Wait a Minute Mr. Postman

Yesterday morning on my way to the train station, I stopped by the post office with our first wave of invitations. Despite it being 8:30am in the morning, I fell in behind a line of people and chimed in when people started complaining that there was only one window open.

When it was finally my turn, I put on a cheery smile and told the woman behind the window that I had wedding invitations I wanted “hand canceled.” She looked at me and said “Sorry honey, we don’t hand cancel here.” How is that possible I ask, I called USPS and they said every post office does it and does it free of charge. She looked at me unamused and said “well, we don’t do it.” How do you cancel oversized mail that doesn’t feed into the machine then, I asked. “We have another machine for oversized mail,” she said. “Besides, even if you avoid the stamp cancel machine, your invitations go through other sorting machines.” Oh, I said defeated. Fine. So I handed over my babies to her and told them to be strong and prevail against the evil machines they would soon face.

Hand Canceling:

To cancel out the value of stamps, post offices usually feed mail through a machine that imprints a post mark over the stamp.


To avoid these evil machines’ dirty smudges, a lot of people request to have the stamps on their wedding invitations to be canceled with a cleaner and neater hand held imprint.


(photos from : liweddings.com)

Our wedding invitations are dark brown and metallic so my concern was not so much with the envelopes getting dirty but with the possibility that they may be mangled by the canceling machine. But since mail also need to go through further sorting machines, I guess hand canceling is just a piece of mind request.

I’ve read from different forums that post offices sometimes let you hand cancel your own invitations right there under their watch. I was hoping to get to do that but I guess not.

BOOOO 20th Ave and 66th Street post office BOOOO~!!!


Mrs. Spider

New York
Wedding Date:
October 2006
Most Popular
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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Mrs. Bee, Guest @ 12:12 pm

    Thanks for posting this! Now people can see the difference between hand and machine cancelling. We had our invites hand cancelled – from what I understand not all the branches do it (we got ours done at the wtc branch – the larger branches usually do it).

    sorry you couldn’t get yours done! I’m sure they’ll turn out ok since they’re on dark paper.

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    JL, Guest @ 12:24 pm

    That sucks that you couldn’t get them hand-canceled. I hope they turn out okay.

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    Katie, Guest @ 12:54 pm

    I asked my local post office if they hand-cancel (the thought was, since it’s a small college town and the post office is rarely busy, maybe they hand cancel). No dice. I do think I need to get them hand-cancelled, though–did the USPS really say that EVERY branch will hand-cancel? If so, then the teller at your local branch could be in trouble for refusing to do so. Maybe.

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Esther, Guest @ 4:51 pm

    That happened to me too. Stood in line for what seemed like an eternity and waited while other customers were grumbling at how slow the line was going. I finally got in line with 2 huge shopping bags full of invitations…asked the post office lady if she would “hand cancel” my invitations…her response was “no, we don’t hand cancel but you could try another post office”…..sigh…I was already in line so I just gave everything to her.

  5. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Grasshopper, Guest @ 6:51 pm

    Same here! I waited online, got to the window all excited to hand cancel and was told I should go see another post office, so like Esther, I handed them over. I was too tired from adressing the invites to care at that point.

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    mrs harris, Guest @ 9:38 pm

    great post. very informational!

  7. Guest Icon Guest
    mrs harris, Guest @ 9:39 pm

    er. did i say informational? woops. INFORMATIVE!

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    amy, Guest @ 9:56 pm

    the letters do all go through another machine, but if the machines can’t read the addresses, they end up getting hand-sorted once the machine rejects them. did you put the addresses on labels?

  9. Guest Icon Guest
    angie, Guest @ 11:02 pm

    where IS your local post office? maybe you can go to another one? i hand all of my invites hand canceled at knickerbocker station in chinatown. the ppl who worked there were really nice and even offered to hand cancel them before i had a chance to ask them.

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    K, Guest @ 6:07 am

    And after waiting ALL that time in line! :(
    I live in a town with about 900 people in it, so I doubt our post office does that…ugh.

