We had the lovely pleasure of having Jenna Wiegand, co-owner of Polka Dot Paper Shop, as a collaborator in our Wedding Professionals Q&A Series! Learn more about Jenna and her husband Aaron's (who is the other half of Polka Dot Paper Shop!) journey into this industry and her answers to questions we receive all of the time from brides:
How did you become a stationer and what led you into the wedding industry?
The minute I graduated university, I started this business. It was literally the next day! Somehow, I walked out of university with an honours bachelor of music degree and started a stationery company. I wish I had a better explanation as to what on earth happened that day, I just woke up and decided I’m not doing music anymore, I’m going to start a stationery company. Isn’t that the way with most of us in the industry, though? We have no idea what we want to be when we grow up and then one thing lead to another and somehow you’re sitting in the director’s chair and you’re not entirely sure how you got there but you know it was the only path you could have taken. I can tell you that growing up, I was oddly fascinated with weddings, business, graphic design and visual arts. If anyone were to ask baby Jenna what she would be when she grew up – she would have told you, she’s going to be an artist! And with my other odd fascinations, it was really the only thing that checked all the boxes. I started my business making greeting cards, and within a couple months – it morphed into wedding invitations. And then it snowballed out of control from there!
When should couples begin to look into ordering save the dates?
9 or more months before the wedding. These should go out no later than 6 months before the wedding, but ideally they go out 9-12 months (or more!) before your event.
When should couples begin to look into ordering wedding invitations?
With custom stationers, you’ll typically get the best deals if you order your invitations at the same time you order your save the dates. However, if you are not doing save the dates – you will want to order your invitations around 6-12 months before your event. Don’t forget they go out 3-4 months before, so if you order them 6 months before – that only gives you 1-2 months to finalize your details and get them in the mail. This time goes faster than you’d expect!
What's typically the first step in the design process for invitations?
For me, I have a virtual consultation with my clients via Zoom and I get all the details about logistics, design, aesthetics, etc. And I get to know the potential client to see if I think we’ll be a good fit to work together. As a custom stationer, my job is to make sure that their invitation is the best representation of their event as is possible. I want to know what my couple’s personalities are, what their aspirations are, and get to know how their family dynamic works. I want all the nitty gritty details that are going to allow me to make this as seamless of a process as possible for them. At the end of the day, my job is to get butts in seats at their event – and I need to make sure that I know my client’s target audience inside and out. Is this a family that always shows up late? I’ve got tricks for that. Are you from a culture with specific traditions that need to be followed? I’ve got that covered. To me, the very first step in design is finding out all of the background information that will influence everything moving forward.
Do you prefer couples to have inspirational photos of designs they love, or create a custom invitation?
We do have a semi-custom line of invitations, available at www.thepolkadotpapershop.com But for the most part, every design we create is fully custom. We never copy another designer’s work, and we design a fresh concept for each one of our custom clients. However, having inspiration photos up front does help me in some way to narrow down the direction we’re going. Even though we won’t be copying anything, I’m at least not taking shots in the dark! When the sky’s the limit, at least knowing a general direction will help make sure the process doesn’t take forever. Most of the time, our couples will choose designs of ours that have inspired them and we go off of that. But we do have clients that bring in things they found on Pinterest that they love and this does help give us an idea of their overall style.
Is there a qualified "cheat sheet" you recommend couples to look into for the wording on their invitation suite?
Ah, excellent question! When you order custom or even semi-custom wedding invitations with us – our team of invitation experts will only require that the client provide the bare details of their wedding. We’ll take it from there and come up with the wording for them! They can change what we recommend if they want, but our job is to make sure they barely have to lift a finger. And that’s the beauty of hiring a stationer! Wording can be tricky. There are a lot of intricacies and nuances that don’t come up in regular, everyday life. For example: if you start your invitation with “The honour of your presence is requested at…” You have just told your guests that you’re having a religious ceremony in a sacred place, dress appropriately. Yet the vast majority of people believe this is simply the more “formal” wording for a wedding invitation. If you’re doing your own wedding invitations, I would recommend just googling wedding invitation wording. You can go straight to the Emily Post wording, or there are quite a few blogs / magazines that have posted wording options for all the various possibilities.
Do you have tips for what to do when you're ready to mail invitations? (maybe the process for postage, hand canceling?, etc.)
The USPS can be a bit of a nightmare at times. However, if you arrive well prepared – you can usually avoid all postage nightmares!
We always recommend hand-canceling for sure. This is the process where instead of machine-stamping your invitation with a big ugly stamp, a human being with a much prettier rubber stamp will hand cancel the postage. It does cost more, and is often required if your invitation isn’t bendy enough or doesn’t meet specific guidelines. But even if it does.. upgrade to this service and it’ll look so much better, I promise!
Never, ever, ever, purchase the postage before you have 1 complete invitation to weigh, measure and test with the post office. It’s exceedingly rare to find an invitation that is standard postage, and best practice is to take 1 invitation to the post office. Ask them for a postage rate based on the dimensions and weight. I then recommend double checking that the measurements they took and compare that their website states the same thing. If you find a discrepancy, head to another post office. I’ve had clients that are told their invitation would cost $9+ to mail, but after doing more investigation – it ended up only being $1.94.
And finally, make sure you have the correct addresses on each envelope. I know this sounds obvious, but seriously – you have no idea how many errors are provided to us by clients! Your stationer cannot check your addresses for you – we don’t know if a guest goes by Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. We can’t tell you that someone lives at 1420 and not 1240. This is the one step that is entirely in our customer’s hands, and because we receive so many errors – we do a set of envelope proofs that every client feels is redundant.. and then catches 30 things they need to change. Check your list, and then check it twice. Make sure those addresses are 100% accurate. We don’t need to give USPS any excuses to not deliver that mail!
What is your professional preference when clients ask how to collect RSVP's? Digital or mail?
Honestly, as long as the invitation is a physical invite, I don’t care if they do RSVP by mail or online. I think RSVP online can be really handy for a lot of guests and it makes your life easier in the long run! Plus, you can use the money you saved on RSVP envelopes & postage to upgrade your invitation suite! However, there are some cultures where this can be quite the faux pas. If you’re Italian or Greek, for example – you may get pushback from your family on this one. Whether this sways your opinion or not, I don’t know. But it’s definitely something to consider and it’s the reason a lot of our clients went with mail-back RSVPs this year despite wanting to do online.