Monday, March 30, 2009

Crafting the Invitations -- Layout

While I was waiting for my graphics to be professionalized (yes, I just made up a word), I laid out my invitation using Open Office Draw (another free program, kind of like Power Point, but with a few other features that make it more friendly for print layout).

One principle I had when starting to design my invitation suite was to waste as little paper as possible, and, envisioning that I might be the one using a paper cutter, to try to limit the number of cuts needed. Therefore, I tried to lay out all three pieces of the suite on a single piece of 8.5x11" paper.

Now, if you're going to design your invitations, you need to know ahead of time what the various standard sizes are. You can cut paper to any size you want, but unless you also want to spend time making custom envelopes, it's better to stick with sizes that are widely available.

About a year ago, when I first got into my invitation planning craze, I looked up all the various sizes, and here's what I found (table by me, in case you want to borrow it):

I did some paper-and-pencil layouts on regular paper, and came up with a few different ideas:
1. Make an A8 invitation, a 4 1/4 x 6" RSVP card, and a 2 1/2 x 4 1/4" insert. Put in an A8 inner envelope and use an A9 outer envelope.
2. Make an A9 invitation, a 4 1/4 x 6" RSVP card, and a 2 1/2 x 4 1/4" insert. Wrap in vellum to create a pseduo inner envelope or make a belly band to hold the suite together, and use an A9 envelope.

I initially was staying away from the A10 size because I couldn't find too many online retailers who carried A10 envelopes. However, A7 and A8 are very easy to find, and there's a decent selection of A9s out there, too.

I ended up combining the two ideas, and made an A8 invitation, an RSVP card that was 5 3/8 x 4 1/2", and an insert card that was 5 3/8 x 3 5/8". When I laid this out in landscape format, it left a strip 11" wide by 5/8" tall. Figuring I might be able to use that strip of scrap for something or other, in the spirit of not wasting paper, I colored it purple. Here is the final layout:

Here you can see the cutting guide lines (in the final version, I didn't print those lines). The size of the invitation is measured from the very left edge of the page, but I made sure to keep all the graphics within the printable area (on the professional printers, 1/4" margins are fine). You can also see that the purple strip runs the full width of the page, but the RSVP card and insert card stop 1/4" from the edge. I decided to make all of the invitation pieces the same width, 5 3/8", and that left a 1/4" edge on the right side of the page to be cut off.

You might realize that the purple strip, in the end, wouldn't bleed to the edge, but would instead have a 1/4" inch margin inserted by the printer. I realized this, too, and wasn't worried about it. It's scrap, and if I could use it, that's great, but I wasn't going to stress about it, either.

Another key place I went to do research was the post office website, This page tells you all about the requirements for first-class mail, and this was important to me for two reasons:
1. I wanted the invitation to cost just a single first class stamp to mail, because I'm frugal. Rectangular-shaped and less than 1 oz in weight are the keys for this to work (squares automatically cost more postage, no matter how small they are!).
2. I wanted the RSVP card to be a postcard, because a reply envelope would require extra paper that would add to overall weight and threaten my 1 oz limit, would cost more to buy, would add to unnecessary paper wastage when it was thrown away, and would require a 42-cent stamp to return to us, rather than a 27-cent postcard stamp. It was a combination of being green and frugal.

So I made sure our RSVP card fell within regulation postcard sizes (3.5 x 5" to 4.25 x 6") right off the bat. I didn't have any specific requirements for the insert card, but making it the same width as the other two, but slightly shorter, made them look nice when stacked.

Eric and I hashed out the invitation wording together, and I got our fonts free from They're the same ones we used on our save the dates, Renaissance and ParmaPetit. The insert card references our wedding website for key information, and the RSVP card is a double RSVP, for both the wedding and the rehearsal dinner. We included the rehearsal dinner invitation in the same mailing, and I'll detail that for you in another post.

