Wedding Invitations & Stationary

~ DEFINE YOUR WEDDING STYLE. Along with listing the location and time of day, the invitation—and, more specifically, its style—hints to the formality of your wedding. You should have an idea of the type of event you're throwing—classic and elegant, casual and relaxed, or glam and modern—before you start shopping for stationery, so you can choose an invitation style that hits the same note. Browse websites and others couples' wedding invitations to gather inspiration so you can give your stationer an idea of what you like.

~ KNOW YOUR COLORS. Think about your wedding colors too. You may want to incorporate your hues and a motif (if you have one) into your wedding invitations—and then carry those colors throughout the rest of your stationery like the escort cards, menus and ceremony programs, for a cohesive look. While ivory, cream or white card stock paired with a black or gold font is the classic choice for formal wedding invitations, you can also brighten your invites with colorful or metallic fonts, paper stock, envelopes and liners.

~ MAKE SURE THEY ARE LEGIBLE. As you consider colors and patterns, 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. In general, avoid light ink on light backgrounds and dark ink on dark backgrounds. Yellow and pastels are tough colors to read, so if you're going with those, make sure the background contrasts enough for the words to pop, or work those colors into the design rather than the text. Also, be wary of hard-to-read fonts like an overly scripted typeface—you don't want to sacrifice readability for pretty letters.

~ CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY. Traditionally, whoever is hosting is listed first on the invitation. Customarily, you should spell everything out and omit using numbers, including the time of the ceremony. On classic wedding invitations, there's always a request line after the host's name—something like "so and so request the honor of your presence." The wording can change as the hosting situation does, so make sure to double-check you've added everyone who should be included.

~ DON'T CROWD THE CARD. List only the key points on your invitation: ceremony time and location, the hosts, you and your fiancé's names, the dress code (optional) and RSVP information. Trying to squeeze too much onto the invitation card can make it harder to read and it won't look as elegant. Leave things like directions to your wedding venue and details about post-wedding activities for your wedding website and/or print them on separate enclosure cards.

~ START EARLY. Your save-the-dates should go out 8 to 10 months before the wedding. It can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks—or longer, depending how fancy you go—to print them. 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 scouting stationers 9 to 11 months before the wedding. Aim to order your invitations about four to five months out so they're ready to mail 8 to 10 weeks before the wedding. If you're having a destination wedding or marrying over the holidays, send out your invites even earlier e.g. 12 weeks before the wedding.

~ RSVP PLEASE. Include your RSVP information on the bottom right corner of your invitation or in a separate enclosure, and make the deadline no more than three or four weeks after guests receive the invitations. Check with your caterer first to find out when they'll need the final head count. Also, keep in mind that your final count may affect the number of centerpieces and other décor elements, which your vendors will need to finalize a few weeks before the wedding. Remember: The more time you give guests to reply, the more likely they are to forget.

~ CONSIDER COSTS. The price per invite can vary widely. It all depends on the design, ink, typeface, printing process, paper and quantity. Top-of-the-line papers, color ink, formal printing techniques (like letterpress and engraving) and custom design will add to your costs, as will decorative extras like envelope liners and multiple enclosures. That's why it's important to research your options ahead of time, so you can pick your priorities e.g. sophisticated printing and a custom design or multiple enclosures. Also, if you're planning to hire a calligrapher, look into the cost (think: $2 to $8 per envelope) at the same time you're choosing your invitations, so you can account for it in your stationery budget.

~ TRIPLE-CHECK THE PROOF. Before your invitation order is printed, your stationer will send you a proof i.e. either a hard copy or an email attachment of the invite mock-up. Don't just have your partner and mom read it over. Ask your English major friend or a grammar-savvy bridesmaid to check the proof before you okay it. You'd be surprised at the things you may miss i.e. pay special attention to details like date, time and spelling. Borrow a tip from copy editors and read the proof word for word from right to left so you don't accidentally gloss over any mistakes.

~ COUNT YOUR HOUSEHOLDS. You don't need an invitation for every guest. Take a look at your guest list and figure out how many houses need invitations before you give your stationer a number. Cohabiting couples get one invitation; for couples living apart, you can either send one invite to the guest you're closer with (and include both names on the inner and outer envelopes), or you can send out separate invitations. Families get one invitation e.g addressed to "The Smith Family".

~ ORDER EXTRA. It's expensive to go back and print more invitations after the fact. Order enough invitations for your guest list , plus 25 extra in case you need to resend an invitation or two. You will want to keep at least a couple extras as a keepsakes (your moms will want at least a few).

~ DON'T FORGET THE REST OF YOUR SUITE. Order your menus, programs and thank-you notes with your invitations. That way, your stationer can include all of the pieces in one order, which may save you money and time. It's also a good way to ensure all your stationery has a cohesive look, even if you want to vary the design slightly for each element e.g. by switching the dominant color or alternating between two patterns. Also, don't forget those little items like favor tags and welcome bag notes.

~ REMEMBER YOUR THANK-YOUS. Track RSVPs as they come in using a guest list manager tool or spreadsheet. Include a column where you can note what each guest gives you. Then, as the wedding gifts start rolling in, begin writing your thank-you notes so you don't fall behind. For any presents received before the wedding, you should send a thank-you note within two weeks. For those given on or after the wedding day, give yourself a month.

~ DO A WEIGH-IN. Weighing a sample invitation (enclosures and all) at the post office first could save you many more to-dos later. You don't want to deal with the hassle of invitations being returned because of insufficient postage. While you're at the post office, ask about hand-canceling your invites. This involves a stamp that says your mail is processed (instead of running your invites through the processing machine like regular mail, which could bend or even ruin them). While hand-canceling is free, check with your local post office first to make sure that it has the hand stamp. Keep in mind that while most post offices try to keep hand-canceled mail separate from regular mail, there's no absolute guarantee your invitations won't go through the processing machines. To ensure they don't, you can pay a non-machinable fee to have them hand-processed—it will guarantee your mail will be sorted by hand.

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Your wedding invitation and stationery is your guests' first peek into your wedding day, so you want to make it shine.