Cheap wedding invitations: Save money, waste time

This is a DIY wedding invitation made with InDesign.

The problem—one of the problems—with tightwads is that we value money over time, often to a pathological degree. Hence, instead of paying for something we could—at least conceivably—do or make ourselves, we will almost always choose to do or make it ourselves—no matter the time commitment or skill level required. People who are clever and creative at this kind of thing are called DIYers. People who are not are called deluded.

I fall into the latter category. Case in point: I decided to make my own wedding invitations. Easy peasy, I thought, I’ll just go to that big craft superstore—you know the one—and buy one of those print-it-yourself invitation kits. The store has lots of cute designs where all you have to do is put in the wording, print it out, cut two holes in which to insert a ribbon (so you can embellish the invitation with a bow), and Bob’s your uncle. Or is he?

The thing is that all these kits come not only with invitations and envelopes, but reply cards, envelopes for the reply cards, thank you notes, and envelopes for the thank you notes. Not to mention envelope seals and a “keepsake box” (For what? Extra envelopes?). That’s way too many trees that had to die just so I could have wedding invitations, so I figured I’d just buy plain invitation cards and envelopes and design the invitations myself and print them on my home printer. Silly me.

First I hit a snag. The craft superstore had exactly two plain invites to choose from. The first was a card that folded into a nice, standard 5” x 7” format. But I didn’t like the fold part; I wanted to have a single sheet invitation (mostly because I had no idea how to print on a card that would be folded). Then again, they were on sale: 50 (plus envelopes) for $16.95. So I thought, what if I cut them in half and printed on one side? And then I asked myself, where would I find a paper cutter to use? And would it be really obvious that the invitations had been cut? I could practically hear the guests whispering to each other when they received the invitation: cheap bastards. So instead, I went with the second choice: 100 cards (non-foldable, with envelopes) for $25.99 that came in the puzzling and non-standard size of 8.5” x 5.5”.

Buying cards in a non-standard size was mistake number one, which I’ll get into a little later. Mistake number two was deciding to “design” the invites myself using inDesign, a program I have approximately zero training in and about as much natural aptitude. What would have taken a graphic designer, oh, I dunno, an hour? took me about 20. I gnashed my teeth, pulled my hair, and shed angry tears during what was truly a painstaking and gruelling exercise in near-futility. More than once I was ready to throw up my mouse in defeat and use one of the templates offered in Word or free on the Internet. But whenever I looked at them, I thought: Ew. And went back to do battle with inDesign. Four days later I emerged, shaky but triumphant, with a design I was happy with.

Overjoyed, I went to print off my creation, only to discover that my printer does not print borderless. And I needed it to, as the image on the invite overlapped the border (Lord knows how I figured out how to do that), and had to, simply had to, print edge to edge. OK, wait, my printer will print borderless, but only with standard sizes, such as, you know, 5” x 7”. So I thought, OK, I have two choices: one, I go to an actual printer and have the invites printed, which would—cringe—cost money; or two, I return the invitation cards to the store, buy standard sized (5″ x 7″ anyone?) cards somewhere else, and print the invitation at home. The only problem was I had already used three sheets as test sheets. It wasn’t that I would have an ethical dilemma around returning a less than complete invitation set—I wouldn’t—but I couldn’t bear the mortification of being caught out.

So I took my PDF to my local print shop and the boss quoted me $25 to print 50 invites. Fine. So he prints one off and—guess what?—his printer won’t print borderless on non-standard sizes either. Why don’t I just trim them, he says, and I say, through gritted teeth, yes, why don’t you? So he does, and they end up being—you guessed it—5” x 7”. And yes, you can totally tell they’ve been cut and I’m sure that our guests will think we’re cheap bastards.

All told, I spent about $55 on the invitations. Not bad. But the hours I spent creating and recreating and finessing and tweaking and doing everything the long and hard way because I never learned inDesign shortcuts—are there any?—are hours I will never get back. Ever.

There are two morals to this story: 1) The best intentions will not always ensure success (Aesop); 2) Never underestimate the power of your home printer to screw you every chance it gets (me).


3 responses to “Cheap wedding invitations: Save money, waste time

  1. First – CONGRATULATIONS, Tamara!
    Second – thank goodness you went through that experienced and shared it. I would have done exactly the same thing… but I’m so cheap Dave and I are actually considering a secret wedding – no invites required!

  2. Oh Tamara, I wish you had of asked me for some help! You just never know when someone might need a little copy editing or resume finessing in exchange 🙂 Glad you got them done! And congrats!! Our wedding invites were super cheap, we made an event on facebook!

    • Oh, my dear Jeannine, believe me, I did think of you often when I was “designing” those invites. So I guess you are married already? Congratulations to you!

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