I am asked all of the time, Why are Custom Invitations More Expensive? I have been asked this question so much lately by inquiring brides, and fellow industry vendors, I decided to update a blog I wrote in 2010 on the topic! My hope is to answer any questions out there, as well share with you why we should value hard work and talent!
READY-MADE VS CUSTOM: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
Ready Made invitations are printed in the thousands as Templates. The Main design is printed in BULK in the thousands, stored and then distributed around the country to different invitation vendors, who put them in a book. And then brides go in, search through the books and choose the invitation they like. When that order is placed, a smaller less expensive printer, usually digital or laser, is used to print your name and personal information on the DESIGN TEMPLATE. So that the cost is less, they aren't having to set up and order supplies everytime an order comes in. They did this initially in the beginning and printed in BULK.
Custom Designed Invitations are more expensive because you are printing something unique and different in smaller numbers. They usually also include embellishments such as ribbon, crystals, brooches, etc. Which adds hand labor to the process. The above invitations have Lace Accents, ribbon, crystals, etc and no machine can do accents such as these. I always try and educate my brides that it makes more sense to purchase a package if you want something custom. Then we can make use of all the supply minimums we've had to order. (Keep reading for further explanation of minimums and labor)
Why should I choose custom instead of trying to DIY them? I get asked this question all time, not just by brides but by many industry vendors as well. My answer is simple, and I say this in the nicest way possible: YOU HAVE NO EXPERIENCE AND WON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING :) Because you don't do this on a daily basis, or have multiple projects like this under your belt, the quality of your final product will suffer. Our team has over 8 years of event industry experience, and over 20 years of design and printing experience. We have developed systems and methods over the years to produce our designs and creations — giving you an amazing quality.
Lot's of Brides, vendors and even friends have told me, they thought they would "Save Money" by doing their own stationery projects for their wedding. In the end, they ended up spending MORE MONEY AND TIME because they have never done this before, and end up with a lot of waste, mistakes and overspending on supplies. What does this mean? Here's an example, you and your bridesmaids gather around a table, for gossip and DIY. Well unfortunately, this means you will end up with 100 pieces, that all look different. Some of them may even have glue mistakes, crooked embellishments, and lopsided bows.
When you seek out a professional you are ensuring your stationery will be beautiful and of high production value. Because we have so much experience we have developed systems and procedures over the years to ensure that when we have to glue a total of 4,000 crystals — the very first crystal glued has the same look and placement as the very last crystal we glue. We also have quality control procedures in place to ensure that every guest receives the very best of our creations! As professionals completing multiple weddings a year, my staff and I have tested and used many different products over the years (i.e. glue, paper, ink, etc). Taking Glue as an example: Not all glue is created equally! :) We know what glue is best and won't bleed through to the other side of the paper, or what glue is the strongest or is easiest to clean up if a mistake as made.
Another reason to choose a trusted professional is relationships. Over the years relationships are built with the various vendors we work with. Because of this, you will probably get better pricing on supplies going through a professional than purchasing them yourself. For example, If there is more than one wedding on the books using Linen Paper, then paper for both wedding projects can be ordered at the same time - this sometimes can help save cost. Or if you have more than one wedding using the same paper, you might be able to print them together on a larger sheet- therefore saving money on set up fees. Your stationer can negotiate with the paper and printing vendor and get a better pricing than you could as an a la carte customer.
Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against DIY, but if you are looking for high quality stationery and reception creations that will WOW your guests, chances are you won't get that when you try to do it yourself. I know Pinterest and Etsy make it seem so easy, but take it from a professional you get what you pay for — creating custom designs that WOW takes talent, experience and a practiced steady hand.
TO START THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS OF THIS ESCORT CARD DISPLAY, THE FRAME NEEDED TO BE
ORDERED AND PAINTED. STEP TWO: RESEARCH AND PROCUREMENT OF THE BASE, AS WELL AS MOSS APPLICATION TO A CARDBOARD INSERT WAS COMPLETED. GUEST NAMES WERE DESIGNED AND ALPHABETIZED IN AN OMBRE DESIGN. ESCORT CARDS WERE THEN PRINTED AND DIE CUT INTO CIRCLES. IN THE FINAL STAGE, WE USED STRAIGHT PINS TO AFFIX THE CARDS TO THE MOSS, MEASURING ALONG THE WAY TO ENSURE PROPER SPACING AND PLACEMENT. AS YOU CAN SEE THE END RESULT WAS WELL
WORTH THE TIME INVOLVED, BONUS: IT WAS A BIG HIT WITH THE GUESTS AT THE EVENT.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN CHOOSING CUSTOM
Why choose a Custom Invitation over a Ready Made Invitation? I have found that the brides who seek me out for Custom Stationery do it because they want to add a personal and unique, one of a kind flare to their wedding. I love getting to know my clients and developing stationery for their event. There is nothing more rewarding than creating something that reflects who they are as a couple, as well as setting the tone and design for the overall feeling of their event.
