I'm just going to lay it all out on the table here. I know invitations and paper don't seem important in our digital e-vite disposable society, but they are for so many reasons. They are the first impression and statement and an important nod to formality and tradition, which is the whole point of a wedding. Even if you're not buying into the whole traditional thing, you're having a wedding, so you are participating in this important cultural tradition on some level. If you have ever come across an invitation from your parents' or grandparents' wedding, it is always a treasured family heirloom, no matter how modest. I also think there is something more important, tangible and permanent about real printed paper invitations. That being said, there are a few common misunderstandings we stationers are so often faced with. Here is my short list of the most common statements that are guaranteed to bum out any stationer.
1. "They are just going to end up in the garbage anyway". This is probably the most common offense and honestly my biggest pet peeve! I hear it weekly, if you can believe it! Every time I hear that I think to myself, can you imagine telling the caterer that their food just ends up in the toilet!?! WOW. Think about it. The truth is almost everything from your wedding ends up in the garbage. The flowers die the next day, the music ends and it's true, the bridesmaid dresses will never be worn again. The invitations and the photos are the most tangible potential heirloom your guests will receive from your wedding, perhaps with the exception of the cut crystal elephant candleholder you are giving as a favor.
2. "It's only paper, why is it so expensive?" Paper is like fabric. Many papers are made from fabric materials such as cotton, bamboo, linen, even silk. And as we all know, a valuable natural resource, whether recycled or otherwise, goes into making paper. Not surprisingly the better the materials, the better it looks and feels, and yes, the more it costs. And unfortunately (although I hope that this will change) the more "renewal and environmentally conscious" the paper, the more difficult it is to produce and the more expensive. The fact remains that there are lots of ways to save money by using less paper, such as postcard replies, single envelopes, etc.
3. "I could do that myself on my home computer and print it on Day-Glo copy paper." My first reaction to this is OK, feel free to do that. But I completely understand this knee-jerk reaction. We see many clients who have designed something themselves, not realizing, for example, the potential pit falls and expense of custom sized envelopes or that "white paper" can mean 25 different shades. Desktop design software has come leaps and bounds and many people are more proficient in graphic design than 10 years ago. That said, invitation designers are experts not only in etiquette and correct wording, but also at designing invitations specifically for print production. Invitation/font design is not as easy as it looks and is definitely worth consulting a professional for advice and direction before going ahead and printing it yourself.
4. "Can you just make me one and I can just photocopy or email a scan of it to everyone?", or a related and similar problem, "I found this art on the internet (I don't know who's it is) but I would like you to reproduce it for me." Art, like books, are intellectual property and belong to the creator. To take our art and reproduce it yourself is plagiarism, as is "taking" art off the internet or from a book and reproducing it without permission. This is a big problem particularly now with Pinterest (which I love) but it has the unfortunate affect of selecting designs that don't always bring you back to its creator. There is a great trick, though, that many stationery designers do employ, which is license free clip art and vintage images whose copyright is MORE than 50 years old. These are useable at no cost because they are in the public domain. But you really need to do your research on those! Yet another great reason to work with a professional designer whose vision you like, to help create something UNIQUELY YOURS.
5. "I know I approved the proof, but we changed the time of the wedding." We cannot express this one enough and I know we have all done it, but it breaks my heart! Stuff happens and plans change. The great thing about invites is that they can always be redone. And that is one of the things I love about my job -- it can always be corrected. Proofreading and double-checking details is so important and so easy to not do! It is way more interesting to focus on the precise trajectory of the birds on the invitation than to make sure to double-check the fine print. But the point of the invitation is the fine print and although we try as hard as we can, we do not have access to the details like the catering contract that says what time the reception needs to start so as not to be subject to an additional fee. So I know it's a lot of details to manage, but please take the time to proofread every letter backwards and forwards before you pull the trigger.
6. "But we only need eight more invitations." I know, nailing down a guest list can be very challenging and we try very hard to warn of this situation, but unless your invitation is being digitally printed on a desktop computer or hand written by a calligrapher you usually cannot have a few more invitations. Most printers have a minimum quantity. In most cases plates are made and the paper is printed in large bulk quantities on heavy machinery and it's a big undertaking. Therefore, unfortunately, we cannot simply print just two or three after the fact. I really recommend making sure you order plenty of extras.
7. "I left the invitations in the trunk of my car and then went to the car wash" or "We were drinking red wine while assembling the invitations..." Water, wine, coffee: liquid is the arch nemesis of all things paper. It's like the Wicked Witch of the West! Stationers really don't like water. Keep your invitations away from water at all costs. Once paper gets even damp, it's done. There is no salvaging your invites and it's a big, fat do-over! I even go so far as to recommend not mailing your invitations on a day it is raining just to be safe.
8. "We've addressed all our envelopes already, but I mail-merged the guest list incorrectly and all the zip codes are incorrect, what do you mean you don't check each of our guests' zip codes for us?" This one is a lot like the proofreading part. Please know that your calligrapher cannot proofread every single address for all of your guests (although l know they would love to). Yes, we can spot when you spell Florida wrong, but we do not know the zip code for Jupiter, Florida is 33477 not 33447. Honestly everyone makes mistakes on one or two envelopes, but please be careful to double-check your list before giving it to us.
9. "I sealed the envelopes and I realized I forgot to stamp the reply cards" or "We just used regular postage and dropped them in the mailbox on the street." Again, the devil is in the details. Be sure to take your time to think things through. We go over the mailing procedure with all of our clients, but if you don't have a professional to walk you through, go to the internet for advice. You and many others have put a lot of time and effort into creating these beautiful keepsake heirloom invitations that will make your guests anticipate the best wedding of the year. Please make sure they are properly stuffed and sealed. Make sure the postage is correct, don't guess.
10. "We would like to put 'monetary gift only' on the invitation." We know that is what you want... and yes your guests do, too. But I have to put this out there: the truth is, it is really considered bad form to ask for gifts on your invitation. The point of an invitation is to invite people to share with you, not for them to give you something. They are happy for you and will buy you gifts -- I PROMISE. Before we had wedding websites or could email our registry information, brides and their families communicated where the couple was registered through word of mouth. I would recommend putting your registry information on your website, but you really don't need to have it on your invite.
Follow Melinda Morris on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lioninthesun