Managing your wedding stationery expectations and sticking to a sensible budget for beautiful invitations
Do you have a vision for your perfect wedding invitations? Are you collecting images you love on Pinterest, but leaving it until 6 months or so before your wedding to place an order? Or do you think DIY-ing your invites will save you money? (And surely it can’t be that hard, right?)
I’ve been a wedding calligrapher for 12 years. I’ve made bespoke invites, launched my own collections and helped hundreds of brides and grooms find their perfect stationery. I’ve also seen thousands of invitations cross my desk from letterpress companies, high street brands and little independent wedding invitation designers.
But I’m lucky – I get to see (and make!) your stationery: I don’t have to find something for my own wedding. It’s hard – for some of you it will be way more complicated than you think. You’ll need to make compromises, scale back your expectations… or maybe be surprised when you find invitations which are less expensive than you thought they could be!
The beginning of the year is a busy time for invitation enquiries, and I’ve spent many hours answering questions about stationery, ordering, designs and more over email with brides already. I kept my replies and shared them below as I wanted to share some of the insights with you – things which might really help you on your search for your perfect wedding invitations. I hope it helps!
1. Pinterest… and the impossible dream
Some of the beautiful invitations you’ll see on Pinterest are one-off, bespoke designs created for styled shoots. They include hand calligraphy, luxe papers, silk ribbon and letterpress print. And they stick in your mind: no matter what else you see, nothing else quite lives up. You resign yourself to having to pay a little more, and get in touch with the designer…
If stationery is one of the most important aspects of your wedding, or you’ve a huge budget, then this will work for you. But the truth is, many of these bespoke invites are out of reach for most of us. Creating plates for letterpress costs hundreds; add design time and materials and you’re looking at £1k+ for invitations alone.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t Pin wedding invitation ideas. But focus your Pinterest search on suppliers’ own images (rather than the top wedding blogs and their styled shoots). A designer’s Pin is more likely to include a price. It will also link back to their website where you can find pricing information and alternative designs to fit your price range.
Top tip: search for a wedding invitation designer whose style you love, and once you’ve found them limit your search to their website.
Make a wedding website so you can save money by having all your information online rather than printing information sheets, maps, and gift list info. Those little ‘extras’ add up!
2. Wanting the impossible; designing in your head without a realistic idea of prices
My heart has gone out to some of my brides this year. I’ve had to turn away enquiries I just can’t achieve; materials I can’t print on and more. More than one wedding stationery enquiry has been from a bride who’s already designed her ideal invitations in her mind – but they’re unrealistic (and so are budgets). It’s a common pitfall: you see ideas you love on Pinterest, add them together and come up with a dream invitation which won’t work in real life.
One bride had done the most incredible research into Pantone colours, and created a colour palette of Pale Dogwood and Strawberry Ice. She imagined pocketfold invitations in these colours, tied with silk ribbon and sent in the post.
Another couple were looking for invitations with a vintage-inspired dragonfly brooch in antique gold, with a translucent inner envelope and darker outer envelope.
They sound wonderful, don’t they? But the danger of designing the perfect invites in your head is that they won’t be possible for a stationer to make. Card manufacturers produce in dozens of colours: but ideas as specific as Pantone are simply not available. Silk ribbons are beautiful, but expensive – they’re worth it if your budget allows! (If it doesn’t, why not incorporate them into your bouquet instead?) And embellishments will add to your postage costs: you’ll need ‘large letter’ stamps at least.
You should also check the weight of your invitation, and remember every letter is fired through Royal Mail’s sorting machines. (Imagine a big, fast, mangle!) Anything which squeezes through will potentially cause damage: I’ve seen plenty of invitations where little diamantes have ripped through cheap outer envelopes and arrived at their destination looking scraped, torn and generally much worse for wear.
3. How to find something beautiful you can afford
The key to a successful wedding invitation search is finding the designer or independent business you want to work with. You might not fall in love with their designs; but if you think they’re pretty and will suit the style of your day (and you both agree!) you’re onto a winner.
Don’t look for the exact invitation you’ve imagined. Look for good design, a style which reflects your personalities and a designer or small business you feel you can trust.
Whether you want bespoke invitations or a standard personalised design, aim to find a supplier at least 3 months before you’d like to send out your invitations (more, for bespoke invites). Look carefully at their online options, and then stop looking elsewhere!
Understand pricing: if a designer quotes a price ‘from 75p per invitation’ is this the price you’ll pay? It might only include invitations where you have to fill in all the blanks. Often the cheapest price only applies to bulk orders (for example, you might have to order 200+ invitations to get that 75p price tag; orders of 50 invitations could be £3 each, and this is quite often the case).
4. Making your own wedding invitations
A few years ago, home made invitations were all about ribbon, diamantes and kraft paper. But things have changed. Making your own invitations can be simpler, more affordable and much more up to date – it’s just a case of knowing how.
The best invitations I’ve featured in real weddings on the blog have been where either the bride or groom was a graphic designer (and there are so many of you out there!) – because above all they aim for style and simplicity.
Etsy is the place to go for gorgeous DIY wedding invitations. Search on Etsy for “printable wedding invitations”. Grab a template (and there are loads!) then print at home, adding any embellishments you need. You’ve still done your own invites; you’ve probably saved a few pounds, and the process is likely to be stress free and less time consuming than hours of glitter and glue!
5. How much should you pay for your wedding invitations?
How important are your invitations to you? Some of us love paper and others aren’t so fussed. And remember: this is a joint decision for you as a couple. If you decide invitations are important, expect to pay more for quality.
If you love paper and your invites are important but you’re on a budget, invest time instead of money. Grab a printable but make sure the card and envelopes you buy are nice and thick, high grade stock. If you’re buying online, look for Colorplan card stock and choose a high gsm: 300gsm or more for cards; 100gsm or more for envelopes.
Prices vary hugely depending on the manufacturing process for invitations. Good quality printed invitations tend to cost from £2.50 while handcrafted or hand finished invites start from £4 a piece. Little extras (silk ribbons, embellishments) can add to the price.
If you’re having 50 or more guests at your wedding, £300 – £500 is a realistic budget to set for invites. As a percentage of your total costs it’s tiny.
If you’re inviting 100 or so guests, expect to pay £500 or more for your invitations.
And if you’re having an intimate wedding for 20 – 30 guests, why not spend a little more per invitation? The most special people in your lives will appreciate the gesture and love receiving invitations with a personal touch which they can treasure as a keepsake of your day.
Photography – Jenny Heyworth Photography at Aspire Photography Training
Styling – Yasmin Joughin
Make-up and hair – Lucy Pearson
Calligraphy – Claire Gould, Calligraphy for Weddings (shop online at Calligraphy Store on Etsy)
Cakes – Catherine at Bird Bakes
Flowers – Katie at Made In Flowers
Silk ribbon – Lancaster & Cornish