrics, colors, flowers, and other things you like that you’ve already chosen for your wedding.  That way if you need to match something, you’ll have it with you.  It may also help the sales person know what you’re talking about when you say “I want an invitation with roses.  No, not that kind of rose!”
  • Calculate the price. Assuming that you have a budget, or that you should have a budget, or that you’re at least someone who either doesn’t want the most expensive invitation or who does want the most expensive one, you’ll probably want to compare prices.   There should be a pricing chart for each sample invitation, and you may notice that after the first quantity (usually 25) the price per invitation drops significantly as you increase your quantity (more on that later).  The easiest way to compare prices is usually to look at the price per 100 (which is easily divisible by 100 to get the price per each).  The exception is usually in those invitations that include a photo, where you’ll probably want to calculate out the price for the actual number of invitations you want to purchase.

Once you have a Top 10 list and are sick of looking at invitations or have exhasted your options, go back and open up to the pages of your favorites and start comparing them to each other and eliminating.  I suggest taking the first invitation on your list, compare it to the second, and decide which you like better.  Get rid of the one you like less, and repeat the process through the entire group.  If you can’t decide between two, then hold on to both of them and compare both to the rest of your list.  Most people come down to a list of one to three invitations they really love from that process of elimination.  At that point, bring in your fiance, your parents, or just decide based on the price difference.

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Should I Buy Invitations Online?

February 28th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

By all means, buy your invitations online if you prefer that method.  However, never make a stationery purchase without touching and seeing an actual sample of the paper it will be printed on.  Photographs of samples may help you narrow your choices, but you won’t know the weight, texture, or true color of the paper unless you actually see it in person.  What looks white on your screen may look ecru in person, and what looks smooth may be textured.  Always order a sample or go to a store and look at actual samples of the invitation you’re planning to buy before you make a purchase.  It will save you lots of (possibly expensive) disappointment and time.

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Picking an Ink Color

February 25th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

Most brides walk in the door assuming they’ll get black ink.  Most at some point in the process change their mind.  Every bride debates the same questions, and every bride comes to the same conclusions.  So let me save you some time taking you on their journey:

  • First, colored ink isn’t really more expensive.  It generally works out to be $6.50 per item on the whole order–that means your order will go from $450.00 to $456.50.  That’s it.  So don’t let the term “more expensive” scare you off.
  • Second, balancing colors is a big part of the invitation.  You’ll find very few invitations in the demonstration binders with black ink, unless it’s specifically an artistic choice.  But it’s not just a default.  When you pick an invitation, consider first the ink color that is shown in the demo.  Those fonts and colors obviously work well with that invitation.
  • You can match your wedding colors, etc. using colored cards, but also with colored inks.  Never use more than one color of ink–I’ve seen that advertized and promoted, but I’ve never seen someone pull it off.
  • Stay away from all light colors.  Colors means dark colors.  Nothing red, no pink, no yellow.  You just can’t read those.
  • Most of the time the swatches of the ink color you’re considering are 1″ x 1.5″ blocks.  The problem there is that the colors look different on different colors of paper and with different thicknesses of fonts.  Rarely do I see a bride who wants black ink that isn’t more pleased with a thin font with navy blue ink, or something similar.  If you get a thin font, it will look black with a nuance of color; however if you get a thick font, it’ll look blue and ruin everything.  Generally stay with the thin fonts.
  • One minor factor with colored inks, with some people, is that you have to professionally print every aspect if you’re using a font that doesn’t come with your home PC, and with an ink color other than black.  If your invitation is in Lucida Sans with black ink, then you can print your own envelopes; but if it’s in navy CPG-CIT, you can’t make your own accessories.  I don’t think it’s ever wise, even mathematically/financially, to make your own invitations or accessories, but if you want to, this is a factor.

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Registry Card or Not?

February 23rd, 2009 by Colin Jensen

Registering is a standard part of today’s wedding.  Yet people who memorize rules still insist that doing so is tacky.  Or, often, that you can register, but you can’t tell anyone unless they really push you.  I personally am fine with little inserts (most of the time listed as Pew Cards at the printers) being enclosed with the announcement which say where you’re registered–just a simple,

Bethany and Colin
are registered
at Bed Bath & Beyond.

But that’s iffy–as I always say, “No one will notice but your mother and all her friends.”  It’s Boomers and older who most of the time play the “it’s tacky” card.  And while I am personally fine with those cards, I go out of my way to never let a bride enclose a 3rd party card–like the ones from Target with the big red target on them.

