This blog post is meant to serve as a quick guide for USPS related policies surrounding wedding invitations and save the dates, or really any piece of mail for that matter. However, I am not an employee of USPS, so for all your official questions please refer to USPS.com or visit your local USPS location.
The US Postal Service has a mind of its own. Actually, it has several minds of its own because every branch and physical location of the USPS just so happens to operate a little differently. Really convenient, right? This means that what one USPS location might tell you, might differ at the location that’s just 2 miles down the street. This makes mailing your wedding invitations (and having ALL of them show up with no problems) feel like winning the lottery.
The general pricing guide for mailing a wedding invitation looks something like this:
- A7, 1oz envelope: 50 cents
- A7, 1oz envelope w/ a wax seal: 71 cents
- 5x5 (or square) 1oz envelope: 71 cents
- 1oz non-machinable envelope: 71 cents
- For more details on non-machinable mail, visit USPS.com
- A7, 2oz envelope: 71 cents
- A7, 2oz envelope w/ a wax seal: 92 cents
If your envelope is 1oz and MORE than ¼ of an inch thick you will also be required to add an additional 21 cents in that instance.
Below are some things to consider and understand when you are mailing your wedding invitations through the US Postal Service.
1. Not all of your wedding invitations will make it through the postal service.
The first thing to understand (and expect) when mailing your wedding invitations is that not all of them will make it. This is just the reality of it. From the way the machines read the addressing, to the way that each individual person touches an invitation or sorts it, there are multiple things that can go wrong along the way. Not to mention the actual delivery to your guests’ front doors. There are dozens of locations and dozens of hands that one invitation goes through, meaning there are a dozen chances for something to go wrong.
Invitations that are addressed in calligraphy have an even higher chance of not making it through the postal service in a smooth fashion. I know of multiple calligraphers that have in their contract that 20% (woah… if you mail 100 then that’s 20) may not make it and may come back to you. Personally, I think this number is a little high, but there’s a reason why calligraphers put that kind of statistic in their contracts. Because USPS policies are often arbitrary, meaning that there is almost never consistency between post office to post office. There’s also a chance that the ink could be smudged and become unreadable, thus rendering the invitation undeliverable if this were to happen.
Here’s a perfect example: you can take the same (literally, exactly the same) envelope that is stuffed with a wedding invitation to two different post offices. One post office will tell you it only costs 50 cents to mail and the other will tell you it costs 71. It gets even more confusing because sometimes you are told by the post master at the office of your choice that it costs 50 cents to mail, but when your guest receives it they are handed a “21 cents due” notice with their invitation. Like I said, there is just no consistency and you might not know where things go wrong.
All of this is why it is so incredibly important to order extras in case you have to send out a few invitations again. Normally 20% extra of your wedding invitation count will suffice.
2. Expect to use more postage on your wedding invitations than you think you need.
Wax seal? Add 21 cents. More than 1oz? Add 21 cents. Is your envelope a square? Add 21 cents. Calligraphy addressing? Well... sometimes it doesn't hurt to add 21 cents if you're worried about the legibility of the script. However, you are not required to add extra postage just because the envelope is addressed in calligraphy/cursive. Honestly, all of the little nitpicky and miniscule rules are so easy to lose track of. In fact, it seems like a lot of postal workers aren’t even aware of all of them themselves! And, I’ve gotta admit, I’m still learning all of them too.
Now, I have another story for you: I sent out 120 calligraphed square envelopes for a Save the Date with one forever stamp. The postmaster at the front desk did not inform me that I needed any extra postage and I had absolutely no idea that square envelopes required extra postage because I had never sent square envelopes before (trust me, I would have added extra postage if I knew – why would I want to sabotage my own work?!). In fact, she said they were fine and handed me the hand-cancelling stamp. I stamped all 120 and out the door they went. It wasn’t until two weeks later that I finally realized what I had done because one of the guests received an envelope with a “21 cents due” notice and told the bride about it… turns out, way down in the depths of the USPS website I was able to find a section about “non-machinable mail” and guess what was listed in there? Square envelopes.
