Homemade invitations are enjoying a wave of popularity! It has never been easier to make your own wedding invitations. Thanks to stamps, “scrap-booking” supplies, and fancy papers, you do not need much artistic ability to create gorgeous invitations.

The Simplest Possible Invitation

The simplest possible homemade invitation is plain black text printed or photocopied onto an attractive cardstock-weight paper. These are usually laid out with four invitations to a letter-sized page. Most homemade invitations start with this model.

To create this invitation, you first must choose the paper. Large copy shops, like Kinko’s, typically stock a variety of marbleized, speckled, and lightly textured cardstocks. They may also carry specialty papers with fancy borders. Look for border designs that are printed two-to-a page (two-up) or four-to-a-page (four-up). Mail order paper suppliers also carry two-up and four-up papers, as do craft stores and some party supply warehouse stores. In most cases, you will find matching envelopes on the rack with the papers.

If you are using a paper with a border, measure the border and add at least 0.125 inches. Your text must fit within the blank space inside the border. If your paper does not have a border, just set a generous margin on all sides of the text. Write out your text using any computer program that lets you lay things out neatly. You can then either run the paper through a laser printer, or you can laser print a clean master sheet and take it to a copy center to be copied onto the paper of your choice. Use a paper cutter to cut the pages into invitations; if you use a copy chop, pay them the extra few cents to cut the pages!

Easy, But Fancier Invitation

You can create a more elaborate version of the basic invitation in several ways.
◾Stamp a design onto a plain or textured paper; using stamps available at most craft stores
◾Use metallic pen to edge the paper with gold, silver, or copper ink
◾Have the text printed onto a translucent sheet of paper slightly smaller than the main card. Then punch holes at the top of the two sheets and tie them together with a small bow.
◾Decorate the edges of a plain paper using scrap-booking scissors that cut with a pattern.
◾Print or photocopy in more than one color-but check first to make sure the equipment can handle your paper and design. The quality of color copies and laser prints varies dramatically from machine to machine.

More Elaborate, More Expensive

If you want your invitations to include a high-quality color design, you probably have to have it printed, rather than photocopied. This is dangerous territory to enter unless you already do graphic design professionally-and it is rarely cost-effective for a “short run” job of 200 wedding invitations.

To be able to give the printer your design on disk (or, more likely, on a zip disk) you must do the layout in an “industry standard” graphics package, such as Adobe Illustrator. It is important that you ask the printer detailed questions about the format needed for files, as there are many file compatibility issues, and a seemingly simple job can quickly become a nightmare.

The printer then creates film or prints directly from the file. The film process typically gives more accurate colors, but it is much more expensive. Get estimates from several printers, including copy shops that do color press printing… but do not be surprised if the quotes come back with figures in the neighborhood of $500 for 200 invitations.

Wild and Woolly Invitations

You can also get wild with homemade invitations. Couples have made scrolls, posters, and elaborately folded confections of origami.

In general, the cost to make any item will depend on how many pieces it involves, how many colors you intend to print, and the cost of the paper. A scroll of speckled lilac paper, with black ink, a deep purple stamp of an iris, and a dark purple ribbon holding it closed will cost considerably less than a four-color poster with photographs.

Also, remember that scrolls and any thick objects will require special envelopes and additional postage.

Invitation Supplies

Sources of supplies are multiplying like bunnies! I have listed a few that have particularly helpful Web sites or large selections. You should definitely look at local stores or do your own Web search for specific items, too.

For advice on invitation layout, as well as detailed instructions for setting up your files for printing, it is hard to beat FedEx’s Kinko’s. The “Paper Selection” link will take you to samples of their many decorated papers. For a sophisticated look, check out the business papers rather than the party invitation papers.

The classic source of mail order papers is Paper Direct. They have a larger range of papers with a more traditional “wedding” look.

If you are prepared to become obsessive on the subject of stamps, stamp pads, fancy scissors, and archival quality pens, you can start looking for materials using ScrapLink’s list of supply sources. It is a long list! If you decide to look for a specific motif-say, daffodils-it will be much quicker to do a search for “rubber stamps” and “daffodils” so that you only browse the companies that stock daffodil stamps.

Of the many commercial scrap-booking sites, the one I find irresistible-and very distracting is Scrapbooking Essentials. Perhaps it is the metallic stamp pads! The Artee line includes some wedding-themed stamps that are sophisticated rather than cute or traditional. Again, do search the Web for exactly what you want, as it’s probably out there!

One last thought: the more invitations you need, the less trouble they should be to assemble! It takes only an evening to add glitter, ribbons, and hand-colored details to 20 invitations… but 200?