Thursday, January 10, 2008

DIY Invitations: Bar Mitzvahs, Weddings & Other Formal Parties

I just saved about $250 to $550 by making 200 formal invitations & reply cards for my son's upcoming Bar Mitzvah celebration. We spent about $150 in supplies. In contrast, I know people who have paid $400 to $700 for comparable invitations. The same logic applies to wedding invitations, sweet sixteen parties or other coming of age events.

Bottom Line: Elegant invitations can be created for about $1 and under per invitation. DIY prices are at least 200 percent cheaper than professional printing costs. For example, online I found a company that will print 25 invitations for $58 or $2.32 per invitation. And note: their sample was not nearly as pretty or as elegant as the invitation that we produced using a laptop, an HP printer and (a lot of) time.

Here are my tips & warnings about formal DIY invitations:

  • Get a kit: There are so many kits for DIY invitations. These how-to boxed sets are available at craft stores, at office supply stores and from online vendors. Our kit came from Office Depot and we paid about $33 (with a discount) for a set of 50 invitations with an elegant border made by Gartner Studios. (Full price is about $36). The kit included: 50 invitations (80-lb card stock), with envelopes, response cards/response envelopes, test sheets, instructions, sample wordings and elegant embossed seals for the outer envelopes. Per invitation cost: 66 cents, excluding the cost of our time and printing ink.

  • Shop the sales: All stores have periodic sales and most weddings, formal parties and coming-of-age parties are planned well in advance. Use the extra time to look for sales, promotions and discounts. We knew the date of the Bar Mitzvah for a long, long time. I'm annoyed that we waited until the last minute to get the invitation kits. We could have saved more at one of the seasonal sales. But still we used a special discount to shave a few dollars off the cost of each kit.

  • Remember mailing costs and buy more than you need: Get just a little extra--because you will make mistakes: The printer will jam and coffee will spill on invitations that are left on the dining room table. Also pick an invitation size that will require standard postage. Over-sized cards and envelopes will cost a fortune to mail. (I read that tip in Bottom Line Personal Finance)

  • Use your word processing program: If you can type an email or a report, you can type up the invitation. Play with fonts. We chose a the "Fine Hand Script," which created elegant, but easy-to-read letters. Experiment with spacing and centering. But don't get too fancy. Keep it simple. Also follow the directions on the box about setting up page margins to accommodate the invitation.

  • Test and Proofread: Mistakes -- grammar, spelling, spacing, etc. -- will happen. That's part of the process. Use spellcheck. Double check the spelling of your last name and the location. Use the test sheets. Walk away, chill out and then return to the scene. Proofread again and then hit the print button.

  • Plan your time: It took us four days to finish designing, printing, stuffing and addressing about 200 cards and envelopes. To get the most out of my work day and to avoid cutting into my income-producing hours, I did my share of the work on Saturday night, Sunday and during a few week-day nights. Note: the time commitment is one of the major drawbacks of DIY invitations.

  • Caution: Watch out for dirty hands, messy surfaces, short tempers, frustration and impatience. It's a process. Be patient. Be mindful. Printing and stuffing envelopes can be a meditative exercise or a mind-numbing drill. I've learned to just bliss out and save money.

  • Have Fun: We used a deep blue navy ink, which really made the invitations look better than the plain black ink version. Also at the top of the invitation we created a monogram by arranging my son's initials in a much larger font #22-#36-#22. The letters were centered at the top of the invitation and also on the reply card: GRE

This site offers a few helpful hints about DIY invitations. I have not used the vendor, but the online instructions seemed helpful. My sisters have made pretty shower invitations with ribbons and double layers. There are so many creative kits. I have used products (purchased from Office Depot) from Gartner Studios and have been pleased with the final product.

Previous Posts:

What is Luxury? Town & Country: Luxe is a Moving Target

Reformed Spenders Provide 10 Ways to Save in 2008

Barking Dogs, Stinking Turtles and Sick Hamsters Taught Me About Money

Cheap Travel Guide: Month-by-Month, City-by-City Hotel Savings Rates


Sharon Harvey Rosenberg is the author of The Frugal Duchess of South Beach: How to Live Well and Save Money... Anywhere!, which will be published in the Spring of 2008 by DPL Press.

1 comment:

Green Panda said...

We did our invitations for our wedding last year and saved hundreds of dollars. The kits are very helpful and just adding something extra makes it special.