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The Evolution of the Wedding Invitation from Engraving to Email: Is It a Good Thing?

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"I planning to do it all online." Aw, shit, it's another one. One more bride who thinks her wedding invitations can be sent out by E-vite, or email, or God forbid, an RSVP on their wedding website. Talk about the WORST possible way to do your wedding invitations for the biggest event of your life, especially if you actually want people to respond to your invitations in a timely manner.

Look, I used to argue against doing your wedding registry on a honeymoon-building website, thinking (rightly so) that it's a flat out plea for cash, just formatted differently. But my opinion on that has changed as more incredibly inventive registries have popped up all over the place, and the practice has become more acceptable. Last year I helped lesbian clients find a wedding registry site that would allow them to register to have a baby. They wanted guests to donate to their fertility efforts, and that's exactly what I found for them. They were thrilled, and I felt like a success. Might not be what I would choose to do, but it was exactly what they wanted -- and they were the clients.

I understand that traditional, engraved invitations are no longer a reasonable financial alternative for most brides and grooms. The engraving plates and production of the invitations will cost you thousands of dollars if you have a lot of invitations to print. For those of you unfamiliar with the "engraved" invitation, once upon a time, all invites were produced individually by being pressed on an inked copper plate. It's the plates and the labor that cost you big time, and it's rare to find a true engraved invitation anymore. But that doesn't stop my mom from flipping over ever invitation she receives to feel for the grooves that would indicate it was engraved. She's been depressed with the results for the past few years.

Thermography replaced engraving, even for most expensive wedding invitations, 20 years ago. Too few brides and grooms care whether their invitation can be read from the back as well, and they don't care about having the plates as souvenirs (I do have one graphic designer friend who insisted on engraving, because it was her business, and now she jokes about using them as very expensive doorstops). Thermography has a raised feel to it on the front of the invitation, and gives the same visual impression of engraving. But the minute you flip it over, the page is flat and you know it's not engraved. Does it matter? Probably not. And for the record, even my mom agreed to use thermography for my invitations once she investigated the prices on engraving 10 years ago. It's gotta cost more now.

In recent years, thousands of companies have popped up online offering wedding invitations -- some even include stuffing and addressing services. Many of the companies are very good, but some are not using the quality of paper that even the most casual bride would want to see bearing her name. The preventative solution is to simply request samples of the invites prior to ordering anything. Any reputable company should happily send you free samples. You may find there's a reason you were able to find such an inexpensive option. There are very reasonably-priced options out there, especially for brides and grooms who want to order the paper and print out their own invites. DIY wedding invitations can save you a bundle, give a personal touch and still be real invitations and RSVPs mailed on genuine paper.

Which brings me back around to the subject of RSVPs. I've blogged about how tacky wedding guests have become about not sending in the RSVP cards kindly enclosed (and pre-stamped and addressed) in formal wedding invitations. So if you think people are bad about responding when you literally spoon-feed it to them, how successful do you really, truly believe that wedding invitations and responses sent online can actually be? Some of your elderly guests are probably not even online. And, hate to tell you this, most people don't even check out the wedding website information that brides and grooms send around. That's why I so strongly encourage my clients to mail out their travel information packets about their wedding plans. I think people are much more likely to actually real a paper packet that arrives in the mail and tells them what the deadlines are for booking accommodations, etc.

What message are you sending to your guests with an online wedding invitation? If you're having a shotgun wedding and there's no time to mail invitations, then you have an excuse -- and even then you should try to get something into the real mail if possible. But if you're planning your wedding several months or more ahead, you have no excuse not to actually take the time to stuff and mail the invitations to the guests you're asking to extend themselves on your behalf and attend your wedding, whether it's in your hometown or requires your guests to travel.

Wedding websites are dangerous tools to rely on for RSVPs, dinner orders and any other important information that you need to request from your guests. Not everybody will click on that link -- most have the intention of checking it out later, but if they get lots of email every day, your message will quickly drop below the fold and off their radar screens. It causes you more frustration and follow up than you would normally have to do if you'd mailed the real thing. If you're very digital and really want to keep as much of your wedding online as possible, you can use digital invitations for your other events -- and wedding websites are an excellent way to make your travel information fun to read and easy to access after they lose the paper version. But relying on Internet communication for your wedding invitations and responses sends the wrong message, and gets the wrong end results, from your guests. Stick to paper for now. And check back with me in a couple of years -- maybe I'll change my mind.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!