Anyway, I’m here today to present a third option, one I use constantly with every bride who is savvy.  Enclose a card that says

Please visit

That’s it.  A wedding website gives you an excuse to put registry information, direct links, shipping info, maps, pictures, histories, stories, everything…  It’ll look like a complete family website, but the secret thing “funding” it will be your registry info…  In fact, at one point had 8.5 MILLION links pointing to it on google!  And it all started as a registry and maps site.  If y’all want a wedding website, just holler and I’ll build you one.  Seriously, I can build you a teensy but legit one for under $50–only because I’ve done it so many times.  I’ll post later on that topic, but for now, don’t use the 3rd party cards, feel free to print some simple ones professionally, and feel encouraged to use the same card instead to announce a registry wedding website.

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Addressing Your Invitations: Handwritten or Not?

February 18th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

There are three parts to addressing your invitations:

  1. The inner envelope, with the names of the invited guests (sometimes omitted in informal invitations)
  2. The outer envelope return address, with the name and address of the place you want gifts to be sent to
  3. The outer envelope guest address, with the name and address of the guest(s) you’re sending the invitation to

There are several ways to address your invitations, in order of formality:

  1. Caligraphy by yourself or someone you hire
  2. Handwritten by yourself (or a team of you and your friends and family at an addressing party, my personal favorite)
  3. Printed directly on the envelopes by the printer who prints the invitations (only available for return addresses)
  4. Printed directly on the envelopes at home using your computer
  5. Printed address labels (we recommend clear labels so you don’t have to find ones that match your envelopes)

You can use more than one method of addressing in combination.  For instance, you can have your printer print the return addresses in matching ink and font to your invitations, and then handwrite the addresses and inner envelope names or use labels.

I recommend making the decision about the method of addressing your invitations based on a combination of the formality of your wedding (remember, your invitations set the tone for your event), the formality of your guests (your grandmother may be shocked at seeing her address printed on a label), your budget, and the amount of time you have to dedicate to the task.  If you have the budget and you are having a very formal wedding, hire someone to do the addresses in caligraphy.  If you have a small budget, but have lots of time and a formal wedding, write the addresses yourself.  If you’re in college, have little money, are having a medium-formality wedding, and are planning to get married right after finals, by all means print those labels and slap them on.  It’s better to get the invitations to the guests less formally than to not invite them at all because you’re trying to handwrite the addresses in between classes and just didn’t have the time to finish the task.

UPDATE: My new favorite method is to find someone who can do short-run variable-data envelope printing.  There are few who can do this, and in Nothern California I may be the only one, but it basically means people come to me all day saying “I want the names and addresses printed on the front in the same font and color as the writing on the inside.”  When you call around, people will say “of course we can do envelope printing,” and what they mean is they’re picturing putting it through a press (which won’t work if you’re only printing one of each envelope) or they think they can put it through a copy machine (which will melt the “gum” and seal your envelopes shut, just like your home printer will.)  The machine I have is made by Xanté, and you could probably call them and ask where there is a similar machine in your state.  Or, as always, call me and I’ll get it done and done right.

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When to Order

February 18th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

Order your invitations as soon as you have the information you need to print them, the earlier the better.

Need a more specific answer?  Here are some factors to consider:

  • Most invitations printers take between two and four weeks from the time they receive the order to the time it’s delivered, but they don’t guarantee delivery in that amount of time because they’re used to people ordering six months in advance.  Some kinds of invitations (like the kinds with photos printed on them) take a little longer to print than the traditional kind and if you’re doing something unusual give yourself more of a time buffer than you otherwise would.
  • If you possibly can, add a week or more into your equation for mistakes.  No matter how diligent you are at proofreading, there could be a typo that no one catches.  We had a bride misspell her fiance’s name once, and the invitations had to be reprinted.  Occassionally the printer will make a mistake (printing on the wrong paper, using the wrong font or ink color, etc.), and the invitations will have to be reprinted.  If that happens, the printer will normally pay for the reprinting and rush the printing and shipping, but it will take time and you’ll be saved a lot of stress if you left some time for corrections.
  • You will need time to address the invitations.  If you choose to handwrite the addresses, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write.  I tell brides who are handwriting their addresses to give themselves about two weeks to do it.  If you’re printing address labels or printing the addresses directly on the envelopes, still give yourself a few days (I’d say about a week) to get it done.
  • If you’re going to require an RSVP from your guests (like for a catered reception), add a couple of weeks to your calculations.
  • A factor that most brides don’t know to consider when they’re deciding when to order their invitations is the geography of their guests.  People in different places have different expectations about how early a wedding invitation should arrive.  We suggest that brides sort their guest list by ZIP code and think about her guests by region.  Any time you send an invitation to someone who lives far away who might want to come to your wedding you need to give them plenty of notice so that they can get reasonable rates on their travel and lodging.  Try for 8 weeks before the wedding, if at all possible, if they need to fly in (especially internationally).  In the United States, people on either coast generally expect to receive wedding invitations 6-8 weeks before the event.  In some areas (like the Intermountain West) many people prefer to get invitations no more than two weeks before the wedding, possibly because the invitation is viewed as a reminder and if they get the invitation too early they’ll forget about it.
  • Don’t forget to add in the amount of time it will take in the mail!  Usually it takes 2-3 days in the US, but if you send the invitations around a major holiday like Christmas it could take a few days longer.  If you’re mailing internationally, try to find out how long it will take to arrive and plan with that number in mind.
  • The formality of your wedding and of your guests is another consideration.  The more formal the wedding and/or the guests, the earlier to invitations should arrive.  Eight weeks advanced notice is usually all that is expected even for the most formal wedding or from the most formal guest.

