Congratulations! Your invitations are complete! You’ve approved the design, double checked the addresses and are ready to send them to your guests. You’ve made it this far but , there is one more VERY important aspect to remember- Mailing. There are a lot of questions clients have had over the years and a lot of things to consider, so below are some of the most common things to know and consider to help make mailing your invites as seamless as possible.
Once you know how much each invitation will cost to mail (which you should NEVER guess on, always bring one to the post office to check the cost) you can look on the USPS.com to see what your options are for postage that is available and order it. Don’t expect your local post office to have enough of the stamps you would like, order them through their website (they take 1-2 weeks to arrive and you have to create an account but it is super easy for any postage needs).
Custom stamps have always been a popular way for clients to carry their style and theme on the envelope and keep things cohesive. Unfortunately, this past year custom postage is no longer available. This has created a lot of concern among stationers and their clients who really want to make their envelope presentation be just as pretty as the invite inside. I would suggest looking to vintage postage (or a combo of vintage and current postage) if its in the budget. You can find vintage postage on Amazon, Etsy or even Ebay. But it’s a bit trickier than that because with vintage postage you need to make sure the combination of colors and design really fits the invitation look and feel (it’s a lot trickier than it seems) so you can also discuss with your stationer as most of them offer this service as well.
With almost every project, one of the questions our clients ask is “How much will these cost to mail?” and to be honest there is no way to know that until we have one to bring to the post office to weigh and let us know. The post office determines the cost based on the weight and the size of the envelope. If the envelope doesn’t bend or is pretty rigid it will be considered a parcel and the cost automatically jumps to a starting cost of $3.50 nationally. (We will discuss that more in the next sections). I always suggest that if you are mailing your invitations that you take one to get weighed at the post office you plan to mail from because the scales at each post office can be calibrated differently. But get this- EVEN if you do this there is a small chance that when they are sorted that the mail clerk could determine that the postage amount is incorrect because some variables are up to the clerk to decipher ( for example- if your invite is indeed rigid or bends enough to be considered first class postage) While this is not common it is out of your control (and your stationers) so the only thing you can do is cross your fingers and hope for the best.
When you mail anything that does not have “give” or bend to it, it is now considered a parcel. The cost to ship a parcel starts at $3.50 a piece and will increase depending on the size of the item, the weight and where it is shipping. Even in the United States the cost will vary depending on the zone it is shipping to. So if you are mailing in your same state it will be one cost but if you are mailing across the country the cost will be higher. When you mail a package or a parcel, because the cost is higher you are SUPER limited on postage options. You can have a mail clerk weigh and scan each one and then print a label ( they can print a large black and white one if you ask but the normal one has a bright orange stripe on it). They also will put a large tracking sticker on your parcel. The other option is to have your parcel weighed and then calculate the costs yourself by using the USPS website and then print the postage stamps at your post office kiosk. Which is typically located in the lobby. Not all post offices have shipping kiosks so you’ll have to find out ahead of time. The stamps that print from kiosks are small black and white stamp so they are less conspicuous but it doesn’t have a tracking sticker. You can, however ask your post office for tracking number stickers and you can adhere yourself for any that you really feel need it but this allows for you to decide where it goes and the main postage is smaller if you print them yourself. They have the zone charges (for each area in the U.S) on the usps.com website.
This is a tricky and LARGE topic. So lets start with mailing first class (not parcels) internationally. If you are mailing through the post office be sure to check and make sure they are currently shipping to that location. For example, right now USPS is not shipping to India and they will not tell you, you are responsible to check. For places they do not send first class mail or parcels. If the post office is not mailing to a location you can take the to fed ex for mailing. Overall, in the current times with the global pandemic of COVID-19 the cost to ship internationally is more expensive than usual and less dependable because less people are working and every country is working differently so there will always be a risk involved.
If you have to ship a parcel internationally, I would recommend mailing via UPS or Fed Ex. They are more expensive than the post office, but in my experience, it is more likely your box will get there in a timelier manner (I have had clients decide to save $30 and the invite never made it to the guest… this has happened on multiple invites for the same client, and this has happened with multiple clients). BUT keep in mind that there is no guarantee with any shipping options that it will get there seamlessly. Also, keep in mind that with the global pandemic EVERTYHING is more expensive and slower and overall less dependable so send early and have patience. Whenever you send a parcel internationally you have to fill out a customs form, it is super helpful to put the phone number of the guest you are mailing to on the form just in case so come prepared. There is a chance that depending on the value you put on the customs form, the country the invite is mailed to could have an import fee they charge as well. There are certain circumstances where this could happen (for example if there is a gift involved or animal bi-products included etc. but it depends on the country) so do your research before so you are prepared and are able to follow up and pay if need be (otherwise they will charge your client).
A typical rsvp is mailed back in a first class envelope. For those the cost of postage is a typical first class stamp. You always want to include the postage on your rsvp envelope you are sending to guests unless it is being sent internationally. That will require postage for the country it is being mailed back from. If you are doing rsvp postcards there is a specific post card stamp that that you can use which is about $0.20 less than a first class stamp (if you are okay with the look of the stamp).
We do offer a mailing service to our clients. We no longer offer to internationally ship parcels but are happy to take care of postage and mailing outside of that. When we do the mailing we photograph each and every envelope/box so we have a records prior to putting in the mail. We cannot be responsible for any damage or loss once they are with the post office. Tracking is the responsibility of the client as well so we always suggest ordering a couple extra invites just in case.