|There are two ways you can print your own invitations (and
Cost - The least expensive professional printing is by "mail order". But printing your own will save. The most savings is in using plain paper stock such as cover stock and using ordinary envelopes. You probably will not find inner envelopes however.
Last Minute Changes - When you order invitations commercially, they tell you to order an additional 25 to cover the "I forget Jack and Jill Smith." situation. If you print your own, you can add as many people as you like. In addition, commercial invitations require that you know your wedding date and location along with the reception location in advance. In other words you must have signed contracts to have guaranteed availability. When you print your own, you can change anything right up to the last moment before printing.
Personalization - You can have Place Cards with your guest's name and table number printed rather than hand writing on generic cards. You could even create personalized invitations such as, "Mr. and Mrs. Parents - cordially invite - Mr. and Mrs. First Guest - to attend the wedding . . . ". No commercial printer can do this!
Envelope Addressing - The cook books say you must hand address. Not so! If you print your own invitations in a selected font, you can use the same font for envelope addressing giving your ensemble that important coordinated look.
Paper and Artwork Selection - You will not have the breadth of paper selections nor the elegance of some of the papers available from the commercial/mail order printers. But you will find some very nice papers. If you use plain paper, you can have any artwork that you can find or create. Thus you can generate a truly custom look.
Disadvantages - You cannot get raised ink printing from your laser or ink-jet. To offset this, you can print with a colored ink, an extra cost item if done commercially. But there are disadvantages. You won't get any advice. That's why Invitations, Etc. is here. And if you want folding invitations, you must do a good job folding which requires that you know how to select paper.
On Your Computer
You'll need a good printer, a quality font, paper stock, and some type of "desktop publishing software".
Your Laser or Ink-Jet Printer - You should have a newer laser or ink-jet printer running at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) or better. Some of the newer ink-jet printers feature 600 dpi and can print in color. Read your printer's User Guide to find out about its paper handling capability. Since most invitation card stock is somewhere between 40 and 80 pound (a measure of paper weight which translates into thickness), you must be sure that your printer can handle thick paper without jamming or curling. If your laser or ink-jet printer has a paper tray which is located so that it makes the paper curl tightly around the drum or platen, the heavy paper stock will also curl. Check to see if you have a manual feed path which is often designed to give a straighter feed path.
(Please note that you do not want to print using an old "dot-matrix" printers. You can buy a 600 dpi color ink-jet for about $200.)
Read your User Guide regarding envelope handling. Newer printers either have special feed paths or envelope puffing (lasers) to prevent crushing the envelope. One of the trickiest things you can do is print envelopes. You have to worry about which way the envelope is fed, which paper you select on the printer driver, and which feed path you are supposed to be using. To complicate the matter, different software applications try to use the features of your printer, ignore your printer features, do not support your printer features, and/or give you additional choices in case your printer does not support envelopes.
Computer Printer Paper Stock - There are two kinds of papers you can use for invitations and accessory cards. You can purchase blank "card stock" often called "cover stock". Or, you can purchase specially designed "pre-printed" and/or "embossed" invitation and accessory papers. Read more about the papers that you can use under the topic, Paper Stock. You will also find a complete list of the paper vendors and stores under the topic, Resources.
Fonts - You can't afford the fonts used by the commercial printers. You can find cheap fonts by the hundreds for less than $30. They are cheap for a reason. If you enlarge them to say 72 or 144 points you'll find jagged edges. Good fonts hold their curves. Another thing to look for is the spacing between the characters. Cheap fonts are not accurately designed for perfect visual separation.
Computer Software - There are three kinds of software that you can use to print your own invitations:
Non-Specific Desktop Publising Products - First, there are "high-end" products that are true typesetting applications. These include Quark, Corel, and Adobe's page layout applications. They are also high priced and have a steep learning curve. But they also allow you to do just about anything including adjusting the text kerning and leading so that your invitations will appear identical to those printed commercially. If you already have such software and are good at it, use it. But don't plan to buy a high-end package just to print invitations.
