I am profoundly tired.
The day that preceded that condition included some crazy legwork at the office, as well as three hours of hosting LP’s new Wednesday night open mic @ Intermezzo at 31st and Walnut.
However, the root cause of the weariness extends back several days, during which I have been trying to squeeze in more content than a day can hold. Much of that content has been wedding-related.
I love all the dire wedding warnings that come from every quarter when you first get engaged. I suppose it’s a cultural hazing thing? I just don’t get it. Each of our favorite weddings were relatively lacking in insanity and drama according to the various brides. Also, we’re both OCD project managers with the same taste in everything.
Right. Remind me to come back and read this post in about twelve months and see what I have to say about it.
Well, I’m back a week shy of one year later to report that I still agree with that sentiment. Maybe you should ask me again in two more months.
In the past year I’ve discovered that weddings don’t have to be difficult projects filled with temper tantrums. We’ve certainly had some stressful moments, and we’ve argued and disagreed over a few things. I’m sure that’s true for every couple, no matter how in-sync they are. Yet, on the whole the entire planning process has been … well, mostly just fun.
It helps that we’re both OCD project managers with experience in communications and event planning. Elise methodically steers the critical path of our overall project plan, and I own a subset of tasks – one of which recently resulted in booking the fantastic Alexandra Day to play our cocktail reception. Anything that deviates from the plan is addressed or eliminated. Several cagey or uncooperative vendors have been jettisoned prior to signing a contract. All four sets of parents have been supportive and barely meddlesome. Whenever we get stuck we ask our parties for advice; they have solved every problem we’ve come up with so far.
The past week has been especially active because we mailed our invites on Monday. They are definitely amongst the top five most awesome wedding invites I have ever laid hands or eyes on. Not coincidentally, all five invites on my most-awesome list were at least partially self-designed and hand-made, with every aspect of their formats customized to the personality of the couple.
Elise and I started discussing our ideas for invites as early as January. At the time our wedding was still fresh news, rendering it the lead-in topic of every conversation. Since invites were one of the few things already underway I was eager to talk about our ideas to everyone. Surprisingly, I heard a handful of puzzlingly dismissive comments, usually along the lines of the following:
Me: “… and, we’re designing and producing our invites by ourselves!”
Them: “Oh, I guess you’re trying to cut costs, huh?”
Me: “Not really. We both do similar projects all day at work; we thought it would be fun to do one together.”
Them: “Yeah, sure, it’s neat when people find a way save money on their wedding.”
Me: “Actually, it’s more about designing exactly what we want.”
Them: “Yeah, sure, and you can do it really cheaply that way.”
Me: “I don’t think we’ll save very much. It’s just that we’ll have control over the quality.”
Them: “Yeah, sure, but they won’t be as nice as invites you buy out of a book.”
Me: “Um… [bangs head against the counter]”
Ultimately we did save some money on materials compared to “customized” wedding invites available from a book or online. But, that wasn’t the point, and it isn’t even a fair comparison. The definition of “custom” in commercially produced invitations is vastly different from our own, which features unique text and layout, high-end specialty paper, a bevy of custom shapes and die-cuts, and hand-embossing.
To get a better sense of how “cheap” our invites really were, I sought out a more realistic comparison. I showed a final invite to one of the senior designers at work and asked her to quote what she would charge to produce them as a freelance project.
Once she was done calling in other members of her team to marvel at our amazing paper, she conservatively estimated that she would have charged at least $700 for the design (not including costs for comps), $500 or more for the time Elise spent on hand-assembly (some of which she would have sent to a vendor for digital die-cut), and a 10-15% markup on our material costs. And, that doesn’t account for our hours of debate over colors, paper weights, fonts, and content, or our extensive usability testing with a series of prototypes,
Essentially, Elise put in the commercial equivalent of more than $1200 worth of woman-power into our invites. If you also factor in her material costs, we just sent out a fleet of invites valued at over $21 a piece, not including postage. And that’s the conservative estimate.
I haven’t done too much market research, but I don’t think that’s very “cheap” in comparison with the industry average, no matter what your definition of “custom.”
I think that even the cost-cutting crowd from above would appreciate all of the effort … if they received an invite. Which they didn’t. Why? Because I cut their rude asses from the guest list months ago … even before we paid for venues, meals, and dresses they were more interested in how much our wedding cost than in how much it was about us.
(Aside from that alteration, our final guest list was nearly identical to the list we originally drafted a year ago this week. Again, why does this cause people stress? It’s pretty simple. First, when you get engaged write out a list of all of the people who you might like to see when you get married, as well as those who want to see you when you get married – not because they expect to be invited or because they are calculating the tab in their heads, but because they care about you. (If you are me you will supply a draft of this list along with the engagement ring.) Then, check with your parents and close friends to see if you forgot anyone important (and by important I mean important to you). Next, stratify your full list in some way – like, small-wedding vs. large-wedding, must-invite vs. should-invite, A-B-C-D lists, 80/20 rule, or whatever. Once you have established a budget and looked at some venues it will be clear which version of that stratified list you can afford to invite. Finally, send invites to those people. The end. If that means you wound up cutting a cousin in favor of a co-worker, so be it. Life goes on.)
As part of the invite process Elise built a staggeringly detailed web site that matches the overall look of our wedding “campaign,” and on it she placed the first three entries in my series of ten engagement posts.
Seeing as the wedding quickly approaches, I’m thinking I should write the other seven in pretty short order.
And rent a tuxedo. And buy my wedding band.
And go to sleep.