Getting wedding invitations is very different from going into your local Hallmark store and picking up a package of birthday party invitations. The prices vary wildly and, in some cases, what you would think is the most frugal option turns out not to be.
The most expensive invitations are engraved. This is a special printing process in which a copper or steel plate is etched with type, design, etc. The etchings are filled with ink and pressed against the paper. This results in a raised print on the surface and if you run your fingers along the back you can feel indentations in it. If you're planning a budget wedding don't even think about these no matter what Great Aunt Martha says about them being the only proper way to go! Previously the only place to get these is from a stationer but we've heard that there is now a catalog as well.
A newer process called thermography is also available. A powder is sprinkled over the wet ink and heat is applied. This causes the ink to puff up and resemble the more costly engraving. There's no indentation on the back though, so you won't fool the truly snobby among your friends and relations. This is about half the price of engraving. If you order from a mail order catalog the invitations will be thermographed.
Now that the technical talk is out of the way, what are your choices for invitations? You can order from a stationer or other local source, from a catalog or make them yourself. If you choose to make your own where will you get the paper, envelopes, etc.? The table below shows how much you would spend if you ordered from a moderately priced catalog, made your invitations with premade blanks from Paper Direct or made your invitations "from scratch". We didn't include pricing for engraved invitations ordered locally because if you're having a frugal wedding chances are you wouldn't get them anyway.
For comparison purposes we chose a mid-priced, plain white, single panel invitation from the catalog. The Paper Direct blanks come in white or ivory. The prices for "from scratch" invitations were determined from card stock and envelopes purchased from a printers supply store. The card stock cost $5.49 for 200 sheets (we also purchased some 250 sheet packages from a flea market for $1.50 each but felt that it wouldn't be fair to use that price!). The envelopes cost $16.00 for a box of 250 large (approx. 5"x 8") and $8.04 for a box of 250 small (approx. 4"x 5"). Card stock is also available from the Staples catalog for $10.69 for 100 sheets which is quite a bit more than the printer's supply store but still better than the premade blanks price.
Both the catalog and Paper Direct invitations have some embossing on them which the plain card stock doesn't have so they're a little fancier but you can make up for that by adding a border or graphic to your homemade invites. Also with the cardstock you get two or more items per sheet so you need to cut them apart...an xacto knife and metal ruler will help you get nice straight edges.
Please note in the chart that we separately listed the prices for 25 and 100 invitations from the catalog. This is because the price of the first 25 includes the set-up cost for the printing. If you choose to order from a catalog be sure to order enough invitations all at once. If you have to reorder extras you'll have to pay that set up fee again! Also notice that if you only need 25 invitations you're better off buying from Paper Direct but when you go to 100 the catalog price is lower and you won't have the hassle of printing (but the from scratch price is still the best!).
Catalog Price (25)
Catalog Price (100)
Paper Direct Price (25)
From Scratch Price (25)
Invitations & Envelopes
Response Cards & Envelopes
$13.95 (comes with an envelope)
Printed outer envelopes: add $10.00
Lined inner envelopes: add $2.00
Colored ink: $ add $5.00/item
Outer envelope: $11.95
$92.30 (without extras)
$114.30 (with extras)
$124.70 (without extras)
$140.70 (with extras)
$62.80 (with outer envelope)
$251.20 for 100
$3.00 (or $12.00 for 100)
Our Suggestions and Ideas
Now that you've looked over the chart and know a little about the prices, here are a few ideas and suggestions.
If you decide to catalog order skip the colored ink and envelope liners, use plain outer envelopes and stick on your own return address label or just write the return address, skip the reception cards altogether...just have "reception follows at whatever location" printed at the bottom of the invitation. For a frugal alternative to inner envelopes wrap your invitations in colored tissue paper and secure with a gold or silver seal.
If you make them yourself try to find a printer's supply store to buy your materials. Not only are the prices great but they have a huge selection of paper colors, weights, etc. Also, look around your house and see if you already have anything on hand that you can use. We had a stack of almond color card stock so we used that for part of our invitations. It cost us nothing, worked beautifully and there was enough left over for place cards, seating cards and table tents.
We frequently get the question "Where do I find envelopes to fit my invitation?". The answer to that is to buy the envelopes first then design the invitation to fit them.
Using paper in stock sizes (8.5 x 11-letter size, 8.5 x 17-legal size) is not only cheaper but a lot easier to run through your printer and you'll get two or more items/page. Just cut them to size with scissors or an xacto knife after printing. We recently found a great little tool made by Fiskars called a personal paper trimmer that makes cutting straight lines a snap. It's small enough to fit in a notebook (in fact it even has notebook holes in it) and is simple to use. It costs around $10.00 and can be found with the scrapbooking supplies in craft stores.
