• TheFox

How much should you budget for your wedding stationery?

The short answer: 3 to 10%+ of your budget. It depends on how bespoke you go with papers and finishes.

An overhead shot of calligrapher's tools including dip pen, nibs and fintec inks, with the word Budget written in gold on pale paper, with glasses off to the side, with a gold dish with some Japanese coins.
A calligrapher's toolset, with dip pen, nibs and Fintec ink

Why do we still post our wedding invitations?

Why do we still send invitations and letters through the post? Stamps aren't cheap, and we're now in a 'digital first' society after all. Surely an e-invite is the way to go?

I believe that we still send our invitations and letters as physical things due to the ritual of the process, and as a way of honouring our friends and family, as we bring those closest to us together to celebrate life's milestones. Even though the days of licking and sticking stamps to envelopes have gone (unless you have a penchant for vintage stamps, but that's another topic), there's still an element of reverence that comes with stacking a neat pile of card and paper, fixing it just so, before sealing them up in their envelopes and a trip to the post office.

How can anyone fail to be moved by the thought of seeing Auntie Daphne again as the ribbon is tied around the bundle? And who would not be reminiscing of summers spent with cousins (up to no good) as their invitations are slipped into an envelope and finished with a wax seal?

The fact is, your wedding stationery will set the tone for the day long before the event is held, and is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the personality of those getting married. Don't forget, this is the first stage of bringing your nearest and dearest along with you on this wonderful (sometimes stressful) journey.


A detail of a wedding suite featuring a boy on a sea serpent with a trident, bright gold wax seals with an olive brand, and other pieces of paper
Wedding suite embellishments, wax seals and illustrations

So where does the wedding stationery budget go?

According to the National Wedding Survey 2021 from Hitched, the average wedding guest list is around 72 people. Granted, some of those will be couples, but as we're looking at 2021, a time of lockdowns and social distancing, it's fair to say that this number is on the light side. In 2019 the average guest list was more like 102 people! That's a hecking lot of stamps!

Then there are all the different pieces of a Wedding Suite. You might start with a Save the Date to ensure your day gets in those diaries ASAP. Then there's the wedding suite proper. There will be an Invitation (obviously) and usually, there's an RSVP card with a pre-addressed envelope as well as the Details card if you're going to talk about the best routes to the venue, where's might be nice to stay (especially if you've managed to secure a discounted rate for somewhere in the area), and where you might have your Gift Registry and any logins to gain access to that account.

Larger or destination weddings might also have pre-wedding dinners or gatherings that will take their own invitation, as usually only select people from the guest list will be invited to these. Included with the suite may also be an invitation to a post-wedding breakfast, or even some sort of information about a venue or city if a lot of people have travelled to an entirely new area and are planning to make a short vacation to coincide with the wedding.

This leads us to your On the Day stationery. And we're not just talking about place cards and menus. There might be escort cards or seating charts, there may be programs and vow books, not to mention any signage that might be appropriate for your chosen venue.

To summarise, your entire wedding suite might end up looking like this:

• Save the Date card and envelope

• Wedding Invitation and envelope

• RSVP card and return envelope

• Details card

• Pre-wedding party or gathering invitation

• Post-wedding breakfast or gathering invitation

• City or venue information

• Place cards

• Escort cards

• Menus

• Seating charts

• Vows books

• Programs or Itineraries

• Other signage

Phew!


An overheads hot of a wedding suite with a bepoke pistachio green folder with neon cord and handmade paper swing tag with coral calligraphy, and wedding invitation with a pink silk ribbon and coral ink letterpress, and and itinerary in with ink or green card in calligraphy.
A bespoke wedding suite with letterpress & calligraphy

Making a bespoke wedding suite truly 'yours'

The Wedding Suite is also where most couples like to get creative and add embellishments. There might be envelope liners, belly bands, vellum wraps, silk ribbons and/or wax seals. And that's not even touching on the options for paper and special finishes!


