• HELPFUL HINTS: How to pick your invitation vendor

    Posted on January 16, 2012 by in Helpful Hints

    Hey All, so, I’ve decided it was time to take up blogging.  I had a blog for years, and honestly I never used it.  I found myself really busy and that the content I was throwing up on it wasn’t all that helpful or insightful.  But over the years I’ve learned a lot of about weddings, invitations, stationery and the like and I thought it was time to start sharing some of this useful knowledge.

    With my new ad up on theknot.com I’ve been fielding a lot of inquiries from prospective brides who call me to ask more questions, which quite frankly are ineffective and hard to answer.  The inquiry call does not go very smoothly because the brides and grooms are not prepared with the right questions to ask and have done little preliminary research before calling.  So…because of my frustration I decided this was going to be the first Helpful Hints topic.

    To get started, I’m going to dialogue a typical inquiry phone call to show you what not to do….

    Me: “Hello, this is Stephanie at Kreative how can I help you?”

    Customer: “Hello, I’d like to get more information on wedding invitations?”

    Me:  “Ok, great, what questions can I answer for you?”

    Customer: “How much do you charge for invitations?”

    Asking how much you charge for invitations is equivalent to asking a car dealer how much do you charge for a car?  Well do you want a Ford or do you want a Ferrari?  Do you want leather seats or do you want cloth?  Do you want automatic windows and a sun roof or do you want a basic no frills?  Every invitation is different, with different options and that affects the price.  There is no way any stationer can tell you what an invitation costs without knowing specifically what you are looking for. 

    Me: “When it comes to invitations, the sky is the limit!  Prices can run the gamut between $1.00 per invitation all the way to $10+ dollars an invitation depending on the choices you choose.  Can you help me narrow it down?  Is there a particular style of invitation you are looking for so that I can price it out for you?”

    Customer:  No, I haven’t really given it much thought yet.  

    Knowing what you want, or at least having a vague idea of your options is really important.  Each stationer offers different services and you could very likely waste your time making an appointment with a stationer only to find out that they cannot do what you need them to do.  

    Me:  Ok, well would you like to set up an appointment to talk about your options?…

    With just a little research and knowing the right questions to ask the client could have made this a much more organized called and received much better information.  So, where do you start?

    Let’s start first with your budget…know your budget and what you can afford should definitely be your starting point.  There are wonderful invitation options in every single price option…so do not be discouraged by a small budget.

    • The normal cost of stationery should be 4% of your wedding budget, which would need to include your invitations, postage, programs, place cards, menus, etc.  I normally think 2.5%-3% of this should be for your invitations and the balance be for your coordinating pieces.  This may be an area where you choose to save some money so there is more to go towards other higher priority items on your list…so know your budget.
    • Figure out your cost per invitation: How many invitations do you need to send out adding 10-15 extra to your count, and what that cost per invitation can realistically be.  Do not forget to add in your postage ($0.45 for your invitation + $0.45 for your reply cards | or $0.32 for your post card reply cards – starting in January 2012).  *Don’t forget to calculate in Sales Tax for instate purchases and shipping costs if you are ordering from a company where you cannot pick up your order.

    Once you have your cost per invitation, it’s time to think about your options and what you can afford to do with this amount.

    • <$2.00 per invitation: Your best option at this price range is to go to a site like Etsy and find a designer who would work with you on a design and then give you the permission to use the pdfs to print your own invitations or take them to a local print shop.  You can still have a beautiful and custom design for a very inexpensive price.  Did I mention Kreative offers this service?  I’d love to help you!
    • $2.00 – $4.00 per Invitations: At this price you can have a beautiful invitation and still leave all the work to a professional.  We would recommend looking into an invitation that is panel style or layered.  You could probably afford 1 reply card and 1 enclosure in this price range.
    • $4.00 – $6.00 per Invitations: At this price you should be able to afford a panel, layered or gatefold invitation with some embellishments..think ribbon details, rhinestones, or anything else that would make this invitation stand out from the rest.  If your heart is set on a pocket fold, you could probably afford it if you are prepared to take on the assembly.
    • $6.00 – $8.00 per Invitations:  You have a lot of options in this price range.  a booklet, a pocket fold, a gorgeous 3-Layer invitation or a boxed invitation…the works.  Ideal if you have a lot of information to include in your invitation.
    • $8.00+ per invitation:  Think couture in this price range…we are talking invitations that go above and beyond.  Handpainted, engraved, letterpress would all fall into this category
    After you have figured out your price per invitation it is important you understand your options…Now, you may have just read the last section went, huh?  What’s a panel?  What in the heck is a pocket fold?  Well, let me out the line differences for you.

