While letterpress wedding invitations and hand-lettered save-the-dates are undeniably elegant, the cost of invitation suites can certainly add up. Who knew paper and printing could be so expensive? But if you’re on the hunt for a budget-friendly alternative (and aren’t afraid of a little DIY work), there is another option—printing your own invitations at home.
The Benefits of DIY Wedding Invitations
There are plenty of talented stationers and graphic designers who will deliver downloadable files that can be customized and printed at home. For a fraction of the cost of a custom invitation suite and printing services, you can get a semi-custom invitation that will match your wedding's style and theme. "Cost is definitely the biggest benefit," says Kate Weber, owner and designer of West + Pine, a paper company focused on designing invitation templates for weddings and other special events. "This way you're not having to pay someone else to do the printing service."
Meet the Expert
According to Weber, printing your own invitations from a downloadable template gives you the option of finding an invitation design that suits your style, customizing it to fit your specific wedding information, and then quickly printing invitations on your own and shipping them off. "You could easily do it in an afternoon with the right planning," she says.
If this sounds like something you can handle, we've put together a guide to help you navigate the DIY wedding invitation route. Read on for 13 steps to consider, along with tips and tricks from the pros.
Calculate the Cost
Even if you are printing at home, the cost of ink and paper will still set you back a bit, especially if you spring for high-quality paper stock or heavily saturated inks. Be sure to factor in details such as the size of your invitations, your paper type, whether your invitations will be flat or folded, and other embellishments such as a belly band or wrap. And don’t forget postage and envelopes. All of these elements will help you determine if the cost savings outweigh ordering from a pro.
Identify Your Style
Before you spend hours searching online, consider the style you want for your invitation. Do you want something simple and elegant? Bold and colorful? A watercolor motif? Take some time to look at different options before searching through designers' profiles. "It's helpful to create a Pinterest board as a mood board to identify your style," explains Weber. "Pin everything you love, and then go back to look at what you're pinning a lot of." Weber suggests that if you find a trend in certain fonts being used or similarities in colors, you should consider starting with designers who utilize those elements.
Designer and DIY lifestyle expert Lia Griffith advises keeping in mind that some designs are better suited for at-home printing than others. "Designs with more white space and lighter color backgrounds will look better on home printers—and save on your printer ink bill," she says.
Schedule and Plan Ahead
Printing your own invitations may be more affordable than having them printed by a pro, but that doesn't always mean it will be faster. Be sure to give yourself time, grace, and patience when printing at home because it can get a little complicated. As Amy Gonzales, a designer at Smitten on Paper, a custom wedding invitation company, points out, invitations should be mailed eight weeks before the wedding date, so plan your printing time accordingly. "Make sure you have about 10 percent more supplies than you actually need (like ribbon, paper, ink, and envelopes) in case of mistakes or the need to reprint something," Gonzales explains.
Choose Your Vendors
Online options such as Minted, Shutterfly, and Zazzle offer gorgeous invitation templates at affordable prices (and discount codes, too!). And typically, you’re able to find a design complete with everything you’ll need for a full suite, from invitations and menu cards to thank-you cards. You can also find a variety of talented designers on Etsy who will customize their templates for you.
For printing, take into consideration the print-at-home option along with the option of sending your completed file to a larger printer such as Costco, Office Depot, or your neighborhood printing shop. "A print shop will be able to help select the best paper for your design, trim the cards to the perfect size, and provide that professional touch your wedding invitations deserve," says Griffith.
Plan Your Customization
According to Weber, you'll typically have the option of either doing the customization on a template yourself or having the designer do it for you. "If you're going to do it yourself, it does limit the ability to change things such as fonts or colors," she says.
The most inexpensive option is to download the template and change the details on your own, but if you want any of the design elements changed, the designer is typically able to accommodate and send the ready-to-print file back to you. As you're editing the wording and finalizing your design, be sure to run it past multiple sets of eyes before you hit the print button to avoid any mistakes.