  11. Guest Icon Guest
    alynnl, Guest @ 10:10 am

    I had this same problem last week. I went to the 23rd and Lex PO, and they told me I had to take them to the main branch on 34th St. Once there, we were told that the first 50 were free and they were 5 cents thereafter. So we had to wait in yet another line to pay. But I’m glad we did it. Since they went from the main post office on a Sat, most people got them by monday (even my MOH in LA!)
    I just wish I’d known that not all the offices did it–it would’ve saved tons of time.

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Miss Lily, Guest @ 12:47 pm

    If anyone else has had their invites hand cancelled in NYC, let me know where! I’m not at that stage yet, but I would love to keep track of which post offices do it for when the time comes!!! :-)

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    kanipark, Guest @ 11:28 am

    boo :)

  14. Guest Icon Guest
    Erin, Guest @ 1:13 pm

    I took my invitations to the post office on Lexington Ave. right next to Grand Central Station and they were more than happy to hand-cancel them. Just go to the last window all the way to the right at the end.

  15. Guest Icon Guest
    MissBHavens » Blog Archive » Random Wedding-Related Text Post #1, Guest @ 11:44 pm

    […] I’m just flabbergasted by this. […]

  16. Guest Icon Guest
    Aimee, Guest @ 11:05 am

    I have to honestly say that after reading these posts I was so nervous about mailing my invitations this weekend. I was petrified the post office would refuse to hand-cancel…or worse, tell me they would and then zip them through the machine after I left…
    So I had a plan of attack & was going to whisk my invites to another post office – just in case – but thankfully it never came to that.

    The Medford NJ post office gladly had me hand-cancel my 100+ invitations myself.
    When I told the clerk I would like my invitations hand-cancelled, he looked at my two packed boxes with a truly horrified look…so I immediately – and I mean not even a SECOND went by – offered to do it myself if it would make things easier on the busy clerks.
    And he quickly replied “it would definitely be better if you did it!!!!”. So he gave me the stamper with instructions to “obliterate” my pretty pink heart stamps and even pointed out a counter for workspace.
    When I finsihed (took about 25 minutes) he took the boxed invitations right from my hands and put them directly in the hands of the post master with the final words of wisdom to me of ‘you can’t change your mind now- they’re mailed’.
    A truly pleasant experience…whew!!!!
    Thanks for all the advice posted here – I would not have known to offer to cancel them myself if not for this website. Thank you, ladies. Just 68 days to go… (10-20-2007)

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    Naturally4, Guest @ 5:28 pm

    Ladies, thanks for all of your posts. Much to my surprise, earlier today, I headed to what is usually a very busy post office (on Spring Hill Road, in McLean, VA) to buy postage for one of our invitations being mailed to Russia and to get the rest of our 200 + invitations hand-canceled. Much, much, much to my surprise and delight, the kind woman behind the desk figured out the Russian postage and away she went with the hand-stamping, envelope after envelope.

    I can’t say that she was overly particular about the placement, but she was so nice, didn’t question me for a moment or try to charge me for the service. Maybe it helped that I go there often and looked familiar or something.

    Anyway, I write this because I want to let anyone who is about to mail their precious invitations to keep hope alive when it comes to hand canceling. For those of you who weren’t so lucky. I’m sorry. I suppose it’s just the luck of the draw and that your guests will still be super impressed with your invites and absolutely delighted about your upcoming big day!

  18. Member
    futuremrsabrams 42 posts, Newbee @ 3:41 pm

    Hi, just thought I’d add my experience…. I took 105 of my invites to the PO yesterday. After reading this post I was so NERVOUS!!! :) But I got up the nerve to ask about hand cancelling, and thankfully, the lady handed me the stamper and said have at it… So, that was marvelous! We’ll see how they turn out (if they still end up going through machines, etc…), but I was so glad she didn’t give me a hard time. For info’s sake: I went to a small town PO (Jacksonville, OR) at 3pm on a Thrs afternoon–they were’n’t busy at all. Good luck!!

  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Candice, Guest @ 8:24 pm

    Here’s my experience in SAN DIEGO, CA:

    It took me several tries to find a foolproof way to get wedding invites hand-canceled in San Diego. Both the Hillcrest and Adams Avenue stations refused to hand-cancel ANY invites, even on one occaision when I only had ten invites to mail.

