The Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Stationer Before Your Hire Them by Invitation Designer, Ceci Johnson of CeciNewYork {Part 1}

So you’re engaged and you have the date and venue already selected. Now what? It’s time to order your wedding invitations, of course! Getting married can be an exciting but overwhelming experience for most. Typically, this is the first time you’ll be doing many of the tasks required, especially ordering wedding invitations. There are so many rules regarding etiquette, timing, and design choices, not to mention guidelines regarding printing techniques, costs, etc! It can be daunting, I know. That’s why I’m here to help.

In a two-part post, I’m sharing the TOP TEN ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS you need to ask your prospective stationer to make sure you’re hiring the best of the best for your wedding invitation needs. I want to make sure you do it right the first time and avoid any unfortunate (and unhappy) mishaps along the way. I have been working with countless brides for many years and they continually tell me that working with Ceci New York has been the most enjoyable part of their entire wedding process. That is the biggest compliment, so I hope that these 10 simple questions will help you in your journey to finding what works for you! Here we go with Part 1, just remember, check back next month for Part 2 of my Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Stationer Before You Hire Them!

1.  When do I need to order my invitations? I recommend booking your invitation designer as soon as you secure your venue and wedding date. It may seem really early, but the first thing you need to send out is your save-the-date, which must go out 6-8 months before your wedding date. With custom printing, you also need to factor in the time it takes to special order and print the cards. Typically this can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks, depending on the complexity of your order. There are also long lead times for invitations (see question 2, below) and day-of accessories like menus and programs, so do not procrastinate! Book your appointment right away.

2.  How long does the process take? Have an idea of your desired mail date and be sure to backtrack from there on timing. Ask about how long their process takes. Keep in mind that a lot of time needs to be set aside for design, production, printing, and calligraphy, which typically takes 2-3 months (however, each company is different). Also remember that your invitations should be in the mail 6-8 weeks before your wedding – possibly 10 weeks for a destination wedding. (And save-the-dates are mailed out 6-8 months before your big day.) So it’s best to start and order early so you can enjoy the creative process and avoid rush fees.

3.  What is your process like? Make sure you are clear on the process of the company you are looking at. You want to hire someone that offers a very buttoned up, professional experience. Do they show you multiple design options at no extra charge? What happens if you don’t like it? Do you have to pay a change fee for another round of proofs? At Ceci New York, we are committed to excellence and on Ceci Couture projects offer as many rounds of revisions needed for free. Be careful, as many companies out there do not make this clear when it comes time for you to sign the contract, which means you could end up paying double if not triple in price to get exactly what you had hoped for! Never fun.

4.  Do you have a project manager that will send me a schedule? What type of customer service do you offer? Most invitation designers are small, start-up companies that are typically working out of their homes or a small shop, juggling different orders. Keep in mind that this could reflect the kind of service you are going to get down the line. I’ve had so many panicked brides call us up practically in tears after they’ve had a “nightmare experience” with another company. Whether this is a result of hiring the less expensive option or the classic case of the “over-promise and under-deliver,” you want to do everything you can to avoid this from happening to you. As a bride-to-be, you have so much on your plate. The last thing you want is to be worrying about the status of the order that your stationer promised would be done weeks ago! Gasp! Make sure that before you order you have a clear idea of their exact process and what type of service you are going to get. Do they have a separate project manager (other than the designer) who will keep your project on deadline? Will you be sent a schedule of targeted deadlines so you know exactly when you’re going to receive your proofs and when you need to  provide feedback? Lastly, will there be someone who is always on call to answer each of your questions (no matter how big or small) that might arise during this time? Most small companies have one person wearing all the hats, which typically results in problems down the line. Remember, it’s a collaborative creative process so you want to know what’s expected of you upfront.

5.  What is your starting price point? Most brides do not have any idea what invitations cost. Most people know how much a pair of shoes costs, how much a wedding dress goes for, and so on, but invitation pricing is not common knowledge. That’s OK, as we do realize that this is typically the first time you’re ordering invitations in your life. With that in mind, be realistic about your comfort level in terms of spending and what you are ready to allocate to the stationery budget. Understanding the starting pricing will ensure that you are not shopping beyond or below what your budget and desires are. To give you an idea, an order of a four-piece set of luxury letterpress invitations (including invitation, reply card, reply envelope and mailer envelope) for an entire event will start at $2500 and can range all the way on up to 25K+. It all depends on your desires, the complexity of the project, and of course the quantity you need to order.

Don’t forget, check in next month for Part 2 of my Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Stationer Before You Hire Them!  Love, Ceci of CeciNewYork