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.