I letterpress printed my own invitation suite, in four colors, and I saved more than $10,000… no joke.
I spent a total of $650.
Let me explain briefly why I saved $10,000: A high-quality, one-color invitation alone costs about $700 for 100 invitations. Add on additional colors, and elements like save the dates, response cards and programs, and the price mounts exponentially. This is why most people have two-colors-or-fewer invitations. I did 20-plus total press runs for our save the dates, invites, programs and response cards. That means for each color, the invitation was hand-fed into the press about 130 times in my case (I allowed for spoilage”¦ and man, was there a lot of it.)
The entire process took one week, an exhausting yet exhilarating 50-plus hours with my new-found friend and mentor. I worked from 9 AM until 7 or 8 PM, often without taking breaks or eating. I was focused. I didn’t want to stop. I loved it. Here’s the tale of how it happened:
I started getting serious about the process a year ago. But the story actually starts two years ago.
I began with a non-wedding related interest in the art of letterpress. I took four workshops that cost me $90.
I got engaged, and began dreaming of printing my own suite.
One year ago, I began learning up on letterpress printing by checking out books and online forums.
Nine months ago, I met and made “friends” with people in the letterpress forums. One of those people would become my mentor, and truly a great friend.
Eight months ago, I found a design I LOVED on Style Me Pretty. I found out who the graphic designer was, and contacted her. She agreed to do the same design, with tweaks, for me, plus design an all-new save the date and response card for me. She ended up making a bee-eautiful monogram as well, free of charge as a wedding gift:
I began working with Boxcar Press to create my poly plates I needed to letterpress the designs. I ended up being overcharged $40, because they spaced out my designs incorrectly”“with huge amounts of white space on plates that are paid for by the inch.
Four months ago, Boxcar finally had the correct file format they needed, and they made and shipped my plates. Around the same time, I worked out my schedule with my best friend and bridesmaid, Alexa, in the Bay Area with whom I would stay while printing, and my letterpress mentor, and set a date to go north and print.
Three months ago, I printed for five entire days.
My trip up north and back, and daily commute to my mentor’s letterpress shop, equaled 21 hours of driving. My friend Alexa came to visit as I printed one day. She’s a journalist and a great photographer, and luckily she documented the process so I have a few pictures. At the end of the day, she, my mentor, his wife and I had a lovely dinner at his house filled with great conversation.
In December, with my suite printed and ready to go, I forgot about them for a while (highly recommended!) and focused on writing (my profession), two internships (quarter life crisis=exploring new avenues) and celebrating the holidays with my fiance and our friends.
At the six-month mark from our wedding, I went to Kinko’s and used their paper trimmer to achieve a perfect “bleed” of the letterpress design on the edge of my save the dates.
Then I began what I call the two weeks of utter envelope hell–”“collecting more than 100 addresses, cutting out envelope liners, gluing them in, then addressing our envelopes by hand. In calligraphy. Calligraphy I’ve never done before. And, might I mention, my natural hand writing resembles that of a serial-killer’s. What? I can’t help it”“–I’m dyslexic!
In early January, I began mailing out our save the dates. They’re all received by now; some people have had them for a month. They were sent as close as one building down, to as far away as Japan.
Only a few people have told me whether they received them. My BFF Alexa told me she’d keep it forever, and that made my heart swell.
Cost all told for design, paper and printing: $650. I’m not including the gas costs here, because I had planned to make the trip north anyway to go to my parents’ house and my hometown, where the wedding will be come June.
My mentor refused a small monetary donation in a moving speech he gave that made me cry. I felt so, so eternally grateful. I am still so grateful.
Before I met my mentor, I had my graphic designer put his name on my program in a message of gratitude for his help. It’s that kind of faith—and his faith in me as I operated his antique platen press”“that helped me have one of the best experiences of my life. People told me I couldn’t do it. Experts told me it couldn’t be pulled off by a beginner. And although most guests don’t know the time and effort put into their invitation, and indeed many will toss it out without a second thought, that doesn’t matter to me. Because I’ve learned a new craft, made a lifelong friend, and I’m personally gratified to have hand-made this important element of our wedding.
Please stay tuned for a how-to on invitation calligraphy and envelope liners.
All photographs are personal photographs. Letterpress photos by Alexa Vaughn.