Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Save the Date, Mate!

Photo Credit: Hoa Dang

Finally. We finished a project from start to finish. Feels great!
We mailed out our Save the Date cards a few weeks ago. I wanted to do something simple yet fun. Something that would set the personal and somewhat whimsy tone for our wedding and entice people to look forward to that golden day in July. We all need something to look forward to over here on the East Coast and in the Mid-West, where the weather changes by the second but is mostly rainy, misty or grey, save a poke of the sun's head through the clouds every so often.

I got super lucky and snagged these ever-so-cool envelopes from a fellow freecycler (if you don't know what freecycle is = lots of incredible free local stuff = go now!). She worked for a company that designed video games (the ultimate gig in terms of employment fantasies, no?) and they used these padded beauties for a promotion. How great is it that they sought out takers to give these away to, rather than (more easily) dump them in the garbage?! I took as many as I could carry. And then some. Jake was a bit shocked when I arrived home with several huge bags, giddy with my pinky-silvery puffy finds. But he couldn't be more grateful when it came time to use them for something practical (is a wedding really practical?!) and it cost us $0.

They are translucent with a really elegant purple/pink sheen to them. Very cool.

But what to put in all these envelopes? After pondering various ideas and sifting through all the sites I bookmarked for inspiration, we decided to use Wordle. Not only is it great fun to sit and sift through all the results created by the words you feed into it, but it's easy, and has so many options for format/color, etc. If you have not yet tried it, do so immediately! You can use it for non-wedding things too: presentations, covers, cards, framable art; the choices are endless. Go here for a great and simple tutorial to get you started.

We chose to print the words primarily in black and white, to save $ on ink since colored ink is so much more expensive than B&W. But we wanted to add a little color splash to the card so we chose two shades of purple. Our cardstock (which I also got free from a fellow crafter on freecycle!) was a light gray with a linen finish and nicely textured. Easily feedable through our simple inexpensive home Epson printer.

After we decided on a Wordle picture:
we chose some very simple text for the back:

We left blank space on the back to add personal notes to each card. It was fun to write something specific to the recipient and led to guests calling us to respond to our hand-written notes. This added a personal and informal touch to the package. Even a few simple words helps people feel special and included (which they are!). If a friend recently returned from traveling, I asked about their trip. We had invited a few (limited) family friends, and I wrote something like, "After watching me grow up over the years, I would love to have you with me on this special day! Hope you are well, hi to [kids/pet/family]." For guests outside of the U.S., I let them know that I certainly did not expect them to fly all the way here--although I would be honored--but still wanted them to be a part of the process as much as possible. The comments were not just about the wedding. Some were jokes or fun little meaningful drawings. It was nice to have an excuse to write something to friends and family that I may not communicate with as often as I would like.
As you can see, we figured how many cards we could get out of one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of cardstock (4), and measured it out. This was more complicated than we thought and required several adjustments to both line it up properly and make it easiest to cut. Luckily, Jake figured it out after I had a mini brat-tantrum and walked out claiming the dog needed some fresh air. The dog as decoy, I love it.

Jake snuck home his paper cutter from work on the weekend so no one would be deprived of using it, and it worked perfectly! We left more space on the right and bottom margins rather than centering everything exactly on the page--this made it easier to trim since all we had to do after printing was snip off the bottom & right edges and then chop up the rest into four perfectly sized cards (make sure you wait until the ink has thoroughly dried--varies depending on the printer).

As I mentioned, we wanted to add a bit of pizazz in the package, so we decided to include a magnet with each Save the Date card so guests could post it on the fridge and (hopefully) not forget us! I stupidly forgot to take photos of our magnets, but they are somewhat similar (different color scheme) to these that I made for my good friends David & Jess who loved the idea so much they begged me to make some for their 5 year wedding anniversary invitations:

Since these magnets are SUPER fun and cheap to make, this was a simple and creative way to make our Save the Dates stand out and provide something useful for the guests. The magnet making tutorial can be found here, and definitely check out Megan's NotMartha website for tons of additional unique ideas and links!

