How to Choose Affordable Wedding Invitations

From save-the-dates to invitations, menu cards and thank-you notes, here's how to leave a fabulous paper trail without breaking the bank.

Pro Paper Tips

Try some of these trade secrets for getting upscale, luxury paper effects without spending a lot of money:

Use specialty papers as accents. Samantha Chu, owner and designer of Papermints in Studio City, CA says, "One of the favorite paper options this year is shimmer metallic card stock," with its soft, pearlescent finish. Chu suggests using this paper in "hues such as gold and deep violet" as backing layers for invitations, menu cards and other print items.

Choose lighter-weight paper. Chu suggests selecting 80 lb. vs. 110 lb. paper, plus a single envelope and fewer inserts to cut down on the postage needed for each assembled invitation package. You’ll save 20 to 40 percent on postage.

Mix up paper thicknesses. "Get your invitations done in letterpress, but cut costs by using thinner paper," says Darcy Sang, owner and designer at Pearl Beach Paperie. Or for any printing method, print invitations on thicker paper and then use thinner paper for the insert pieces.

Eliminate inserts. Extra print components like directions and maps can be cut from your order, with the information provided on your personal wedding website.

Layer once. A menu card affixed to a thicker, colored backing adds stylish flair and is a popular look. Save money by not adding additional layers, such as vellum overlays or two thick backings.

Order more than enough. According to Kerry Amidon, product manager at Massachusetts-based stationery company Checkerboard Ltd., "This is the biggest budget saver of all. If you think you’ll need 100 invitations, order 125 just to have extras. It’s smarter to pay a bit more for the slightly larger order of 125 invitations than to have to go back and place a second order, which at many companies may require a minimum re-order of 100." (Order extra envelopes, too.)

wedding invitations

Photo courtesy of Posh Paperie

Design Details

"Keep in mind that layers, papers, pockets and other extra details will affect your overall price," says Sang. “Just like taking your car to the mechanic, the more hand labor that is involved, the more expensive it can get.”

Stick with two font styles for effect, since many companies will charge extra if you want to use more than two.

Stay with standard ink colors. Digital printing allows you to use multiple colors at no extra charge, Seaton says—but keep in mind that neon and metallic inks cost a lot more.

Stick to single-sided invitations and print items. Heidi Smith, brand manager of Invitations by Dawn says that while "Double-sided invitations add a fun kick of color and personalization to your invitation, this added feature costs almost 15 percent more per invitation."

RSVP postcards cost less than traditional response cards with envelopes, and postage is less as well. Seaton reports that one-third of her brides use postcards now—a good reason to jump on this evergrowing trend.

Forgo decorative liners inside envelopes and keep it classic, at a savings.

Single-panel cards use less paper than folded styles, a savings of 30 to 50 percent. Square invitations will add to your mailing costs, since the postal system universally charges more for this envelope shape. So think about going with a more traditional 5- by-7-inch invitation.

Minimize invitation size. For example: Ann’s Bridal Bargains offers petite invitations and enclosure cards for as little as 59 cents each in over 20 designs including floral and bordered styles.

Avoid rounded corners! Chu at Papermints says that invitations and print cards with rounded corners require an extra step of production that can cost an additional 25 to 50 cents per card.

Next: Five of the hottest wedding invitation trends ►