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Why Are Wedding Invitations So Expensive?

Custom designs, calligraphy, and postage add up.

Contributing Writer
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Photography by: Maria Lamb Photography

Whether you're someone who's been dreaming of designing your perfect wedding invitation since you were a little girl or boy, or someone who only cares that their invites get to the proper guests and are returned with a timely RSVP, there's no denying that these big-day paper products are a must-have. Although every bride and groom know they're important, most couples don't just how expensive wedding invitations can be until they start scouting out options. "All for a few pieces of paper?" you may be wondering. But modern-day wedding invitations are far more than that, the experts who create them explain. To better understand why wedding invitations come with such a hefty price tag, we asked a few stationery designers to break down the cost. 

 

First and foremost, those simple invitations you've been eyeing online are likely far more complex than you realize. "Pinterest can be both blessing and also a curse," says Marlie Vodofsky, ​owner and creative director of Marlie Renee Designs. "Very often I'll hear couples say they've fallen in love with an invitation concept they see online, but then they're bummed out when they hear what it actually would take to create it or what other things they may need to purchase to mail something of that nature." Before you get your heart set on the look you've found online, discuss whether or not the elements included are in your budget.

 

Related: Why You Should Weigh Any Invite Sample Before Ordering

 

One easy way to help you get an idea of what your budget should be is to decide whether or not you're okay with a pre-made design or if you want something custom. The latter tends to be far pricier since you're working with a designer to come up with a concept that is totally unique to you and your wedding day, explains Kelsey Garrison, owner and calligrapher at Lairsey Paper Co. "The custom design process takes a lot of time, energy and creativity for the designer, and therefore is a bigger investment," she says. If you are unsure about whether or not you want a custom invitation design, she recommends doing some research. "There are many in-between options out there that offer pre-made designs with some customization options, like custom calligraphy."

 

Once you know what your budget is, be clear about it. "I know people may think they don't want to show their hand so they can negotiate later, but for my business, and I'm sure a lot of other invitation design studios, this helps us show you what materials and elements will work for your specific style and budget," says Vodofsky. "This way we can help you come up with the perfect solution, just for you."

 

Related: Ideas for Unique Wedding Invitations

 

Gold foil and letterpress printing are two of the most popular design elements right now, but they can greatly increase the cost of your invitations. "These printing processes require custom plates to be made in order to produce the design and impression," says Garrison. "Each plate is made-to-order for each design, so when you have multiple pieces of your invitation suite printed this way, it can really add up." Additionally, the use of multiple colors can get expensive, since each hue requires another metal plate and another time on the press, explains Tifany Wunschl, owner and lead designer of Gourmet Invitations.

 

Calligraphy addressing is another detail to think carefully about. It's a beautiful, traditional addition, but this handmade detail doesn't come cheap. "Pricing for calligraphy addressing can vary with each artist, but it is typically priced between $3-5 per envelope, since each is calligraphed by hand using a special pen and ink," says Garrison. "This service is definitely an investment, but is so beautiful." Wax seals, handmade or deckle-edge paper, custom monograms, and illustrated maps are other popular details that can set you back. While they're certainly worth it if you have the money to spend, you can cut costs by figuring out which, if any, of these details matter to you most.

 

It's not just the price of the physical paper goods and extra details that you need to think about. Postage can throw your entire budget out of whack if you're not careful. "Most 'flat card' invitation suites only need one forever stamp, but pocket invitations or suites that have more elements can use one two-ounce $0.71 stamp," says Vodofsky. "It's also good to know that square invitations and envelopes cost slightly more to mail that standard rectangular envelopes, but that you can save a trip to the post office and order your stamps online at USPS or you can even get custom stamps from on online retailer." Also, don't forget stamps for your RSVP envelopes—that's wedding etiquette!