1. Define Your Wedding Style
The invitation is the guest's first peek at your wedding style. Along with listing the location and time of the wedding, the invitation hints to the formality and theme of your wedding. You should have an idea of the type of event you're throwing, such as rustic garden, modern & glam, vintage, or a themed wedding. Figure this out before you start shopping for stationery, so you can choose an invitation style that reflects the event. Look on the internet for photos of wedding invitations and check out stationers' websites to gather inspiration. It’s important that you can give your stationer an idea of what you like. Put together a mood board or create an inspiration board on Pinterest.
2. Think About Color
You may want to incorporate both colors and a motif into your wedding invitations and to carry those colors through to the rest of your wedding stationery, such as seating cards, menus and gift tags for a cohesive look. While ivory or white cards with black, gold, or silver printing is classic for wedding invitations, it is also not very memorable, since it has been done a million times over. Nowadays it is pefectly acceptable to brighten up your invites with colorful or metallic fonts, papers, envelopes, liners, ribbon and graphics.
3. Shape and Size
Rectangles and squares are the standard shapes for wedding invitations, but many couples are now also becoming more creative with by die-cutting their invitations into unique shapes, such as circles, scalloped edges or a custom designed frame shape. Keep in mind that changing the size or shape may increase the amount of postage you need if you’re mailing them.
As you consider designs, don't forget about the text. The information you put on the invitation is the whole point of sending it out in the first place. Your local stationer will help, but in general, avoid light ink on light backgrounds and dark ink on dark backgrounds. Pastel colors are tough to read, so if you’re using them, it is recommended to work those colors into the design as an accent and use a darker color for the text. Also, be sure to have enough space for really scripted and calligraphy fonts to be legible.
5. Wise Wording
Traditionally, whoever is hosting shindig is listed first on the invitation. The hosts are the people who are paying for the wedding. This could be parents, grandparents, uncles, or the couple themselves. Today many couples pay for the own weddings, but still choose to list one or both sets of parents out of cultural tradition. This is okay. The bottom line is that if someone is paying for it they should be listed as a host. Your stationer can help guide you towards the right decision. Customarily, you should spell everything out, including the time of the ceremony. List only the key points on your invitation: time, date, location, the hosts, the couple’s names, and dress code. RSVP details, wedding list, directions, schedule, wedding website address and other information should be placed on separate cards.
6. Start Early
Your save-the-dates should go out six to nine months before the wedding. While your save-the-dates don't have to match your invites, ordering everything from one stationer can save you money and make the invitation process easier on you. So start searching for a stationer 9-12 months before the wedding. Your actual wedding invitations should be ordered no later than four to five months prior, so that they are ready to mail six to eight weeks before the wedding. If you're having a destination wedding or marrying over the holidays you can send out your invites even earlier (8 to 12 weeks before the wedding). For a more detailed timeline on when to order and when to send out, read my blog post on Wedding Stationery Ordering Timeline.
7. Know your Dates
Make sure to set the RSVP deadline no later than 3-4 weeks after guests receive the invitations (and at least 2-3 weeks before the wedding). Check with your caterer first to find out when they'll need the final headcount. The more time you give guests to reply, the more likely they are to forget, and you'll need time to put together the seating chart. Plus, your final count may affect the number of centerpieces and other decor elements, which your vendors will need to finalize a few weeks before the wedding. You do not want to stress yourself and your vendors out the last week trying to figure out final headcounts, ordering extra food, favors, flowers, and other supplies. Stress is not be fun! When I got married last year, I had everything finalized except the seating chart about 2 weeks before my wedding date and was able to relax and enjoy those 10 days prior to the wedding with my family, who were visiting Lebanon for the first time.
8. Know Your Numbers
You don't need an invitation for every guest. Take a look at your guest list and figure out how many households need invitations before you give your stationer a number. Cohabitating couple get one invitation; Families get one invitation, with the exception of adult children who do not live at home, who should get their own invitation. It’s very very expensive to go back and re-print invitations, so make sure to order an extra 10-20% to have on hand when you run into a long lost cousin 2 weeks before the wedding. Also have a “B List” ready, so that if an unexpected number of your “A List”guests decline, you can send out invitations to your “B List.”
8. Consider Costs
The price per invitation can vary widely, anywhere from 18 AED to 300 AED each. It all depends on the design, printing process, paper, textiles, and embellishments. Top-of-the-line papers and high-end printing techniques (like letterpress, foil stamping, and laser-cutting) as well as custom design work will add to your costs. That's why it's important to research your options ahead of time. Also, if you're planning to hire a calligrapher, consider the cost of this (10-20 AED each envelope) and time required to complete it (usually 3-4 weeks additional time) and add this into your ordering timeline.
9. The Rule of Three: Proofing your Invitation
Before your invitation order is printed, your stationer will send you a proof (either a hard copy or an email attachment of the invite mock-up). Don't just have your fiance and mom read it over. You'd be surprised at the things you and your stationer may miss. A useful tip from copy editors is to read the proof outloud right to left (or opposite direction of the text…i.e. left to right for Arabic) and bottom to top line by line, so you don't accidentally gloss over any mistakes. My own personal Rule-of-Three for my clients: Have three people who are not close to the wedding planning process read it three times (the copy-editor way as mentioned above) and it’s almost a guarantee for no mistakes.
10. Don't Forget “Day-of” Stationery
Ordering “day-of” stationery, such as menus, seating cards, table numbers, programs and thank-you cards, with your invitations will not only create a cohesive look for your wedding vision, but will also save you money. That way, your stationer can include all of the pieces in one order and give you better prices. Also, don't forget those little items like favor tags and water bottle labels for a really pulled-together look.
11. Put a Stamp on It
Don’t just stick a stamp on your invitations and drop them in the mail box. Go to the post-office and have them weighed to put the correct amount of postage on them. If you want guests to mail back their reply cards, include stamped (and addressed) envelopes. That way guests don't have to pay for the postage. Traditionally, the return envelopes should be addressed to whoever is hosting the wedding; however, if you are an exapt couple with guests in a few different countries, it is okay to put a return address of a local family member who is willing to collect to your RSVPs. It may also easier, and less expensive, if you send the invitations in bulk to that same family member, if they would be willing to send the invitations out individually from a more local address.
12. Say Thank You
If someone gives you something, say thank you in a way that they know it was appreciated…in writing! Track RSVPs as they come in using a spreadsheet. Include a column where you can note what each guest gives you as gift. As wedding gifts start rolling in, begin writing your thank-you notes so you don't fall behind. For any presents received quite in advance of the wedding, you should send a thank-you note within 2-4 weeks. For those given on or just after the wedding day, send a thank you note not later than three months. They know you are busy on your honey-moon and setting up your home the first few weeks, but don’t wait too long. People are not obligated to come to your wedding or give you a gift. They do it because they care, so be considerate of them.