A stationer weighs in on how to create an invitation timeline

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Ordering wedding invitations is one of the most exciting wedding-planning tasks for many couples—your paper goods are generally the first tangible item from the big day that you'll get to hold. And if you're the type of person who loves graphic design, handmade paper materials, and the look of a beautiful calligraphy, the process of creating the invitations is even more exciting. If your plan is to order a customized invitation suite, with branding and design that perfectly suit your wedding vision, you'll need to carve out time for this process. Unlike ready-made digital invitations, which you can order quickly online and receive within days or weeks, custom invitations can take months to be conceptualized, designed, and produced. To help you plan your custom wedding invitation design timeline, stationer Marie Wagar of August + White Designs is weighing in.

Start working on your custom invitations as early as possible.

Once your date and venue are sorted, you can get to work on ordering save-the-dates and kick off the planning of your wedding invitation suite. Wagar says, "For custom designs, the production timeline depends on what you're ordering; for example, if you would prefer your save-the-dates to match the rest of your paper, it's recommended that you start a minimum of a year in advance. Many designers require this lead time, and they often book up quickly, so it's best to begin as far in advance as possible. If you've already sent your save-the-dates, and are just looking for a custom invitation design, then it's recommended that you start a minimum of five to six months in advance." She adds, "You can never be too early!"

Factor in two to eight weeks for design and revisions.

Timing varies with each invitation designer and project, but you can count on the process for each mailing to take at least a couple of weeks. Wagar says, "Timelines are usually dependent on how fast the client responds to design changes, but on average, you can expect this stage to take two to eight weeks. During wedding season, designers are typically busier, and this timeframe may be a bit longer. Before you sign a contract, I recommend asking what the stationer's general time frame is for the design phase." She points out that bigger projects with details like custom painting or venue illustration will usually take longer to create.

Allow two to eight weeks for printing, depending on the method.

Wagar says, "Timing will vary by print method. Generally, digital (flat) printing takes about two to four weeks. Letterpress, foil, engraving, thermography, or mixed printing methods, on average, will take five to eight weeks."

Don't forget to include calligraphy in your invitation timeline.

Wagar says, "If you'll be using a calligrapher to address your envelopes, ensure you add an additional two to four weeks to the timeframe from when they receive your envelopes. Also, calligraphers typically require an additional 20-30 envelopes for mistakes, so be sure to ask your designer to include extras. I suggest requesting your envelopes as soon as the design phase is complete, which allows the calligrapher to begin addressing them while the invitations are being printed."

You may also want to include time to source vintage stamps.

The time it takes to source vintage stamps varies widely depending whether you're sourcing them on your own or bringing a vendor on board to collect the stamps for you. Wagar says, "I suggest beginning this at the end of the design phase, once the design has been confirmed. This way, the stamps can be completed during printing, and once you receive your invitations, you can begin assembly and mailing."

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