Monday, November 12, 2007

I only send you my invitation

festive, no?Our wedding invitations are out in the world at last! I took them to the post office early Thursday morning, and by Friday they were arriving in mailboxes (or so I am told). I was in Scranton this weekend for my bridal shower -- and my new niece's baptism -- so I was actually on the scene when my parents' invitation showed up. Gee, I hope they can make it. It would mean a lot to me.

I spent a lot of time putting our invitations together, from font-downloading to rubber-stamping (the fiance was responsible for ribbon-cutting). Time I might have spent blogging. Or doing interesting things I could later blog about. But my free time is spoken for these days. And since all my favorite Weddingbee posts are about stationery, I thought I could at least tell you all a little bit about my own low-tech process. The craftily inclined should read on, and the rest of you can go check out the latest LOLcats.

So, first of all, the text itself. As I mentioned previously, I did all the design and layout work in Microsoft Word. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably invest in some actual design software, because in the time I spent trying to get Word to do my bidding I could certainly have learned to use something new and ultimately more efficient. Once we settled on our wording -- and I swallowed my copyeditor's aversion to beginning a sentence with the awkward phrase "Together with their families" -- I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying out different font combinations. And justifying, centering, bolding, playing with character spacing... It was a blast. I had to use the fiance's Mac to convert the final designs to .pdf's, and the longstanding mutual animosity between me and Apple computers was only amplified by this back-and-forth process (but why are the margins different now? Why?!). But I emerged victorious.

When everything was ready at last, I took my printouts and my .pdf's to my favorite local print shop, Village Copier on Broadway at 112th Street. It's not the closest or most convenient option, but I'm very loyal, because they're always pleasant and helpful, and until I found Village Copier I thought poor service in copy shops was a given. There were a few such shops on my college campus, and every time I conducted any business at any of them -- making photocopies, ordering a course packet -- the staff treated me (and everyone else) with a combination of impatience and outright disdain, as though there were a "NO STUDENTS" sign on the door and I had chosen to defy it. Some options were less awful than others, but it was simply expected that the transaction would be grudging on their part, in spite of the fact that they depended utterly on our business. I thought it must be this way everywhere, but every time I've been to Village Copier I've had a positive experience. I mean, they're not serving me tea and polishing my shoes while I wait; it's just basic, decent service. But I appreciate it deeply. And they did a fine job printing my invitations on parchment cardstock, and cutting them, too. And I had them back the morning after I dropped off the design! Here's a peek at what I came up with: the honor of your presenceIt's not so blurry in real life.

