It’s time for Part II of the blog post I started two weeks ago! This post will be exclusively about the little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years to help invitations be mailed *successfully*.
As a reminder: there is NO foolproof way to mail invitations, whether it’s in a box to your clients or mailing invitations directly to guests.
BUT there are best practices to mailing! By checking these items off your list, you’ll feel more comfortable mailing, at ease, and most importantly: you’ll sleep easier at night.
Yeah, you knew that was coming.
But seriously, the great thing about the post office is that they have a long, LONG list of guidelines for mailing. You can find links to different topics here: https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm100/intro.htm (Be warned: it’s not a fascinating read, but it is handy if you do a little CMD/CTRL + F to search for keywords)
Can you put a stamp in the middle of the envelope rather than the top right corner? No, not according to the USPS mailing standards.
Can you mail dark envelopes with white ink? No, not according to the USPS mailing standards.
Can you put the zip code on a separate line from the US city and state? No, not according to the USPS mailing standards.
With that being said, there are a lot of USPS rules that stationers break all. the. time. (See all of those examples above!)
Like, did you know you’re not *technically* allowed to put the return address on the back of the mailing envelope? We stationers sure do it, though. I don’t think I’ve ever mailed an invitation with the return address in the front top left corner. *shudder*
And did you know that despite Minted claiming otherwise, you don’t have to have calligraphy hand-cancelled or pay extra for sending calligraphed envelopes? The calligraphy just has to be legible. (LEGIBLE, I beg you!)
Verifying postage with two different post offices/mail representatives is another good move. You don’t need to do this with EVERY invitation you send out, though!
I have an internal spreadsheet that I keep track of invitations on. It looks something like this:
That way, I can reference how much postage I needed for that type of invitation and compare it to the invitation I’m currently working on! This also helps to gauge postage costs.
To help with this even more, here’s two things you need:
The USPS Mailing Template: your new BFF when it comes to mailing! With it, you can quickly and easily determine First Class Mail eligibility, measure envelope thickness using the pass-through envelope slot (if it fits, it ships First Class! *usually*), use the included standard envelope sizes for letter rate mailings, and place envelopes on top of or behind the template to measure the size (yay for clear acrylic!). It’s a multi-functional tool that you get to keep handy at all times.
A postal scale: This is another little lifesaver you never knew you needed! You can get these pretty quick on Amazon here and read all 53,000 reviews, but just take my word for it: it’s awesome to have.
These will both make your life a million times easier, since you won’t have to go wait in line at the post office as often as you might now.
One big tip, and something I always do no matter what: I ALWAYS add more postage than we need to make sure my butt is covered. If an invitation weighs 1 ounce, I use a 2oz. stamp. If we’re using a wax seal, that invite automatically gets 2 of whatever stamp we’re using.
This is a fairly simple one: if you have a big invite order (more than 75 or 100), split the order up and drop them at two different post offices.
Why, you ask?
This is a tip I’ve heard from a two different postal workers. They said that bringing in a large amount of mail at one time is almost like bringing in a mass mailing, which requires a bit of legwork. My old studio job did/does this: they print hundreds or thousands of pieces of the same mailer, fill out a bunch of paperwork, bring it to the post office in plastic bins, and have to basically check it in with the post office before it mails. It was a process, but it was also thousands of pieces of mail to sort, so I get it.
(I’m still not 100% clear WHY 100 invitations at one time would be a huge deal, but hearing that from two different workers made me take it seriously.)
So the postal workers recommended splitting up invitation bundles into 2 or 3 groups, depending on how big the mailing is. My current post office is okay with me dropping off a bunch of invites at once (I asked them), but my last post office didn’t like it, so I would usually drop off 50 or so invites there and then the other 50 or so at the next closest branch.
Yeah, it was a bit of a pain. Did it work? I never heard any complaints from couples about mail not reaching its destination, so I think it worked out just fine!
It’s something to consider if you have two or three post offices close by. If you don’t, don’t worry too much about it. Just make friends with your local branch’s postal workers as much as you can, and maybe they’ll be nice back to you. (I’ve heard baked goods helps get in their good graces, but genuine kindness and a smile works, too. Those guys deal with a LOT.)
