It's Spring, which means that for those of you with a summer wedding, it's time to meet with a stationer and get to work on your invitations! Wedding invitations should be mailed 8-10 weeks before your wedding day and you should give guests at least 4 weeks to RSVP. You'll want to have all of your RSVPs back by a month before your wedding, at the latest, so that you have time to give a final headcount to your caterer, finalize the seating plan, and make sure you have the correct quantities for centerpieces and rentals.
Once you have a handle on your invitations, it's time to think about getting them in the mail. Below are our top questions about addressing and mailing wedding invitations and our tips on how to navigate the postal system!
1. Digital calligraphy vs. Hand-calligraphy: What is the difference?
When it comes to addressing your wedding envelopes, you have two options. The first option is digital calligraphy, a.k.a. printing the addresses on your envelopes. This is the most cost-effective way to address your envelopes and even online stationery companies, such as Minted.com, offer this service. It also requires the least amount of time, so if you're in a rush to get your invitations out, this may be the best option for you.
The other option is hand-calligraphy, which is considered to be the most elegant way to address your envelopes. Each address is expertly written by hand by a human being with fabulous handwriting. With a good calligrapher, it sometimes hard to believe the addressing is done by hand. Calligraphy usually begins around $3.00 per envelope and goes up from there depending on the number of lines that make up the address, the type of ink you choose, and sometimes even the font that you like. There are modern calligraphers, which are more free-hand style, and traditional calligraphers, who typically format their writing in a more standard way.
If you want to use hand-calligraphy for your invitations, be sure to get on the calligrapher's calendar early - they book up quickly! 100 envelopes typically take calligraphers about two weeks before they're ready to mail. So, once you receive your envelopes, it will be another two weeks at a minimum before they can be mailed. Be sure to account for this time in your timeline for the invitations when you meet with your stationer. Additionally, be sure to order extra envelopes for the calligrapher.
2. Weighing your invitations and postage
It is hard to know how much postage you will need per invitation until you weigh the invitation. You should always bring your invitation to the post office to be weighed by a postal employee before buying stamps. If you want custom stamps, this can hold up the process of getting them purchased. If you're in a rush, the rule is to just overorder the custom stamps, so that you're covered in case you need extra. If you have time, the rule is to weigh the invitation before it goes to the calligrapher. You can wait for the custom stamps to arrive while the envelopes are being addressed by the calligrapher.
The are two other options for postage, in addition to ordering a custom design. The first is choosing a stamp from USPS that matches your color scheme or using their wedding-themed stamp. They typically always have an option for this. Again, this is great if you're rushing to get your invitations out.
The last option, and our favorite, is using curated vintage stamps. Old stamps come in much smaller denominations, which means that you need a lot of them to have enough postage to mail your invitations. You might decide to curate them all in one color scheme to coordinate with your invitations or possibly stick with a theme. For example, if you're getting married in Boston, maybe the stamps are all vintage stamps from the Boston area. Collecting enough stamps for your wedding invitations takes a lot of time. If you want to do this, you should get started ASAP. Some calligraphers and stationers also offer this service, so it's worth asking! Be careful when ordering the stamps that they haven't already been used.
3. Hand Canceling
So...what is hand canceling anyway?? When you normally drop a letter off at the post office, it gets run through a machine and little lines print over the stamp. However, if the envelopes are stuffed with lots of cards or embellishments, they often rip in the process. Plus, the machine doesn't always leave the prettiest marks on your envelopes. To avoid this, you can hand-cancel your envelopes. This means that instead of being run through the machine, each envelope is stamped by hand.
The process for hand-canceling varies by post office. Some post offices don't allow you to hand-cancel the envelopes yourself (and then occasionally, even though you ask for hand-canceling, they run it through the machine anyway). Others charge you to hand-cancel them - usually the fee applies after the first 50 envelopes. We use a couple of smaller post offices that we've found over the years to be the most helpful.
4. One or more of my guests didn't receive their invitations. What gives?
Once your invitations are dropped into the post box, we're at the mercy of USPS - and unfortunately, they're not perfect. It is common for a couple of invitations to be lost in the mail. The most common reason this occurs is hand-calligraphy. Although calligraphy is beautiful, it can't be read by machines. An actual human being needs to read the address and determine where it goes. This means that not only does it not get processed as quickly, but it's possible that the person responsible for reading the address might not be able to read it clearly, or possibly even read it incorrectly. Everyone should receive their invitations within two weeks of mailing (depending on where they're going). After that, it's possible that a couple of them will need to be resent. This is another reason why you should make sure you have plenty of extra invitations on hand.
All of the above is part of our invitation mailing service that we provide for our clients. If you don't have a planner and you're crunched for time, some stationers and calligraphers can also help with invitation addressing, stuffing, and mailing for an additional fee. Happy mailing!