What the Heck Is Hand Cancelling?

Hand Cancelling 101

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.

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
DIY Friday
Let Them Eat...Cake?
Add a comment


  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. warbler Bee
    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?

  4. 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.

  5. funnelcake Bee
    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.

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

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

  7. 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!

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


  9. 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!

  10. 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?

add a comment

Sent weekly. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Find Amazing Vendors