    Style

    Style specifically refers to the how you want your information presented.  Below are some of the more popular style options to consider.

    Panel…the invitation above is a panel invitation.  It’s a single sheet of paper and can be done in any size.  It’s the most basic and common invitation type.
    Layered…the picture above is a prime example of a layered invitation…this one features 3 layers, but they can generally done with 2-4 layers.  I love the classic look of layered invitations.  It adds a bit of elegance that a panel sometimes misses.
    Booklet…this rare find was created right here in at Kreative Event Services in 2009.  It has since been imitated by others, but I have yet to find any other designer with the large selection that we have. This unique invitation features all of your information held together in a neat and stylish little package.  A big selling feature is the detachable RSVP Postcard. (Options for RSVP and envelope are available).
    Pocketfold…refers to the invitation pictured above.  Over the years this has become one of the most popular options for wedding invitations as it holds all of the enclosures neatly together by including a pocket to put them in.
    Gatefold…As show above, the invitation is a surprise, hidden by the fold paper.  It’s much like unwrapping a present.
    Boxed Invitation…I unfortunately do not have a picture to show of this style, but the concept is like a pocket fold, but everything is being held together by a small box.
    Which of these styles do you prefer?  This is one of the more important options to consider before approaching stationery vendors.

    Print Method

    Be sure to familiarize yourself with the different print methods available so you can make a knowledgable decision.

    • Ink Jet:  By far the cheapest method, this is generally the at-home method used by the DIY Brides.  The pro is definitely the price, the cons is the time, it will take for ever, and the quality, don’t be surprised to see ink smears and smudges after mailing, and it does not allow you to print on metallic paper.
    • Laser:  Having a local print shop like Staples would probably print your invitations in this method.  Most laser printers do allow for metallic paper and you shouldn’t have any or much issue with the ink smearing or smudging.  Many local stationery designers will also offer this method.
    • Wax Ink:  This is what our in-house method is.  It’s very similar to a laser and use this method on most of our accessory pieces.  We do not use this method for most invitation orders unless it is required for a quick turnaround.
    • Offset or Flat printing:  As invitation designs are becoming more elaborate and unique, this method is becoming one of the more popular methods of print.  It’s a flat print, that is of higher quality then a laser or wax type print, and still a very affordable price.  It is also our chosen method for our wedding invitations.
    • Thermography: This print method was designed to mimic the traditional look of engraving, but at a lower cost.  The image is first printed in a flat method and then dusted with a resin powder when wet .  It’s then heated up, which causes the print to rise, creating a raised print.
    • Engraving:  While most are familiar with the saying, “Are you waiting for an engraved invitation?”, few have actually seen an engraved invitation.  This once very popular method of printing is rarely used anymore and saved mainly for elaborate and over the top black tie affairs.  The process starts with the text being engraved into a copper plate (“die”) and then it’s dipped into ink and then the paper is forced into the plate, creating beautifully crisp and raised print text.  This is an expensive and timely process.
    • Letterpress:  Letter press is just the opposite of engraving.  The image on the plate is raised, dipped in the ink and forced against the paper creating an impression.  This is quickly becoming a very sought after and popular method of invitations. This is an expensive and timely process.

    Stock vs. Custom

    When I meet with most brides and their mothers I tend to hear the same comment from the moms, “There are so many choices, when I got married my only choose was white or ivory.”  This couldn’t be more true.   Today, there are so many choices and options, it can seem a little overwhelming.