So, worst case scenario: 5 weeks for printing+2 weeks for reprinting because of typos+2 weeks for addressing+2 weeks for RSVPs+8 weeks before the wedding for guests who traveling in+1 week for time in the mail=Order 20 weeks before the wedding.

Best case scenario: 2 weeks for printing+0 time for reprinting+1 week for addressing+0 time for RSVPs+2 weeks before the wedding for informal guests who live nearby+2 days time in the mail=Order 5 weeks and a couple of days before the wedding.

Most people will want to order their invitations somewhere in between the worst and best case scenarios.  Hopefully the equations above will help you make an informed decision.  If you’re having a last-minute wedding and can only get your invitations to your guests a week in advance (or less!), don’t worry.  Hopefully you have a bunch of understanding friends and relatives who love you and don’t really care when their invitation arrives because they’re coming to the wedding with or without one.  Happy ordering!

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How to Write your own Wording for an LDS Wedding Invitation

February 18th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

Here’s the most common wording for an LDS/Mormon wedding invitation or announcement:

Nephi and Becky Bushman
are pleased to announce the marriage
of their daughter
Colin Richard Jensen
son of Dick and Sonja Jensen
on Saturday, the eleventh of May
Two thousand two
in the Snowflake Arizona LDS Temple
and request the pleasure of your company
at a reception or open house
to be held in their honor
Saturday, May 11th
Peoria LDS Chapel
1234 Street Street
Peoria, Arizona
Open House
Saturday, May 18th
Jensen Residence
1234 Avenue Avenue
Novato, California
  • Normally I use somewhere around 1.5 spacing on the body and single spacing on the corner copies.
  • If you’re using corner copies (which most LDS people are because of college and stuff), you may want to have the bride’s and groom’s names in a different, larger font.  That allows you to put everything else in a smaller font.  The corner copies themselve are in a smaller font even still…  Most invitations, nationally, are designed to allow 12 lines of text; and the average LDS wedding I’d say uses 19 lines.  That’s no big deal, won’t cost you more than $7 on the whole order more, but vertical space is precious, since it defines the font size of everything on the page.  That being said, if you’re having two receptions or two open houses, you can leave off the first line of the corner copy.
  • It’s lovely to be able to put “in the Snowflake Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” but you’ve gotta’ figure out how to fit it.  The only possible way is to break the line after “temple,” but even still unless you’re using a pretty non-serif font you probably will have to break “Church of Jesus Christ” from “of Latter-day Saints.”  Rather than deal with all this, most people just put “Snowfle Arizona LDS Temple.”  It’s up to you.
  • You’ll have to make up a name for your church if you’re having a reception there.  That probably won’t be hard, because you probably have an unofficial name for it already.  Like “The Windcrest Chapel.”
If you have any questions, and I know you do, ask them here or call me at (415) 827-5630.  I would love it if you let me make your invitations, but in either case, I will gladly proofread your wording if you email it to me or post it here…  Moreso if you link to my site from yours!

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On Square Wedding Invitations

February 18th, 2009 by Colin Jensen

One thing I like to do at restaurants is ask the waitress which items everyone loves, but no one gets.  It’s an odd question, but everyone who works in any branch of customer service can answer it.  For invitations, it’s square wedding invitations.  As each bride works her way down to a top 10 list before picking an invitation, without fail one of those 10 is square.  Most of the time it makes it into her top 5; and a good percentage of the time it makes it to #2; but never does any bride order them.  Why?  Everyone loves them, so why doesn’t anyone ever order them?  The answer is simple: by the time a bride makes it to my door she’s already feeling a lot of buyer’s remorse from the amount of money she’s spend so far on her wedding (jewelry, photography, cake, etc.)  Often she’s already told herself, walking in, that she won’t spend a dime more than is absolutely necessary (and I understand that.)  When confronted with her top 2 choices–both of which she loves–she’s going to panic when she finds out one costs $0.11 more in stamps.  Yes, eleven cents–I know it’s no big deal, but no one ever gets over it.  I try to explain that they’ll get more than that 11 cents back in gifts if they crank it up a notch, but it never works…  So if you’re reading this, and considering square wedding invitations, do it!

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