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Wedding Invitation Disaster

January 18, 2010

I had found some pretty cheap wedding invitations back in November and showed them to T.  He didn’t like them much, and since he has a better eye for art/design than I do, I offered the job of picking invitations to him.

He suggested having his friend do some custom invites, and I said, “sure, find out how much it would be.”  Yesterday we finally got the estimate.  Here is what we got a quote for:

  • 60 – Square Invitations to CA ceremony/reception
  • 60  – Similar announcements for Midwest reception
  • 60 – RSVP postcards for each event (120 total)
  • 120 envelopes (colored to match)

The printer she used quoted us $800 total.  Plus design time.

::::dies::::: Our wedding budget is about $15k and we have to spend $1.1k on invites?!  Plus postage.  I get she’s probably using some high quality printer and such…. But really?  About $225 was for the envelopes alone.  Nearly two dollars each?!  These are 2 color invites with nothing else fancy — no pockets, no enclosures.

I didn’t care about getting a custom design  — it just sort of happened.  I like them, but I’m not in love with them.  Not because they aren’t great (they are good!)  but because I don’t fall in love with wedding invitations in general.  It’s not my thing.

Design time is a sunk cost, but I’m annoyed — the first thing we asked for was a rough price range but we went through 2 rounds of designs before we even had a BALLPARK figure.   She asked if $300 seemed fair.  Since we didn’t agree on anything up front, we could say “no way”, but that would be unfair to her.  It seems fair for her time, but not if we can’t figure out a way to print them within our budget!

For those who have printed wedding invites or have some graphic design knowledge…  how do I get these printed for much much cheaper? Suggestions? We’d like to user her design, but obviously the printer isn’t going to work out.  Perhaps we also should revert to a more standard rectangular shape!

Obviously we’ll talk to T’s friend and see what she has to say about lowering printing costs — but do you have any helpful suggestions?   (Besides go back in time and NOT do it this way.)  By the way, we need to get these out sometime mid/late next month.  Yikes.

46 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 1:20 am

    Yikes! Printing costs have gone up though (actually, it’s paper costs), I know for us (the magazine), all our costs have increased this year. What kind of paper stock are you using? That is a huge part of the expense. I suggest calling various printers (that can print wedding invites) and getting a quote. Give them the design you have in mind, and if you like their quote, see if you can get a test run. Often they will do this for free.

    My ex friend had her invitations done through Papyrus. I’m not sure how much she spent though!

  2. January 19, 2010 1:27 am

    I think that $300 for the design is insane, and the rest of the cost is even more so. I know it might sound cheap as heck, but I’d recommend checking out Kinko’s for the printing, it should be MUCH more affordable. My BFF did her own design and printed them on nice plain stock from a local paper store and it was very affordable. (I can’t remember what she paid off the top of my head, sorry!)

    • January 19, 2010 8:00 am

      Yeah — I do think she spent a lot of TIME on it, but I’m not sure it was efficient – we didn’t ask for anything special. So how do we say, “wow, $300 is insane, can we pay you like $2/hr instead?”

      Well. We’ll be looking into everyone’s suggestions !

      • January 19, 2010 1:53 pm

        I’d consider offering her $200 for the design, she DID ask if that was reasonable and you hadn’t agreed on a fee.

  3. January 19, 2010 3:40 am

    Hey pennies

    I had my save the dates done by Sarah Sproullie. She was very reasonable for me. I had boarding pass save the dates done and she is doing passport invitations for me. He design fee is 25.00 and we had 60 save the dates done with a bunch of add on’s and it only came up to about 300. Check her out. The website is

    I must say she is amazing.

    Young Black and Prosperous

  4. Stephanie permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:11 am

    We ordered ours online. They were definitely cheapies though $150 for 250 invitations, reception info, reply cards etc.

  5. Brad permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:18 am

    We printed our invitations. My wife is a graphics designer so she made the invitations, the menu for the rehearsal dinner and programs for the church all to match. We bought a couple nice invitation kits from Michaels with 40% off coupons and needed a new color ink cartridge for the printer. Not considering time spent, we probably spent $75 in total. We liked the end result as much as the ones we were a day away from ordering (about $900 before tax!).

    Feel free to email me if you want to discuss further.

  6. tom permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:35 am

    Wide range of prices, designs, everything. We got ours through there and not only did they look awesome, they were affordable. We also ordered custom napkins, and those place setting gift things through there.