Now I have to say one final word about the layout and printing. In my mind, I thought this layout was great, and maximized my paper use. In the end, that all went down the drain. When I took the final file (once I had the final graphics files from Sue) to Eric at The Reliable Printing Company, he, because he's really really good at what he does, was able to notice some minor flaws in my layout. What they were, I'm not really sure, and whether they would really have caused a problem, I'll never know.

What he ended up doing, though, was altering the layout into three different files: one for the invitation, one for the RSVP card, and one for the insert card. He laid out two invitations per page and printed 50 of them (for 100 invitations), then laid out 4 RSVP cards and 4 insert cards per page and printed 25 each of them for a total of 100 invitation sets. This made it easier for his cutting man to cut, I think. The purple strip ended up being totally wasted as a result, but I harkened back to Rule #1 of DIY, "Let go of your OCD and accept what you cannot control. Your sanity is worth more than you think," and let the issue go. We ended up using the same number of pieces of paper as we would have with my original layout, and I really don't know what I would have done with that scrap, anyway. Plus, they do recycle at their shop, so it's not like it went to total waste.

We printed the invitations on Hammermill Color Copy Cover, 100 lb (271 g/m2), 100 brightness, at Eric-the-printer's recommendation. I bought a package of 8.5x11" paper at Arvey for $20, and Eric knocked $20 off my printing charge for providing my own cardstock, so I am left with 150 pieces of cardstock for free, essentially. Good deal!

We went with digital color printing, as opposed to anything fancy like thermography or letterpress for two reasons: time and money. While I would love to get letterpressed invitations, it's just not in our budget, and probably one of the less justifiable things we could spend money on with regards to the wedding. I'd much rather put money into food, drinks, and good music, rather than the paper everyone is going to throw out, to be honest.

So there you have it! The layout and printing of the invitations.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Crafting the Invitations -- Graphics

So I sent the invitations Wednesday morning, and on Thursday afternoon I had heard from the first people in the Louisville area that they had received them, and on Friday afternoon I got back the first RSVP card (it was a yes)! Quick work, USPS! I know my bridesmaids in Baltimore and Pittsburgh have gotten them, too, so I guess I can start the recap for you.

I told you about how I took this piece of scrapbook paper and sent it off to someone to turn into digital images:

Here's what happened after that.

First, I received this image from the designer who let me down, which I really liked:
By playing around in (Free program! Similar to Photoshop, but a little dumbed down, as opposed to Inkscape, another free program I initially tried to use that was as complex as Photoshop), I was able to make a couple related images:

Notice that I also changed the colors around a bit; I wanted a brighter green, and more of an eggplant purple rather than a bluish purple.

Trying to find the right color was quite a project in itself, but through some Googling, I found this great site, Colour Lovers. OTHER people find pretty colors, upload them, and tell you the RGB numbers needed to recreate them! I was able to find a bunch of colors in the range I was looking for, and make a whole bunch of samples in those colors to test print:

The one I settled on was the second one on the top row. That became my new theme eggplant color.

*Disclaimer: In the end, the purple color didn't come out exactly right, but since the images were sent off to Sue, my awesome graphic designer, before I printed them, there are a couple sources of possible error. The most obvious one is that RGB colors are meant for computer viewing, while CMYK colors are meant for print. Sue knew that I had ghetto-checked my RGB color in print, but something still might have happened on her end of things. It's also possible that my printer's printer read the color differently. Who knows. In the end, the purple on the berries on the final printed product is a little more in the bluish range rather than the reddish, but Rule #1 of DIY is "Let go of your OCD and accept what you cannot control. Your sanity is worth more than you think."

In any case, I sent my three re-colored images off to Sue to make them nice and smooth and hi-resolution and suitable for printing.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Wedding band

One down, one to go.

I mentioned that the price of palladium had suddenly become very interesting to me. That's because I requested that Philip Haas, the jeweler Eric used to make my engagement ring, make me a wedding band in palladium to match, and I was afraid that the custom piece might be pricey.

