How to Choose the Right Postage for Your Personal Style
After all the time and energy you devoted to styling your wedding invitations—from choosing the perfect scripted font to finding your favorite shade of blush for the reply envelopes—you don't want to slap any old stamps on the front of each invitation without evening thinking about them. After all, the right postage is essentially your suite's finishing touch. "Wedding invitations are one of the last forms of traditional communication," says Carey Galliani of The Idea Emporium. "So imagine the look on your guests' faces when they open their mailbox to the usual stack of bills and junk mail, and then see something extra special: A beautifully dressed envelope from you!" But deciding between vintage postage and modern stamps requires careful consideration of a few key factors.
Your Envelope Layout
Since vintage postage dates back to years when mail cost less, you need more stamps to make up the required face value. This means sourcing a combination of designs, sizes, and colors—which can create a dramatic impact, but can also challenge a more minimalist aesthetic. "The nature of using assorted vintage postage is you will get an eclectic finished look," says Galliani. Creating a tidy layout can help a vintage array appear less chaotic: "I find it looks best to knoll the stamps together, like Tetris, where you fit the shapes of the stamps closely together in a block," the pro explains, "so they feel more like a happy little postage family rather than a line of mismatched stamps." Consider your calligraphy, too: If you want your addresses in a large-scale format, you may want to use fewer stamps to leave room. "There is no right or wrong on the issue, but in my opinion, if it's a toss up between splurging on postage and splurging on calligraphy? Go for the calligraphy."
An invitation in an unusual shape, non-traditional thickness, or heavier weight costs more to mail than a simple letter—and gathering enough vintage postage to pay for an elaborate invite can end up costing four to seven times more than buying new, says Galliani: You're not just paying the face value, as you would with stamps from the post office, but a collector's markup, too. "Vintage unused postage is a limited resource, often sold by collectors who are only willing to part with it for a price," she says. "Vintage postage collectors have been holding onto these stamps for years as an investment, and now the wedding market is here to show them the payoff of years of sitting on a goldmine of beautiful postage." Another hidden cost: You'll most likely have to purchase sheets from a variety of sellers, which means paying multiple shipping charges. "Oh, the irony," says Galliani, "of paying shipping on postage stamps!"
Your Design Sense
If your style falls somewhere in between a single subtle stamp and a dozen-strong cluster, compromise with one of Galliani's favorite tricks: Pair a current 55 cent stamp—like the ivory-toned Presidential versions from the Classics Forever line—with just a few vintage stamps to make up the price difference. "I always recommend starting with contemporary postage that is available and if you don't find anything that hits the right note, then start exploring the world of vintage postage," she says. Contemporary postage doesn't have to mean just what's at your local post office, either: Amazon sellers often offer mini collections and recent releases no longer sold by USPS—like sheets honoring Oscar de la Renta and Andrew Wyeth—with higher face values than vintage stamps and a lower price tag. "You'll pay a small markup, but nothing compared to the cost of truly vintage postage," says Galliani. "By combining multiple stamps from one collection, you get a varied but still cohesive look."