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How to Order Wedding Stationery – by Guest Contributor Ashleigh of CharmCat

Happy Monday! From time to time the EP blog features guest posts that we think you’ll enjoy. We only feature companies and products we love and think you will, too, and I’ll always let you know if I receive compensation for a post. This is not one of those occasions. Today I’m happy to present Ashleigh – an amazing custom stationery designer – just because she’s awesome. 🙂 Ok, also because she likes cats and she’s good people. 

lilac-details-hires CharmCat

roses-menu CharmCat  wood-floral-2 CharmCat

Hi! I’m Ashleigh, a stationery designer based in Connecticut. My painted wedding invitation business is CharmCat. I love working together with couples to find their ideal stationery to fit their ideal budget! You can choose from my original, customizable stock designs as well as work with me to create your custom design. I also love cats, knitting, and sci-fi.

Planning a wedding can be overwhelming. Between the excitement and the stress, it’s easy to lose track of all those little to-dos, and I find my clients are often behind schedule ordering their invitations. When you’re busy meeting with DJs, florists, or trying on dresses, it’s hard to remember that you need to start the invitation process early, too! So here’s a handy checklist to make sure you keep your invitations and other stationery on track.

There are three general routes you can take when shopping for your invitations: DIY, stock designs, and custom design. You’ll pick the one that best fits with your budget, time (DIY is time consuming!), and how important your invites are to you. Each route is different, and each company is different, but here’s how the timeline works best for my clients:

How to order a stock design

Eight to Ten Months Out:

  • Finalize your date and location. This is the basic information for your save-the-date. Save-the-dates aren’t mandatory, but if you’re having a weekday, holiday, or destination wedding, your guests will appreciate the heads-up.
  • Browse save-the-date options. They don’t have to match your invitations, and many people choose more informal save-the-dates.
  • Order your save-the-dates.

Six Months Out:

  • Start your invitation research. Browse websites and blogs. Collect ideas on Pinterest. Make your stationery budget (also include the cost of stamps, day-of stationery, and thank-you cards). Order samples or sample kits from companies you’re seriously considering.
  • Mail your save-the-dates.

Four Months Out:

  • Pick your invitation design and place an order so you can start the process.
  • Pick your customizations: which colors do you want? which fonts? which papers? This is where a sample kit comes in handy! If you want to tweak the design in some way, ask. Working with a small designer is the better choice over a large invitation mill if you want more options to customize. 
  • Once your order is processed, you’ll enter the proofing stage. Proofing can take a day or several days depending on your schedule. Remember that your response time to the designer (that’s me!) will affect turnaround time.

Three Months Out:

  • Approve your final invitations for printing. Be sure you’ve proofed the spelling, dates, times, etc., more than once, and that you’ve had at least two other people check it, too. Reprints are expensive!

Ten Weeks Out:

  • Your invitations should arrive in the mail. You should get tracking information to see the progress of your shipment.
  • Time to stuff them, stamp them, and address them (if you didn’t order addressing service). Assemble one invitation set first and ask the post office to weigh it so you know how much postage each one needs. My recommendation? Pick something on Netflix to watch and make it a date (just keep the food away from the invites!)

Six to Eight Weeks Out:

  • Time to mail those invites! Drop them off at the post office; don’t just put them in your mailbox. If you want the envelopes to stay cleaner, ask that they be hand-canceled.

Five Weeks Out:

  • Start your day-of stationery. Decide which (if any) you want: programs, menus, escort/place cards, signs, thank-you cards.
  • Decide if you want them to match your invitations. It’s nice to have continuity, but you may want to explore other options.
  • Even if you don’t have all the wording set, send your designer a draft so you can start to see how they will look.

Three Weeks Out:

  • This is your RSVP deadline; start collecting any missing RSVPs! You’ll not only need the final guest count for other vendors, but this will tell you exactly how many day-of items you need. You can also make sure you’ve got everyone’s escort cards ready, if you’re using them.
  • Finalize the design for your day-of stationery. Send the final wording to your designer and have everything proofread by at least two others. Confirm things like the menu with your caterer.

One Week Out:

  • Your day-of stationery should arrive! Follow the shipment with your tracking. This is where using FedEx and UPS comes in handy: their shipments are 100% guaranteed. I always use them, but if you’re using another service, be sure to request courier shipping.

How to order a custom design

The timeline for custom design is pretty similar to ordering a customized stock design, but you’ll want to get started much earlier.