Paper & Card

Not all papers and cards are created equal, and as you might expect, the better quality of paper and card, the higher the price tag. A go-to for stationers and calligraphers is Colorplan, which as the name suggests, comes in a wide range of colours and thicknesses and can be used in a bunch of different ways to add texture and interest to a suite. Other premium papers include Strathmore, Crane's and Munken, which have different qualities and finishes depending on the look and 'feel' of the suite being designed. Then there's handmade paper. There is no one on this earth that can withstand the charm of those very delicious deckled edges (those edges can be faked, but it never looks as good as the real thing)!

Finishes

As for different finishes, there's a whole world of options outside of what's achievable with a home printer.

At the most basic end of the spectrum is digital printing, which with today's machines gives a very high level of finish and good colour vibrancy and is the most cost-effective.

The next step up from that is lithograph printing. This option opens up the use of metallic or neon inks. As you can imagine, this is more expensive due to the set-up cost of lithography which is still printed using plates. Usually, this is one each for CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and kohl), and an extra plate for each additional ink you might use - such as the previously mentioned metallics and neons.

From here, things start getting really fancy.


Maybe you're considering letterpress printing to go with your handmade paper, so you can get that lovely indentation (or 'deboss') on the paper to give your guests a wonderful textural delight as soon as they open their invitation? Letterpress used to be printed with lead type being set and then inked and pressed onto the paper. This is still an option, but you'll be limited to what fonts your stationer or printer may hold. These days there are a multitude of design options open to you, as polymer plates can be produced for a 'relatively' small amount. Then it comes down to how many colours you use (you'll need a separate plate for each colour, and a separate set of plates for each piece of the suite).

Or maybe the metallic inks available in lithography and letterpress just aren't shiny enough for what you were imagining, and you need some hot foil additions? This finish allows for the very shiniest of metallics to be added to your stationery for maximum impact. Again this uses plates for each colour of foil, and for each piece of the suite that's taking this process. These plates are made from magnesium so they don't melt from the heat.

Then there's laser cutting. This, while not suitable for the text part of your invitation, can add an extra dimension to an outer wrap or folder, or maybe even a fancy border to the rest of your suite. Again, this is a specialist finish.

And of course, it would be silly of me not to mention calligraphy. Calligraphy can be incorporated into your suite in a bunch of ways, not just your envelope outers (but that's a beautiful addition too). You can get digitised calligraphy for the couple's names on the invitation, you can have the same for the venue and the date as well. You can get digitised calligraphy headings for your details card, your RSVP, and any other party or gathering cards. Rubber stamps could be made for return addresses to save having to write those out over (and over and over) again. Then there are monograms that you can make wax seals out of and then have put across personalised stationery that you can use throughout the rest of your days together.

Looking at all of these different finishes, it starts to make more sense why I gave such a wide percentage range of what your wedding stationery budget might look like. If you're more at the 3% end, you'll most likely be going for a great design, digitally printed on a reasonable quality card. You might be able to splash out on some pretty add-ons.

Towards the 10% end of the range is when you can start going to town with the addition of specialist papers, luxury finishes, and a range of add-ons, as well as calligraphy running throughout the suite and personalised envelopes too.

A summary of possible finishes for your wedding suite looks like this:

• Digital printing

• Lithograph printing

• Letterpress printing

• Hot foil printing

• Laser cutting

• Hand calligraphy

• Digitsied calligraphy

• A cheeky mix of the above


An overhead shot of a wedding invitations with digitised calligraphy on handmade paper.
A wedding suite detail with digitised calligraphy

Consider hiring a stationer to design your wedding suite

I get it, that list above is absolutely, totally and utterly, nuts! What does half of that stuff even mean? You're newly engaged, everything is overwhelming you and now you just want something nice to send out to let everyone know of your impending nuptials!

Again, I. Get. It. And that's why if you want something special, and someone to hold your hand and smooth this process out for you, you should definitely consider hiring a stationer.

