What the Heck Is Hand Cancelling?

Hello, blogging buddies! It occurred to me after my stamp-snafu post that it might not be abundantly clear to everyone what hand cancelling is. So, here’s a quick snippet on hand cancelling.


Image via Soulful Engagements

After you drop your envelopes in the mail, the post office runs them through their machine, which quickly sorts and cancels out the postage so it can’t be used again. Since it’s a machine, your envelope runs the risk of getting snagged or damaged. When an envelope is hand cancelled, the postage stamp is hand stamped to cancel out the postage. In the image above, the photo on the left has gone through the regular machine. The image on the right was hand cancelled. Some people choose to hand cancel their invitations to preserve the look of their envelopes and stamps. Boom!


Mrs. Warbler

Long Beach/Malibu
Wedding Date:
April 2012
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  1. ticket Member
    ticket 501 posts, Busy bee @ 5:49 pm

    Thanks for the clarification. I had heard of hand cancelling and had a general idea of what I thought it was but I’m happy to read a clear explanation of it haha. I did a test run of our invitations by sending out my parents a week in advance to see how it came back without the hand cancelling, it was perfect! No crinkles or scratches or snags and the insides were completely in tact. I was happy and so we decided to just go with regular mailing.

    At least now you know exactly how to handle your invitations! =)

  2. prairiedog Member
    prairiedog 455 posts, Helper bee @ 5:55 pm

    the lady at our local post office hand-canceled everything for us because she thought it was so sweet that pdog was mailing our invites by himself. sorry, i was busy y’all!

  3. Member
    sarap2012 1753 posts, Buzzing bee @ 5:59 pm

    AH! I was wondering about that! Very good to know!

  4. Member
    MissSharp 32 posts, Newbee @ 6:05 pm

    Ah, makes sense!

    Do you use something in particular to hand-cancel? Is that something to post office has to do or what would I use if I wanted to do it myself?


  5. Member
    Coffee cup 2319 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:08 pm

    Well, there’s a clear difference between the envelopes, so I think it’s worth it.

  6. Member
    worcesterbride 603 posts, Busy bee @ 6:20 pm

    I asked about hand-cancelling and was told that there was a $1/item additional fee if I wanted it. No way!

  7. Member
    kimmyray 44 posts, Newbee @ 7:04 pm

    The hand cancelled ones still get run through a sorting machine. That is the reason for the barcode on the bottom.

  8. Guest Icon Guest
    Ally, Guest @ 7:27 pm

    I had our invites hand canceled because I’ve heard of some invitations not only getting crinkled, but getting smudges on them. I’m not sure where the above poster lives (Mass.?) but it was FREE in Chicago. Were they just being nice?

    The postal employee just handed me the stamp and one of those big white collecting bins mailmen carry and had me do it myself right there in the post office.

  9. teaspoon Member
    teaspoon 768 posts, Busy bee @ 8:08 pm

    Ha ha! Great explaination!

  10. Member
    Leprechaun 1012 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:41 pm

    Just so people know, hand cancelling only keeps the envelopes from going through the first machine (the one that marks the stamp). It will still go through many, many sorting machines on the way to its final destination (just imagine the labor if every step of the process was done by hand!). So if you are told it will cost extra money to do it, it’s probably not worth it…your envelope will still get dirty and marked up (just not over the stamp part) and possibly bent/torn.

  11. Member
    Ms. Anemone 624 posts, Busy bee @ 9:13 pm

    We just did hand-canceling for our STD postcards and they all came through with not-a-mark. It was perfect, and we didn’t even have to do the stamping ourselves!

  12. Member
    worcesterbride 603 posts, Busy bee @ 9:18 pm

    Our wedding was in my hometown in MA, but I live in NYC, where postal workers are infamously not-that-helpful.

  13. warbler Member
    warbler 249 posts, Helper bee @ 9:43 pm

    @MissSharp: The post office does it. Although I have heard (from one of the past Bees I think) of a busy postal worker just handing the staff to the bride and letting her do all the work :)
    @kimmyray: Hmm, I wonder if it’s a different machine?

  14. Member
    vaness13181 687 posts, Busy bee @ 2:26 am

    I don’t work at the post office or anything, but @kimmyray is correct. If you look at the bottom of both the hand cancelled and non-hand cancelled envelopes, they both have barcodes, which means they went through some type of sorting machine.

    I live in Chicago, they do not charge for hand canceling so I would be wary of any post office employee that says it will cost $1 per envelope. I hand cancelled the postage on our STDs and wedding invites. The post office employee just gave me the stamp to do it myself then I handed it and all the envelopes back to her. She did say that although I hand cancelled the postage, it would still go through the sorter…I honestly don’t believe there is any way USPS can mail letters and packages without going through some machine to get to final destination.

  15. funnelcake Member
    funnelcake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:12 am

    @vaness13181: Yeah, unless they don’t fit the machine (too bulky?) I think they always go through something. It just seems like a question of how many fees you pay for “how weird” your envelope is.

  16. Member
    utcalgirl 153 posts, Blushing bee @ 8:09 pm

    best.post.ever!! I didn’t know this. I love new and useful info.

  17. Guest Icon Guest
    Emily, Guest @ 6:32 pm

    After reading this and many other posts, I decided to go with hand-cancelling our invites – not to avoid machines (because it doesn’t), but just because I like the look of it. What I learned is that every city/post office has different policies regarding hand-cancelling. Some apparently allow you to just drop off a box of addressed invites with a “hand cancel please” request – but in Portlabd, OR, you have to make an appointment I’m advance to come in and literally hand stamp them yourself. OR, you can pay 20 cents per piece extra to call it a “rigid envelope” and have them entirely hand processed (which takes longer). Not worth it to me… I have enough to do and pay for!

  18. Member
    ebats 49 posts, Newbee @ 11:37 am


  19. Guest Icon Guest
    Laura, Guest @ 4:56 pm

    I paid 10 cents to get each save the date postcard hand canceled so there wouldn’t be any marks. It still went through machines and each one arrived with a smudge on the front. Forgo the postcard save the dates and hand canceling. Definitely not worth it!

  20. Guest Icon Guest
    Jessica, Guest @ 5:11 pm

    I know this is an old thread, but I feel compelled to write something…. I believe there is a second postal term you aren’t considering, but should, if you plan to send mail that isn’t wider than it is tall (within the postal dimensions)…or that has other attachments/oddities like a raised sticker, wax seal or something. “Hand-cancelled” refers to the step of marking the postage stamp as used. The benefit of this is keeping the front of your envelope intact at the first stage of mailing. “Non-machinable” is the term used to describe mail that cannot easily be run through the postal sorters/machines. There is a surcharge for these types of envelopes – which includes things that are square, or awkward, or bumpy, etc. “Hand-cancelling” shouldn’t cost anything extra if you find a Post Office willing to do it…. “non-machinable” does cost extra. The Post Office is actually required to mail anything you bring them (size/shape wise), as long as the contents aren’t prohibited. Check this out: http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume6/v6i4/postal-6-4.html Hope that helps clarify a little?

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