(8 months out)
We sent out our Save The Date cards are early as possible after signing our wedding contract and locking in our dates, to give our guests as much time as possible to plan their trips. We asked them to Pre-RSVP if they could, to help wittle down the numbers of full invitations we would send out (because we knew the invitations were going to be expensive!)
Once they were in the mail, we pretty much immediately turned our attention to the full invitation and planning booklets.
GOALS & CONCEPT
Our guest list for our wedding was around 100--- that’s 100 addresses, many of which were families of 2 or 4. We were told that Disney weddings has an RSVP rate around 80%. We were skeptical that that many folks from our list would be able to make it, and thought that our RSVP rate would be much lower. Taking a trip to Disney is a big ask, especially for those who don’t go regularly.
With this in mind, I wanted to go above-and-beyond with our wedding invitations. For most of the folks on our list, we figured that this would be their only participation in our wedding and we wanted them to feel included even if they couldn’t come. We also wanted to share with our distant friends and family details of what we’d been up to in the past ten years since we’d originally gotten engaged!
On Pinterest I came across great examples of Destination wedding invitations (which can be more like mini-vacation planning packages) as well as some really lovely photo-album inspired invitations. I decided to fuse these two concepts together to create our invitations.
DESIGNING THE DESIGN
In my past life, I attended design school and spent years making hand-crafted books. However, since 2009 I’ve been working in the technology sector designing software interfaces. I haven’t made a book in years. So this was a fun excuse for me to pull out my saddle-stitcher and bone folder (yes, I have those kinds of supplies and so much more!)
Once I had the initial design mocked up, I started the process of sourcing the paper and printing--- this was the first major hurdle that I experienced. Many of the printers that I had worked with years prior were no longer around! They had quietly retired or gone out of business, and the print shops that I was able to find did not have the types of paper that I really wanted to use. (I realize that this sounds a bit snobby, but bear with me: paper is one of my favorite things, so of course I wanted to use a lovely paper for my wedding invitations!)
Eventually, I reached a point of complete frustration and, crunched for time because we wanted to give our guests as much time to plan their trips as possible, I compromised and went with a standard paper stock with the intention of hand-altering it with stamps or other embellishments. This is something that I still regret, but it was necessary.
Near my office is a Paper Source and I stopped by there every few days to look at their crafting supplies. One day, one of the employee’s was giving an embossing demonstration. I wasn’t familiar with hand-embossing and immediately realized that the technique would help distract from the lousy paper I was printing on. I bought a variety of rubber stamps online (much less expensive!) and once they’d arrived I stamped directly onto my design mockups until I got the spacing just right. I even found a floral stamp that (unintentionally) looked like a Hidden Mickey when stamped upside down! #winning!
Note the spaces in the background pattern to accommodate the stamps. This took a lot of trial and error.
Another feature of the design that was problematic was the actual construction. I knew that we wanted to do a folder with vacation planning materials inside. We talked about printing a huge double-sided trifold, and then gluing in a pocket, but the trifold would have to be over 30” which would have been extremely expensive to produce. One afternoon while describing the challenge to my coworker (also a designer) the solution hit me. Instead of gluing a pocket into a 30” trifold, I could glue together two 20” bifolds, cutting down the excess flap of the second bifold to create the pocket! (This makes more sense once you see the photos below). Not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I thought this was a pretty genius solution!
I did several design mockups to make sure that I had all the margins correct for the complex assembly and stamping that I was planning before sending the files off to be printed. I received them back from the printer in batches, which worked out well because it forced me into more of an assembly-line production method--- I had originally been planning to assemble each book completely, and that would have been disastrous in hindsight.
EMBOSSING THE FOLDERS
If you aren’t familiar with stamp embossing, basically you use a slow-drying ink (I used Versamark), dust it with a special embossing powder, and then hit it with a heat gun to melt the powder. I experimented with a lot of stamps and inks on the actual coated paper we were using to find a combination that looked great. Some powders were too fine, while others too course, for the stamps I wanted to use. And some of the stamps I wanted to use had designs that just weren’t good for embossing. Eventually, I found a combination that worked well.
In practice, for the large-scale production of our invites, the embossing process took some time to develop a rhythm. Because the slow-drying embossing ink is clear, it’s really hard to line it up and know that you’ve gotten the whole image stamped before you dust it with the embossing powder… and of course, once you’ve dusted it with the embossing powder, it’s too late to go back and re-apply the ink. To help with this, I started marking the stamps’ wood block handles to line up with visible elements on the printed page.
The folders were the first pieces we received from the printer, and were the two bifolds from which we were going to create the structure of the invitation and the pocket. These were embossed with a total of 4 stamps, then scored and folded. It was good that we received just the folders first (even though I’d originally wanted them all bookletized!) because it allowed me to throw away about 10% of each where the stamps hadn’t turned out well, and combined only those that had good stamps. If they’d already been combined, then I would have ended up in the situation where the first three stamps went well and the fourth one ruined the whole thing, which would have been really frustrating!
I returned the covers to the printer to be scored and folded, and for the left side to have the photo album pages inserted. When they were returned, I cut down the right side to create the pocket shape, and glued it into the left side, using sparkly silver tape to close the outside edge and create the silver element visible when the invitations were closed.