    Our bill for the invitations themselves, 125 of them… and that includes everything, card, wrap, ribbon, evelopes, reception, respond, everything… came out to be $700. They were a more expensive design too.

    They looked like they cost $1,500, no joke. We were so pleased with our experience with them that we recommend them to everyone.

  7. tom permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:38 am

    sorry, i messed up that URL… it’s:

  8. Chelsea permalink
    January 19, 2010 8:50 am

    I got married last September and hired an acquaintance who also makes custom invitations. She did not charge me for design time, and she came up with multiple designs that were all beautiful. She was willing to go back and forth with me on design as much as I needed without ever charging for it. She printed them inexpensively on really nice quality paper, she assembled them all, added ribbon etc. They had a very high quality, custom look.
    I would definitely recommend checking her out, as she may take your existing design and just print them for you, or she may use your existing design as a starting point and make her own version. She will also run different cost scenarios for you i.e. with or without ribbon, different paper weights etc…
    She is out of Colorado but she happily ships you samples for free. She also helped me with other things such as table cards, escort cards, programs, etc… and I loved that because all of my paper items were “branded” with my custom wedding design!
    Her website is but it is a new site and she doesn’t have a lot of samples on there. If you call her directly she can send you images of past projects or just send you a sample.
    Hopefully it works out for you! Good luck!

  9. Katherine permalink
    January 19, 2010 9:14 am

    We printed ours (pocket invitations from Michael’s) and while they were a bit of a pain, they came out beautifully and we got tons of compliments on them. We prlbably spent $140 for 100 invitations after coupons from Michael’s (or wait for a special) and it worked for us. We even used the fan programs from there and they worked out well. Additionally, we didn’t send a save-the-date but instead created a website (wedorama with 50% discount code) and sent out emails for a save the date and asking for addresses in one fell swoop.

    Alternatively, there’s always Etsy Alchemy, which gets people to bid on your projects and you also get to see their work. I had some graduation invites printed up that were GORGEOUS for cheap.

  10. Janet permalink
    January 19, 2010 10:11 am

    I read that and was thinking “friend”, uh, yeah right. Is this a “friend” that gets invited to your wedding and is bringing a $300 gift? I’d at least ask for an accounting of the time spent on this. You don’t really say if T is a close friend to this person, but I would imagine not.

    • SP permalink*
      January 19, 2010 10:18 am

      No of course she isn’t close — not someone we’d invite to the wedding at all. I think there was some severe miscommunication (rather, non-communication).

      Designers charge for their time (fair) but I think she typically does NOT do wedding invites so she spent a lot more time than necessary on them (not so fair to us).

  11. Taylor permalink
    January 19, 2010 10:20 am

    No comments on designs, pricing etc. Only wanted to put this in perspective for you – $1.1K is more than my monthly mortgage payment (which includes taxes and insurance). For essentially paper. Does it include the stamps? The addressing of the labels?

    Good luck!

    • SP permalink*
      January 19, 2010 10:41 am

      Yeah, I have perspective – paying that much was absolutely not the plan. not even close. Which is why I’m asking for helpful suggestions

  12. January 19, 2010 10:22 am

    Maybe you can talk to the designer about ways to reduce costs? The designers I’ve worked with are usually willing to discuss ways to cut cost, such as using different paper stock, changing the shape of the invite, or reducing number of colors used. Quantities also affect the pricing.

    • SP permalink*
      January 19, 2010 10:42 am

      Yes — I think she is just not experienced with this type of work. We’re seeing what else she can come up with before going a completely different route.

  13. DesignBride permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:21 am

    As a graphic designer who runs my own company, I think that the design price is fair. On the low end, most graphic designers charge $50/hour+ depending on the market (as a freelancer, they have to include taxes and other benefits in their price) and for an invite, RSVP card and maybe envelope with some rounds of revisions… well, $300 sounds about right. Unfortunately, designers sometimes have to charge friends and family members sometimes… I can’t tell you how often it has been assumed that I would do work for free. It’s still my time… time that I could be using on other clients or other projects. Yes, sometimes I do “gift” the graphic design for super close friends, but I can’t make it a rule.

    However, I do think it was unprofessional that the price wasn’t agreed upon upfront… I would never do that to a potential client, even a friend or family member. That’s why good designers always make sure there is a written agreement before proceeding with any design work (just like any other wedding vendor). It’s truly unfortunate that this was your experience. I guess lesson learned in terms of working with this person or another designer in the future…

    As for the printing, I would suggest looking at Kinko’s. I know they are not a professional printer per se, but as a graphic designer & bride-to-be who is trying to keep my budget down for my September wedding, I am using them myself. If you aren’t looking for anything fancy or extravagant (which it sounds like you aren’t), they are really great. You can buy nice paper, which they can print on and cut. And they offer a great selection of nice envelopes too! It might take some time on your end for assembly, but it sounds worth it!

