This may seem like a self-destructive article seeing as I'm an invitation designer. But truth is, I would rather see couples use their budget wisely to get the best possible stationery rather than have them think it's out of their reach and automatically go for some seemingly cheaper sub-standard option. I see plenty of couples who value beautiful wedding stationery but have a limited budget and I always really want to help them make the most of it. If this sounds like you, read on!
Some stationery companies will charge a rush rate if you leave your ordering too late. Avoid the rush fee by placing your order no later than four months before the day.
Order everything at once
Some printing processes will be much more efficient when printing numerous simliar items together, especially if we're talking about custom ink colours or specially-ordered stock. Print your day-of stationery and thank you notes at the same time and you could save some dough. Moreover (wow, haven't cracked out that word since writing my last design history essay six years ago) if you're ordering online, you'll definitely save on shipping costs.
Increasing your order by a handful will cost you a few beans, but re-ordering the same handful will be a significant extra cost since the printing process is more cost-effective when producing larger quantities. So if you're umming and ahing about a few guests, err on the side of caution and order invitations for them anyway. Similarly, if you're having any items hand-calligraphed, order a few extra in case your calligrapher makes a spelling mistake. It's not a waste if you have a bunch leftover, ask around and you'll probably find a few guests who would appreciate an extra invitation for their scrapbook or as a keepsake (my father-in-law has added a spare of ours to the family history collection).
Stick to the standard
As much as I love creating unique invitations specifically for a couple, there is absolutely nothing wrong with off-the-shelf styles. Do your research and you might find something that suits you perfectly as is, which will save you having to pay for the design work. Your stationer also might be willing (I know I am!) to tweak an existing design for a small fee rather than starting from scratch, which would be much pricier.
Be selective with colours
If your invitations will be printed digitally, you can go nuts with as many colours as you like since it doesn't affect the price. With most other processes, however, each colour needs to be printed individually so additional colours will add cost. If you have your heart set on a two- or three-colour invitation, you can still trim the cost by printing the coordinating items in single colour or in digital.
Limit the guest personalisation
With printing methods that use plates (such as letterpress) it's not possible to add the guest's name to the invitation. It's an option with digital, however it will cost a bit more, so consider whether you really need it.
Plan and check carefully
Most designers won't let you make infinite changes without charge; in my case I supply two rounds of proofs and any further revisions will be billed. To avoid additional cost, think carefully about your needs and wording and check your proofs thoroughly (better yet, have a second pair of eyes proof-read).
Skip the extra envelopes
Postcards are an increasingly popular format for save the dates and RSVP cards as it eliminates the need for an envelope. From what I can tell, outer envelopes (a second, slighter larger envelope to keep the inner envelope pristine) seem to be commonplace in the US, however they do add unecessary cost in the form of an additional envelope and calligraphy or labelling. In Australia, this decision is made easy by the fact that no-one sells them!
Reduce the postage
Ask your invitation designer to keep the size and weight to within standard postage to avoid extra costs – or worse, a pile of returned invitations covered in 'insufficient postage' stamps. I have received invitations where the RSVP envelope came pre-stamped, which is a nice gesture, but if funds are tight let guests pay their own 60c.
Lose the liners
I love envelope liners but even I admit they are definitely a bonus not a requirement. Or you could have the best of both worlds and go the DIY route.
Limit the calligraphy
Anything done by hand will add significant cost, so consider having printed mailing labels instead of calligraphed addresses. If you still want to incorporate calligraphy but don't have the budget for the individual addressing, have your stationer work with a calligrapher to design the invitation wording, monogram or return address that can then be affordably reproduced with printing or rubber stamping.
Take advantage of printable extras
All the little extras to complement an invitation suite (think favour tags, mailing labels, place tags etc) can add up. Once I've designed the main suite, designing these is light work and the print quality is not as important so I like to give these away as free downloads for customers to print at home. When you're considering stationers, compare the price of all the items you need not just the invitations, to make sure you're making an accurate comparison.
Be open with your stationer about your budget so she can help you make the most of it. You may have to make the odd compromise here or there, but you don't have to cancel the honeymoon just to pay for top quality wedding stationery.
Image: Precious wedding invitation by Akimbo