Pardon the cavalier nature of this blog title. It’s just that I get it. I totally get the sticker shock. It’s just a piece of paper. Or rather, it’s just a piece of [handmade deckle-edge, gold-foiled] paper [with wax seals and hand-dyed silk ribbons].
I have personally been victimized by Pinterest displaying waves of invitation suites that easily cost $7000 while under the impression it was for a “budget bride”. So unfair.
When I first decided to explore stationery design, want to guess how much I thought I would charge for an invitation suite? $300. Maybe $350, but let’s not be greedy. Boy, was I wrong. More like $3000 to $10,000. Allow me to break this down.
Let’s assume I want my business to be viable. That would mean in addition to the costs of materials (more on that in a second), I would charge for my time and experience. As a photographer I understand the value I provide for my clients. My experience, equipment, expertise, overhead, post-process, time, and charisma (hair flip) all contribute to my pricing. I have spent thousands of dollars and years and year honing my craft and gaining education. I provide a service my average client cannot provide for him or herself, so, I charge $400 for a session. Just as you wouldn’t walk into a Ruth Chris and ask the owner to price match with Chili’s, it follows how reasonable it is for creative businesses to set their own prices.
Unlike photography, the costs of materials for each wedding stationery suite is staggering. Even the most economical option (cotton paper with flat printing with only an invitation and envelope sans liner and basic postage, by the way) for 100 guests can still run several hundred dollars just in materials. Even wholesale! Without shipping and handling. If you go this route yourself I can help you out with some lovely digital downloads! My semi-custom suites are so affordable because I truly do want to serve everyone who inquires with me. You can check them out here!
Of course, there is a lot that can take a turn for the worst and you might end up making a major mistake (oops, not enough postage and every invitation is returned to you. Oops, forgot envelopes on the RSVP card. Oops, spelled your name wrong, because, dangit, you have too many things on your plate!).
That’s where I come in. I know the tricks of the trade. I study etiquette. I have personal relationships with the best suppliers. I understand the nuances of specialty paper and printing. I streamline my design processes for you. I create beautiful artwork by hand. I show you proofs. I hand-calligraph envelopes. I assemble and mail your invitations on your behalf! It is seriously so nice for you and PS, I am really friendly and easy to work with. I also cost money.
If I want to live out this dream, I have to charge for my time and talents. And shipping and handling. And extras of everything in case something goes awry. My design fee is reasonable enough for me to take time away from my delicious, little toddlers. I genuinely am not trying to gouge you. Please don’t think that.
So, a rough breakdown for 100 invitations:
Wholesale material costs + printing (varies per method and material, obviously):
Profit margins (mainly to account for taxes, S&H, extras, and a little profit)
Design fee (includes consultations, emails, three free revisions, creating the artwork, digitizing, digital proofs, etc.)
$3000 (which is about my starting amount)
Most of that money flies off towards materials, other wedding vendors, and good old Uncle Sam.
Hopefully you can understand where that money is going a little better now. With all of this in mind, I completely understand if this is not for you. There are plenty of services out there that offer super inexpensive invitations, and to be honest, it leaves this industry undercut to a large degree.
If this is still something you want to move forward with remember this is the first item your guests receive. With that in mind, there is nothing quite like hand-dyed silk ribbons sealed with a custom wax stamp, handmade paper, hand-calligraphed envelopes, and vintage postage. This is an amazing world I am in and nothing sets the tone for an event quite like luxury stationery.