Protect Your Investment! How to make sure your invitations survive the mail and arrive looking beautiful

stamped addressed wedding invitation

You’ve spent hours flipping through magazines, poring over albums, surfing the web, and repinning pinny pins on pinterest to find your perfect wedding invitations. You’ve approved proofs, signed contracts, paid invoices, and waited for the mail carrier to knock on your door. You’ve invested time and money to ensure your invites are uniquely you and perfectly capture the spirit of your wedding.

And now they’re here! A beautiful box of invitations that practically sings when you open it is sitting on your dining room table, just waiting to be stuffed, stamped, addressed, and sent. You know that the invitations are your one chance of making impression and get guests pumped to attend your big day–and you’re prepared to make it a great one!

Now would be a really bad time to eff it all up. (No pressure or anything.)

So how do you protect your investment? How do you ensure your guests receive your invite in pristine condition so that you can make the impression you want to make? Here are a few tips to get those beauties from your hands into the hands of your guests looking as fab as the day they were printed.

1. Store them somewhere safe and dry. This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Moisture is the enemy of paper. If you’re not going to address and send your invitations the day they arrive, put them somewhere safe. Do not keep them in the truck of your car for a month. Do not leave them spread out on the kitchen counter where your fiancé will spill coffee on them. Do not store them in a curious toddler’s room. Do not bathe with them or take them for a walk in the rain. Instead, keep them in the box and tuck them in a closet (not the closet where you keep your bowling balls and ice skates. And not high up on a shelf that you can’t reach.) If you’re a super planner and you bought your invites really early, keep everything closed up tight so it doesn’t get dusty.

2. Address them accurately and legibly. In the olden days, invitations were always addressed by professional calligraphers. And while I still love this tradition (and can recommend some phenomenal calligraphers for you), it is completely acceptable to address your own invitations (or even print addresses right on the envelopes!) I totally love the look of super creatively addressed envelopes. Big swooshy letters in gold ink on navy envelopes? Yes please! The post office, however, doesn’t love it so much. Make sure that even if you get artsy, your guest’s address is legible. If you have the handwriting of a third grader, consider hiring a calligrapher, printing the addresses, or bribing your maid of honor with wine to address them for you. (But make sure she waits to start drinking it after she’s done addressing.) The easier it is to read, the faster it will go through the mail system.

Please also triple check those addresses! Especially zip codes! And please please please put your return address on there. Of course you’re going to do everything right so that no mail gets returned, but if for some reason there is a problem with an invite–you want it to come back to you so that you can resend it (and not risk someone thinking they weren’t invited!) Otherwise it goes into a vast sea of undeliverable mail. I imagine this is also where all the socks go.

3. Affix proper postage. Your invitation is your wedding’s handshake. Its show-stopping outfit. Its winning smile. What kind of first impression are you making about your wedding when your invitation arrives (gasp!) postage due? If this has happened to you–I’m not judging! It happens! But let’s spend an extra few minutes and an extra few cents to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If your invitation (with accompanying parts) weighs more that 1 ounce, it needs extra postage. If it is square, it needs extra postage. If you’re sending a fancy envelope with a tie string and a button, it needs extra postage. If it is going across the world (or even just to Canada) it needs a bunch of extra postage. So how do you figure out how many stamps you need if you aren’t a mail ninja with your very own postal scale? Take them in to the post office. If you follow the tips 4 and 5,  you’re going to have to go anyway, so while you’re there, make sure they weigh your invites and confirm that your postage is correct!

It is also customary (aka totally mandatory) to pre-stamp the response envelope for your guests. If you want anyone to actually mail their response card back, make sure you put a stamp on there so they can do so! And unless your response card is made out of rocks (and hey! maybe it is, that would be creatively awesome), a regular stamp should be fine. You can even save a little bit by skipping the envelopes and going with response post cards.

4. Take them in to the post office. (See, told you.) I know, I know, I hate going in to the post office more than anyone. I have a toddler and the packages I send are heavy and awkward. Bad combo. And they don’t even have slightly uncomfortable seats and a take a number system like the DMV! You have to actually stand in line. So while I rarely recommend putting yourself through this type of ancient torture, this is the one time I’m going to insist. I know how tempting those big blue boxes on the corner are. I use them all the time to drop off packages! And that’s exactly why I don’t want you to put your invitations in them–people drop packages in there! Once you drop something down into that mysterious blue box, you have no idea what’s going to happen to it. People will drop their large, heavy, pointy package right on top of your invites. The mail carrier will toss everything in a large bin as s/he’s emptying it and things get stuck and bent and manhandled. What if someone mistakes it for a trash bin and throws their coffee in there? (Ok I’ve never seen that happen, but what if?) So do yourself a favor and walk those babies in to the post office and hand them to a human being. If you live in a big city and the post office is always torturous, you may be able to find a small, privately-owned post office near you! Those are great and tend to be way less crowded.

5. Consider asking for hand canceling. The machines that process mail are a little harsh. They roll and squeeze and squish and sometimes mail gets damaged. Hand canceling just means a human being stamps each invite instead of running it through the machine to get those wavy lines printed on it. So not only will you save your invites from being poked and prodded, but they’ll also look prettier with the hand-cancelled stamp. Hand canceling is especially important if there’s anything unusual about your invite that might gum up the machines. Strings tied around things, rhinestones, wax seals, anything that you wouldn’t typically see in the mail. If you’re using a dark envelope or have a dark invitation, hand canceling will help keep the color from rubbing off on other pieces. Even if your invite is pretty straightforward, I still love the look of hand canceling and everything arrives nicer.

How do you do it? You just ask. You walk up to the counter at the post office and say, “Can you please hand cancel these?” They should not charge extra for this service! If they want to charge extra, just politely say, “Oh no thank you, I’ll go somewhere else.” And take them to another post office. I suggest going during a quiet time (middle of the week, middle of the day) or to a small, quiet post office to increase your chances of this request being accepted with a smile. (I should note that your invites may still go through sorting machines on their way to their destination, but they aren’t quite as harsh as the canceling machines. If you’re concerned, speak with the post office to see if you can pay a little extra to have them entirely hand processed.)

Want to go the extra mile? Here are a few other things you can do to ensure your invitations arrive perfectly perfect!

  1. Allow plenty of time for the process. Addressing, stuffing, sealing, going to the post office–it all takes longer than you think it will. Order your invitations so that they arrive with plenty of time to complete these steps without rushing.
  2. Address the envelopes without the invitations in them. You’ll avoid getting indentations on the invite itself.
  3. Get an envelope moistener. Save your tongue from all that licking! Envelope moisteners are less than $2 and easy to use. (You can also use a small damp sponge.)
  4. Order extra invitations. If something does happen to an invite or two–either while in your care or during the mailing process, make sure you have some replacements on hand.
  5. If you have time, mail yourself an invitation to see how it arrives after going through the mail system. You’ll see if there are any potential trouble spots and can adjust accordingly!

And if this all seems a little overwhelming–don’t worry! Your guests love you and are excited for you no matter what. So kick back and have a glass of wine–just make sure you’re not anywhere near your invites when you drink it!

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