    Just have the designer send you the file set-up as a PDF. You can bring it on a CD or flash drive to your nearest Kinko’s.

    Best of luck to you!

  14. Bonnie permalink
    January 19, 2010 11:47 am

    Try Thunderwing Press. They are making custom thank-you notes for me right now and I could not be happier with the designs, service, or price!

  15. January 19, 2010 12:04 pm

    As a graphic designer, I will say that you made out WELL. You can always have the designer reduce costs by choosing different paper stocks, or printing techniques. If you don’t care about having them professionally printed, the designer can print them themselves and save a lot. Of course, they will look more handmade, but if you have a good designer, they’ll look great. If you are inviting this person to the wedding, see if they will consider the invites their gift to you. I’ve done free invites for close friends as their gift, and it’s worked out splendidly for both parties. (of course you’d pay for printing). And obviously the cost of stamps is yours as well, as designers do not include that service.

    However, if you aren’t crazy about the invites, you need to make that clear. A lot of people I’ve worked for have no idea what they want, so it’s hard to create the perfect invite for somebody who has no clue what they’re going for. Give her examples of things you like, your wedding colors, if you have a theme, etc. It’s a two way street when it comes to design.

  16. January 19, 2010 12:41 pm

    Seems like you already have the design done (and are on the hook for some amount of money, whether it’s $300 or less), so rather than focusing on new designers, I’d focus on getting different printing quotes.

    I’ve used Vista Print ( for a lot of projects and been really happy with their prices and their printing. It’s also relatively easy to find online coupon codes for them, which makes it even more affordable.

  17. January 19, 2010 12:44 pm

    I agree AND disagree with those who say the design price is fair. As an hourly rate it is more than fair. I understand that fact.

    But at market rate, it really isn’t. Etsy designers who do invitations all the time do NOT charge $300. They also likely spend far less time on it (which would have been ok with me).

    And we asked for a ballpark cost in the beginning — had she said “it will be at least $300 for my time alone” we probably would have said, hmmm…. no thanks! So designers — PLEASE be upfront about your costs, especially if people seem to not have anything specific in mind. Don’t spend X hours on it THEN quote a cost. That seems like a recipe for… disaster!

  18. January 19, 2010 1:30 pm

    Wow, I think we spent $300 total. I bet yours are way nicer, though! Unfortunately, since this girl didn’t even have to compete for the job, she can charge whatever she wants. You’re right – the Etsy invitations we looked at ( and these were niiiice) were maybe $5 each, and that includes printing and envelopes!

    I have heard good things about printing costs at VistaPrint. One girl on The Knot board said she used coupon codes and got almost everything for free. I’m sure that they’re not going to printed on super-fancy paper, but then again, I doubt anyone but my mom will actually keep it. We didn’t even get to keep one for us since we actually ordered too few!

    • SP permalink*
      January 19, 2010 1:39 pm

      Yes, that was my expected price range! Perhaps a little mroe since we need two different sets rather than one.

      We could refuse to pay it (or anything) since she gave us no pricing up front. I’m leaving it up to T since I don’t really know her. he already offered to pay for this disaster out of “his” money but since they are for a MARIAGE, that is something of a moot point in my mind!

  19. January 19, 2010 2:10 pm

    weddings are totally chaotic and overpriced!!! We only sent out invites about a month before the wedding and beforehand put out the word of when our wedding was to be. We bought invites with embossed detailing where the middle is empty and took it to kinkos and printed all 400 invites. They looked nice, too. I think we spent a couple hundred? The invites were also on sale so got them dirt cheap. Really, no one but the bride keeps a copy of the invite for memorabilia and everyone else tosses them. It’s not fair to spend $2 a piece on an invite everyone will throw away…

  20. sfordinarygirl permalink
    January 19, 2010 4:03 pm

    My friend is a freelance graphic designer and she uses The quality is exceptional including the cardstock and you can find coupons/discounts online. Have you considered asking the designer to lower the printing cost by printing through overnight? It’s just paper … and the color output from overnight is really high quality, equivalent to what you’d pay through a local store.