    • Stock Invitations: Traditional stationers stock large albums filled with invitations, which emphasis traditional and conventional styles.  As brides have gotten more creative these books have expanded their choices to  include some non-conventional options.  The main drawback to this method is that these invitations are not very customizable.  While font color, font style and wording are customizable, not much else is.  This can make it difficult to work your colors into a particular invitation or your theme.  If you are looking to coordinate all of your stationery from the save the dates to the reception pieces to the thank you cards…this might not work out so well for you as the product line does not generally include all the extras.
    • Custom Invitations:  A popular choice as of late is to work with a custom stationery designer, yes, that’s what we do here are Kreative!  Instead of flipping through albums of invitations we set up an appointment where we meet one-on-one to listen to your ideas, show you samples and then design an or tweak an exsisting piece to work for you.  We generally build the invitation from the ground up, so you have complete creative control…you pick your style, your design, your paper colors, your fonts, your embellishments…A custom stationery designer can then easily design all your other stationery pieces to coordinate.
    You may hear the word custom and think, oh my gosh, that sounds expensive!  The truth is, everything is customizable and can be worked to stay within your budget.  No one method is more or less expensive then the other.  But it’s important to know that if you go custom, you need to be prepared to bring some ideas and inspiration to the table.
    If you made it this far through the post you may be feeling thinking, sheesh, who knew there was so much to invitations?  What’s more, this doesn’t even scratch the surface.  These are just the building blocks to finding the right stationer for you…once you find your perfect fit, they should be able to lead you gracefully through the rest of the process.
    So, now you know your price/invitation budget, you’ve decided on the style of invitation you’d like to use and you know whether you want to go custom or stock annnnnd you are familiar with your different print methods.   What’s next?
    It’s time to start to look for a stationer.  If you want to shop local and have the added advantage meeting in person with your stationer I would search the vendor listings of these websites to find companies:
    • www.theknot.com
    • www.weddingwire.com
    • www.weddinginvitelove.com
    • www.weddingchannel.com
    I would then visit the stationer’s website to qualify them to see if they will fit the bill.
    • Do they offer Custom Invitations, Stock Invitations or Both?  That should cut your search in half by knowing which of these services you want.
    • Do they offer the style of invitation I’m looking for?
    • Check out their portfolio/blog.  Look through their past work to get a sense of their design style and quality.  It’s very likely you will not find what you are looking for…but that doesn’t mean they can’t do what you need.
    • Check their reviews!  A good stationer will proudly show off their excellent reviews!  Weddingwire.com is a great site to read feedback from past clients.
    • Contact them!  If you like what you see it’s time to call them!  Now that you are prepared you can call to get more information on exactly what you are looking for.  Let them know the style of invitation you are looking for, pieces/information you’d like to include, ask them about process, timeline, round-about pricing, etc.  If you like what you hear ask to set up an appointment to meet in person. If you do not like what you hear, thank them and move on to the next on the list.
    If you are up to working with a non-local stationer, then I would head to the internet.  If you are looking for stock invitation options simply google any of the stock invitation companies to find an online vendor.  There are lots of online vendors who offer discounts on these companies, so be sure to compare.  Some of the most common are:
    • Carlson Craft
    • Regency
    • William Arthur
    • Crane & Co.
    • Birchcraft
    If you are looking for custom, the best place to head is Etsy.com.  Go search what you are looking for and watch all the options that pop up!  Be sure to check out websites and reviews of these vendors and make sure you order samples to see quality before placing an order.  My biggest tip, if you see something you like, but something about that vendor doesn’t work for you, time, process, price, etc.  find a designer you do like and mesh well with, show them what you like and let it be inspiration for them!
    Alright, that was a pretty long entry and I hope that you found some of it useful!  If I missed something and you have questions, I’d love to hear them!!
    Thanks for swinging by!  -XOXO Steph @ Kreative

     

     

     

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