A great place to start if you are going down the stationer route is to put together a mood board of sorts of stuff that you've seen that you like. Please note, a good stationer will not copy someone else's design outright. This mood board is a great way to start a conversation along the lines of "I've seen this and really like the colour, and on this one, I really like the way the names are, and that one there, I think it's really clever how they did 'x' thing." From here, you can have a conversation with your stationer, let them know your budget, and they'll be able to advise you on what's achievable with the money you have to spend. If you're looking for a bunch of fancy things that your budget just won't be able to accommodate, your stationer will be able to come up with suggestions that will still give you a beautiful and unique wedding suite, that will have the look and feel that you've shown them, but maybe with not as many fancy bells and whistles as you'd like.


An overhead shot of some envelopes addressed with calligraphy, rich gold wax seals and vintage stamps.
Calligraphy envelopes with stamps and wax seals

Let's talk assemblage and postage costs

An easy way to make your budget go a little further is if you take care of some of the simpler tasks yourself. For example, your stationer will be happy to assemble your suites and get them to a post office on your behalf, but you will be charged for this service, and it's a relatively simple thing to do if you have the time available.


And on to postage. It doesn't take much to push a wedding invitation suite out of the 'Letter' Royal Mail stamp range and take it up to the 'Large Letter' Category. As of November 2022, a Royal Mail 1st Class Letter stamp is 95p, and a 1st Class Large Letter is £1.45. You could consider 2nd Class, in which case a Letter stamp is 68p and a 2nd Class Large Letter is £1.05. Either way, multiply this by 75 guests and suddenly your 1st Class Letter stamp receipt is telling you you've spent over £100!

What it's important to note here is that something as seemingly simple as the addition of a wax seal can take your completed and enveloped suite out of the Letter category and send it straight into Large Letter territory. There is always the option of taking a chance to see if you can get away with sending your envelope as cheaply as possible. But this runs the risk of, say, someone at RM scrapping the seal off the back of your envelope (yes, this has happened to me personally, with the added insult that I did pay for the extra postage!), or of your guest being asked to stump up the extra cash before the invitation gets delivered (not really the first impression you want to give Auntie Daphne when it comes to your impending ceremony).


An overhead shot of a corner or wedding invitation with cherry blossom motif, gold hand finishing, and racing green envelope with candy pink modern calligraphy.
Cherry blossom motif on a wedding invitation with gold detailing

So yes, it really does look like 3-10%+ of your budget

While talking in terms of percentages of a budget may be annoying, it is the best way of factoring in the different variables for your particular wedding. After all, guest list numbers vary wildly, and how many pieces you need in your suite is another thing that differs considerably between couples. But to give you an idea of what different sums might get you:

£500, something semi-bespoke where you might get to change a few details, but the design is pretty much set in stone. It's digitally printed on a good-quality card. You don't need many pieces in your suite, and you're happy assembling them yourself.

£1000, a bespoke design that's digitally printed on some good quality card. There aren't many pieces to this suite, which you'll be assembling yourself. There will likely be some money left for some fancy add-ons such as envelope liners, belly bands or wax seals.

£2000, a bespoke design that features a specialist finish on a premium card. There might be a couple more pieces to the suite with embellishments baked into the look and feel of the suite. You might even be looking at hand calligraphy for the place cards for your On the Day stationery.

£5000, a bespoke design that features a specialist finish on a handmade cotton-rich card or paper. It's an extensive suite for all the different events before and after the big day, with embellishments baked into the look and feel including silk ribbons, vellum wraps and personalised wax seals. There's calligraphy running throughout the suite by way of digitised calligraphy for names, venues and various headers, as well as handwritten envelopes, place cards and escort cards.

 

To sum up, your wedding suite can be a beautiful thing, regardless of how much you spend on it. Not everyone has a cool £1mil+ budget to blow (hey, if you do, drop me a line, I love designing fancy things!) and that's fine. The most important thing and the best advice I can give any couple is to make sure it reflects the pair of you. Ignore what's fashionable right now, because fashions change. Don't bother yourself with what Brenda and Dave did with their stationery last summer, because you're not Brenda and Dave! The most beautiful and most memorable suites are the ones that really show who a couple are, what they're about, and their passion for each other.


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