Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You would think I would know how to run a mailing.

I have held at least 5 nonprofit/campaign jobs.  I can stuff envelopes like it's my job, because it was.  But when it came to organizing out invites for invite stuffing, I ran into one very critical mistake which I want to discourage you from making:
Make sure you have everything ready to go before people get there. 

The real problem here was that we waited too long to order the invites.  We were cutting it close, and our designer had a family emergency, so we were running even more behind.  (They were FANTASTIC to work with, by the way.  I cannot say enough wonderful things about Printable Press.)  We got stuck on the wording and just dragged our feet.  That is the Big Mistake that we made.  Everything else snowballed.

On Thursday, we got our first round of proofs from Printable Press.  We managed to turn them around and get the edits back to the designer by Friday so we could have proofs, because I needed to get them to Staples ASAP to print them.  (We were planning to use the copy shop from my school, but they close early on Fridays and aren't open Saturdays.)

[A quick note about Printable Press - they were WONDERFUL to work with, and I am positive they would have had the final proof to us sooner except that the designer had a family emergency so they had an interim designer - but PP bent over backwards to make sure we had the design ASAP and was really really wonderful.  I will write more about them when I unveil our invites, but I did want to say that for now.]

Friday, I hop in my car with the files for the proof and our response cards and rehearsal dinner invites and 100 sheets of fancy paper (100% recycled linen paper from www.paperandmore.com) and drive the six blocks to our local Staples.  Which closed sometime in the last three weeks!  So I drove to the Staples I used to use in Columbia.  Was there somewhere closer? Yes, but I figured I could get it taken care of while I bought glue at Michaels.

The woman at Staples was confused by my order and reluctant to take instructions on how to cut the invites ("follow the lines" was too difficult).  She printed me a sample, which looked great, so I asked her when they would be done.  She said the earliest they could do was Saturday by 1pm.  Since we had a bridesmaids dress appointment at 1, I figured Mark could zip down and get them.  I assumed they had some kind of professional cutting capability and would just cut the invites while he was there.

HUGE mistake.  This is where everything went to hell.

Saturday, Mark gets to Staples at 1pm.  Sometime around 2, he lets me know that they can only cut 10-15 pieces of paper at once, and he has been there for awhile.  We wound up not having them cut the cardstock backing, figuring we could do it ourselves while people assembled other parts of the invites.  There was also serious traffic in and out of the city, so it took poor Mark over 2 hours to take care of it.

Once we picked bridesmaids dresses, the bridesmaids, our photographer, and the moms came back to the apartment.  Everyone was antsy to get started on stuff, and my mom was trying to be helpful by asking me what she could do.  When I said we couldn't start until the invites got there, she suggested we start other projects.  I was reluctant to start other projects first, because the invites had to get done and the other projects wouldn't easily move out of the way. So I acted like a four year old and yelled at my mommy.  Do NOT do this.  It is cruel and makes you look like a terrible child!

When Mark showed up with the invites, I almost cried.  The person in charge of cutting at Staples was clearly a kindergarten failure who did not understand the concept of "cut along the line".  He had cut entire sets poorly - chopping off the top of the trees, or not centering the invite properly.  The worst were the ones he had cut too wide for the envelopes!  I stood there, staring at them, lip quivering.

Because we still had to cut the cardstock backing, as well as the rehearsal dinner invites and the RSVP cards, we got to work and there was no time to wallow in what the moron at Staples had done to my beautiful invitations!  The biggest assembly problem was that nobody could cut things as fast as anybody could glue, etc.  For awhile we puttered along, with me cutting the cardstock backing to a size I thought looked "pretty good".  After I had done like, thirty or so, Mark reminded me that the cardstock had to fit in the envelopes, so then Mark's mom checked the backings and handed me ones to trim, letting me know where to trim.  Through this all, my mother very patiently cut blue cardstock, response cards, and rehearsal dinner invitations.*  The rest of the bridesmaids stamped, glued, and assured me that since nobody was getting two invitations, they would not compare and realize that they Did Not Look The Same.**

I will say a few things, which is that I am actually the least persnickety of all of the members of my bridal party - my girls are all very precise people who make everything look good.  So that they were reassuring me that it looked fine to have things slightly crooked was very sweet of them and made me feel better.  Mostly, by the end I was just so frustrated that it didn't go like clockwork.  I think I put a lot of pressure on myself for Craft Day to go perfectly because I have a reputation for being crafty.***  I am also crazy insecure around Mark's family, for no good reason - and I always want his parents to know that I'm not totally incompetent.

In the end, the invites do look great, even the poorly cut ones, and the really bad ones are going to my friends Tom and Paul and other friends who are not into details.

Oh, the other thing I learned is that I am not doing a single craft project the wedding weekend.  Life is too short for that kind of stress, and I'm just not doing it.  So....yeah.  If it's not done by October 4th, it's just not happening.  Fortunately, now that the invites are done, all the important stuff is finished and nothing else matters nearly as much.

Did you learn any important lessons you would like to share during your invite assembly? Or were you smart enough to pay somebody else to do it for you?

*Despite the fact that her youngest daughter is a heinous b*tch.  At least my sister is nice.  
**This wasn't really my concern - I was pissed because the tops of the trees got cut off!!!!! 
***This reputation is ill deserved - I like craft projects, but they always look like craft projects.  My reputation for making excellent macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, is totally earned. Which is what I eventually did while everybody else made our invitations.


  1. wow! how frustrating! i am sorry staples messed up so royally. i have no talent...err patience... for crafty projects so we got our invites from Smock Paper. I ordered them in April... arrived early may. just waiting to address now.

  2. Buy more glue sticks than you think you need! Oh, and Glue Lines = a worthy, worthy investment for layered invitations.

  3. Lessons learned? Yes. The first wasn't just about the assembly, but throughout the process in general, and that is that everything takes longer than planned for/expected. It is a good - read: SMART - idea to get as much done as possible earlier than you'd think would be necessary. In terms of assembling, I agree that you should have everything ready to go before you start assembling. Otherwise, you'll have the pile of "good ones" and then the pile of "oh, we don't have their addresses" or the pile of "we're missing inserts for those" or the pile of whatevers. And have a big fat drink ready for after you've sent them all out. It will be well deserved.

  4. That's so annoying, and why we're buying pre-cute paper to print our invites. On the other hand, so nice for your friends and family to help put your invites together! I can't wait to see how they came out. We considered getting invites from Printable Press but decided to design them ourselves instead.

    I also don't want to do any craft projects wedding weekend. Too much unnecessary stress!

  5. Oh, that sounds so frustrating and stressful with Staples! So sorry you had to deal with that but so happy that your family and friends all came through and made you invitations look great anyhow. And, good lessons for the rest of us. Thanks.