Consumer Level Desktop Publishing Products - Next, you can use a "lite" desktop publishing application such as Microsoft Publisher, PrintMaster Gold, or MacMillan Publish It. There are many other products in this category. Most of these come with great fonts and an excellent selection of graphics.
Greeting Card Software - Some of the greeting card companies have invitation software. However, these products are not designed to work with the papers that are available for invitations. What? How can they be designed for invitations yet not work with invitation papers? Well, they are designed for printing greeting cards and can also be used for invitations but invitations that are more like "party invitations", not formal wedding or high-end social invitations. They produce nice looking glitzy papers. If you are having a "cheap" wedding, then use "toy" software.
Word Processors - Next, you can use just about any "word-processing" software. Microsoft Word, for example, will let you have good control over layout but you won't have the fine typesetting controls of the high end products. Using the "mail merge" feature found in most word processors, you can print personalized cards if you build a "database" for your guest list. Here are the basic steps you will follow if you want to use a word processor or other desktop publishing product for the invitations:
The above is for a folding invitation. To fold it, make sure your paper has the correct grain. This is especially important if you are using a heavy paper stock (recommended). Read more about paper weight and grain under the Paper Stock topic. If you want non-folding invitations, simply take the layout you created on the right side and copy it over to the left side. This will print two invitations per sheet and you simply cut each sheet in half.
Repeat the above for any other papers in your ensemble. For example, you can print two folding respond cards or four non-folding respond cards per sheet.
All of the above products require that you measure your paper and set up typesetting areas. In some cases you will not be able to get the line spacing to match what is done by the commercial printers. Never print your invitation with single spaced lines. And double spaced lines look a little two wide. If you can adjust the line spacing, set it for a little more than one and half spacing. If you have good quality invitation fonts, make sure that you set the font size to be very similar to those from commercial printers. (Get a sample invitation from a commercial or mail order printer and use it as a guide.)
Bridal Software - This is software specifically designed for the "professional" printing of invitations but priced economically. There are currently only two software products in this category. The first is The Complete Wedding Publisher by ED/iT (or a companion product, The Complete Social Publisher). The second is a free product in a Wedding Kit by PC Papers. Both of these products were designed from the ground up just for wedding or social invitations. Both come with fonts. (If you know of any other product like these, write us so it can be included here.)
The Complete Wedding (or Social) Publisher does all the papers in your ensemble including your wedding program and envelopes. It has an abundant list of wordings and can even do personalized (with the guest's name) Place Cards and Respond Cards. It works with hundreds of paper stocks. You don't have to do any layout work or make any adjustments to the typesetting. It places and typesets your wording on your selected paper stock automatically. It even tells you if your wording is going to interfere with any preprinted artwork or embossing on the paper stock you have selected.
The Wedding Kit free software works with only one of the eight paper styles provided by the vendor and included in the kit. The software comes with fonts but you can only use those, not others on your computer. Reviewers say that you can't edit any of the wordings (i.e., create your own) and that it only does the invitations and responds . . . nothing else.
Both the above products are Windows based, no MAC versions. You can find more information on computer software under the topic, Invitation Printing Software in the Resources section.
Professional Bridal Software - This is software specifically designed for the professional wedding consultant. There are currently only two software products in this category. The first is Social Publisher PRO by ED/iT ($295). The second is an older product (DOS based) called Calligraphics by Inscribe ($3000 to $10000).
Hand Printing - not really! The only time you might consider writing your own invitations if you only need 8 of them, your penmanship is excellent, or your hobby is calligraphy. It's a nice touch. Go for it!
Commercial Calligrapher - You might consider either having your envelopes addressed using a calligrapher or, for the most expensive and personal touch, your entire ensemble.
Calligraphers have what is called a "hand". Each calligrapher's hand is different even for the same "font" or lettering style. But you can be assured of one thing, outstanding lettering. Some calligraphers do only one lettering style. Others are skilled in a variety of styles.