OH, and since we’re on the topic: don’t just hand over a box of invitations to the person behind the desk. Especially to have them hand cancel them. They WILL forget about them, and then your couple will totally freak out wondering why none of their guests have received their invitations.
Make a video of each envelope going into the mail and send it to your client.
BOOM, saved your life.
On a serious note, this has literally been a game changer for me. Why? Well, let’s imagine you mail invitations for your bride. One of her invites doesn’t arrive for whatever reason, so she emails you to
blame claim you didn’t mail it. If you don’t have video proof of the invites going in the mail, how will you prove that you delivered that particular invitation to the post office?
But if you VIDEO each one going in the mail, you can now reference the video you took of mailing the invites and prove that you did, in fact, mail them! WIN!
This is the easiest thing in the world to do, because all you need is a cell phone with video recording capabilities…which, don’t they all have that now?
Here’s a step-by-step:
That’s it! SO easy, right? It gives you so much peace of mind and it is so, so easy to keep track of!
(Bonus trick: you can also use this for mailing a box of invites directly to your client! Just film yourself going through each envelope in the box, then MAKE SURE to include yourself physically sealing the box in the video. Instant insurance!)
Remember that story I told in the last blog post about the client who CHANGED EVERYTHING for my invitation business?
I almost quit designing invitations because of that experience.
But I didn’t, because I realized something: clients can’t be trusted. Before you freak out, I don’t mean that in the sense that they’re out to get you, because they’re 100% not – they can’t be trusted because they don’t know what we know. They don’t know about ATG tape guns. They don’t know how to stuff an invitation with tissue paper without crinkling the tissue. They don’t know to use a sponge to apply vintage postage.
They just don’t know…and THEY SHOULDN’T. It’s not their job, it’s ours!
Would you trust your friend to diagnose your weird illness just because she’s seen a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy? Nope.
Would you let your friend who’s “really good at arguing” defend you in a murder trial? I sure hope not.
Luckily, right around the time I was having this epiphany, Elisabeth of Elisa Anne Calligraphy created her USPS Mailing Agreement. I bought it immediately and have never looked back. (The Agreement is now exclusively available on Biz Birthday Bash.)
Since I started using this Agreement (and Best Practice #4 below), I’ve had Z-E-R-O issues with clients. Seriously, absolutely, none. Sending the USPS Mailing Agreement helps a TON. Like, so so so much. So much that if I had to choose between Dubsado (which, GAH I love that program) or my USPS Mailing Agreement…sorry, Dubsado. It would be tough, but you’d have to go. Luckily, I don’t have to choose. 🙂
I purchased the USPS Mailing Agreement and it basically covers what you and your client are respectively responsible for when it comes to mailing their invitations for them. It explains various situations that may arise while your invitations are in the mail, how we stationers can’t control that, and how it can be remedied. (If you’re not sending extras to your clients to mail themselves in case of disaster, start immediately.)
It is NOT intended to be a “get out of jail free” card! You still have to do your due diligence and follow normal mailing practices (see below).
I don’t include this as part of my Invitation Contract clients sign to book with me. Rather, I send it to them the week their invitations are scheduled to be mailed. Sending it at this time ensures that the information is super fresh in the client’s mind, and reminds them they we (the stationer) have done our best to make sure invites arrive to guests, but that the USPS is fallible and it’s, well, not in our control.
This Agreement is absolutely a MUST-HAVE if you’re going to mail invitations for your clients. It’s $97, but for the peace of mind it gives you, it’s legit priceless.
So, what do you think? Ready to start mailing for your clients?
I hope so! If you’re still on the fence, take it one client at a time: until you get comfortable mailing for your clients, you can always offer this as a service for certain clients only!
A final note – I say this a lot, and I’ll say it again: SET EXPECTATIONS. Do this with everything: during your discovery call, in emails, during proofing, while you’re in production, before you mail – remember, YOU are the expert! Your client may not have ever set foot inside a post office before, so you can’t expect them to know what we as stationers know. Be gentle with clients and set reasonable expectations for them.