When I first got this invitation in the mail last April, I squealed with excitement. Finally! The invitations for our friend's wedding! And they were so cute - seal-and-send, low key but still fancy! So I asked our friend Stacy to write about the process and she obliged. So I present: Stacy and Mike and the Seal and Send Invite Saga of 2010.
When it came to invitations, my fiance' and I had decided on 3 requirements. They had to be (in the order of importance) relatively inexpensive, capture the essence/theme of our wedding and our relationship, and be simple and more eco-friendly. Since cost was our first priority, I spent a lot of time looking on websites like MagnetStreet and Rexcraft, mostly because they offered free samples and I had no idea where to begin. When I requested samples from Rexcraft though, they proceeded to take a few weeks to respond and then lose the order in the mail. Needless to say, I scratched them off of the "options" list. I toyed with the idea of DIY, especially since we had successfully designed our own fun Save-the-Date through Shutterfly, but was strongly encouraged not to by friends who had recently gone through the hassle of assembling layers and ribbons and manning a printer while it struggled with hundreds of sometimes poorly-printed cards... not to mention the cost factor. [Editor's note: DIY invites are a pain.]
When I received a free ticket to a Bridal Showcase, I decided to give a look around, if only to get ideas of what I did NOT want. Amid all of the pushy salespeople and overwhelming booths, I met Melanie Stewart of An Elegant Invite. She was refreshingly low-key and not pushy at all. I found respite from the craziness of the showcase at her booth and we chatted about how she runs her consultation services. Melanie explained that she has literally thousands of samples of invitations at her home, all in binders. Couples are invited to her in-home office for a free consultation to work with her for a few hours to find the perfect fit. Then, she corresponds with the printing factory to make sure you get what you want, when you want it. I left the showcase with her card, intending to browse a few options and compare costs on her website (though she cautioned me that invites do not "show well" online). Her invitations were cheaper than any I had seen thus far, and I loved the idea of sitting down with a real person to create our invitation. So, we set a time and met her at her home in Olney, MD.
Working with Melanie was great. She'd ask us questions about our preferences for invitations, and our answers would direct her to certain pages in certain binders so that we could flip through invitations that appealed to us (in appearance and price). We easily spent 3 hours without realizing it. By the end, we had selected a "seal-n-send" invitation that allowed us to insert our own photo. Using this style meant it was less expensive than more formal layered and textured options, still somewhat casual, low on paper use, and (most importantly) it allowed us to literally capture the image of our rather unique wedding location, which is so important to us and our relationship history.
We left Melanie's office thrilled with our choice. Even my fiance', who had insisted that he would just nod and smile through the process, enjoyed himself. :-) Unfortunately, that was where the pleasantries ended. Over the course of the next two months, we received two boxes of incorrect invitations. From leaving out the "r" in "Patrick" to using the wrong color ink, printing the return address upside-down, omitting the deckled edge, and mismatching the paper of the invites and response cards, we were worried that we wouldn't get invitations out with enough time for guests to RSVP. Ultimately, we had to settle with some minor modifications to our original order, and change the RSVP date to a later date. While the process was frustrating and a little scary, Melanie was wonderful through it all. She took time from her vacation to deal directly with the factory each time, and eventually refunded our ENTIRE deposit. That's right... we got our invitations for free (along with 300 more unusable ones... so much for saving paper!).
So, after opening the third package with bated breath, we rushed to stamp and seal all of the invitations and get them out the door. *Another huge plus to the seal-n-send is that they usually won't require extra postage.* We've had a lot of fun receiving and opening the RSVP cards, and realized that going for the blank, folded card was a great idea - Guests have been writing lovely notes for us that we'll definitely hold onto to put in albums. While the factory dropped the ball, we highly recommend working with Melanie... she terminated her relationship with that particular printing factory. We were glad to have her on our side through it all. The moral of the story: If you work with a consultant, make sure they'll go to bat for you. It would have been a lot more stressful and a lot less pleasant if we had had to communicate with the factory each time.
[Editor's Note: My sister also worked with an invitation consultant and loved it. If you are going to order your invites, I don't actually think you save much, if anything, by going online vs. using the right consultant (somebody who isn't going to talk you into $8 per-person pocketfolds.) I said before and will repeat: we did DIY because I fell in love with a particular invite and that was the only way to go. Otherwise we would have gone the consultant route for sure. But I think a lot of people don't realize that invite consultants can help you find an invite that is within your budget of $1-2 per invite (or less, sometimes) and that it can majorly reduce hassle.]