Many couples at the beginning of their wedding planning journey are focused on wedding invitations in regards to the overall look, style, and how to wow their guests. Working with an amazing stationer or having your invites arrive for you to assemble and mail out gets you pumped - but how do you get these beautiful works of art to their destinations? What stamps do you use? What the heck is "hand-canceled" or "non-machinable"? What about Vintage Postage, where do you get it? ...It's a lot to consider once you're ready to head to the Post Office and can be extremely overwhelming when maybe snail mail isn't your regular jam
The cost of mailing a standard wedding invitation can vary depending on factors such as the weight, size, and destination. In the United States, as we head into 2024, a standard one-ounce wedding invitation typically requires a First-Class postage stamp (think "Forever Stamp" as more people are familiar with that term). In 2024, the value of a First-Class (or "Forever stamp") will be bumping up to $.68. The great thing about Forever stamps is they will hold whatever value they are assigned - hence "forever". so even if you buy 100 of them for your invites in 2023, but are not mailing until after the value goes up in 2024, you are still covered as long as your invitations fit within the designated specs (being 1oz and standard rectangle shape/size).
**A reminder as well that if you are opting for mail-back RSVP cards, don't forget to add postage to them before assembling and sealing your envelopes! Guests are more likely to mail them back in a timely fashion if all they have to do is drop them back in the mail already paid for.
What if my wedding invitation is heavier than one ounce?
More than likely, it is. If your wedding invitation weighs more than one ounce, you'll need to add additional postage. The exact cost will depend on the total weight of the invitation and any additional enclosures, such as RSVP cards or extra inserts. This is pretty standard as well as couples typically opt for heavier-weight cardstocks for their invitations, which bumps the weight up. Other factors that increase the cost of postage can be wax seals, ribbon ties, as well as acrylic invitations - which sometimes must be treated as packages depending on how thick they are.
Invitations weighing more than one ounce may only require an additional ounce postage
stamp paired with a forever stamp - which your post office clerk should be able to tell you relatively easily. The next step up, is if your invitations need to be hand canceled. When you are investing in beautiful paper goods for your event, this is crucial to ensure they arrive to your guests in the best condition. Hand canceling is a postal service process in which a postal worker manually stamps a cancellation mark on a piece of mail, typically by using a rubber hand stamp. This process is used to prevent automated sorting machines from processing the invitations, which can bend, tear, and cause a lot of damage. The cancellation mark applied during hand canceling typically includes the date and location of the post office or mail processing center where it was processed - so sometimes this in itself is a special touch if you are having a destination wedding and want them processed through the local post office.
If your invitations are especially thick, rigid, or a nonstandard size or shape - this will push you up into the next bracket being a parcel, which currently is around $5 per envelope to mail. If you want to avoid this high of a postage charge, it is important to discuss with your stationer your expectations about design and budget early on so they can design something amazing but with your priorities in mind.
How do I get my invitations Hand-Canceled?
If your wedding invitations need to be hand-canceled, you can request this service at your local post office. Keep in mind that there may be an additional fee associated with hand canceling, and not all post offices offer this service, so it's a good idea to check with your local postal service to see if it's available and what the associated costs are. The other issue here is that unfortunately some postal workers may not understand hand canceling and will try to charge you a package rate for your invitations - don't be afraid to ask for another worker's opinion or even go to a different post office, as a stationery designer, I have had to do this on multiple occasions when I go to not usual post office and am told the envelopes need to be run as packages if I don't want them to go through the machines.
The second piece of hand-canceling is having a "non-machinable" rate stamp, which covers the surcharge of the pieces having to be hand-sorted. You can always add additional stamps to meet this value if you don't have a true non-machinable stamp on hand, but you need to be sure to go in and hand the invitations to a clerk and verbally confirm with them that you need them hand canceled and ask them to double check that you have the correct amount of postage.
What about Vintage Postage?
Finding and curating vintage postage stamp collections for your invitations adds a beautiful and charming touch - plus extra flair for your envelopes! There are many online retailers that sell bulk out-of-circulation stamps, or will even curate a set for you based on color/region, etc. What you need to expect here is that you are paying an additional fee for this service in addition to the actual cost of mailing your invitations, so you will need to budget accordingly. One other hidden cost associated with vintage postage is the time cost of applying them via tape runner or glue-stick to envelopes. When you have to apply 5 stamps to your invitations versus 1, you are assigning yourself a lot of extra work to get them ready to mail.
The best practice for vintage postage is also to take in a sample of your invitations to be weighed and double-checked for value at the Post Office, it's better to be sure they are good to go than having them bounce back to you or arrive to your guest with "insufficient postage" that they must pay for.
How early should I send out wedding invitations?
Sending out wedding invitations well in advance is important to give your guests enough time to RSVP and plan for the event. Typically, from what I see with my clients, wedding invitations are mailed 8-12 weeks before the wedding date, with save-the-date cards or notices sent 8-12 months before the wedding date. If you have a lot of guests coming from out of state or out of the country, the more notice you can give them to make travel arrangements, the better. Opting for a mail-back RSVP card can also add to the timeline, as you then have to wait for guests to send them back, and there is always the potential they could get lost in the mail or guests forget, and then you have to make phone calls and follow up. If you are opting for RSVPs to be done electronically via a website or email, you can shorten the timeline a bit.
Can my Stationer do this instead?
Absolutely! Most stationery designers are happy to handle the mail out for you - yes there will be an additional fee for the postage, as well as the time, but you are investing in ensuring that they are sent out correctly the first time. Many will also handle finding and curating vintage postage as well if you want to add that service on. When in doubt, trust the professionals - whether it is the Stationery designer or the Post Office Clerks, we are on your side to get your invitations where they need to go, and keeping them safe and beautiful while in transit.