This summer, I worked with one of my clients on her postponement announcements after she and her fiancé decided to move their August 2020 wedding to a 2021 date. Fast forward a bit, and I got another call from the same bride. She told me they would be getting married privately in November 2020, with a small group of family, outdoors in her parents’ garden, in advance of their 2021 celebration. She’d need intimate wedding invitations, noting that just because it was small, didn’t mean it wasn’t the real deal. She wanted to ensure they were special and got her loved ones excited to celebrate with them.
Of course, COVID-19 has prompted a major uptick in small weddings, and I’m here.for.it. There’s something magical and deeply personal about celebrating your love with just your inner circle. I was on team “small wedding” even in a pre-COVID era (cue all the hipsters with their “I listened to so-and-so before they made it big time” and everyone’s eye roll). But actually. Adam and I got married in 2018, privately in a judge’s chambers, surrounded only by our parents, siblings, and photographer. We went out for a fancy dinner afterward. It’s what I wanted and it was my version of a perfect day. Six months later, we also had a rager black tie Jewish 225-person wedding, because Adam wanted a big party. His perfect day.
I digress. But, the point stands that small weddings are lovely, meaningful, and heartfelt. Your intimate wedding invitations should be each of those things, too. And they don’t have to break the bank! You don’t have to sacrifice anything, either! There are some specific considerations that factor into paper goods for small-scale events, so I’ll explore each of these concepts in this blog post. I want you to feel empowered when making selections for your wedding paper goods, because these are timeless keepsakes you’ll cherish forever, regardless of your guest count.
Custom design is still going to be pricey
Custom wedding invitations are expensive. You’re paying for the designer’s time in creating or procuring artwork that is relevant to your day. Every single custom suite I create is done with my own original artwork from scratch, for each client, so it’s one-of-a-kind and catered to your event. Same with all of my calligraphy done by hand, scanned in, and set up as part of the design. You’re paying for that person’s time meeting with you and sharing her expertise. You’re paying for all of the sourcing of materials and options, and proof setups, and revisions, and “what about this?,” and print files, and creativity poured into your project.
All of those things are identical, whether you then print one invitation or 1,000 of them. For this reason, reputable custom stationery designers have a design fee incorporated into the pricing structure. This is sometimes laid out as its own line item; sometimes it’s part of your base package. Regardless of where it is listed (or not) in your invoice, this is included somewhere in your price, for good reason — and it’s not cheap. If you are hosting a smaller event, this design fee is spread out over fewer invitation sets, so it makes the per-invitation price skyrocket.
As a way to mitigate this, I’d recommend a semi-custom option for smaller events. Because there are personalizations but some limit to the available options, as well as the fact that you can check out online, designers are able to make semi-custom invitations less expensive than their fully custom counterparts. By going this route, your intimate wedding invitations won’t cost a fortune per set. My semi-custom collection still includes all hand-done calligraphy as part of the design, so you get a custom element anyway.
Certain print methods are still pricey, too
There are lots of different print methods for invitations, each at a different price point. For letterpress and foil stamping, the bulk of the hefty price tag is in the plate that’s made with your design, as well as the printer’s set up time. Like a design fee, these costs are identical, no matter how many invitations you’re printing. This means that even though you’re looking for intimate wedding invitations, you’d be paying almost as much as if it were a bigger event.
For some people, the price is worth it for these print methods. Letterpress and foil stamped invitations are incredibly beautiful and add an unmistakable element of luxury and irreplaceable tactile experience for your guests. For others, the dramatic jump in price for these artisanal print methods doesn’t make sense. If this is you, that’s cool — stick with digital printing! It keeps the cost down, and you can make your intimate wedding invitations stand out with embellishments, which brings me to my next section. Read on!