If you see a fancy, expensive invitation that you really love look it over carefully to see how difficult it would be to make it yourself. We liked the ones with the translucent overlay attached with a satin ribbon. The price was really high so we figured out how to do it ourselves. The hardest part was putting the 2 parts together with the ribbon and if you read the catalog you'll find that even if you buy them you'll have to do that! Click on "Make Your Own Invitations" at the left for detailed instructions for a few different invitations. To save on postage try to keep the inserts to a minimum. Remember that maps, response cards and reception cards all add to the weight. If you go over 1 ounce the price goes up. Using postcards for response cards also saves money. The price to mail a postcard is considerably lower that mailing an envelope..
Some Ideas From Our Readers
Nayla Oliver sent an idea for invitations without envelopes: In the back of a lot of wedding magazines there are ads for an invitation company at www.seal-n-send.com. We liked the idea of saving on postage and we assumed we could figure out how to make them ourselves. The basic invitation is simply two columns of your invitation text side by side with an RSVP printed into the bottom third on one side of page. On the flip side, print the outgoing addresses in the middle third on either half and a return address on the bottom third. Then, cut length wise, fold, seal, stamp and mail. You can do a perfectly elegant job with standard 8 1/2 by 11, but it doesn't hurt to experiment with other paper sizes. I think you can best emulate their invitations with legal sized paper.
Variations on the theme can include perforating the RSVP third so that it's easily removed, scoring the folds for a cleaner look, printing the invitation text solely on the middle third and cutting the upper third into a neat triangle (to imitate and envelope flap)... and, of course, your choice of seals is entirely customizable for your theme. You could even use faux wax seals for a medieval theme, but not real wax. It tends to crumble in the mail and then your beautiful invitations are ruined. We plan to invest in an embosser which we'll use on the invitations to dress them up. The same embosser will be reused on plain napkins for the reception, thank you cards and then to mark books in our library after the wedding.
From Heidi!: "I fell in love with invitations that were very distinctive, and pricy, and made them myself. The card is made of that handmade paper with bits of flower petals imbedded in it. It is an irregular texture so it wont go through my printer, so I am printing the invitation on high quality cream paper and gluing the cream paper into the handmade paper card. The cream paper doesn't cover the whole of the folded handmade paper card, just the right hand side, where you would expect the writing to be. I cut the cards out of big sheets of floral paper which cost $3.50 per sheet, each sheet yielded 10 invitations. I used cream paper I already had (my resume paper!) and bought matching envelopes at Kinko's for $.10 a piece. I spent around $15 for invitations (guest list of 50.)"
From Lisa Myre: I lucked out while looking for a dress outlet and instead found a paper outlet that stocks the very same papers I was seeing in wedding invitation books at the Hallmark shops and the party stores. For $18.90 I got a box of 52 invitations, tissues, inner and outer envelopes. I bought the corresponding box of 100 folded notes with envelopes to use for reception inviations and reply cards for $12.90. A friend is a computer wizard and printed them as his gift to us. They were beautiful!! That was cheaper than any I saw in the catalogues for the same number needed.
From Amy Kinney: When ordering from Paper Direct: Use their Jumbo post cards and regular postcards to print your invitations on, instead of their regular Invitation stock. Their choices are quite wide, and usually for decorated stock, their prices are $23.95 per 100 postcards, either size, and they sell coordinating envelopes in both sizes.
From Margaret McMillan: We bought 100 sheets of card, borrowed my sister's laptop,printed out the wording and quartered the sheets so that there are 4 invitations per sheet- no folds or anything. My dad drew our initials intertwined in a Celtic design at the top of the wording. I photocopied (on a black/white copier) the wording and initials onto our card. We bought a rubber stamp and gold ink pad and stamped the corner of each invitation with a Celtic heart design and cut out the invites with a Stanley knife. My dad drew round our initials with a gold pen once they were finished to tie in with the gold stamps. We purchased the envelopes to match and altogether this cost under 30 pounds and looks pretty good too. Having said that, it is informal looking which is what we were after.
From Stefani Simpson (who, we are happy to say, got the idea for her invitations from our website!): We printed up our invitation cards with a daisy background covering the entire card. With the tracing paper and a sheer white bow, I think it will look like exactly what I wanted. I also finished the response cards, which are postcards. They have a border that matches the background on the invitations and simple black text. We are really very happy with how they are turning out. So far, we have spent $9 on cardstock,$5 on envelopes, $4.25 on tracing paper and $8 on ribbon for a total of $26.25 (for 50 invitations).
From Helen Darnell (We really like this one since you can use it even if you don't have a color printer and graphics program to work with): I am making my own wedding invitations and was having a horrible time finding some festive paper. I finally bought some designer tissue paper and then spray mounted it to 8 1/2 x 11 pieces of card stock (makes two invitations). Simply printed my invitation on translucent paper, you can buy 10 sheets for $1.50 from the Paper Palette(on the web), still expensive but much cheaper than craft stores or use tracing paper which is even cheaper as your site points out. I cut a decorative border and tied the translucent paper to the cardstock with some twine (getting married in a barn, tied in with the theme) and they look lovely. If people have limited budgets and don't have computers that print nice looking clip art and can't afford all the rubber stamp accessories, you can spray mount almost any decorative paper (wrapping paper, tissue paper, thin decorative papers) onto to cardstock and have an instant lovely background to mount translucent paper. The tissue paper cost $1.69 and it made enough for 40 invitations. Any cheap cardstock will do since it is being covered up anyway and I found my envelopes, 100 for $4.99 at Office Depot.
