The Price Of Beauty Has Nothing On The Cost Of Invitations: Invitation Basics Part 2

What Affects Cost

Invitations can be as cheap as 50¢ a piece up to the outrageous couple hundred dollars each.  I’m going to guess you’re not in the second group because, let’s face it, if you have that kind of money you’ve hired someone to actually do a lot of the planning and you aren’t doing it yourself based off of a blog you stumbled across.

The more work that is put into your invitations, the more they will cost.  Everything from the paper (card stock vs linens vs specialty paper like parchment) to the printing style (which I addressed previously here) to the color ink to the number of pieces can drive your cost up or down.  Typically having invitations custom-made will be the most expensive option due to the labor cost associated with someone actually designing your invitation by hand, while at home printing will be the cheapest, with ordering online falling in the middle.

The cost that most people often forget about is the postage cost for sending the invitations out.  Keep in mind that the heavier the invitation is (i.e. the more pieces it has) the more expensive it will be to send.  Also remember that you need to include postage on the RSVP envelope, though that will be a simple stamp unless you have a fancy RSVP card that weighs a ton.

Still Not Sure Where To Start?

There are several different routes for getting invitations, and which one you take depends on your creativity level, available time, and your budget.

  • DIY – Doing it yourself is applicable to a wide variety of situations.  It’s not always the cheapest option by the time you factor in material costs and your time dedication, but it can be inexpensive with proper planning.  This is a good option if you have a very specific idea in mind and can’t properly convey it to any of the other printing methods and have a bit of a flair for executing your creative designs.  Even along this route you have a few different paths you can take.
    • Design from scratch – This is the most time-consuming option, where you literally start with nothing but a bunch of blank pieces of paper/vellum/any material you can think of, and craft it into something you’re proud of…and then repeat some 100 times.  The cost of materials can add up quickly, so be sure you have a solid plan for what you want and calculate out the cost.  Not sure your idea will come to life the way you want it to?  Buy enough material to make 2 or 3 of your vision.  This gives you some space to test your idea, perfect your technique, and see roughly how long it will take to assemble.
    • Print your own on pre-designed materials – You can find boxed kits in just about any craft or card store that come with pre-designed but blank invitations.  They come with either software you can use or tell you how to set-up a template that you can use to run them through your own printer.  The boxes come with all the pieces you should need (usually, but you’ll want to check the box contents for sure!), and there are some really cute/sophisticated/elegant options.
  • Ordering – You can order invitations from a catalog, online, or even in stores that specialize in stationary.  Here you choose from pre-done designs, but layout, wording, paper, and printing type are all up to you.  Doing it in person in a store allows you to see what one really looks like and nets you a personalized experience, but ordering online usually allows for larger discounts.  If you use an online source, sign up for their email newsletter.  Most will send out a 20% off coupon for signing up (but it’s usually only good for a month or so, so do it right before you order, or sign up a second time with a different email account!).  Cost wise this usually ends up somewhere in the middle.  Be aware that websites will advertise invitations “as low as $x.xx per invitation!”, but that is deceptive.  Usually the more you order, the cheaper they get, and that price is for the largest bulk discount they offer.  If you’re on that edge of the next tier, it’s worth doing the math to see how much more it will cost you to get the extras.  When we looked at this option, most invitation sets only added around $3 to get an extra 10 invitations because of how many we needed.  Some of my favorite websites are:
  • Custom – There are businesses that deal exclusively in invitation design, and will work with you to develop a design concept.  They will create custom artwork, invitation shapes,  you name it; if you can think it, they can do it.  This is by far the most expensive options because you’re no longer just paying for materials and basic printing costs, but now you’re paying for someone’s time, and this kind of time doesn’t come cheap.  You can get fantastic results from this, so if you are looking for knockout invitations and have the cash for it, this is a fun and exciting way to go.

What Now?

After you’ve chosen your invitation look and decided what pieces you need for it, double-check the projected cost.  Calculate what the cost will be for the invitations based on the number you intend to send out plus a few extras as a precautionary measure (it’s cheaper to order too many now than to reorder only a couple later, trust me).  A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10% more than you think you’ll need (so for us, we’re sending out 65, so at a minimum we should have 7 extras).  At the very least get extra envelopes!  If you have (or can get) a sample, take it to the post office and weigh it to get an accurate estimate of the postage you’ll need.  When doing this math, do NOT do what I originally did and multiply the cost per invitation by the number of guests.  I had a mini panic attack when I looked at the original invitation cost until I realized that my aunt and uncle will in fact not need separate invitations, duh.  One invitation can go to a couple or family.  The exception is a family where a child is over 18 (AKA legally an adult) in which case they should get their own invitation (even if they live at the same address).

If all of this comes under your invitation budget, congratulations, you’re done!  If not, then its time to evaluate what’s causing your cost to go up and see what can be scaled back.  Remember to look at the printing style, ink color (metallics and light colors are more expensive than dark colors, and they’re all more expensive than black), paper type, and size.

How We Cheated

We found a design we loved on a website (I’d tell you what, but I’m not entirely sure what we did next was…kosher), but we weren’t in love with how much it was going to cost to do the invitation set.  At first we talked about ordering just the invitations from there, then finding solid card stock colors that complimented the design and printing the other components ourselves, but that really wasn’t what we wanted for a look.  This is when I learned something new about Tim: he is apparently a Photoshop wizard.  He hijacked the sample image from the site, cleaned it up, and resized it to fit all the different size pages for each of the invitation components.  It looks FANTASTIC.  We bought some nice heavy cardstock and are printing all of it ourselves.  Instead of the $350 or so that the site wanted (for invitations, RSVP cards,  and envelopes), we are sitting right now at a projected cost of about $80 (for invitations, RSVP cards, envelopes, AND Save the Dates).  I’d love to show you the original, but we’re still not sure if this technically counts as some sort of illegal activity or copyright infringement (although we doubt it), so we’re keeping the source on the down-low.  While I’m not exactly encouraging such potentially not so great behavior, I would say feel free to get creative in your sourcing 😉


Posted on February 13, 2012, in Budget, Guest List, Media, Priorities, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hahaha! I love what you guys did! We’re going the DIY route as well. I have a friend who is great at art/photoshop. So I designed a template with the shape, size, words, possible things to draw, etc that we want and then I’m going to let her go to town. I picked a size that easily fits into easily acquired envelopes and now I just have to get said envelopes and cardstock. Woot. 🙂

    • Ha, thanks! That’s cool you guys are designing your own thing. When we were feeling really ambitious we said that’s what we were going to do, but after an hour of staring at each other going “I dunno…what do you want to do?” we decided we weren’t creative enough for that 🙂

  2. sounds like a fun project! we did a combo of DIY (RSVPs etc) but the invites we got from wedding paper divas

    • I loved a lot of the Wedding Paper Divas stuff. There were several cases where I had stuff picked out and in the cart, but then I’d think too much about the cost and cancel the whole thing.

      Which design did you pick?

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