  21. January 19, 2010 4:57 pm

    We had a friend do the design for free. But I did some calling around for the actual printing. My now-husband wanted silver foiling, since we had royal blue stock. (To find the actual materials, go to That’s where we got our envelopes for about half of the retail cost. I think we just purchased the stock from a regular store. If you buy a package, it is a little cheaper.)

    The first place or two we called wanted over $300! Just to print with foil. I called a bunch of places and found one that would take a small job. I paid about $100 all told. And we got to keep the metal imprint thingy that they made for the job. It was pretty neat! We still paid a little more than I had wanted for invites. I think about $2 each. But it made my guy happy and they looked quite nice.

    So open up the yellow pages and start calling. If you go to a place that sells card stock, ask for recommendations. But realize they might not suggest the most cost efficient.

  22. Designer permalink
    January 19, 2010 5:34 pm

    I must say, as a designer, I HATE it when people aren’t willing to pay you what you deserve. Only 300 dollars is, IMO (and many many other designers) not a lot of money. You are getting a STEAL. If you’re being charged hourly, that may be fair, if you had a designer who did lovely work quickly (and if they’re any good, that shouldn’t be a problem). But, friends, good design takes a little more time! You can get a concept out quickly, but refinements, to get it right take longer than you’d expect. However, if they’re charging by the job (flat fee), 300 dollars is a GREAT deal, and you shouldn’t second guess it!

    Bottom line: if you’re not willing to pay someone what they deserve, you’re not going to get the high quality work you want.

    • January 20, 2010 12:27 am

      You know, I’m just NOT willing to pay $300 for a wedding invitation design, and few people will be. So perhaps she should choose only to work with higher end customers. If her design work is worth $500, then we can’t afford her, and it was a bad match from the start. And her knowing that it would take several hours and knowing her rate, she should have gave us that info up front.

      I really am not hung up on invitations, so I’m totally willing to sacrifice quality and go with a premade design. High quality design work has it’s place and should be paid well for — but it’s place isn’t on my wedding invites, you know?

      I’m sorry, but $300 for a wedding invitation design is NOT a great deal unless you are fussy and have something specific you need to do. Or have a larger total budget, or whatever. It is not a great deal for someone who just wants some invitations. (quite obviously custom design was the wrong route for us, but too late to realize that!)

      [That being said, since it is all said and done and she’s worked on it, we will obviously pay her. But some people wouldn’t. The amount may be $300 — I’m leaving that with T.]

  23. January 20, 2010 9:59 am

    Holy mother… of..!

    Well I have no advice whatsoever, but I do agree that if you quote a price, you stick to it or else suck it up in costs and learn for the next time

    As a freelancer IRL for webdesign, I’ve underquoted by accident but I’ve never tried to say: well now it’s triple the price I quoted you

    unless they start making changes

  24. January 20, 2010 10:00 am

    And yes, I ate the costs when I underquoted and kicked myself in the butt

    $300 is really too much for design time when you didn’t want to put an emphasis on the invites anyway

    It was a bad match for sure. She knew you were budget conscious but should have been up front saying: I am not for you.

  25. January 24, 2010 8:21 pm

    Yikes! That is a lot of money, and I share your frustration with how she’s gone about doing this instead of giving you quotes ahead of time. I’m another person who used Vistaprint for my invites – I chose one of their designs but they do have an option for uploading your own design. I ordered something like 100 invites and it cost me $80 or something like that. It may be more to use your own design but do have a look.

    (If you are looking at their designs the one I used has the different coloured hearts falling down on ‘lines’ down the invite. My fiance chose them. When I mentioned I thought he wouldn’t go for that design because it was too girly he said he liked them because it looked like the Matrix. Which… okay, I guess 🙂

  26. January 27, 2010 10:46 am

    I don’t think the price for the design is totally unreasonable because I designed mine and know how many hours goes into it.

    I do have a couple of tips for you that might help. I supplied the paper to my printer rather than buying from them, that way I picked something local and cheap and didn’t have to buy in large quantities. I also bought my own envelopes online at They were pretty good quality and super cheap. Also, a square invitation is going to cost more in mailing so I would try to stick with a standard size. My invitations only cost me one first class stamp to mail because I kept them light and an standard size.

    Hopes this helps a little.

    • January 28, 2010 6:41 pm

      I totally agree it may not be unreasonable, but as the professional, I think it is clear that she should have gave some sort of price range of her design time up front. She should have realized that NO ONE pays $300 for invite designs and that our project was not worth her time since we would not want to pay her what it was “worth”

      Thanks for the other tips! 🙂

  27. February 25, 2010 3:19 pm

    Stephita Custom Handmade Wedding Invitations are expensive and boring. This is just a warning.

