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?


Blablover5 said...

Ugh that sucks that you were getting the run around for so long.

But good thing it all came together at the last minute. Good luck putting them all together

p said...

good luck with is all.