Upgrade your intimate wedding invitations with a la carte items
As I’ve explained, the main design and print method are all part of the “base” package price for your invitations, regardless of your wedding size. But, everything else is a la carte, based on your quantity! This is where it’s a major advantage to have a smaller guest list. At a grand scale, a lot of these items simply aren’t affordable for many couples. If you’re only sending 25 or 50 sets, it’s way more affordable than if you were sending a bunch.
My biggest suggestion for couples looking to create special intimate wedding invitations (without spending a fortune on them) is to stick with digital printing for the invitation itself, and then pepper in some embellishments that make the whole package feel elevated. If you have more wiggle room in your budget, then consider letterpress or foil stamping for the main print method, too.
Here are some a la carte options that make your intimate wedding invitations stand out!
- Upgrading the main invitation card to a bigger size and/or to double-thick cardstock
- Adding guest addressing, done by hand in calligraphy
- Using an envelope liner for an added layer of contrast and pop of color
- Incorporating a belly band to keep all the elements tucked in neatly
- Affixing a wax seal to your envelope flap, because, well, swoon city… #goals
For reference, to add every single one of these upgrades to your order of 25 invitations as part of my semi-custom collection, it’d only cost $205.00 total, for all of these bells and whistles. This price obviously grows a lot, the more invitations you’re ordering, so a small wedding for the win here!
Learn more about the bells and whistles!shop the collection
If a recipient were to receive an oversized envelope in the mail that’s addressed by hand in calligraphy to her, and adorned with a wax seal, she knows that’s not junk mail before she even gets inside from the mailbox. Likewise, once she opens the envelope and sees a gorgeous liner and pulls out a neat bundle of banded cards, and looks at your super-luxe invitation that’s also got calligraphy as part of the design (and matches the envelope calligraphy perfectly), she’s pumped about attending your wedding. If the printing is done digitally, it’s only one piece to a bigger puzzle — and she’s excited regardless. If the printing is also upgraded, then whew. She’s IN with a capital “i”… and she’s putting that baby front and center on the fridge!
Create extra special touches with your day-of-wedding stationery
This is the most exciting part for those of you planning an intimate wedding. Your small scale means you can give a big impact with your guests’ experience on your special day! Adding in individual “touch points” for loved ones is a beautiful way to show how honored you are that they’re in attendance. Like the embellishments as part of the invitations, your smaller list means these touches are more affordable (and more manageable in terms of your own time!).
When I was working with the client I mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, she and her now-husband decided that each guest would receive a hand-written, personalized thank you note from the couple as part of their place setting. This would have been a near-impossible feat with 200 guests, but with 30, it’s feasible! Each guest had a hand-calligraphed notecard with their name waiting for them at their seat, along with a menu (both designed by me). The back side of the place card had a handwritten note from the bride and groom. This is what it means to show your people how much they mean to you.
In general, day-of-wedding items are priced a la carte, so bring on the fun stuff! You may not want to do custom-printed cocktail napkins for 200 people, but for 40? Much more palatable. Same with menus, ceremony programs, match boxes, gift tags for a yummy take-home treat… sky’s the limit. For each of my semi-custom invitation clients, I send out a list with lots of options to order these goodies with appropriate timing before the big day. This way, everything coordinates from save the date to invitation, to day-of-wedding stationery, to thank you notes after the fact. All from one vendor… without the stress.
Not sure what you’d need or what quantities make sense?
Here’s a free stationery checklist that will help!download my free checklist
Hosting an intimate wedding is a beautiful thing. Having appropriate intimate wedding invitations is also a beautiful thing, so I hope this blog has been helpful as you navigate your options!
To sum up…
here are the four considerations to keep in mind when ordering your intimate wedding invitations and stationery:
- Custom design is still going to be pricey
- Certain print methods are still pricey, too
- Upgrade with a la carte items to keep the whole package elevated and luxurious
- Create extra special touches with your day-of-wedding stationery
If you’re looking for intimate wedding invitations, my semi-custom collection starts at just 25 sets, regardless of print method — it’s perfect for a small gathering!shop now
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