Dear Donna: Wedding Invitation Envelope Shape Advice

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WELCOME to our new series: "Dear Donna" with questions/concerns from our brides with questions (and answers!) on all things stationery, weddings and etiquette. if you have a nagging, question, please feel free to ask Donna


Dear Donna,

I keep hearing everyone say how my wedding invitation sets the tone for my day. The other day I had a nightmare that my beautiful invitation arrived all crushed, bent and for all points of definition, DESTROYED. I need some advice on Wedding Invitation Envelopes!  Is there any way to prevent this? Should I do square or rectangular? Please help!

Stressed & Confused Bride


Dear S&C Bride,

I am often asked my opinion about Square vs. Retangular Envelopes for Wedding Invitations. Rectangular Envelopes are the "classic" shape. Square is the "modern" shape. Since there really is only one option for sending a formal wedding invitation (by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and we have no control over what happens once these beautiful invitations leave our hands.

But there is one thing that could possibly help.

It's not exactly a secret but most people don't think about (unless you are an invitation designer that also happens to bring the sealed invites to the post office for your brides ---> me). This is something that I've "discovered" and I'm going to let you in on my little secret.... it is... (wait for it)......

Are you ready?

The "secret" weapon for saving that invitation from the Postal Stamping Machine of death.

The "secret" weapon for saving that invitation from the Postal Stamping Machine of death.

It's the SQUARE envelope!

A square envelope!

Let me explain: all envelopes need postage affixed to the outer envelope to give the Post Office "permission" to send it to its rightful owner. Because they don't want you to use the stamp again, the stamp is marked or "cancelled". Those automatic letter sorters exert hundreds of pounds of pressure on your envelope and cancels the stamp. If you have a pretty rhinestone on your rectangular invitation, chances are it will bee crushed or will at least put a nice hole in your outer envelope. Bummer.

There is hand cancelling and this means that the stamp/envelope gets its cancelling by hand. It is a much more "gentle" process but it doesn't promise that your rectangular envelope might not still go through the "Postal Machine of Death (PMOD)". Your envelope goes on quite a journey and just because it's hand canceled and even specifically notated at the original Post Office does NOT mean anything. I know because I've seen it happen counless times from my own Post Office despite all attempts from the Postmaster to prevent it otherwise. 

Enter the SQUARE envelope. The SQUARE is, by USPS definition, non-machinable. Meaning, it can't go through the PMOD and therefore is saved being pressed and therefore preserved from the smashing against the plates. 

There is a surcharge of $0.21 per envelope for using a square. Most sites will tell you that you can save money by going with the rectangular shape to avoid the surcharge. On paper, this is true.  I would rather pay 21 cents per invitation than risk having to send invitations again because they were destroyed by the automatic sorter. We don't know about you, but that is a small price to pay for isurance against the PMOD.There are parameters for the size of the SQUARE (it needs to be at or smaller than 6.125" x 6.125") and it cannot be more than 0.5" thick to qualify for a letter. Again, stranger things have happened but we rarely have problems with the SQUARE. 

When in doubt, it's always worth the trip to the Post Office to bring your sample invitation and send it to yourself so see how it travels. This is a service we offer to our Stationery/Invitation clients. We probably do 90% of our Custom Invitation business in Square Envelopes. 

Our closing advice?

1) Give yourself plenty of time when planning, ordering and mailing your wedding invitations. The process takes much longer than you might think! Our average order of 100 invitations is approximately 40-50 hours from start to finish. 

2) Send a test invitation to yourself if you can. It is helpful to see how your invitation travels but it's not always an option. 

3) Consider envelope liners or a pocket style invitation if you are using any hard embellishment in your design to help protect and pad your invite. 

4) Consider a SQUARE shape! :) It's non-machinable and won't go through the PMOD. 

For more information on mailing please refer to the United States Postal Service's "A Customer's Guide to Mailing"

I hope this advice helps you!

Yours in paper,