Well, we don’t yet know who we’re inviting to our daughter’s wedding in October at the Norwalk Aquarium, but we know how.
Like just about everything else having to do with planning a wedding, the process of creating invitations has changed dramatically over the years. It used to be some woman from the neighborhood would come over with a massive book of samples. You’d pick one and give her the particulars, and she’d deliver them to your door: envelope, tent card, RSVP card, return envelope. Then you’d painstakingly address them in your neatest handwriting, or pay someone who knew calligraphy to do it, or time travel back to the middle ages and hire a monk.
(My wife Barbara and I were true rebels 30 years ago. Since we were both in the direct marketing industry, we designed our invitations like sweepstakes entries. Most people liked them, although I’m sure there were some folks who thought we weren’t taking the whole thing seriously enough.)
Of course, my daughter Casey shopped for invitations online. I believe the search term she used was “Wedding Invitations That Are a Pain in the Ass.”
She picked out this contraption that was modeled on the old planting wheels. In case you weren’t raised on a farm like I wasn’t, this is a largely obsolete object that was really a big wheel and a small wheel held together with a grommet in the center. The small wheel had two or more windows, so when you lined up one window, you’d get an answer in the other, like when to plant rutabaga.
For instance, if I took my planting wheel and rotated one window to, say, broccoli, the other window would have said “What the hell are you doing with this wheel? You live in Manhattan. Go to the friggin’ Korean produce stand on the corner.”
In the wedding invitation version of this, you’d rotate the wheel to one aspect of the wedding, say “Venue,” and the window would reveal where the wedding would be.
And best of all, these were DIY invitations! You have to download a template for a $100, fill in the information and send the files to a printer. Then comes the fun part. You have to individually punch out the holes for the windows and the grommet, line up the small wheels with the big wheels, and insert said grommets.
But wait: did you get big enough envelopes printed up? Were you aware that, unlike everything else in life, a round wheel only fits into a square envelope and that a square envelope costs more in postage? Are you ready to insert all the invitations so that the envelope doesn’t get caught between the two wheels? And don’t forget, you also have to print RSVP cards and reply envelopes and insert those.
“No problem,” said Casey, who, fortunately, did not inherit my lack of do-it-yourself genes.
But then we looked carefully at the examples online and realized that we’d also have to send out magnifying glasses. Because in order for all the necessary information to fit in the windows, the type would have to be roughly the same size as the legal copy at the bottom of car ads. Or else you’d need big wheels about the size of…well, a Big Wheel.
So Casey went back to the drawing board, or, in this case, Etsy, home to all things unusual, handmade, and designed with angel motifs. She found an invitation creator named Melissa Meek, who is in the wedding invitation design hotbed of Ooltewah, TN (motto: “Our residents have to spend their entire lives spelling the name of the town and having people reply, ‘Really?’”).
Fortunately for Melissa, her business is not limited to visiting people in her town with a bunch of samples because, I looked it up, and the entire population of Ooltewah is 687, or at least it was in 2010, which was the last time someone walked around Ooltewah pointing at folks and saying, “One, two, three, four…”
Where was I?
Right, invitation samples. Ms. Meek was more than happy to send as many samples as Casey wanted for about nine bucks apiece, and we all pored over them in amazement when they arrived.
Ms. Meek’s invitations are intricate, whimsical, and often so complicated they serve more as entry exams than invitations. She had one where you had to solve little puzzles to get all the information, thus ensuring that no impatient people could show up at your wedding (“Oh, screw it, Marilyn. I can’t figure this out. Just send’em a damn gift.”). She had one that worked like those fortune teller things you played with as an adolescent where you had to stick your fingers inside and flip the paper around. Those were called Cootie Catchers evidently. My daughter was not going to have wedding invitations based on something called a Cootie Catcher.
Casey finally settled on a design with little pieces inside bigger pieces, tied up with a cord. Ms. Meeks will even take care of addressing everything, providing we supply the invitation list as an Excel file or something. And this left just one thing that needed to be accounted for:
As I well know from creating direct mail, some people need very explicit instructions in order to complete even the simplest task, although their lack of intelligence can be very selective. The same person who can manage to assemble a Publisher’s Clearing House entry with dozens of stickers that need to be removed from one place and affixed to another cannot seem to remember to sign an insurance application before sending it back.
It seems it is not unheard of for wedding invitation lists to include numbskulls who don’t write their names on the RSVP card, so that you know someone is coming, but not who. Other dummies do write their names, but don’t check a box, so you know that brilliant Aunt Clarissa got your invitation, but not whether or not she’s coming, which means you have to call her, which you’d really rather not do because you know you’ll be on the phone with her for an hour while she tells you about all her friends who have died recently.
We decided we’d assign a code to each invitee and write it discreetly on the reply cards so we’d know where they came from. As for the attend/not attend boxes, I’m going to suggest we add a line that says:
IF YOU DO NOT CHECK A BOX WE WILL ASSUME YOU’RE NOT COMING AND IF YOU THEN SHOW UP, YOU WILL BE SEATED IN ANOTHER ROOM WITH SOME MANTA RAYS.
That should do it.
See you soon.