The Smart Engagement, Part 1: Photos & Invitations

By | Thursday, March 12, 2015

We're EngagedPaying for fancy custom-made invitations for your wedding or engagement party is one of the many tiny yet lavish expenses that siphon off your money during the engagement period. The engagement photo session is usually bundled in with this cost because a majority of engagement party invitations are not simply text based but often include a photo of the hApPy cOupLe

It is entirely up to you how you approach the decision of whether or not engagement photos are for you, but I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that it’s one of the EASIEST areas in which to cut costs. Joe and I went for the mother fucking cheap budget friendly route, in which we shot the photos ourselves at home (on the deck while it was snowing, d’aww) with a DSLR camera (which we were fortunate enough to already own), designed them ourselves and sent them off to be printed through within the course of a single day.

I do recognize that I have the good fortune of being a graphic designer by trade so the idea of designing my own invitations doesn’t scare me, but for the casual Photoshop user this can feel like an impossible task. Here are some tips for saving money and cutting costs when tackling one of the first major expenses after getting engaged.

Try shooting engagement photos yourself. I know that the thought of shooting your own engagement photos freaks out a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to resemble the elaborate photo shoots that a lot of couples opt for. If you have a DSLR camera great, if not borrow a friend’s camera or use websites like Borrowlenses to get hold of one. It’s essential that you use a nice camera otherwise the quality of the photo will be subpar and the invitations/photos will truly look amateurish and more cheap. Grab a friend who can take your photo and who is willing to give up a half hour of their afternoon (treat them to brunch). Get dressed up and make sure that you have good light. That is essential. Take about 3 times more photos than you think you need. Trust me, you’ll want options to look through and it’s surprisingly difficult to get two people to look their best in the SAME shot.

Harvest the design skills of your creative friends. The world is filled with creative professionals who would probably jump at the idea to help/guide you when it comes to designing fun invitations such as these. Speaking for myself, working on projects for my friends is a nice change up from the routine design work I do at my day job. Whether you’re paying them a fee for designing the invitation or if they’re sitting with you out of the kindness of their own heart as you build your template on an online printing service, creative friends are invaluable. Some designers I know offer their services in lieu of a gift, which is a smart way to go about exchanging favors. Ask around! However, if you find yourself tackling the design and photo editing yourself, website like Picadilo, Fotor or PicMonkey are there to make life easier.

Use an inexpensive printing service. Use online printing services like Moo, Overnight Prints, or Printaholic. These websites offer downloadable guidelines, PDF proofs before they print your order and will often run deals and accept coupon codes for additional savings. I’ve found the quality of them to be overall pretty good and incredibly affordable.

Opt for front/back postcards rather than traditional fold open invitations. A pretty straightforward tidbit but unbeknownst to a lot of people – traditional fold open invitations are much more expensive to print than front/back postcards. Personally, I think that front/back invites get the job done, don’t look anything less beautiful and realistically, will be thrown out just as quickly by the people that don’t care about them as much as you do.

Order half of the invitations you think you need. I talk to so many couples who went the DIY engagement invitation route and feel like kicking themselves in the ass because they ordered WAY more invitations than they thought they needed. This essentially doubles the price you pay because most online printing services only print in certain increments, so you have to round up. We had ~90 guests on our list and we made sure we only ordered 50 invitations. Each couple and family only gets ONE invitation, which people often forget. They mistakenly order the same number of invitations as guests and pay a shit ton of money. wHoOpS.

Order in advance so that you don’t pay for expedited shipping. There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute to go and print your invitations and realizing that the date you need them by (i.e. tomorrow) costs $40 dollars in expedited shipping. These fees are completely unnecessary to pay, but you have to allot enough time in advance to comfortably wait the week they take to deliver.

Address them by hand and stamp them yourself. Some people buy custom-made address labels so that everything looks neat, organized and perfect and that’s their prerogative, but that is a luxury. I hand wrote each address on each envelope, stuffed and sealed them myself which took all of 45 minutes to do so. DIY FOR THE WIN!

The grand total for my engagement photos, engagement party invitations, envelopes and stamps was $55. Needless to say it was worth my time to tackle these from a DIY perspective and save every penny toward something that was more important to us, like the honeymoon, dress, favors, etc.

 Feel like you’ll never save enough money to be a real person? So did Steph Georgopulos. Read about it in Some Things I Did for Money.

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