What Do Wedding Invitations Cost?
Category: Wedding Invitations | Published on: March 26, 2015
As fun as it is browsing through beautiful stationery designs, it's hard to get that nagging voice out of your head: what will these wedding invitations really cost?
The 6 Factors that Affect the Price of Your Invites
Wedding invitation prices can fall all over the board, which is perhaps why I find couples have a difficult time figuring out just how much to budget. Especially if you're not familiar with the world of wedding stationery, you may find your purchasing experience a lot more stressful and a lot more expensive than you anticipated.
When picking out your invitations, you have to make sure your vision and your budget are on the same page. Before you get your heart set on that super-elegant (and super-expensive) metallic suite, take a step back and figure out what works best for your wallet.
The Basic Formula
As with anything related to numbers, you start with an equation:
Total Budget = Cost per Invitation x Number of Invitations
There are three basic numbers to work with here:
You probably have a budget limit that you absolutely have to stay under. Set your working budget for 90% of that, leaving a little wiggle room for last-minute changes.
For our example, let's go with an invitation budget limit of $1000, so let's make our working budget $900 for simplicity.
Remember to also create a budget for day of stationery! This includes things like programs, menus, and signs.
Number of Invitations
Note that this isn't the same thing as the number of guests!
You can easily figure out your number of invitations by grouping your guest list by mailing address. This means you have to have your guest list finished before you can figure out your invitation budget.
Couples only need one invitation. If you're inviting families with kids, the whole family only needs one. Send adult guests and their parents separate invitations, even if they live in the same house. Don't forget to mail invitations to your immediate family and wedding party!
Your invitation count is probably about 40-60% of your total guest list. Add an extra 10-15 invitations to that number for last minute-invitees or other things that may come up.
Again, for example, let's say you need 100 invitations.
Cost per Invitation
This is where you'll need to do a little math. Take your total budget, and divide it by the number of invitations you'll need.
$1000 = Cost per Invitation x 100
For our example budget, the estimated cost per invitation is $10.
But that doesn't tell you much. What's that $1000 invitation budget going to get you?
What Wedding Invitations Really Cost
Here's where things get tricky.
Most invitation ordering services like CharmCat give discounts for higher quantities and have minimum ordering quantities. So your cost per invitation may be lower if you're ordering a lot.
For CharmCat, the basic invitation suite starts around $3.30 per invite at 100 invites. (The more you order, the less each invite costs.) This gets you an invitation, response postcard, and envelope.
Cost Factor 1: Design
There are many different levels of design that you can choose from. Semi-custom designs are less money, but you don't get something that's super unique because you're choosing from existing designs.
The price of custom designs varies, so it's hard to give a cost estimate. Factors that affect the cost of custom design include intricacy, materials needed, and reproduction rights.
Remember, the only person who can judge the value of the artist's time is the artist. If you can't afford a full custom design, ask for other options, such as pairing a custom invitation with a pre-made RSVP.
Cost Factor 2: Number of Items
The more pieces you have in your suite, the more your wedding invitations will cost.
At a minimum, you'll need an invitation, envelope, and a response card (or card with your rsvp website). You may decide that you need more pieces to include directions, reception information, hotels, or other useful tidbits. Each card's going to add about $1.00-2.00 to the price per invitation.
You may also decide you want other embellishments to make the look of your suite fit your personality even more. Cheaper options, such as adding a design to the back, or getting rounded corners, will run you about $0.10-0.20 per invite.
Add other options like a belly band or ribbon with a tag for $0.40-1.00 per invite. Build up the invitation and other cards with layered paper for about $0.70 per layer.
I also really love pocketfolds! Unwrapping a pocketfold is like opening a gift. Expect to add $1.00-2.00 (due to increased postage) if you do pocketfolds.
You'll also want to consider the cost of convenience services, like assembly, stuffing, stamping, and mailing.
Cost Factor 3: Addressing
We started out our adventure with blank envelopes, but one way or another, you'll have to address them. (Insert rim shot here!)
And unless you've been doing some serious finger stretches, you're probably not planning on doing them yourself.
There are a few different routes to tackle addressing, but most couples opt for either professional calligraphy or digital addressing. Which one you choose will depend on your preference and your budget. Calligraphy's going to run you a few bucks per invitation, while digital addressing is more budget-friendly, costing around $2 per invite.