    In San Diego, you have to go to the main post office near Sports Arena, on Midway. You have to get there on a weekday before 5:30 PM. There is a philatelic center there that fulfills the function of hand canceling. Don’t worry if you get there and see the philatelic center counter closed – just get in line for regular service and say you need your invites hand-cancelled. They’ll put them in a special bin to be taken care of later in the day. Note that the service is free for the first 50 invites. After that it’s $0.10 per invite.

    This worked out fine for me after learning the hard way. In San Diego, don’t waste your time – just head to Midway before 5:30 PM on a weekday.

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Kat & Justin : 9/6/08 : Polebridge, Montana : Wedding Blog » Cordially, of course, Guest @ 7:45 pm

    […] batch. First thing Thursday morning, I took them around to post offices looking for one that would hand cancel. The main branch of the Seattle PO obliged me, but I’m only half convinced that they […]

  21. Guest Icon Guest
    Bye, Babies… » Weddingbee » The Wedding Blog, Guest @ 2:45 pm

    […] and otherwise attempt to destroy those beautiful little pieces of paper. I had lofty ideals about having them hand cancelled, but trying to get that done in the city of Chicago makes the phrase “uphill battle” an […]

  22. Guest Icon Guest
    pinkstar.org » Blog Archive » Two weeks later…, Guest @ 8:32 pm

    […] What is hand-canceling?  Read more about it here. […]

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Cordially, Of Course » Weddingbee » The Wedding Blog, Guest @ 12:02 pm

    […] batch. First thing Thursday morning, I took them around to post offices looking for one that would hand cancel. The main branch of the Seattle PO obliged me, but I’m only half convinced that they won’t show […]

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    Evan K., Guest @ 4:10 am

    Incidentally (and this is in the regulations; hunt around 231.4 in the link above) — once you get your invitations postmarked by hand, they should be placed in a separate “tray” with a note that your letters should NOT be placed in the machine for automated canceling. Mail is, technically, not supposed to be canceled twice; but sometimes you need to press this issue, because it makes their processes less efficient.

    http://www.jbink.com/mailing.html for a few helpful tips as far as this goes.

    This link brings up good points about accommodating the post office (asking to come at their least busy time, etc.), making them most likely to happily accommodate your request.

    Incidentally: You ARE, technically, not prohibited from hand-canceling your invitations yourself, so long as you’re under the “supervision” of an authorized employee. Practically speaking, this generally means that they can see you, to make sure you’re not engaged in any fraudulent activities with their date stamp.

    — Evan K.

  25. Guest Icon Guest
    Franking Machines, Guest @ 5:55 am

    It is sad how service is at USPS branches, it’s quite pathetic and though it is understandable that the person on the other side of the booth is quite frustrated and tried accommodating a long line. They still should put a cheery smile. But apparently it has to be us. I have given up hope on using the services of USPS since it’s recent turmoil of bad debts and chances of bankruptcy. But now they have gone and canceled service on Saturday too. I have purchased my own new postage machines, I recommend that you all who have frequent mail and post to conduct purchase this machines. You can get it of from Pitney Bowes who are the number one manufacturers of franking machines. Honestly it made my life much easier and saved me from those long lines and boredom.

  26. Guest Icon Guest
    Danielle, Guest @ 2:43 pm

    I just went through the same thing in San Francisco. I went to the quietest post office in San Francisco and they told me first that my invitations would be 20 cents more -WTF? O.k. ugly head of Washington stamp make it happen!

    Then that they would NOT hand cancel them. Mind you I was their all by myself. The postal worker looked around and said , “What the hell.” “Don’t tell anyone I did this.” He took my whole box of 100 invitations and hand canceled them.

    I know hope they get to there recipients in one piece. Oh wedding blogs why do you give us such torturous ideas. Making us work so hard for days!

  27. Guest Icon Guest
    goby, Guest @ 9:53 pm

    I send mail with wax stamps sometimes and pay an extra 0.20 per letter to have them hand sorted/stamped. The person at the post office assured me that the 66 cent stamp was a special one that indicated to hand sort and stamp so it wouldn’t touch a machine. I dunno if the added cost is an issue for you, but this seems like the route to go, assuming I got good information from the clerk.

  28. Guest Icon Guest
    goby, Guest @ 9:53 pm

    err, I mean wax seals.

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