It's Only Paper- Why is it so Expensive?
If I had a pound for every time I've been asked this question... well I'd have a lot of pounds! So I've decided to put together this little blog detailing what goes into creating custom stationery.
In this blog, I will be discussing digitally printed stationery... we're not even going to touch on the fine printing methods such as letterpress, foiling, engraving etc. but hopefully by the end of this blog you'll understand why those print methods are even more expensive.
So let's get into it. Why does custom stationery cost this much?
Let's start at the beginning. To become a designer, one has to get an education. Whether you study at university or you're self taught, a lot of work, time and money goes into training. A designer must always be on top of all the wedding trends (burlap and lace one year, blush and gold the next etc). So they are constantly doing their research, taking courses to keep up to date with new technology, attending workshops... it goes on. We don't sleep. This constant self improvement is all for the benefit of our lovely couples.
The best design software is subscription based and the average cost is around £600 a year. That's £600 every year on software to create your stationery. Every year. Then there are the computers we use. You've gotta have a big hard drive, lots of RAM and a good processor because design software packs a punch and can be a huge drain on computer systems. Your tools have to be able to handle this. So we're looking at about £600 minimum for a good system... and then you've gotta upgrade your system every few years. Then there's the cost of running and maintaining good quality printers (assuming your designer prints in house), scanners, guillotines, tablets etc.
You see all those pretty fonts that we use to create your invitations? They didn't come with our computers. Oh no, we had to buy them. We have to get something called a commercial use license before we can use any fonts. And pricing can range from £5 to £1,000 per font. So when you see a font on Pinterest that you just have to have, oftentimes we have to go buy that font for you. Even the free fonts require the purchase of commercial use licenses before they can be incorporated in your designs. And these costs add up.
Finding the best suppliers, printers, paper, embellishments... ordering sample pack after sample pack (sample packs are not free by the way) to make sure we can create your dream stationery... it all costs time and money. Finding the right suppliers to use involves a lot of trial and error. Sometimes we shell out thousands of pounds before we find the printer that can replicate the colour of your bridesmaids' dresses, or a mill that can supply the paper that matches the wallpaper at your wedding venue. It's a lot of work and the reason why your designer won't just hand over her info so you can DIY your stationery.
Designing custom stationery takes a lot of time. There's the time spent on consultations with clients, the time spent drafting estimates, the phone calls and emails back and forth, the time spent speaking to suppliers and printers to get quotes to put in your estimates. Then drawing up contracts, creating timelines etc. Then there's the time spent designing proofs. Most designers will offer a choice of at least two initial designs which will then be whittled down to one.
After all this, the designer must spend time revising the designs or creating whole new designs if necessary. The back and forth can go on for months. This is why designers have to put limits on the number of revisions they can offer before charging extra. Then there's the time spent on print management: preparing files to print, communicating with the printers (if your designer outsources their printing), fiddling with print settings according to paper size, texture, thickness etc (if they print in house) and basically moving your design to the next stage.
The next stage is assembly and hand finishing. Some designers offer the option of in-house assembly and that involves cutting, gluing, tying, measuring, stuffing envelopes etc. This is a very time consuming process especially when one takes into the account the fact that there might be only one or two people behind the scenes.
Bear in mind that a lot of stationery designers are small operations so they do not have admin staff. So on top of designing your stationery and the stationery of their other clients, they are fielding phone calls and emails, dealing with suppliers, banks, accounts, meeting clients, scheduling shoots etc. Some designers do this in addition to looking after family members full time.
6. Cost of Supplies
The paper, ink, glue, rhinestones etc that go in your stationery cost money and most suppliers have minimum order quantities. Some suppliers will penalise stationery designers for ordering less than this. This is why some stationery designers have to charge more per unit for small orders than for big orders.
7. Running Costs
Stationers have to cover the costs of running a business too. So utilities, rent, internet, postage, packaging, wages, transport to and from client meetings and events etc have to be paid out of what we make.
This is just some of what goes into creating custom wedding stationery. I've probably missed a few important points but your stationer will be well placed to fill in any gaps.
Every stationer's process is unique to them, and there is a designer for every price point. However, if you're looking for quality bespoke stationery, it's a good idea to keep these points in mind. Remember that for most of us, this is not a hobby, It is our livelihood and how we pay our bills, feed our kids and pay our taxes. All this is taken into consideration when we design for you.