Find the Right Fit
Even though you’re choosing the DIY route, you still want your invitations to look hot off the professional press. Susy Fontaine, the co-owner of Invys, advises using a design that "bleeds" for the most professional look. "The trick is having a design that reaches the edge of the paper with no white margins," she explains. "This effect, called a full bleed in the printing industry, is achieved by creating a design slightly larger than the final cut size. The extra will be trimmed off and discarded. For example, a 5x7-inch standard invitation design would actually be 5.25x7.25 inches, and an eighth of an inch will be trimmed from each side to ensure it goes right to the edge."
Your best bet is to center the design on larger paper, giving you space for margins and plenty of room to trim neatly. "Most home printers can’t print all the way to the edge, which can make it look like your design was cut off,” Fontaine adds.
Pick Out Your Paper
When it comes to paper, you definitely want something other than that regular thin printer paper. "Generally, the thicker you go with the paper, the more luxurious it will feel," says Weber. According to Weber, a 120 lb. uncoated cardstock will offer a gorgeous look and feel. "Consider using something with a bit of texture to it as well, such as a linen or felt texture," she says.
Weber suggests heading to a specialty stationery store or a print shop to choose your paper. Feel the paper before you commit to buying a whole ream, and test several options on your printer at home to be sure it will be a good fit.
Consider File Types
Be sure to let the designer know ahead of time what type of file you'll need for printing to avoid too much back and forth. "Printing as a PDF will have higher quality than a JPEG will," says Weber. "But each option for printing, whether it's online or at a local print shop, will have a different file type requirement."
Figure Out Your Ink Usage
You’ve thought about how much the paper will cost, but the ink can get expensive as well. "If you have a colored background, you’ll use a lot of ink, which can really affect the cost of your invitations," says Fontaine. "Also, a less-than-brand-new printer can show imperfections in large fields of color." Letting the paper show through while including colorful touches in the design may be the best way to go when printing at home.
If you have your eye on white font on your invitations, consider having a print shop tackle the project. Often, invitations shown with white fonts actually utilize a colored background, and the parts of the design showing white are unprinted. To alleviate going through an excess of ink and the stress it will put on an at-home printer, it's best to ship off the design and pick up the prints.
Check Your Computer and Printer
If you’re printing at home, it’s important to make sure all of your equipment is working properly. "Your computer screen may not give you a great depiction of how the design will actually print," says Weber. "Home printers tend to be a shade or two darker, while cost-effective web or local printers are usually a bit lighter."
Spend time printing tests and adjusting the settings on your printer to get the colors you want, and invest in a sample or two if you’re having a professional do the heavy lifting so you can get the color balance to come through perfectly. Once you're all set, it's time to hit the print button.
Select Your Envelopes
Of course, you'll need envelopes to put those beautiful invitations in once all of that printing is said and done. "Find envelopes that will fit and match your invitation," recommends Weber. "It's important to get envelopes that aren't the exact same size as your invitation, giving it a bit of room, and don't forget about envelopes for RSVP cards."
If you want to add a pop of color to your invitation suite, be sure to choose an envelope color that is light enough so the address can still be seen. Envelope liners are also a great way to dress up your invitations, whether you use metallic paper or a patterned option.
Set Up for Easy Assembly
The quickest way to get clean cuts for your invitations at home is to use a paper cutter with a new, sharp blade. "This is a great job to delegate to a bridesmaid who is offering to help," says Griffith. Assembling layers or adding envelope liners? Griffith recommends using glue dots or double-stick tape instead of glue—and she advises the same to seal the envelopes, too.
Head to the Post Office
Once you have an invitation completely put together (with all the embellishments and inserts), stick it in an envelope and go to the post office to have it weighed. Remember that the shape of the envelope will also impact the cost. Hoping for hand-canceling to avoid any potential ripping or damage? Mention that to your postal worker while you’re calculating postage in case there are extra accommodations that need to be made (such as printing "Hand Cancel, Please" on each envelope).