Monday, February 8, 2010

You are cordially invited,

Invitations look so innocent. It's just a few pieces of paper telling guests where your wedding is, right? Yeah, not so much.

Many brides are shocked when it comes time to start pricing out their wedding invitations as they have no idea how this can be so expensive. But think about it from this perspective for a second: when you go to a gift shop or a drug store to buy a birthday card for a friend, how much does a nice card cost you? The cheapest and flimsiest ones are $3.00. A nice one costs $5.00-6.00 and handmade ones are higher than that. And that's just ONE card. A wedding invitation normally has: the invitation, envelope, response card, response card envelope, directions or map, and another insert such as a next day brunch or accommodations. This is MUCH more complex than a greeting card, yet many brides expect to pay less than a greeting for their invitation set.  I don't blame brides for thinking this though, because there are quite a few big online invitation companies that advertise that you can get invitations for as low as $1.45 each. Um, kind of...

I asked one of my vendors, Diana, from Emily Rose Papers to tell me a bit of what goes on behind the scenes when brides are dealing with invitations from one of these big companies. This is what she told me:

"Prices listed on online sites that say "as low as" is not necessarily the actual price that you are paying when you have your set chosen.  So, don't fall for the low price, until you have added up the "additional charges", such as proofing charges, charges for extra lines of text, additional envelopes to allow for addressing mistakes and additions,  shipping charges and sales taxes.   

Paper quality and printing from low cost suppliers isn't always reliable.  Unless the couple has the option to order a sample or color swatches, it's not always certain that the color seen online it accurate.  Also, invitations are tactile: the weight of the paper denotes it's quality and some sites use lower quality stock, which is fine if you intend to mount it to a more substantial card stock, but otherwise it might end up feeling "flimsy".  And, when invitations are printed incorrectly there can be "gripper marks" from where the printing press grabs the paper.  Quality invitation companies will trim the gripper marks off, but most online suppliers do not.

Customer service that rarely includes advice. Most of these sites are set up to make bulk sales, so they have limited customer service.  Wording for invitations is intensely personal, especially since the wording and font style help set the "tone" of the invitation.  So, even though online sites have etiquette sections, it's doubtful that the customer service representative will put very much thought into considerations that are important to the couple, or guide them through any special needs, like how to word their RSVP so that they get the information that they need for the caterer or venue. 

In an effort to save time, couples will make the assumption that if they shop online, it will save them time.  In some cases, it's easy to spend a lot more time looking for the "right fit"  that will coordinate with the decor at the wedding.  This can take up valuable time in their overall timeline, which can result in rush orders and avoidable mistakes.  Plus, on most of these sites, there are so many designs available, it can be overwhelming.

In an effort to save money, couples will decide that if they choose to "DIY" it will be a savings in money.  In reality, by the time the cost of adhesive (or printing if the couple is just buying paper stock) ends up being the same or higher than some of the pre-designed invitations available.  This is especially true when someone is new to "DIY" and forgets to plan for some loss due to human error or the papers needed for the set up for printing.  Plus, with some paper only suppliers, they don't explain well what types of printers to use or the specifications for printing.  For example, some card stocks, like the metallic papers, aren't always suitable for inkjet printing and may curl or get stuck with the average color laser printer, designed for home use."

The moral of the story? Expect to pay more than $1.45 per invitation. And seriously consider dealing with a human being that specializes in invitations. It will save you tears, time, and potentially money. 


Tracey Kumer-Moore said...

Great post Amber!

You know, those invitation sites are convenient BUT like you said, you need the know how of a stationer(and planner) as backup to avoid costly mistakes.

Once, I saved a brand new client (we hadn't even signed the contract yet) a ton of money by catching the missing time & location of ceremony in a large hotel. I asked to see it before she was mere seconds from hitting the "process order" button.

Yes, the spelling was right according to the site, but it would not have caught missing information as a mistake.

Customer Service, education & guidance,experience & a personal touch are worth$$ their "paper weight" in gold!

Jean Neuhart said...

Hi Amber,

The greeting card comparison is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

Kate/MagnoliaRouge said...

You took the words right out of my mouth!! I have recently starting using the 'greeting card' comparison and it's like a lightbulb goes off when they really think about it. I was going to write my own article on it but I think I'll point my readers to yours...great advice!! Thanks!

Jen said...

This is so great! I blogged about this on the Knot blog -

Simply Stated Stationery said...

Great Post! Thank you so much for clarifying a question that comes up so frequently. I absolutely cannot be compared to click and print invitations!

Elizabeth Howard said...

This is a wonderful synopsis of what brides really need to consider when shopping for invitations. Couldn't have said it better myself. Is it okay if I link to this article on my blog with a link back to your blog?