There are so many ways to work within a budget when it comes to wedding invitations...if you are working with a flexible budget, finding a great custom designer or ordering out of a pretty letterpress or engraved album is absolutely worth it. There is just something so luxurious and easy in going about it this way.
With that said, there are great...really, really great ways, to design a beautiful invitation on a budget!
Companies like Paper Source have great invitation kits that allow you to purchase a pretty suite of papers and envelopes, print your own invitations, then assemble the finished project. If you are willing to put in a little leg work, you can save quite a bit of money! And, if you are a bit resourceful, you can save even more by ordering through Waste Not Paper, the wholesale portion of Paper-Source. You will need a wholesale account to do this and you will have to order in bulk, so the best way would be to work with your area store on this.
If you are willing to really get your hands dirty, you should skip the kits all together as a lot of the cost is built into the manufacturing of these pre-made pieces. Places like Paper-Source and Paper-Papers sell gorgeous card stock and envelopes that can be hugely customized into drop dead gorgeous invitations. The curious collection at Paper-Papers is particularly beautiful.
(these are some fun designs that I "whipped" together...forgive the picture quality! The first was actually used for my wedding program. The second is for my sister-in-law's bachelorette party...the cute frame was made by Heidi at Spitfiregirl Design)
Here are some tips if you are printing your own invitations...
*If you aren't an artist or graphic designer, the best way to do add decor elements is by using high-end clip art...Dover makes clip art books that have beautiful Victorian flourishes, pretty vintage icons, florals and branches, the options are endless. They come with a CD that you can just put right into your computer. You can also use pretty rubber stamps to add a bit of flair.
*Use a program like Adobe Illustrator to create your invitations. Although it might take a little while to figure out, it will ultimately allow you to play around more with the general design. You can download free versions on the Adobe website.
*Choose your fonts carefully. You generally want to use 2 fonts on each invitation...a script and a block. Check out My Fonts or Linotype for a great selection. These will usually cost around $20-$30 to purchase but you can use them on all of your stationery needs.
*Think about the pieces you need...most people generally want an Invitation, a Response Card and perhaps a Reception Card. Make sure you order enough paper for mess-ups as printing each piece can often result in a few wasted pieces. I always order at least 25 extra pieces of each card stock size. To save even more $$, order sheets of larger paper, then cut them down to the right size.
*To really take the invitation suite to the next level...think details. I like to layer my printed card stock on top of a different color so that it appears to have a border around it and it seems thicker and more luxurious. That means that I have to cut about 1/4" off of each side using a basic rotary cutter, then paste the top sheet onto the base using the amazing 3M tape gun. Time consuming, yes. But, the end result seems more unique and definitely more high-end.
*Wrap it up! I also like to wrap each invitation suite (invitation in front with response and reception cards in back) with a really pretty ribbon. No bows or anything as they usually get crushed in the envelope, just a single wrap secured using my scotch tape gun in the back. You can also use pretty strips of wrapping or scrapbooking paper to do this. My favorite look for an invitation (and perhaps the easiest to achieve) is a simple white card stock, layered on a chocolate or black stock, then wrapped with a gorgeous graphic belly band. Simple & Chic.
Although designing and printing your own invitations can take a serious time commitment and can often be frustrating if you are a novice, if you give yourself room for error and enough time to practice, this is a GREAT way to infuse your invitation with personality and that handmade touch. If it still seems a bit too intense for you, I have some tips on ordering out of an album coming up in a future The Look For Less feature!