DIY Rubber Stamp Wedding Invitations: Charming Money-Saving Strategy, or Nightmare of Regrets?July 24, 2019
Photography by Spindle Photography (except for the ones that obviously came from my iPhone)
I think we can all agree, at least in theory, that relationships are more important than money. But having a tiny wedding budget and a massive guest list presents its own set of problems. One option for cutting down on paper costs, obviously, is to limit the number of people invited to your wedding. But I really valued every single person on our guest list, and I didn’t want to chop it.
Another option would’ve been to cut the quality of the invitations, but I didn’t want to do that, either. I’ve always been really into cards and paper; my friend John Yam and I even ran a tiny screenprinting business called Sugartop Gumdrop for awhile. He went on to start a boutique wedding invitation company (Print + Promise) and then to become an app developer, while I opened a coffee shop and then went on to work as a writer. Neither of us print anymore, but I just couldn’t bring myself to order mass produced wedding invites … on the other hand, I couldn’t afford to pay for custom work.
And then came the big idea — rubber stamps! Custom rubber stamps are only about $15-25 if you provide the design. I’d used stamps to print business cards in the past, both because they provide the texture of hand printing, and because you don’t have to decide ahead of time how many you want — as long as you have your stamp and some paper, you can print more. This seemed ideal for wedding invitations, especially since our guest list wasn’t finalized.
My friend Andrew Thomson, who designed the cover of my book, The Localist, and the logo for my former shop, Church Street Coffee & Books, agreed to design our invites as a wedding gift. John donated leftover paper stock and envelopes from Print + Promise; it was incredibly high quality Crane paper, and it would’ve cost us hundreds of dollars to buy it.
I was really excited about this idea from the start. I had visions of spending a weekend streaming romantic comedies while I cheerfully stamped adorable invitations. I was absolutely in love with the idea that these invites would be created by people I cared about, who were already a part of my story, and that their actual cost would be only about $50 total (before postage).
Some of this turned out to be true — the invitations were inexpensive, and people I loved were part of the story. But there was a lot I didn’t count on, too. Here are some tips, as well as a few things I wish I’d known before I began:
Choose a design that embraces the imperfections of rubber stamps
The nature of a rubber stamp is that some of the spots don’t pick up, or they can look a bit faded. If you choose the right design, this effect will work for you — maybe you design your invites to look like a library card, or an old-fashioned luggage tag. Just be sure your design will benefit from imperfections, because you will have them. If you want immaculate scripts or intricate swirls, stamping isn’t the right choice.
Choose a paper that isn’t “toothy” or textured
High quality paper often has a texture to it; it’s really more like a cloth. We had luxurious, toothy paper. It was lovely … and it was really tricky to stamp on. I had to press hard and evenly to get a good print, and even then, some spots still tended to skip (especially numbers). Choosing a smooth paper will generally produce a cleaner, crisper print. Whichever kind of paper you choose, get at least 20 extra cards to account for prints that don’t come out perfectly. (And always stamp the first print from each session on scrap paper to be sure you’re evenly inked without wasting expensive paper stock.)
Think through how many stamps you’ll need
In addition to the invitation, we asked Andrew to design a Reply Card stamp, a Return Address stamp (I stamped them on the back of our envelopes) and a Thanks stamp that we used to print our Thank You cards. (The Return Address and Thank You stamps have come in handy after the wedding, too.)
We ordered our stamps from Birmingham Rubber Stamp, and they did an amazing job — everything was perfect, and we had no issues (we also bought our ink from them). When you order, you’ll need to know what size stamp you’re looking for, and you’ll need to send your artwork (we sent ours as JPGs, but check with the company that’s creating your stamp to find out which files they accept).
Create an assembly line and a method for lining up stamps
I cut a bunch of frames out of cardstock and used washi tape to attach them to a big piece of foam core; then I’d insert my blank invitations into their cardstock frames, “close” the frames, line the rubber stamp up with the frame, and stamp several at a time before I opened the frames and stacked up the finished products. (To see this in action, watch the Crafts Highlight of my Instagram Story.) Creating this system took a morning’s worth of trial and error, but it helped the actual stamping go by quickly — I got the majority of the invites, reply cards and envelopes stamped in a weekend. (Unlike screen printing, they don’t take time to dry, so they can be stacked immediately.)