Meanwhile, I did some shopping for the other necessary supplies: A trip to Michaels yielded, among other things, a rubber stamp of a Celtic cross (to set that Irish Catholic tone) and green and gold ink pads, which created the effect seen above. I purchased "pocket folders" from the cheapest source I could find, Cards & Pockets. Their website leaves much to be desired, but I guess that's how they keep their overhead low -- and I had a better customer-service experience than you'd expect, given their shoddy web presence. The envelopes (outer and response) came from Paper Source, a website that seems much more professional until you actually try to use it. I initially tried their letterpress design tools, and gave up in frustration; while I was trying to decide which envelopes to buy, the site suddenly emptied my shopping cart, leaving me to start from scratch. So Paper Source gets many demerits for their pretty but infuriating website; still, I like their envelopes, and I'll probably shop there again. Finally, I bought a mess of ribbon from Kate's Paperie, taking advantage of a sale that left me feeling brainy indeed. The fully assembled set, with all these items, looks like this: open me!Ordering everything in pieces left me with one more puzzle -- how to get our return address on both sets of envelopes? My solution was to order an address stamp from Vista Print. I uploaded my own .pdf, using the same font I'd used for the invitations, because I decided I just couldn't live with the fonts they had available. (Invitation recipients: Please take note of my efforts.) And it worked out great. And we can keep using the stamp until we move, so I figured it was a solid investment. Here's a glimpse at how it looked, although of course in real life you can read the address:Then I just had to put all the pieces together. I won't bore you with adhesive recommendations, but drop me a line if you really want to know what worked for me! I laid out the inserts for the truly curious:please respond The hardest part of all was the envelope-addressing. I always thought the "inner envelope" -- the practice of placing your invitation in an unsealed envelope, writing the guests' names on it, and then placing that in a slightly larger outer envelope on which you write the guests' names (following different rules of etiquette) and address -- was a pointless and wasteful formality. But now I see its usefulness. When you have an inner envelope, you can use it to write the names of the invited individuals, so there's no confusion about to whom the invitation is extended. So people don't invite random extras -- I know, who does that? But apparently it happens. And our guest list is on the huge side already, so we're trying to take precautions. Anyway, having an inner envelope also makes the wording on the outside much less awkward; I declined to use the "Mr. & Mrs. Man's Name" construction on principle, but that made some of our combinations a tad unwieldy. On top of that, you have the standard scrambling to update your address list, and some confusion about people's full names (there were a few cases where I knew the full name but went with the nickname anyway; we're inviting friends and family to a party, after all, not presenting strangers with the Congressional Medal of Honor). So I was very glad to finally cart the whole mess to the post office.we have big familiesIf you poke around on wedding-related message boards and discussion forums -- and I hope you don't, at least not until you need to -- you are likely to hear a lot of talk about the mailing of invitations, and specifically about "hand-canceling." You see, if you just hand over your finished invitations to the postal clerk, he or she will run them through the stamp-canceling and sorting machines, and the machines can leave ugly marks and smudges on your envelopes, thereby RUINING YOUR WEDDING. So fussy brides know they should request to have their invitations "hand-canceled," which means someone (possibly you) cancels each stamp by hand in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. The only problem with this plan is that it requires a visit to, and the cooperation of the employees of, the post office. And -- hard as this is to accept -- the integrity of your wedding design concept is not as important to the average postal worker as it is to you. So the internet is littered with the pained cries of brides-to-be who tripped off to their local post office, a-tingle with bridal excitement, ready to present their lovingly prepared invitations to the people who would guide them to their neatly calligraphed destinations, and encountered the very same joyless atmosphere and surly customer service they should have recalled from every other visit they'd ever paid to the post office.

I vowed I would not be one of these brides. Our invitations had no wax seals, tassels or irregular bulges; the envelopes were not square; I didn't pay for calligraphy. And you've already heard my feelings on the stamps. I separated out the handful of international invitations, and calculated the postage beforehand. I didn't want to have them hand-canceled or otherwise coddled; I didn't want anyone to congratulate me or smile at me or even make eye contact. I just wanted to drop them off. And I did, with no trouble. I didn't even have to wait in line, since they were already stamped. (As I said above, I saw the invitations that arrived at my parents' house on Saturday, and I think they're much improved by the big mechanical cancellation across Margaret Chase Smith's noble face.) So now I'm hoping the postal gods will reward us by speeding our response cards back to us.

After all that was finally finished, I couldn't wait for my shower -- an event I could enjoy and not have to plan! It was a blast. Now I have lots of thank-yous to write, so if you'll excuse me...


John said...

Pretty. I really like the idea of bride-designed invitations.

Anonymous said...

I received my invitation yesterday, and I actually pulled out the wedding invitation as I read your blog today so I could follow along. They look fantastic! I also like that you took the time/effort to make them exactly what you wanted - it makes them seem more meaningful, somehow. I'll do my best to get the response back to you in a timely fashion, though that does mean that I'll need to track down some stamps...

Mollie said...

Thanks everybody! I definitely think, if you're going to put a lot of time and effort into some aspect of your wedding, the invitations/stationery is as good a thing as any to obsess over.

Steph - did I not stamp your response envelope? That would make me a bad bride indeed!