Signed, Sealed, Delivered: A Definitive Guide to Hand-Canceling Your Wedding Invitation Envelopes

Most mail is stamped by a machine at the post office, a machine which might ruin your pretty envelopes

Updated 09/19/19

Photo by Almond Leaf Studios

There are infinite ways to dress up your wedding invitations, from belly bands and pocket folds to fabric-covered boxes and multi-piece wedding weekend kits. While adding a little extra detail to your invites doesn't have to cause the cost to skyrocket, the more pieces and three-dimensional items you add can make sending out your invitations a little more complicated. Most mail is canceled by machines (that's what prints those lines and dates over postage stamps), but if the envelope is uneven or bulky, the machine can cause the envelope to rip and can potentially damage whatever is inside. That's where hand-canceling comes in. Essentially, each stamp on your envelope is marked (or "canceled") using a hand stamp instead of as it's run through the machine, preventing your painstakingly-stuffed envelopes from being torn before they've even left the post office. Does this service sound like something you might need? Here are a few tips to keep in mind before you head to the mailbox.

Check With Your Postmaster

Before you apply any stamps to your invitations, assemble a mock-up (complete with all the inserts and accoutrements) and bring it to the post office to be weighed and checked by the postmaster or another USPS employee. They will be able to check if your envelope is too bulky to be canceled by machine, as well as tell you how much postage you'll need based on the weight of your invitations.

Purchase the Correct Postage

Now that you know how much your invitation weighs and if it requires hand canceling, purchase a combination of stamps (or a single custom stamp) that reaches your necessary postage. Remember that hand-canceling requires an extra cost (currently $0.21), so if your envelopes need to be hand-canceled, that amount needs to be included in the postage. For example, an envelope that is light enough to be mailed using a $0.55 first class stamp (up to 1 oz.) would require $0.76 of postage if it needs to be hand-canceled.

Do It Yourself

While it varies from place to place, some post offices will allow you to hand-cancel envelopes yourself. You'll have to stamp all the envelopes in the post office, but you'll be able to see that everything was handled carefully!

Make It Clear

Can't hand-cancel the envelopes yourself? No problem, the postmaster or another post office employee will be able to do it for you. Try to head to the post office at an off hour so you can talk with the post office employee about what you'll need, and consider printing "Hand Cancel" in the upper left corner of your envelopes (opposite the stamps) so nothing gets missed.

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