Is a Custom Invitation for You? Do you want to set the tone for your wedding from the moment your guest receive their first communication from you? Do you want something unique and one of a kind that your guests have never seen before? Do you want your guests to feel your personal touch and love for them throughout the process of your event, from Save the Date, to Thank You Cards? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a Custom Designed Invitation is for you.
What will a Custom Invitation Cost? Is a custom designed stationery package right for my budget? The standard rule is to spend 4% of your wedding budget on stationery. With custom, the percentage is anywhere from 7 to 10% of your entire wedding budget. This formula will help you figure out if Custom Designed Invitation is right for you. Custom Designed Invitations usually start around $2,500 for approximately 100 invitations, and can go all the way to $15,000 for a full wedding package. Pricing is really dependent on embellishments and types of materials used. An invitation with no hand work will be more modestly priced than an invitation that has silk fabric, a crystal brooch, etc.
Why is it more expensive? You ask. This question really has no short answer. Printing in general is an expensive process unless you are printing in bulk, which is in quantities of 1,000 or more. The more you print the smaller the cost PER PIECE is. When you are only printing 100 of something- you have to pay the same cost to set up that printing press- whether you print 1 or 10,000. Not to mention there are order minimums on supplies such as paper, crystals, ribbon, envelopes, etc. Even if you need only 50 invitations you still have to buy supplies in the MINIMUMS they come in, and you still have to pay for the printing press set up. For example you may only need 50 sheets of paper, but the fancy paper you like only sells it in reams of 250 sheets. This is the same for ribbon, fabric, crystals, wood and most other custom supplies and materials.
As I mentioned earlier, The cost per goes down when you are printing in large numbers like 1,000 or more. But most weddings don't have a guest list that large. So you are having to divide the cost of set up, supplies and labor over your small number, making the price point per MUCH higher. And each design is set up on it's own. So if you have a menu and an invitation you are paying for set up of both of those because the artwork and printing plates are different.
Another thing that contributes to cost is labor, if you want ribbon, silk fabric, crystals, etc that can really raise the price, as all of these things are hand work. Depending on the complexity of hand work hours can really increase when you are adding embellishment to hundreds of stationery pieces. And if you are wanting some real WOW factor, like the above or below escort card display or the 3 Dimensional table numbers and place cards in the header image — this required us to be onsite the day of your wedding to stage and set up your stationery package, which again can increase labor cost.
We always recommend to our couples that we do a full stationery package instead of just invitations. This way we can utilize all the supplies we need to order (remember the paper minimums we discussed earlier). And if after reading this you've determined you don't have the budget for Custom, then please visit our Ready-Made, Limited Edition Line Paper Couture Stationery.
A CASE STUDY — FULL CUSTOM WEDDING EVENT PROJECT
SCOPE OF PROJECT : 6 MONTHS FROM START TO FINISH
(images in the above gallery courtesy of Liga Photography)
FOR THIS BRIDE, WE WERE ABLE TO UTILIZE ALL THE PAPER AND SUPPLY MINIMUMS, BY USING THEM ACROSS MULTIPLE WEDDING APPLICATIONS. AS YOU CAN SEE BY THE TOP TWO PHOTOS, WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE SIMILAR YET DIFFERENT INVITATION SUITES — ONE FOR HER BRIDAL SHOWER AND THE OTHER FOR HER WEDDING INVITATION & RECEPTION SUITE. WHILE GIVING EACH PIECE IT'S OWN UNIQUE FEEL, WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE A COHESIVE BRAND DEISGN TO CARRY OUT THROUGH ALL OF HER WEDDING EVENTS.
WITH LACE, PEARL AND RIBBON ACCENTS THIS CREATION INVOVLED EXTENSIVE HAND WORK AND LABOR. FROM THE GLASS VASES FILLED WITH PEARLS AND IRIDESCENT WOODEN TABLE NUMBERS TO THE ESCORT CANDLE DISPLAY DIRECTING THE GUEST TO THEIR TABLE. (see me pictured above onsite alphabetizing and tying ribbons for over 300 candles for the guests) A CUSTOM COLORING BOOK WITH ILLUSTRATIONS TELLING THE COUPLES LOVE STORY WAS ALSO CREATED FOR THE CHILDREN ATTENDING THE EVENT.
As you can see by the case study above, the stationery visual is pretty impactful. It took about 6 months of work prior to the wedding to prepare and create all pieces. This was a wedding for 300, remember number of guests will help determine the time needed and pricing of your project. 100 invitations with no embellishment will take less time and supplies than 300 invitations with embellishment on each piece.
I hope you have enjoyed this post, and increased your understanding of custom stationery. I you have any other questions you want answered- Comment and I will answer the best I can.