I started my wedding band search at the mall jewelry stores, and one day this past summer, I found one I really really liked, at Zales:
It was a 1/4-carat TDW (total diamond weight) shared prong white gold band. It was really nice. The diamond quality was G/H/I (mixed; no guarantee) color, I1 clarity. Since I found it at a Zales in New Jersey, I took down the item number to save.

In January, I bought it at my local mall, and brought it to Philip.

Yeah, I'm sneaky like that. I made sure there was a good return policy (full refund within 30 days, store credit within 60 days), first, just in case. The Zales ring was much too big (I avoided getting it sized right away like they wanted me to by making up a story about needing to show it to my mom, who was only visiting for a couple of days...), and had 13 diamonds. Philip and I decided to shrink that down to 11 diamonds to accommodate my finger size in a nice-looking way (I have a size 4.5 ring finger!). I placed my order, and a few weeks later, I had this:

Sorry the detail isn't that great; my camera doesn't have a very good macro lens. In any case, it's perfect! Palladium, to match my engagement ring, with 11 diamonds totaling .21 carats (the diamonds are the same size each as the Zales ring, but there are only 11 instead of 13), of G color and VS2 clarity. Exactly what I wanted, made especially for me. And the best part? It was only $80 more than the Zales ring! (I know that palladium is less expensive now than white gold, but my stones are of a significantly better quality, to more closely match my solitaire, so I think it evens out... plus the fact that it was custom work, of course!) I returned the Zales ring successfully, and my devious plan worked.

Here are the two rings together:

They aren't an identical matched set, but I like it that way. Each can stand on its own, but they work very well together at the same time.

Now we just need a ring for Eric. We'd go back to Philip Haas for that one, too, but since Eric won't be around here again until two days before the wedding, I'm not sure that's going to work out logistically, so we'll be shopping around in Philly/NJ, probably. Maybe a mall jewelry store ring would be fine. Plus, I just talked to the husband of a classmate of mine who recently accidentally lost his wedding ring, and he says that a guy's first ring should be like his first car: It shouldn't be a Mercedes. He had bought his ring at Kohl's, just in case, which turned out to be a good idea. I'm not sure what I think of that theory; I'm willing to give Eric more credit than that :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009


So we finally booked a baker! I know I told you I tasted some cake a couple months ago, and then I let the issue drop.

At the end of January, we went to visit Eric's sister and her new baby. It coincidentally was also Eric's sister's husband's 30th birthday that weekend. I decided it would be good to have some cake, so I set up a couple tastings to pick up and bring with me.

One was from Adrienne's, and they asked me to pick out six flavors to try. I was amazed when we opened the box:

This is the after-we-devoured-cake shot, but I think you can tell that it was six full slices of cake. They were actually all put right next to each other and then iced to look like one complete cake, so I didn't know what to expect! We tried white, lemon, strawberry, red velvet, raspberry, and Italian cream. You can see the 3-0 candles we picked up to celebrate Brian's birthday, too. Free sample cake for someone else's birthday... ghetto, perhaps, but that's how I roll. It was fun to get to taste everything with Paige and Brian, too.

Strawberry was the clear winner, although it is a very shocking pink. After I got back, I set up a consultation with Adrienne (she does her consultations after the taste test, which is awesome), and got pricing and design info. Adrienne is awesome and very friendly, and I'm happy I met with her.

Everything stayed in limbo until Eric came to visit last week for Match Day. I arranged to pick up tastings from 4 bakeries: Plehn's, which I had previously tasted by myself, Bussmann's, Williams, and Adrienne's (for a comparative taste test). There was another tasting but it turned out it would have cost us $20, and I figured there are enough bakeries that will give us free cake that I didn't need to worry about a place that would charge us for a tasting (plus, I already knew their prices and they were the most expensive yet!).

Here's what we collected and assembled at the apartment:

Plehn's, yellow and strawberry:
Since they knew I was picking up the tasting to taste later, they included their icing in a little waxed paper cone for us to dispense ourselves. That's my icing handiwork pictured. I've always wanted to do that!

