What you need to know about invitations' hidden costs, splurges, postage and more

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2018.

For some, the wedding invitation can be the most daunting of wedding collateral—for others, it might be the most fun and exciting. No matter your outlook, budget or type of wedding, an invitation is essential and can be as simple or complex as you make it. From DIY opportunities to splurges, Jason Fletcher, owner of Avant-Garde Impressions, breaks down the process so you’re prepared and don’t break the bank.

First things first, come to your stationer with ideas and research. Spend time browsing online to find what you like and dislike, Fletcher says. And be aware of how online sources present information and pricing, as well as how many pieces you may need in your suite based on your type of wedding.

“A lot of times when you go online, they’re just going to price you out for an invitation—and some people forget there is an RSVP card. And if there is a reception at a different place, you want that on a different card also,” Fletcher recommends.

To avoid sticker shock when you’re exploring your options, consider what items might be labor-intensive and which might be easier to reproduce.

For example, belly bands—the bits of ribbon or paper that go around the entire suite to hold it together—can be inexpensive, while letterpress or foil details often carry a higher price tag, Fletcher says. “Sometimes [envelope] liners can be a little pricey, too, if they are custom,” he adds.

The most common mistakes that people make are easily avoided, according to Fletcher.

“The biggest thing is knowing how many [invitations] they need,” Fletcher says. “And getting addresses! They wait until the last minute to collect those. That’s a big project, so start early.” Remember that you only need one invitation suite per household, not per guest—so that 120-person guest list might only require 50 to 75 full suites.

“A lot of people wait until the last minute when they needed them three weeks ago,” Fletcher says. “Just come in early. Even if it seems too early—it’s never too early to look and get an idea of what you like, and you don’t have to order the first time you come in.”

The next most important thing you can do is plan a realistic budget. “People underestimate how much paper costs, and the process and postage,” Fletcher says.

He estimates the average budget is about $3 per set of invitations. Sets with more cards and embellishments—a map of the area or a card with accommodations details, for example—might put you closer to $5.50 or $6.

When it comes to postage, things get a little hairier.

“About 75 percent [of invitations] are just over an ounce per set, and then that stamp is 71 cents,” Fletcher notes. “Some are just under two ounces, and for those with suites or pockets, you might need a three-ounce stamp.” Shapes can have an effect, too—oversize or nontraditional envelope shapes can have a higher fee.

Also, don’t forget an appropriately priced stamp on the RSVP card. A postcard stamp, if you go that route, is only 35 cents, while standard RSVP cards in an envelope will be the regular 50-cent, first-class rate. And if your stamps aren’t self-sticking, avoid having to lick them all by taking a page from the pros’ books and using a glue stick.

When in doubt, assemble a full suite and take it to the post office for an official weigh-in and advice on required postage. “Go to a second post office for a different opinion if you need, because they actually might have different opinions,” Fletcher suggests.

Between style upgrades and postage fees, stress about invitation costs is normal. Fortunately, there are many ways to save on your invites. Consider DIY options like hand calligraphy (if you or someone you know is creatively inclined) or assembling your suites yourself. Raised-ink invitations are also a budget-friendly choice that tends to be less expensive than people think, Fletcher says.

“We do sell kits,” Fletcher says, adding a caveat that they’re typically not as fancy as what he is able to provide. “You can print it yourself, but most people have traditional ink jet printers and those aren’t always the best … [with] card stock.”

Fletcher cautions budget-minded couples to price out options before going with a kit; depending on your wants and needs, it may not always be the cheaper alternative.

For those looking to splurge on their invitations, consider custom liners that match a photo or a pattern incorporated in your wedding. Foil and florals are also huge right now, Fletcher says, which can be pricey but can add a beautiful and special touch.

Whichever route you go, it should all come down to one simple goal: making them personal.

“[The invitation] is something you want to look back on in 10 years and say, ‘I really loved what we did,’ ” Fletcher says. “And if you’re not sure what to do, go with timeless and elegant.”