  28. TooBad4PickAndSave permalink
    February 26, 2010 8:29 am

    For Design, you can use existing design templates from

    ($40 a year)(2 Free Templates)

    StockLayout ($99)

    For Printing, you can use Printing Price Comparison such as ($139 for 250 Cards)

  29. August 6, 2010 3:20 pm

    Simple is always better in my eyes. If you are trying to save money, buy some simple card stock and have them printed yourself.

  30. February 2, 2012 3:24 pm

    It never ceases to astound me how many people think that a designer’s time is worth nothing. I typically charge $250 for a wedding invitation package and that includes a save the date card, the invitation itself, rsvp/reception cards, and a program. Usually, the bride has no clue what she wants, so I have to come up with 3 maybe 4 general concepts up front, then she picks her favorite and we design the rest from there.

    Throw in the fact that a considerable amount of these concepts tend to have hand-drawn designs that I will then again have to scan into the computer and re-draw through Illustrator…..and my compensation goes down to like $5 an hour for all of those pieces. Everyone wants high quality for nothing.

    • February 4, 2012 11:19 am

      I totally get it – we just didn’t know many designers or really think about it! Had we spent 10 minutes discussing things with her, we would have said, “thank you, but you are too expensive for us”

      I definitely understand WHY it would be expensive, but I also think it is the responsibility of the designer (freelancer) to negotiate this stuff up front to make sure the clients are on board with the price and design. They are running a business! She never should have just started working and figured we would negotiate prices later. I think it would have been totally within our realm of “fairness” to not pay her or pay her significantly less, since we didn’t have any sort of agreement. We are nice people, so we paid what she asked (which, I think was less than she really wanted). But we never agreed on rates/price, so it was stupid of her to start working on it. You know?

      I didn’t care about high quality much, it was a stupid mistake to even consider having her do them!

      • July 21, 2012 11:57 am

        Any custom design done for $300 is cheap. As a designer who’s been asked by no fewer than seven “friends”—amazing how many friends you have when people want something—ask me to do their invitations in the last three years. You have no idea how many hours a project like this takes. Forty hours would be a low estimate. At $300, this would be less $10/hour. Funny that most folks never ask their lawyer friends to represent them for $10/hour. Maybe custom design wasn’t worth 2% of your budget, but let’s not insult the profession of graphic designers because your priorities don’t include paying the equivalent of a fry cook wage to a professional working to create something unique for you.

        • July 21, 2012 2:00 pm

          Yes, I don’t disagree. However, if a friend asks you to do a job for them, you should just state your rate up front and then the conversation can be over or move foreward. You should NOT start on a design and then come back with a $300 quote, as maybe your friend’s are not design savvy, have no idea how much things will cost, and probably don’t care all that much about “custom” anyway. That was my point. As the person running a “business”, I think it falls more on the designer than us to work out the details in advance. I’m sure she learned her lesson, as did we.

  31. Nicole permalink
    October 18, 2012 5:16 pm

    You’re both at fault. Not setting expectations up front, ie how much you’re willing to spend and the designer not giving you a quote leaves this situation open for many problems. You don’t go to a dentist and get your teeth cleaned and find out the price and say “oh, well i think you did a good job, but you didn’t have to do that good a job to charge me $100.” it’s an unfair expectation for both of you.

    everyone wants good quality work, but it’s insulting to turn around and say their work isn’t worth your money. designers are taught to be flexible in printing methods, paper choices and if hourly, how much time should be spent on the design. as a designer, i say you got a fair price. whether you want fussy invites or not, be clear and have the conversation at the beginning of the design process. you wouldn’t bargain down your dentist, it’s unfair to do the same for a designer who has her price. if you’re unhappy, find a cheaper designer.

    • October 20, 2012 4:55 pm

      I still disagree. As the professional who does this work, she should have took the time up front to talk about her rate and expectations. She just started working without giving us any idea of anything, and not being familiar with the design world, we had NO IDEA what we were getting into.

      If my husband didn’t have a relationship with her and if we weren’t nice people, she could have not got paid at all. We didn’t end up using her work and we bought invitations we liked (for a reasonable price) that weren’t custom, just from a website. We did pay her, but we had no contract and didn’t use her work, so she put herself at a risk. I still think that, as the professional, she was at fault. I’m sure she never did that again. I’ll probably never use a designer again, because custom designs aren’t a priority for me.


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