Why are wedding invitations so expensive?

The finest papers and labor-intensive printing techniques make wedding invitations expensive.
The finest papers and labor-intensive printing techniques make wedding invitations expensive.

As anyone who's ever gotten hitched can tell you, weddings are expensive. Paying for the dress, catering, flowers and renting out the ceremony and reception sites can cost tens of thousands of dollars -- all for just one special day.

Going into the planning process, most of us know our wedding is going to be expensive, but many first-time brides are still unprepared for the cost of certain expenses, especially the wedding invitations. We'll demystify why your invites cost so much money (and hopefully save you the embarrassment of tugging at your collar and rolling your eyes in the stationery store).

Costly Choices

A $5,000 quote for wedding invites may make you mad enough to toss your tiara, but it's important to remember that a lot more goes into these cards than the "Happy Birthday" notes found at your local drugstore.

To begin with, you have more options related to the cost and quality of your invites, with many materials and paper grades from which to choose. Here's a quick overview of the basics.

  • Heavy card stock: This is the material of choice for wedding invitation do-it-yourselfers, and it's available at every commercial printer. It's one of the most common and inexpensive choices -- think of it as paper-plus.
  • Linen: Linen invitations are both soft and fine, though their high quality comes at a steep price. Linen is typically one of the most expensive options, so it's reserved for formal weddings.
  • Parchment: People have been issuing important announcements on parchment for thousands of years. However, since it's made from animal hides, many couples choose to leave this material to their ancestors and go with a more contemporary, animal-friendly option.
  • Vellum: Vellum is an extremely lightweight, almost translucent material that's used primarily for overlays to give invitations a frosted look. Text can be printed on vellum, though an underlying heavy card stock should still be used for support.
  • Cotton: Cotton wedding invitations are beautiful, durable and pricy. Printed art, text and images on cotton will still look great years from now, and you can go with this option for both formal and casual ceremonies.

Pricy Printing

Quality printing doesn't come cheap.
Quality printing doesn't come cheap.

Of course, when you purchase high-quality wedding invitations, you're paying for more than paper. The images, artwork or engravings that appear on your invites can't be printed just anywhere. Specialized printers are used to create embossed (raised) text and images, or an etched metal plate known as a die engraves the content onto the invitations. A letter press (a 500-year-old printing method that employs a raised, inked press to transfer an image -- similar to a stamp) can also be used, but is usually more expensive.

Printing addresses on your envelopes raises costs as well, though the expense will pay for itself in saved time (especially if she was thinking about hiring a calligrapher) and prevented hand cramps for any bride with a sizable guest list.

Excepting the homespun laser printer option, printing is pricy. Period. So make sure there's enough room in your budget for the paper you like and the printing method you prefer.

Name-brand Budget Shortfall

After choosing your paper and your printing option, you have to pay someone to put it all together. You've got plenty of options here, too. If you're trying to keep costs down and don't care about having a unique, one-of-a-kind card or custom imaging, you can find thousands of pre-made invitations. Many of these cards are from big-name designers and are often much more affordable than custom invites. You might pay between $4 and $12 per card, for example, for Vera Wang invitations, but custom-designed photo invites from an established, respected graphic designer might cost as much as $7 to $25 each. Of course, prices vary, and less experienced designers offer more competitive rates, but if you're on a strict budget and simply must have top-of-the-line wedding invitations, there's nothing wrong with selecting ready-made cards.

Related Articles


  • Angie Designs. "The Ordering Process." 2007. (Sept. 18, 2010).http://www.angiedesigns.com/indexinner.php?link=process#11
  • Applegate, Dawn. "Paper Choices for Invitations." One Heart Weddings. 2010. (Sept. 18, 2010).http://www.weddingclipart.com/guide/wedding-paper/paper-choices-for-invitations.html
  • Carr, Karen. "Parchment." Kidipede. 2010. (Sept. 18, 2010).http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/literature/parchment.htm
  • My Expression. "Paper Choices for Wedding Invitations." 2010. (Sept. 18, 2010).http://www.myexpression.com/ArticlesWedding/PaperChoicesForWeddingInvitations.cfm
  • William Arthur, Inc. "Vera Wang." 2010. (Sept. 18, 2010).http://www.williamarthur.com/shop/vera-wang