Williams Bakery, yellow iced with chocolate and chocolate iced with white/yellow:

Bussmann's, 2 chocolate cupcakes and I think 4 yellow cupcakes. The fact that there are 4 made me think that maybe I actually ordered 2 yellow and 2 something else (lemon?), but I didn't taste any difference, so I'm not sure what happened there...

And Adrienne's, where we picked up a slice of strawberry cake. I was totally going to pay for it, since it was a repeat tasting, but they gave it to us for free!

And here is the aftermath:
From left to right: Plehn's, Williams on the plate, Adrienne's pink strawberry, and Bussman's cupcakes in the box.

The clear winner was Adrienne's. it was moist and flavorful, absolutely scrumptious. Plehn's was not too far behind in second -- very moist and light cake, but their strawberry wasn't as flavorful as Adrienne's. Adrienne's was also the most expensive, but we're so happy with the cake that it's totally worth it. (It's still within our original budget.)

So it's going to be a three-tiered strawberry cake with whipped cream filling, iced white and decorated with fresh flowers. I'm really excited for wedding cake now!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Invitations are in the mail!

And the woman behind the counter even promised to hand cancel them, even though she told me, in her opinion, they looked better if they went through the machine. She said she'd do them throughout the day, so I guess we'll see what people end up getting.

I'm so happy to have these out of my hair! As soon as I get word that people have started receiving them, I'll give you the whole recap.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A rhetorical question

What is the utility of having 7 -- SEVEN!!! -- bridesmaids when none of them live anywhere near you, thereby making it impossible for you to command them to help you stuff invitations into envelopes?

Heck, I'd even accept the help of groomsmen. Or a groom.

The envelopes all have return addresses printed on them.
They have all been lined.
Their destination addresses have all been calligraphed.

Now, it's just the tedious process of assembling the contents, making sure the right RSVP cards go in the right envelopes, and glue dotting everything together.

I did 25 in 2.5 hours tonight. Not good. Roughly 75 more to go.

Helpers would be good. Not that, you know, that's why I asked those seven girls to be my bridesmaids or anything.

Also, the interest in stuffing envelopes wanes when you have just found out that you're moving to Philadelphia in less than three months and all of a sudden need to figure out how to buy a house. I would much rather be sorting through mortgage loan offers and perusing sale ads on Craigslist.

The one good thing about invitation assembly? I've been watching all the ER episodes I've been DVR-ing all season, and I'm very close to being caught up. I don't even want to think about how many hours that means this project has been taking me.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Invitations are done!

When I first started reading crafty, DIY-oriented wedding blogs 19 months ago, the thing that stood out the most to me was brides who designed and/or made their own wedding invitations. What a great way to infuse some of your own personality into the wedding, and besides, I figured that DIY would probably be cheaper than buying pre-made.

I quickly formed an idea of what I wanted, that would fit into our design theme, and kept my eyes out for inspiration. It came in the form of a piece of scrapbook paper at Hobby Lobby:

Whimsical, quirky, but still pretty. Perfect! Now, how to take one of those vines from a piece of scrapbook paper to a digital file I could manipulate? (This is a photo I took of the piece of paper.)

I figured I could probably scan it into the computer, but I don't have a scanner. Since I was doing all of this brainstorming months ago, I set this project on the back burner and focused on other things. At some point, I could always use the scanner at my parents' house, although I wasn't really sure when I would be able to do that. However, this past August, I ran across a classified ad on Weddingbee from someone offering to do invitation graphic design for very reasonable prices. Perfect! I emailed Laura, got some info, and sent her off a package in the mail with some of the scrapbook paper, a piece of fabric from bridesmaid dress shopping (so she knew what the right purple color was), and instructions detailing my vision. We had steady email contact over the next three months, save for one moment when I had to send her an email asking for an update, because I hadn't heard from her in some time. She responded immediately, said she had sent me my proofs two weeks earlier, but re-attached them. I know I had never received an earlier email (I even checked my spam), but I had the proofs, and they were great, and it was no big deal. I gave her my feedback and was eagerly awaiting the final design. That was mid-November.

