• Peter Roehrich

Put A Stamp On It


Image of two-ounce stamp on envelope.
You'll probably need two-ounce stamps to get your invites to your guests. A wedding invitation usually contains several pieces and is typically too heavy for a first class stamp. (Credit USPS)

It's no secret that I love all things stationery (and all things postal - I'm looking at you, stamps)! I love the creativity and elegance that so many couples incorporate into their wedding invites. Previously I detailed the wedding invitation suite, but I did not spend much time on the mechanics of it. In this post I'm going to review what goes into your invitations from a logistical perspective.


Stock

The material that invitations are printed on is called card stock. It's typically paper although sometimes can be vellum (classically vellum is called skin, but in it's modern use it often refers to a translucent paper).


Paper is usually made of wood pulp. Cotton and linen based papers are more expensive and they have a lovely feel and are as smooth as butter to write on (while not really relevant to invitations, linen and cotton papers are incredibly durable, so much so that US dollars are printed on it). Either paper type will make for beautiful invitations. If you’re going the DIY route, you will find wood pulp paper readily available.


Paper stock thickness is described as its weight. The computation of weight is a little esoteric, so I won't describe the factors; suffice it to say that higher weight papers are thicker than those with lower weights. Pounds and GSM are the units of weight used for cardstock. Regular printer paper is 24 pound and a greeting card might weigh in at 60 pounds if not more. Your invitations easily could be 100 pound stock.


Printing

You have several options when it comes to printing your invitations, and although each is suited for specific styles, you're sure to find something you'll like.


Engraving is probably the most classic, and also probably the most expensive, printing option. An engraved invitation is made by literally engraving the design of the invitation into a metal plate that is then inked (the ink goes into the recesses in the plate) and pressed onto the card stock. Engraving is ultra formal and works best with premium, heavy weight cardstock.


Letterpress printing is also pricy as it also requires etching the design into a metal plate, which it quite labor and resource intensive. Unlike engraving, the lines are raised in the plate, so the inked lines are pressed into the paper. This technique also works best with heavy stock.


Digital printing is a budget friendly process similar to printing at home, but can be sharper. This style is relaxed. It works best with thinner paper, as it needs to be able to run through the printer. Unlike the above methods that are time intensive, invitations printed digitally need only a few days to produce.


Offset printing falls in the middle both in terms of cost and turn around time. It is also on the more casual side but can be used with heavier and textured paper stock. It requires a custom rubber stamp be made, which is then used to press the design onto the stock; this is the reason it is more expensive and takes longer than digital printing.


A calligrapher adds a touch of elegance when addressing your envelopes. It's not required and your can certainly have your envelopes printed, but the graceful curves of the letters are beautiful. (Ok, my postal nerdiness wants to chime in: even though the USPS prefers addresses printed plainly, script should be just fine – people do it everyday.)


Mailing

Several pieces of stationery will likely make up your invitation mailing.


The eponymous invitation card is the star of the show! It tells your guests the important details like what (a wedding), where (venue), and when (date and time), as well as telling them in no uncertain terms that they're invited to the fete. This is included regardless of the level of formality, but of course you can design the card to reflect that level.


A response card is usually included in the invitation mailing. This card has a space for your guests name and room for to indicate whether they'll attended. Typically smaller in size them the invitation, it usually has an accompanying addressed return envelope that is pre-stamped. (Placing a stamp on the envelope and addressing it for your guests is a kind touch and makes it more likely that the cards get back to you.) If you're having a plated meal instead of a buffet, you can include a spot to indicate entrée preference. Some couples may elect to omit the return card, instead opting for a link to a web form, perhaps including a QR code (again, making replying as simple as possible will make it more likely that guests respond); nixing the response card is informal and signals that the event will be relaxed.


Some couples include an information card. This is a great idea if any aspect of your wedding plans could be unclear to guests. This is a perfect place to tell them that your event is adults only. If your venue is hard to find, or in a place where cellular service is spotty, include directions and landmarks. You can also tell guests what level of dress to expect. Omit a link to your registry and let a member of your wedding party, a friend, or a relative coordinate that.


The outer envelope holds it all together. I mean this both literally and figuratively; the envelope both contains the invitation set and it sets the tone for what's inside. Your envelopes will be slightly larger than your stationery so that everything fits comfortably inside. Choose an envelope color that works with the contents, whether a matching or complementary color. Couples may want to affix an embellishment to their envelopes. Who doesn't think a wax seal is beautiful? This is ok, but be aware that they could be damaged by postal machinery, and metal embellishments are best avoided as they can cause injury to postal workers as they run through the machines (see my note on postage below). Address your envelopes by hand or by printing directly on them. This is a place to skip labels, since you want a personalized look rather than a mass mailing look. I have read that the postal service machinery doesn't read red ink well, but the postal service's official site vaguely says it's ok; do with that what you will.


Stamps are little pieces of art and you'll need a lot of them. They are available in a plethora of designs, including many suitable for wedding invites. Your return envelopes are the simplest: you will likely need only a first class stamp. The outer envelope might be able to skate by with a first class stamp, but if you have a lot of stuff in the envelope plan on a higher rate stamp. The postal service offers coordinating floral stamps for wedding invitations, both first class and two ounce rates. Slap that first class stamp on your return envelope and the two ounce stamp on your outer envelope. If you plan on placing embellishments on your envelopes, they are thick, or you're using unusually sized envelopes you will need a non machinable stamp (or other additional postage) to get them to your guests. If you do not know what postage rate you'll need, take a completed, stuffed envelope to a postal clerk for assistance. (Regarding the postage rates, first class, two ounce, and non machinable stamps will always be valid for those rates, even if costs go up in the future, and for this reason the first class rate stamps are called “Forever”.)


Wrap Up

Now that we've covered the physical makeup of your invitations, it's time to drop them in the mail. Send your invites at least six weeks in advance so that guests have time to book travel and hotels. What do you think? Tell me about your invitation plans!

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