Wanna learn more? Check out this post all about digital addressing!
Cost Factor 4: Paper
So far we've assumed you're going with the standard, tried-and-true plain white stock. But maybe something else speaks to you, like ecru, cotton, or metallic paper. Maybe you want lavender envelopes instead of white.
Plus, you can choose to go with recycled or sustainable paper, like cotton or bamboo. There are different finishes as well, such as felt (my signature choice), linen, or other textures.
Paper also comes in different thicknesses. Thick paper is great if you want your invites to stand out, and is gorgeous with letterpress. Thicker paper cost more, and it may also push your postage cost up.
Each upgrade will add anywhere from $0.10-0.75 per item.
Curious about paper? Read all about the different invitation paper options!
Cost Factor 5: Printing
The most cost effective printing is called flat or digital. It gives you the most bang for your buck, as you're not restricted to the number of colors, but there are some colors that digital printing just can't reproduce. If you want to use metallic, neon, or specialty colors, you'll have to upgrade to different printing methods.
The basic upgrade from digital printing is spot printing, which gives your lettering some fantastic, bright colors. You can also take another step up and try letterpress printing. In addition to using spot color, this technique creates cool textures by making an impression in the paper. With spot color or letterpress, you pay for each color you print, and each color can run up to $2.00 extra per piece.
You can really jazz up your invites by including foil stamping! Gold and silver aren't your only options, either. Do pink, blue, green, even shiny black! You can combine foil with digital printing for a full range of color. Foil stamping will run you about an extra $3.00 per piece.
More traditionally, invitations were printed with a technique called engraving. The ink is bonded to the paper and remains raised, so it adds texture like letterpress. Engraved invitations are usually designed with traditional calligraphy. If this is up your alley, expect to be paying a lot. For small quantities, add up to $20.00 per set. If you're getting over 100, the up-charge is closer to $6.00-10.00. Engraving is by far the most expensive printing choice.
This post has an in-depth review of printing types for you.
Cost Factor 6: Size
Most invitations tend to be 5x7 inches, but there are other options to explore. The long 9.25x4 inch style is fun and modern. If you want to make a big statement, go bigger, like 8.5x5.5 inches. If you think it's hip to be a square, go with the 5x5 inch size. There's also the fantastic trifold!
Changing sizes can lead to unexpected costs, which brings us to...
Bonus Cost Factor: Postage
People definitely forget to include the cost of postage in their invitation budget. Remember, it's proper etiquette to include postage so your guest can RSVP. Make sure you calculate the cost of sending invitations and receiving reply cards.
If you've included a lot of cards, thick embellishments, or you picked an odd size (like the square), you'll have to pay extra postage. One small cost-cutting trick is to go with the postcard RSVP instead of the usual card-in-envelope. Postcard postage is about $0.10 cheaper than first class stamps.
So, what do wedding invitations really cost?
The answer is that there is no easy answer. What your wedding invitations will cost is up to what choices you make. There will always be a minimum cost you have to meet (the actual invites, envelopes, and postage), but beyond that there's a whole world of decisions and costs to consider.
You also have to keep in mind that some of your wants might be out of your budget range. If your budget is only $500, then you'll have a hard time managing custom invitations.
Choosing Your Invitations to Fit Your Budget
Now comes the hard part: you have to pick the options that are most important to you to build a suite that matches your budget.
A good stationer will help you pick the right options to create a design you can afford.
While it may seem restricting, remember that you can mix and match some options. Let's see what we can get out of our theoretical $9 per invitation.
A few variations that fit the budget:
- A semi-custom design digitally printed with an invitation, addressed envelopes, reply cards, matching envelopes, a custom map card, and stuffing.
- A semi-custom design with an invitations with your names and floral accents in Rose Gold foil, addressed envelopes, and reply postcards.
- A custom painted digitally printed invitation with addressed envelopes and a custom insert card with your reply website on it.
- A custom painted digitally printed invitation, blank envelopes with a custom painted liner, reply cards, and reply envelopes.
For help navigating your options and figuring out the best way to show off your style through your invites, contact me for a consultation!
You can also get more information on what CharmCat's wedding invitations really cost from my pricing page.