Don’t stamp twice
Theoretically, you could stamp a background image and then stamp the details on top of it, or use two stamps to get different colors — but I wouldn’t. Just lining the stamps up in the first place is really tricky, and the chances that you’ll get both stamps lined perfectly just isn’t great. Unless you’re doing a tiny number of invites, or you’re a stamping savant, stay away from complex patterns.
Use a large, dye-based ink pad that can be re-inked
Get large ink pad that fits your entire stamp so it’s inked evenly; you don’t want an ink pad that’s smaller than your stamp so that you have to press is multiple times. Andrew also advised us to get a flat pad instead of a spongy one, and those can be re-inked so you don’t have to buy multiple stamp pads. (To put it in technical terms, I think you want dye-based ink as opposed to pigment.)
You can skip the ink remover. I just stamped onto a damp paper towel a few times to remove the ink between sessions. I was worried about the sides of the stamp picking up ink, but wasn’t an issue, and I didn’t have to clean the stamp very often, except when I was taking breaks.
Consider how you’ll address your envelopes
I absolutely cried over this process. I couldn’t afford to have someone else address my invites. I tried to handwrite them, but even with a guide, I thought they looked too DIY — and since I’d already put so many hours into my invitations, that was so frustrating. I know a little bit of calligraphy, but not enough to make it through 10 envelopes, let alone 200.
I ended up cobbling together a couple of different styles: I wrote the family name in calligraphy-form letters, but I used a calligraphy marker instead of a nib. I used a smaller marker (a black Le Pen) to write the address in a plain block script slightly off-set from the family name. In general, I was happy enough with the results. They probably look terrible to someone who actually knows about lettering, but it was definitely the best I could do.
Buy pre-cut paper in standard formats
Our free paper came in large-format sheets that had to be cut to size. My dad ended up spending days with a paper cutter and a ruler, chopping those massive pages into invitations and reply cards. Those big sheets are thick and not designed to be trimmed in home paper cutters. He did an amazing job, but it was impossible to get perfectly squared-off edges, and that made lining up the stamps a bit more challenging.
Most people won’t have this issue, of course, because you’ll be buying your paper. Visit a local art store or a place like Paper Source or Hobby Lobby to play around with different shapes of paper and envelopes until you find one you like. (You can also pick a color, although I’d confer with your designer if you have one.) If you’ll be sending a reply that has its own card and envelope, remember to account for that. Check to be sure your invite is a standard size or if it will require additional postage; I also weighed mine to be sure they wouldn’t cost extra to mail.
Will you be using envelope liners?
I’d never used envelope liners before my wedding … and I probably never will again. I wasn’t planning on using liners, but the card size we chose was so small that it looked like it was swimming in the (also donated) envelope, and the liner helped it look more normal. There are situations where envelope liners could be fun, but because I printed our invitations AND addressed them AND we had a big guest list, tracing and cutting and gluing in liners was a little much for me.
There are a bunch of tutorials for making envelope liners online, and I don’t have a particularly special method. My only tips are to check to see if your liner is showing through the front of the envelope, and use tape glue instead of a gluestick, especially if you’re using a heavy paper stock of either envelope or liner. (All the ones I did with a gluestick separated, and I had to re-glue them.)
Would I choose stamping again?
I absolutely would consider stamping for cards in the future, but I also underestimated the amount of work involved. Actually stamping the invitations was pretty straightforward and relatively quick, but I hadn’t considered the additional time needed to cut the paper, address the invitations, add envelope liners, write out thank you notes, add postage stamps, etc. — I should’ve factored in much more time, and probably gotten help on some of those projects.
Carrie Rollwagen married Russell Marbut in September of 2018. She’s the author of The Localist, a book about buying independent, and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she’s Communications Director at Infomedia, a Birmingham-based web development company. Find her on social media as @crollwagen: Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Russell is a web developer and jiu jitsu instructor who isn’t much into wedding blogs or website bios. He’s on Instagram as @russellg9.