Here’s the confusing part. Some of the save the dates were making it to their guests THE NEXT DAY without any problems at all. This shows that the rules are arbitrary, and that sometimes you can just get lucky. A lot of the envelopes did end up having to be redone (and I was more than happy to do them since it was my mistake), and that’s the price I paid to learn an unfortunate lesson about the cost of postage.
3. Always get more than one opinion on the weight of your wedding invitations and the required postage.
If I had taken the time to go to a second post office with those square envelopes to get a mailing quote, I guarantee someone might have said something to me about needing extra postage. In fact, I bet a different postmaster at the SAME post office might have said something to me about it.
If you are getting prepared to mail hundreds of gorgeous wedding invitations out the door, it is worth your time to get to two post offices to get individual quotes for how much that invitation will cost to mail. Then, if you want to be extra careful, it never hurts to add an additional 21 cents to the quote that they gave you.
No one said mailing wedding invitations was cheap. Because, in all honesty, it isn’t. If you send out 150 invitations that each require 71 cents of postage, you are paying $106.50 to mail those invitations with the possibility that some of them may not make it and need to get mailed again. But, in reality, it’s all about expectations. If you are aware that not all your invitations will make it, then that helps remove a little bit of the stress out of the situation when it does start happening.
4. The mailing time to/from Ohio is notoriously bad for wedding invitations and mail in general.
There is one state that always seems to come up when I’m swapping USPS stories with fellow calligraphers and stationers: Ohio. For some reason (who knows why) the USPS works about 3x slower in Ohio than it does throughout the rest of the country. Part of my theory for this surrounds the fact that Ohio is actually a major thoroughfare for the majority of the country. There’s a lot more mail going through Ohio than you would expect because of how immediately it is connected to so many other areas throughout the USA! This is why Ohio has a notoriously bad drug problem as well (a different topic for another time), because so many things travel through Ohio on their way to the rest of the country.
Regardless, if you live in Ohio and are mailing invitations, or if you are mailing invitations to Ohio, be prepared for it to take much longer to make it than the average mailing time. And I seriously mean up to 3 weeks.
5. Hand-cancelling can make a difference for the way your invitations are handled by the post office and postal workers, but not always.
This is something that seems to confuse everyone and be notoriously arbitrary from post office to post office. Some post office workers will tell you that hand-cancelling envelopes is no longer an option anymore, period. Which is a lie because I do it all the time. Let me take a moment to explain what hand-cancelling wedding invitations means.
You know those squiggly lines that appear through a stamp when you receive it in the mail? That means the stamp has been “cancelled” and it was cancelled by a machine. You can no longer use it because it’s been spent! When you hand-cancel your wedding invitations you are either having the postmaster hand stamp each and every stamp on every single envelope, or you are taking the time to do it yourself. This means that your wedding invitation will supposedly not go through a machine, lessening the chance it may get ripped up or destroyed on the way to its specified recipient.
However, I have heard that true hand-cancelling no longer exists anymore because your envelope, no matter what, will almost always go through a machine at some point during the process, unless it is more than ¼ of an inch thick. If it is more than ¼ of an inch thick, then you would definitely have to pay the extra 21 cents for it to be handled by hand because, at that point, it is classified as non-machinable.
Also, if you are hand-cancelling invitations or save the dates, you are technically supposed to pay an additional 21 cents per envelope for the post master to do this for you. However, some post offices let you do it yourself, which allows you to avoid the cost of this fee… Anyway, it never hurts to ask! If you go to one post office and they won’t let you, simply go down the street to a different one. And always try to go when it is NOT post office rush hour (the best time for my post office seems to be 9am on week days).
These are only a few examples of what you need to be prepared for when mailing wedding invitations! Hopefully, this blog post has helped you understand the mailing process a little better and mentally prepared you with what to expect when mailing your wedding invitations.
Questions/comments? Leave them below and I will do my best to answer!