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Tuesday
Mar152011

Befriend Your Postmaster

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What do your invitations look like? Are they crazy-beautiful letterpress? Are they uber-cool designs from an Etsy shop, printed with soy ink on recycled paper? Are they like mine, a DIY kit from Michael's? Whatever your poison, passion or budget allows you to invest in, invitations are just that: an investment. They can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Mine was definitely in the low hundreds and you can see that break down here if you're interested.

I spent a hellalotta time figuring out what wording we wanted. I spent HOURS formatting, reformatting, downloading free fonts, testing fonts and rejecting fonts. I spent more hours printing the actual invites, the RSVP cards, address labels, return address labels and envelopes (additionally, menu cards, programs, wine lists, cake signs, etc). I became one with the varieties of glue dots, spray adhesives and corner punches. The printing and assembly of my invites and other paper goods was probably the most difficult task I undertook in the DIY portion of my wedding so when I hear about invites getting mangled by the US Postal System, I get a little pissed.

My girl Marie is getting married soon, the end of April to be exact. I've loved helping her out where I could (I did her Holiday Save the Dates and her OOT bag design) and I'm just sitting on pins and needles, waiting for her wedding. It's at a gorgeous location, she's got a stunning dress and I just can't wait to see her and her beau get hitched. I got their invitation last week and while it arrived slightly rounded and a little bent, it was gorgeous. However, I got a surprisingly calm call from the bride the day before I got my invite. Marie opened the call with, "I've had my first wedding crisis." and I thought, "Oh no!" and settled myself in for a tale of woe.

So here's what happened:

The day before I got my invite, the bride's parents received approximately 30 of the invites back in their own mailbox, many of them totally mangled. When the FOB took the invites back to the post office to figure out what happened he was told that the invites needed extra postage and that the return address that was positioned on the center back of the invite was a) in the wrong place and b) too large. The invites that were returned to the sender were invites that the USPS (or their machines) basically read backwards, return address as sending address. I am not going to tell you about the horror the FOB had to deal with at the post office and getting these invites sent back out, but I will tell you it included a LARGE, BLACK SHARPIE. *shudder*

So what can we learn about this? What can we take from this experience? Here's my advice

1. Take ALL your invitation parts to the post office and weigh them for correct postage. Make sure to include the ribbon, tissue, everything that's going in that dang envelope.

2. Take a completed invitation to the post office, weigh them compared to the components (just in case) and ask about the THICKNESS of your invite. (Step 1 &2 can be done at the same time). I just happened to do this for my invites on a fluke. The Postmaster saw the completed invite and asked to see it. He told me that the price wouldn't change, but that the bow that was tied inside was creating a large bump. This bump would make it fine through any feed, he explained, but what it would do is make that passage slightly uneven, which could catch on any of the corners of my pocket fold invite and tear the edges, potentially ruining the invite (my pocked fold WAS the invite, no outside envelope). I ended up modifying the bow so that it was a ribbon cross-over with a glue-dotted flower versus the bow that created a smaller bump. This was an easy decision change for me because the simple truth us this: I HATE BOWS. I hate tying them because it takes me at least 47 tries to get it right. 

3. HAND CANCEL you invitations. Do this. Period. DO NOT let the USPS do this to your invites. DO NOT trust the USPS to do this, even if they say they will. Do it yourself. There are too many inconsistencies between Post Offices to know which ones to trust and which ones not to. My suggestion is to go to a small, satellite Post Office versus the big ones. The satellite offices are where I got my best service, advice and consistency in what I was being told. I will say it again: HAND CANCEL your invites. You just paid beau coup dollars on your invites, spent time on wording and formatting and all that crap. Don't flush all that down the crapper by letting the USPS mangle them with their auto-cancel machine-thingy.

4. Be mindful of your return address. The USPS standard for return addresses in the top left hand corner of an envelope. Many of us like to write them on the back. Lots of invitation designs have them on the back because of the large pretty font or calligraphy on the front. Makes sense, right? However, if you choose to have your return address on the back, make sure that it's a significant font size difference (meaning smaller) and at the TOP of the back of your invite, not centered. This will help ensure that the invite gets to the party it was intended for versus right back in your own mailbox.

5. Don't sweat it once they're out. Marie is a calm-planning bride. She's particular, but not fussy. She's planning a kick-ass wedding for a lot of people in less than 6 months (go girl!) and is amazingly serene. THe reality is when it comes to invites you've got three camps:

a. You've got people who will open them and save them as a memento.

b. You've got people you will open, write down the date and then toss the invite.

c. You got people who will open, stick on the fridge as a reminder for the next 6 weeks and then toss.

