I quit designing wedding invitations because the wedding industry is whack and brides (no matter how cool) always go a little crazy when planning a wedding.
Okay. That's not entirely true. Let me start from the beginning with how & why I started designing wedding invitations.
THE BEGINNING: INVITATIONS ON THE SIDE
It started when I designed my own wedding invitations. I really wasn't planning on designing them. I told Jeremy we would send out a letter to our nearest and dearest and call it a day. Well, I'm a designer and can't not design anything I'm creating. The invites grabbed the attention of Joanna Goddard (of A Cup of Joe) - she posted them to her blog and the world noticed. I started getting emails from brides-to-be asking if I could design their invitations. Meanwhile, I was working as a full time senior art director at an advertising agency - I was designing campaigns for the NBA Hornets, cable providers and credit unions. Designing wedding invitations on the side seemed like a fun creative release.
What I loved about designing wedding invitations is that I wasn't using my skills to sell something that I didn't really care about and there was a unique & real love story to tell in each design. I kept getting brides from all over the country and even overseas asking me to design their invites. Then it came to the point where designing invitations on the side became a part-time job. I was starting to feel like I was done with advertising and Jeremy encouraged me to try my own thing. I quit my job and within a year of freelancing I made almost as much as I was at my ad job. A large portion of that income was coming from designing wedding invitations.
THEN I GOT BITTER.
As my time became more in demand my prices went up. Now some brides were willing to pay more for their invitations than I paid for my entire wedding. I found the more a client paid for their invitation the crazier they were. Planning a wedding can take it's toll on anyone - no matter how laid back they claim to be.
9 times out of 10 I was sending out custom estimates (which take time to put together) to brides who had NO IDEA that people were spending THOUSANDS of dollars on invitations and wanted me to custom design & letterpress theirs for pennies. I would get these harsh emails about being "way too expensive." I don't blame them but at the same time it hurt my feelings. Around this same time I was finding designs - very similar to my own and not designed by me - all over the internet. Which is a whole other Freelance Matters topic.
It was easy to become resentful and bitter. And as we all know - this is not good for the soul.
I also found that even as I was gaining popularity (yay! business!) as a custom invitation designer I hated only being known for designing invitations. People started asking me about wedding etiquette and were asking me to design seating charts and place cards and you guys - I didn't even know such things existed. I had no idea there was a proper order of events... I mean, Jeremy and I were married by a sideshow performer. I was constantly clarifying that I am a designer and art director than happens to be known for designing wedding invitations.
THE ONE CRAZY BRIDE
Okay. I know you guys really want me to dish some dirt on the couple that pushed me over the edge. It's really not so bad but here's how it happened: One evening I got an email from a dysfunctional bride telling me that her rehearsal dinner went to shit and that it was all my fault because of the place cards I had designed for her. The groom asked me what I was going to do to rectify the situation. I double-checked my files and found no fault of my own. But I was still terribly upset that their rehearsal dinner sucked and that they thought it was all my fault. I refunded some of their money and put a note up on my rates page saying that I was no longer accepting wedding invitation clients. Done. But I was ready to move on - this was just the last straw that pushed me into action. So really, I'd like to thank that couple.
I should tell you guys now that 99% of the brides I worked with were amazing - every single one featured on J&K has been nothing short of perfect.
GROOMS ARE CRAZY TOO
Any time I got a request from a groom I knew the job would be a disaster. Grooms are contacting me because A) The bride doesn't really care of about the invitation and has passed this duty off to the groom (and guys seem to like my style) or B) Because the groom actually cares wedding invitations. Either way, they were always a little out of their mind. Not bad. Just a tad crazy. I'm telling you - the wedding industry demands a certain kind of perfection and breeds a certain kind of insanity that just doesn't jive with my work style.
SMALL BUSINESS BRANDING
At the same time, I was really getting into branding for small businesses. I felt like I was making a difference for artistpreneurs and microbusinesses - I was giving "the little guys" confidence to help grow their business and the look & feel to match. Branding seemed to be a lot less disposable but still just as personal as wedding invitations. I became passionate about talking about freelancing and giving other creatives advice for moving forward in their careers too.
BUT WHO'S GOING TO DESIGN MY WEDDING INVITATIONS!?
I have worked for some really amazing brides but not a single day goes by that I regret my decision to stop designing wedding invitations. But I'm also still asked by many couples for estimates. I send them to the following:
• Check out the designer rolodex and sponsors at Oh So Beautiful Paper - they're all amazing. And a huge thanks to Nole who always supported me and shared my work with the world.
• The sponsors at A Practical Wedding (the best site out there for the bride who doesn't want to lose her shit planning a wedding) are really great too.
• My friend Rachel at Pencil Shavings has a really rad style - and she does much more than just wedding invites!
So that's the story of how I began working with - and then quit working with brides. And grooms. I don't regret the work I did and I actually still have a couple more invitations to share with you all soon. Invitation design served me well and taught me lots of lessons - but I'm excited to move on to the next chapter of my career.
Do any of you design wedding invitations - either for a living or on the side? What has your experience been like? Are any of you wanting to break into the invite design business? Let's chat in the comments.
J & K started this blog project to document the remodel of their 1929 historical home in the heart of Oklahoma City. It has now turned into a documentation of life, food, fashion, freelance, inspiration, design, adventures and details around the J & K house.
Kathleen works as an award-winning brand consultant and designer specializing in small business branding at Braid Creative & Consulting. Jeremy is a software engineer and is the left-brain to Kathleen’s right.
You can contact Kathleen at
jeremyandkathleen (at) gmail (dot) com.
All photos and graphics by Kathleen unless otherwise stated. Feel free to use them with permission or credit.
Anatomy of an Outfit
Sometimes I like to get dressed and take pictures of myself. For all of my outfit posts click here.
Freelance Matters: A series about how I tackle freelance issues such as estimating, billing, to-do lists and how to fire a client.
Trekking to Everest
In October 2010 Jeremy and I trekked through the Himalayas to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It completely changed my life. Read about the entire adventure, day-by-day, here.
Braid is a creative & consulting business I own with my sister. We do branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. On the Braid blog I share branding adventures, how-to articles and advice on the creative process. If you need a little brand therapy of your own visit Braid or subscribe to the Braid blog RSS feed here.
What We Eat
We like to eat really good food - at least 3 times a day. Sometimes I blog about it - click here for recipes and yummy ideas.
J & K: Blog Archive
- ► 2012 (182)
- ▼ November (15)
- ► 2010 (387)
- ► 2009 (406)
- Eva Black | Spaces
- Emma Dime
- Life as an Artistpreneur
- Jane Reaction
- Ink & Letters
- Meg Biram | The Edit
- Sarah Von Bargen's Small Biz Blog
- Design Crush
- The Equals Record
- Emmarie Designs
- Rory Gordon
- Yellow Brick Home
- The Creatives Project
- Silly Grrl
- Photographers Skeen
- The Clothes Make the Girl
- Bringing Design Home
- Pip & Estella
- A Practical Wedding
- Kind of a Sideshow
- Sandra Juto
- Old Sweet Song
- Rambling Renovators
- Brooklyn Bride
- Design Crush
- Experiment in Poverty
- The Jealous Curator
- Making it Lovely
- Dressing on the Side
- The Oklahoman
- Young House Love
- Oh So Beautiful Paper
- A Cup of Jo
- Brooklyn Limestone
- Glamour Weddings