As a last thought, we decided to use scraps of colored paper we had lying around to cut out some hearts with a heart punch we already had, and dropped them into the envelopes at the end. When our guests pulled out our cards, they would get an added surprise of little colorful hearts flowing out from the envelope (not too many so they don't have a mess to clean up!).
The only bummer was that including the magnets--because of U.S. Postal Service rules--cost us extra to mail. Each envelope cost $1.17 to mail. We debated this extra splurge and decided to go ahead with it because a) We had so much fun making the magnets in the past and were looking forward to future cozy nights making them again, this time with a personal message (our names Maggie + Jake squished together); b) It made the cards special and we knew that our guests, most of whom are the type of people who appreciate the little things in life, would value them; c) The magnets are super strong and therefore actually very useful to have around the house; and d) Since the printing, cardstock and envelopes were all acquired by Resourceful Me for free, we allowed ourselves this luxury! Onwards and upwards! The good news was that even mailing them out of the country (we have a lot of outside of the U.S. guests) was only a few cents more for some strange reason.

I love writing and pens and anything related to writing and pens, so I was looking forward to hand-addressing our envelopes. I played around with a few of my styles, and decided on my faux "american typewriter" font. I LOVED taking the time to address them all (about 60) but I didn't love the hand cramps.

Here is a photo of the back of the package, with return address, the card (actually a reject practice one) peeking out, and the hearts that spill out when opened:

(fake addy, don't stalk us!)

A stack ready to be stamped and mailed:

(Identifying info removed)
Tips based on our mistakes/"aha" moments:
  • Use plain cheap paper for the first few runs to make sure everything fits properly and cuts to the right measurements for your envelope. Cut the practice sheets up and actually make sure they fit in the envelopes. You'd be surprised how many little things go wrong if you don't test them.
  • Mail one finished product to yourself! I know this seems over-the-top but it can really save you from making a mistake. It ensures that you are using a font that the postperson can read, or that the envelopes seal properly and make it intact to the destination. We discovered a problem in our test mailing: the self-adhesive seal to the envelope did not seal as tightly as we thought it would. Our envelope arrived at our doorstep partly open in the corner and risked further damage, had we mailed it international or a longer distance. As a result, we knew to use packaging tape to make certain the envelope would not open. We would not have thought/known to do this otherwise.
  • Make one card set fully, from beginning to end, i.e.; a prototype to make sure everything works before printing a whole batch and wasting paper and materials.
  • Unless you are on a roll, we found it best to complete the project over a few days (the weekend, for example) rather than try to get it all done at once. Which brings me to the next piece of advice:
  • If you are hand-addressing the invites, I highly recommend you do a few addresses per day and not try to get them done in a few sittings. Can you say HAND CRAMP! Not fun.
  • Take the time to draw very light pencil lines on the envelopes so that your addresses are straight. I know it is a pain, but the finished product looks SO much cleaner and professional then slanted lines and names. Or just make them crooked on purpose in a fun, quirky kind of way if you don' t want to draw the lines. (Don't forget to erase the pencil lines!)
  • If you own a pet, keep an eye on them! My pup somehow managed to drag a few of our cards onto his bed. He then proceeded to have a drooling fest on them.
  • Use a water-resistant, smudge-proof, permanent pen/marker to address the envelopes. I don't care how cool or wonderful a non-water-proof pen is--it won't be pretty when it arrives completely smeared, or worse, never makes it to the destination because the postperson could not read the address.
  • Keep beverages away from the workspace. Especially if you are having a little cocktail while crafting, for goodness sake, and have already lost a percentage of your dexterity! We lost some completed cards to my deliciously strong and stain-producing coffee (spill).
HAVE FUN! Don't stress! No one will remember these things, so the joy will likely come from your memories of designing and making them together. Or from all the stupid mistakes you made. Or from all the silly spats you had while making them. Or from all the sleep you lost staying up to finish them. Or from all the dumb ideas you suggested...etc. etc.

I was happily surprised to discover that Jake and I work amazingly well together on these crafty projects! He is more technical and handled the measuring, cutting, and lining up of the text, among other tasks. I spearheaded the design, colors, and magnet pattern among other tasks. I was happy to delegate the math/technical-related stuff to Jake and he was more than happy to let me choose the colors, font and text, though we both took part in all of the above.

One of the best parts was all the emails, phone calls and texts we received from family and friends telling us how "cute" the cards were and that "your card and magnet is sitting on my fridge as we speak!" Hooray! It really served to get us super excited about the wedding and all the awesome people who would be there to make it special.

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