Eight to Ten Months Out:

  • Finalize your date and location. This is the basic information for your save-the-date. Save-the-dates aren’t mandatory, but if you’re having a weekday, holiday, or destination wedding, your guests will appreciate the heads-up.
  • Browse save-the-date options. They don’t have to match your invitations, and many people choose more informal save-the-dates.
  • Order your save-the-dates.
  • Start your research phase two-to-three months sooner. Make a list of what you want in a custom designer. I specialize in painted designs. If you want your invitations in hand-calligraphy, you’ll want to find an artist that specializes in calligraphy. 
  • Reach out to designers you’re considering to ask questions.

Six Months Out:

  • Mail your save-the-dates.
  • Pick your designer and make a deposit so you can start the process. There’s a lot of back-and-forth with custom designs, so you’ll want to give plenty of time.
  • Your designer will likely want to have an in-person or video meeting to work out your vision.
  • Your designer will then start working on sketches to fit the ideas explored in your chat.

Five Months Out:

  • Review sketches and pick one. Your designer will make a fleshed-out design from this with color, font, and fine detail.

Four Months Out:

  • Finalize your custom design and start working with the designer on any final details or changes.

Three Months Out:

  • Approve your final invitations for printing. Be sure you’ve proofed the spelling, dates, times, etc, more than once, and that you’ve had at least two other people check it, too. Reprints are expensive!
  • Just like with the invitations, you need to start your day-of stationery two months sooner than if you were using a stock design. Get together with your designer again and talk about your vision for the day-of.

Ten Weeks Out:

  • Your invitations should arrive in the mail. You should get tracking information to see the progress of your shipment.
  • Time to stuff them, stamp them, and address them (if you didn’t order addressing service). Assemble one invitation set first and ask the post office to weigh it so you know how much postage each one needs. My recommendation? Pick something on Netflix to watch and make it a date (just keep the food away from the invites!)

Six to Eight Weeks Out:

  • Time to mail those invites! Drop them off at the post office; don’t just put them in your mailbox. If you want the envelopes to stay cleaner, ask that they be hand-canceled.

Five Weeks Out:

  • Start your day-of stationery. Decide which (if any) you want: programs, menus, escort/place cards, signs, thank-you cards.
  • Decide if you want them to match your invitations. It’s nice to have continuity, but you may want to explore other options.
  • Even if you don’t have all the wording set, send your designer a draft so you can start to see how they will look.

Three Weeks Out:

  • This is your RSVP deadline; start collecting any missing RSVPs! You’ll not only need the final guest count for other vendors, but this will tell you exactly how many day-of items you need. You can also make sure you’ve got everyone’s escort cards ready, if you’re using them.
  • Finalize the design for your day-of stationery. Send the final wording to your designer and have everything proofread by at least two others. Confirm things like the menu with your caterer.

One Week Out:

  • Your day-of stationery should arrive! Follow the shipment with your tracking. This is where using FedEx and UPS comes in handy: their shipments are 100% guaranteed. I always use them, but if you’re using another service, be sure to request courier shipping.

Timeline-Related FAQs!

How long does printing usually take?

It depends on what type of printing you’re ordering. Flat printing usually takes 1-3 business days. Premium printing methods, like letterpress, can take longer because of the steps involved. Be sure to ask as part of your research.

When should I make my RSVP by date?

Ask any vendor who needs a headcount exactly when they need it. These are your caterers, day-of stationers, rental companies, etc… Then, add one week so you have time to track down those missing RSVPs before you have to turn in the final number.

How many invitations should I order?

Remember when you’re counting how many invitations, you won’t be counting every guest you’re inviting. You want to count every family unit. Married or cohabitating couples get one invite between the two of them. Same goes for families where their young kids are invited. However, if you’re inviting an adult child and the parents he or she lives with, they get two invitations, even though they’re at the same address. It’s a nice way of acknowledging them as an adult instead of a child.

How many extra invitations should I order?

A general rule of thumb is to order 5 extra invitations for every 50 invitations you’re sending out, just in case of coffee rings, tears, last-minute invitees, or other surprises. For a typical 150-person wedding, that would mean 15 extra invitations, for a total of 165 invitations.

Still have questions about your wedding stationery? Let us know in the comments below! 


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Lisa Paladin

I’m Lisa, the head dreamer & schemer of Event Plan-It. Let’s get coffee and chat about your ideas for an EPIC event!

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