After assembling dozens of these, that sparkly tape started to feel like sandpaper and really tore up my fingers!
LIBRARY CARDS, FRONT INVITE, ENVELOPES
In addition to the envelopes, we embossing the library cards, library card pockets, invitation for the front of the packet, and the teal mailing envelopes. All of these little embellishments were hefty crafting projects in themselves, and I worked to get them completed while we waited for the main elements of the invitation to come back from the printer.
Once assembled into the embossed folder covers, we added the replica photos into the photo album pages using inexpensive photo corners. I purchased a variety of photo corners, in silver, sparkly, and black. The ones that worked best were the super cheap black ones which came on a roll because I was able to apply them quickly to the photos. In order to speed things up we decided to use only two corners for most of the smaller pictures. This was also an aesthetic choice because having four corners on the smaller pictures was very heavy visually.
We applied the corners to the photo, and then stuck the photo into the booklet in the appropriate place. Remember the sticker-by-number books they had in the 80's? Yeah, it was sort of like that. The album pages had been printed with the captions already in place which helped guide the photos. I also created four “sample books” that my helpers followed in order to know which picture went where.
My daughters were both eager to help and so I laid out all the photos and they bundled one of each image in the order that they appeared in the booklets and rubber-banded them together to make little packets. This really helped in the assembly of the albums because we didn’t have to rifle through the pile looking for the next picture.
We found pictures that told the story of our lives together up to now (the wedding): from early childhood pictures, to snapshots from when we first started dating in college, trips we took together, the day we bought our first home, had our children, and more recent family trips. My partner kept it very "non-Disney", though on the last page of the album (once we were into the "trip planning" portion of the invitation) we cobbled together a picture of me with Minnie Mouse on the Empress Lily in the 1980's and a picture of Brendan at the Beach Club in the 1990's with current pictures of us with our kids at Walt Disney World!
Our RSVP’s were definitely non-traditional. For guests who were attending we needed to gather more information than just the traditional “beef or chicken” selection. I created little trifolds that had a check list of activities for guests to return in a supplied envelope.
For guests who could not attend, we decided to do a Disney postcard where each one is unique. I ordered the Art of Disney postcard set (which you can actually send through the mail, though that’s not the intent) and asked guests to write us a little note for our wedding album. We even tried to match up the post card design to the guest we were sending it to. We’ll have these at our wedding to mark everyone part of our special day, even if they weren’t able to join us in person!
To save on stamps, we included one stamp in the package held on with a heart-shaped paperclip. I had read a wedding tip that you should number your RSVP cards so that if guests forget to add their name or if their signature is illegible you can match it up. We did that and it was definitely a life saver!
An unintended consequence of this was that when I checked the mail I knew immediately whether I was receiving a Yes (teal envelope) or a No (happy postcard!). The adorable Disney postcards also made the No’s not feel so personal. For an anxious person like me who already doesn’t love opening envelopes, it was nice to know right away what the answer was. Though, of course, we received some postcards inside envelopes and some Yeses on postcards because either my friends were trolling me, or they can’t follow directions, or both! #thestruggleisreal!
But srsly, how cute is my mirror full of "no we can't attend your wedding" notes?
I don't want to forget the planning booklets, but because they were only digitally printed and not embellished at all it's easy for them to get left out! The planning booklets were chock full of useful information about the trip, including a guide to the activities we were planning to do with our guests, details about the resorts, and contact information for booking a Disney Vacation.
We even designed a map of WDW that showed where all the wedding activities were located, and priced out sample trip packages ranging from $300 for a family of 2, up to $3,000 for a family of 4 for a full week. We went into details about how to get dining reservations and make fast passes and the difference between booking with Disney Weddings vs. booking a traditional wedding package.
They were super thorough... unfortunately, they went unread by many guests. How frustrating is that!? Maybe thorough isn't always the most helpful? (Nah!)
If you're looking for some ideas, I've linked our booklets below as PDFs.
The last step was to put it all together. The library card envelopes I’d bought from the librarystore.com were self-adhesive. Those went in to the front of the left envelope. There were two planning booklets: one laid out the activities we were planning, and the other was about Disney vacations and accommodations. These stacked in the back pocket with the RSVP items so that the postcard was visible with the heart-shaped paperclip.
On the “front” outside of the packet I used sticky zots to affix the “traditional” looking wedding invitation, and the whole thing was tied up with a silver cord and put into the teal envelopes which I hand-addressed and sealed with leftover sparkly tape.
Most of the invitations arrived fairly quickly, but some took several weeks to arrive and I don’t really understand why there was a delay for some but not all.
We received many compliments on our finished invitations. Even though I’m never going to be happy with the paper we used, I’m thrilled with how they turned out. Most importantly, it was wonderful getting to work with my hands and put together physical books again after so long. Even though it was a lot of work, I loved every minute of it!
Check out the photos of our invitations from our wedding day! (I am still planning to do a more product-centric photo shoot of the invites, but haven't yet found the time. It's up there on my to do list, I promise!)