Over the next two months, I sent multiple emails to see how things were going and never got a response. I finally resorted to Googling the girl to see if I could find some other contact info, and was able to call her in early January. After that, there was a series of emails that involved me giving her feedback, her promising me new proofs, and then falling off the face of the earth again. Finally, I got sick of it. My deadline to send invitations was quickly approaching, and I still had nothing! I laid out my own invitation suite using and OpenOffice Draw, and everything was great except for the low-res graphics I had pulled from my proofs. Low-res won't cut it for the final invitations, but I didn't know how to turn low-res into the nice high-res I would need for printing. By this time, it was late February.

So I turned to Etsy, the place for all things crafty and creative, and placed my first Alchemy bid. It was accepted by about a billion people within a matter of hours, and I found someone I thought would be good to work with. Then followed some back-and-forth conversations between me and Sue, my Etsy graphic designer, and some trips back and forth to Kinkos to print out every new image (my old inkjet is first of all out of colored ink, and second of all very old and not of good enough quality), but within a week I had my final product. After I knew I had what I wanted, I sent Laura an email firing her, and I haven't heard anything back.

Next, I needed a printer. If you know anything about wedding invitation printing, you know that one of the crazes is for letterpress, a totally luxurious printing style in which plates of your design are created and inked, and then pressed into the paper, creating indentations. It's lovely, and I would love to have it, but I also know that most people throw invitations in the trash, so there is no reason to waste all of that money on something so ephemeral. How much money? We're talking at least $3/invitation, and it quickly goes up from there.

Another popular option in wedding invitations is thermography, in which a special powder is placed on the paper, then heated and melted and sucked upward, creating a raised effect. If you order "wedding invitations" from those big books found at most stationery stores, this is usually what you get. It's less expensive than letterpress by far, but still not justifiable in my book.

Kinkos, though, wasn't my favorite option, because they don't always take the time to look after the details that I wanted. So I turned to my new favorite paper supply store, Arvey, and asked their staff if they could recommend a printer. And they could! Last Friday I drove to all three of their recommended printers (I have Fridays off this month; how great is that?) and found a great one. A locally owned business, run by a great guy, and willing to work with me on price if I used my own cardstock. Since I need cardstock for other wedding projects, I didn't mind buying it in bulk to use some for the invitations, especially since it saved me money!

Yesterday after work I stopped at The Reliable Printing Company to drop off my cardstock (having already emailed my files to Eric, the owner), and he dropped everything and printed everything for me right then and there. It took about an hour to go through all the files, make sure they were laid out correctly, printed correctly, and cut correctly, but it was great to be able to be at his side the whole time, making sure that everything was still the way I wanted it to be. Their attention to detail was amazing! It wasn't even until I left, completed invitations in hand, that I realized he had stayed open an extra 45 minutes helping me. What service!

Meanwhile, I had placed internet orders for envelopes (months ago I had ordered some samples, so I knew exactly what I wanted) and paper to line the envelopes with, and lo and behold, everything arrived by today! So now I have everything I need to put together the invitations, and I am happily going to be working on that over the next few days. When Eric comes to visit next weekend, our goal is to get the invitations fully completed, envelopes stamped and addressed, and ready to mail.

So what does the final product look like? How did my original inspiration get translated into a wedding invitation that I love? You'll just have to wait, because I'm not going to share until after they're sent out -- another week and a half, at least!

Vendors I love:
SuBeeDesigns on Etsy, Sue Brown on the Internet
Arvey Paper and Office Products, for a huge paper selection.
Eric Hobaugh, CEO of The Reliable Printing Company, for excellent, personal printing services (including letterpress!), for envelopes, for a great paper selection (I'm using their papers as envelope liners), and how can I resist a store with the same name as one of our kitties?