That's it. That's what will happen to your invites. It's one reason why I refused to spend a lot of money on mine, simply because I know what happens to them in the end. My invites weren't going to be any more special then anyone elses and would end up in the garbage (make sure you keep one for yourself!) eventually. Once the invites are out, that's it. Whether they get mangled in the post or arrive super-pristine, there's just nothing you can do about it. Time to let that particular task go. My friend Marie seems to have taken to the "letting it go" part of wedding planning like a fish to water. Good for her! Can you?

Am I missing anything here? What additional invite advice would brides from days of yore suggest? Got anything to add? Leave a comment if you do!

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Reader Comments (10)

I'd say the biggest hurdle with my invites was actually sending them out. I was SO GOOD ... I went to the post office, with a completed invitation ADDRESSED IN THE SAME WAY THE REST WOULD BE, had it weighed, hand cancelled (oh, and they charged me for that. Boo.), and sent it off.

It arrived in my mail box (in the same town) a week later (delay much?) but un-ripped/bent/written upon or otherwise maimed.

So we meticulous put the required postage, and extra fee postage on each invite ... and my father went to mail them. They told him he was short 4 cents short on each.

What?!

Bless my dad, he looked at the 4 cent stamps, decided they were too ugly to include, and added 2 2 CENT STAMPS to each invite. Then was told hand cancelling was not allowed because "it takes too much time." He fought for it, and finally a manager allowed him to do it himself. All 100 of them.

Bless him.

For the most part, once they were FINALLY out, they were out. Only a few that went missing, and no returns (thank God). But when I went back to send an addiitional few a couple weeks later? They went without that additional 4 cents. Go figure.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

It seriously is the luck-of-the-draw. I would say go in expecting the worst and then you can be pleasantly surprised if it works out in your favor. Some post offices charge for hand-canceling (which is supposed to be illegal, btw, or at least that's what a postal worker wrote on some message board) and then some won't - in the same city! P.S. If you're in Chicago, go to the Sears/Willis Tower location - they are SUPER nice and won't charge you to hand-cancel and they understand that it's a special moment. I was SHAKING when I dropped off my invites. But seriously, in retrospect, we don't live in a perfect Martha Stewart world - everyone knows that stuff gets effed up in the mail. Ideally not by a black marker - yikes.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterveronica

this is BRILLIANT advice. i never would have thought of ANY of this.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlizzie

I'm sending my invitations out next week. :) I didn't use bows because I thought the bump from the knot might cause a problem in the mail. But now I'm concerned about the return address on the back of the envelope! We'll hope for the best.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElaine

Most of my invites got messed up going through the mail, I used one of the DIY kits from Michaels and the ink on the pocket fold of mine offset and smudged onto the white part of the invitation. NOT the ink from my printer, the ink that was already on the pocketfold of the product. My suggestion would be to mail yourself an invitation first and see how it arrives after going through the USPS machines.

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

Shannon, that's a great idea - to mail it to yourself! And the bleeding? I think that's common on almost all laser printers...even the Etsy invite I got had bleeding. Boo.

March 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterLouise

"Calm" Bride here (LOL at that....I may appear calm, but I - and my mother - almost took an AK-47 to the post office!!)...

I have since heard that there is nothing you can do about the envelopes going through some kind of sorter, EVEN IF you hand cancel them. They still have to be distributed that way. My beef was, wasn't there a human AT SOME POINT feeding them into a sorter? And noticing a whole bunch not going with the others? Anyway, there is nothing I can do about pure laziness and/or slack-jawed stupidity. In hindsight, we should not have sent dear old Dad to the post office to re-mail the returned ones. I can only imagine how some of them arrived. I get a little sick feeling in my stomach when I think about it. Some are still MIA, which definitely has me worried. But, worse case scenario, we mail out another.

I am guessing there will be bigger crises to fry as the day gets closer. So I'm picking my battles! ;-)

March 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie

I asked to have my invites hand cancelled and the PO obliged. However because there was a wax seal on the envelope they would not mail them without additional postage because the raised wax seal would supposedly jam the machines and had to be hand processed. So I was forced to pay the extra postage to avoid the machines.

I ended up seeing the mailed out invites and it turned out they were jammed through the sorting machines & machine cancelled (on top of the hand cancellation) anyway. So basically I paid extra postage for nothing & my invites were messed still messed up despite all the extra hassle and cost.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy, I have been hearing that more and more. That regardless of what you say/do/pay - the Post Office does what they want with your precious invites! GAH!

March 7, 2014 | Registered CommenterLouise

I took my invites to the post office, asked them to be hand canceled and they want to charge me an additional .21 cents even if I do it myself. Mine are standard size weight not bulky or anything. A different post office didn't say anything about the .21 cents and hand canceled them no problem. Why is there this inconstancy?

February 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTania

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