For most brides and grooms, the wedding you're planning is probably your first. Most stationery designers are completely attune to this fact and offer up lots and lots of information to get you rolling. But where do you start when you're trying to choose a vendor to work with? Aside from asking about price--which is obviously an important factor, but it can't be the only factor or everyone would just choose the cheapest vendor they come across--what information will be useful to ensure smooth project delivery?
We're here to help! Here's a great starting point on choosing a vendor that will be a great match for you and your project. Bonus, you can totally use most of these questions as a jumping off point in helping you choose your other vendors, too!
1. Do you use a contract?
This should be an emphatic YES! Contracts are made to protect both the client and vendor. If your stationer does not use a contract, run the other way! Emails and verbal commitments, promises, and pricing quotes will do you no good if something goes awry with your project.
2. How long have you been in business and what is your design background?
It's not that you need to be a professionally trained graphic designer to make something beautiful, but it's our opinion you, as a client, will be in better hands if that's who you hire! Professional designers know how to pivot and problem solve like no one's business. They're the MacGyver of artistic pursuits and typography. Craftsmanship and an eye for detail are at the top of their skill-set. When you're paying someone as much as you are for your paper goods, it will always give you more peace of mind to know you're hiring a pro and not a hobby crafter or your "boss's niece who made her own invitations once."
3. Do you have any first-thought design ideas based on my venue?
It might sound like a weird question off-the-cuff if you already have a vision of style for your paper goods, but it can really give you a sense of how with-it your potential stationer is. You're not committing to any colors, designs, or services here, but it's worth a listen on their opinion of where they see design trends going and if they are truly in tune with the industry landscape.
4. What types of printing processes do you offer?
There's a chance you already have an idea of the kind of printing you want. You don't want to choose a printer that only does digital invitations if your heart is set on letterpress. And you don't want to commit to letterpress if that creates a budgetary or production limitation on your project vision.
5. What is your turnaround?
This is a no-brainer, you'll need this to plan your timeline so you're hiring someone that will be able to deliver on your wedding schedule. Most importantly, this will give you realistic expectations on when items will be moving and proofs will need your attention. Even if turnaround times can seem sluggish, like with letterpress and its lengthy production cycle, if you know in advance you can plan for it.
6. Where can I see past work?
Another obvious question, but super important. First, you will see if your vendor can put their money where their mouth is in terms of showing you the caliber of projects they can execute. What do finished projects look like? Do they seem to be high in quality? Is the design visually appealing? Second, make sure you choose a designer whose aesthetic matches your project vision. If you want something super modern don't choose a vendor that only produces work that is rustic-looking, etc.
7. What other pieces or services can you provide?
Can they handle your day-of paper goods as well (think menus, place or escort cards, favor tags, programs, etc.)? Having one stationer design and print all of your paper is best if you're looking for consistency in colors and quality.
8. Do you offer calligraphy? What are my options in terms of addressing my invitations?
Wouldn't it be great if every stationer was a one-stop shop of invitations and calligraphy? It would, but it's usually not the case because calligraphy is such a specialized skill. At best, your stationer might have someone on staff that specializes in beautiful lettering, but at worst they should be able to recommend someone locally. If calligraphy isn't your jam and you plan on addressing everything by hand to save some dough, more power to you! But calligraphy and hand-addressing might not be your only options. Stationers will often offer return address printing for your invitation envelopes (and the same address on the reply envelope) via digital or letterpress--for those that offer specialized printing--in addition to rubber stamps or labels. They should also be able to help you with guest addresses, which can be printed digitally. You're either looking for someone who offers the exact method of addressing you'd like to use, or someone with options that will fit your budget.
9. What payment methods do you accept and what are your payment policies?
Make sure that everyone is clear on when and how money will be exchanged during the project process. Ask questions about when and for how much a deposit is required, if it is refundable, and when final payment is due. If a project gets hung up on payment details it can slow down your timeline until it's cleared up.
10. How does your pricing work? Are there fees I should be aware of? Should I order everything at the same time?
Not all pricing is straight forward. Will there be sales tax? Are there project set up fees? What if you change your mind on the design later? Are there a set number of revision rounds, how much do they cost per round? Are there any discounts or packages for certain services? Is shipping an additional cost? There are lots of little ways your invoice might start to creep up and over your budget if you aren't clear on pricing practices or if estimates are inaccurate.
11. How will I approve my project before it gets finalized?
Technology is awesome, even for something as "analog" as invitations and paper goods. You're no longer forced to pick a local stationer, which is great because your options are opened up to amazing creatives across the country and around the world! Most stationers now use a digital proof system for approval. With printing production services as intense and customized as letterpress, this is really the only way to approve a project because the costs of production are much too high to create a one-off for approval, you can't just hit "print" on the 'ole computer. But with something as tactile as paper, there is still an urge to see and touch it firsthand. At the very least ask your stationer how you will pick your paper, can you get samples? They might also send samples of past work to show you examples of additional services they offer.
All-in-all, yes, definitely ask about price, but know there is a whole world of questions that might be more important when you're looking for a vendor that will provide you with the best overall experience. Design sense, printing process, custom suites and paper, and professionalism can be worth more at the end of the day than getting a cheap deal. Know that not all vendors are going to be the right match and that's okay! Remember to go with your gut!