From Candice Romaniuk:We went to the local Office Depot and in the envelope aisle they had blank cards and envelope sets (not the wedding sets which are too much money). My fiancee stencilled pictures on the front after I sent them through the printer. The set cost $8.00 for 50 and come in various sizes for invitations, replies and thank you's.
From Amy: To get an autographed Picture of Mickey and Minnie Mouse congratulating you on your wedding. Send your invitation to the following address, and allow at least 6 weeks for a response:
Mickey & Minnie
The Walt Disney Company
500 S. Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521
Jodi Holley made her invitations using Excel and clip art she downloaded for free from Microsoft.com. Her reasons for choosing Excel are because Excel isn't as picky on layouts. It's easy to put 2 or 4 to a page and Microsoft offers free clip art. Also, by double-clicking on the images she was able to edit them and change the colors the way she wanted them. If anybody is interested in seeing Jody's invitations email me and I will send you the Excel file.
Amy Nelson tells us that she called Kinko's and was quoted a price of $0.07 for a 3x5 black and white post card and $0.99 for color (big difference). You can apparently bring in any picture that you like. There is a scanning fee though of possibly $9.00. She personally thinks it is a bit cheaper than the catalog kind.
Laura Holby suggests shopping around.She and her fiance found lovely invitations that fit perfectly with their theme (daisies), but after browsing some more found another website with the exact same invitations for less shipping and about $25 less per 100.
Lori says you can buy pkgs of 50 invites which includes, r.s.v.ps, thank you note,s programs and of course your invites and well as all the envelopes for 39.99 CND. at Staples or Office Depot.
We are frequently asked what wording to use if you want money instead of gifts. Here are a couple of ways to do it. Keep in mind, however, that a lot of people may find it somewhat offensive that you ask for money (no matter how nicely you ask)!:
Mario & Margarita whose home is complete & over-stocked with appliances, furniture, kitchen ware, bed & bath, etc. sent this way to get gift cards instead of wedding gifts: On the back part of their wedding invitation, below the map to the reception site, they included a small text box with the wording: "As wedding gifts, the couple highly appreciate gift cards from the following Bridal registries:Macy's, JC Penney's, Sears, Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens & Things. They also informed the Bridal Registries to suggest the same to their guests who came to buy wedding gifts. After mailing out their wedding invitations, sent an e-mail reminder to their guests.
Thanks to "popstar" here is a little poem that you can enclose with your invitations if you would prefer money to gifts (the original has a picture of a wishing well on top)
Soon you will hear our wedding bell,
As Friends and family wish us well.
Our household thoughts are not brand new,
We have twice the things we need for two.
Since we have our share of dishes and bedding,
We're having instead a wishing well wedding.
But more important we ask of you,
your prayers of love and blessings too!
Melanie Manzer in Pennsylvania suggests two sites for bulk paper purchases (and handmade paper). The first is www.paperzone.com. They have a great selection of papers and they allow you to buy "sample" packs of just a few sheets (5-8) which wouldn't do for making the invites, but is good to help you decide which paper type you want. They also have tips on making invitations and what size envelopes you need for which sized papers. The prices on fancy envelopes are quite good-- approximately $6.50 for 50 envelopes in sparkly paper. They have both regular weight and cardstock-- the only drawback being shipping charges and the fact that you can usually only buy a whole ream. But the prices make that worthwhile. The other site sells in smaller quantities-- it's called The Paper Palette (www.thepaperpallette.com).They also have good deals on vellum and handmade paper (handmade paper with petals inside is only $3 for a 21'x30' piece which would make about 12 invites depending on size).
Jenn House found a service that lets you rent a 1-800 number for your rsvp's. It is 0.50 per invitation, (that's not per guest) Right now the stamp alone will cost you 0.37 and the envelope 0.05, and RSVP card 0.35. It saves you time and good money ($0.27 per invitation).You have no need to keep a list, they do that for you! It's lovely. Unfortunately Jenn didn't tell us the name of the service but a google search would probably find it.
From Hilary Coulson suggests that When writing (or printing) the names and addresses on the envelopes for the invitations, write (or print) the same address on an envelope for the thank you note. Put the thank you note and its envelope back into its original box until you get a gift then pull the thank you envelope and write the card to the gift-giver. It will not only save you time from writing envelopes when you have better things to do, but it will serve as a record of whether or not you sent the thank you to that person. This process can also be applied to showers. Ask the person(s) giving the shower to also address the envelopes (that you provide) for the thank you notes at the same time that they are creating the invites.