Our cheap wedding RSVPs keep making my day

We didn’t want to spend much on wedding invitations. In fact, Justin preferred we do it all online.

But considering that this is only happening to us once (ringed-fingers crossed) and my sister is a professional graphic designer willing to create an invite and custom envelope free of charge, I couldn’t not have this physical representation of our nuptials.

Nuptials. See also:

  • Wedding
  • Big Day
  • Ceremony
  • Marriage
  • Union
  • Matrimonial Event

I’ve been writing for a regional wedding magazine since I was 22 (and 100% percent certain I would never get married. Typical.).

That’s 9 years of finding synonyms for wedding words I write over and over again and covering trends in the wedding biz, which is as monstrous in scope as Bride of Frankenstein’s hair.

Key takeaways imparted on me through this work include:

  • Some venues will nickel and dime the ever living frosting out of you. Ask about eve-ry-thang. Do they charge for the linens? What about cutting and serving the cake — is there an extra charge for that? Do you have to pay for the bartender’s services in addition to the alcohol? I sounded like a jaded divorcee on her third marriage asking all of this and more of my venue’s director, but now I know there will be no surprises on the final bill.
  • It’s always worth hiring a professional. For any of it. Except maybe making the centerpieces. Those you can recruit siblings, cousins and mothers for.
  • Make it your own. The best weddings and the happiest couples I’ve interviewed did what they wanted for their <insert above word of your choosing here>. Etiquette, tradition and standards be damned — or rigorously applied, if that’s what you’re into.

As I’ve pointed out before, I have a thing for snail mail. Though, who doesn’t? Unless it’s a bill, getting letters and postcards in the mail is as Santa Claus as an adult is going to get.

A box of postcards had been gathering dust in my myriad apartments’ closets since about 2012. I bought them from Anthropologie for a fluffy feature magazine article about cool things made out of books or inspired by books.

Flowers crafted from torn out pages, their words never to be read in order again. Sturdy jacket spines transformed into a hipster-approved mobile. Postcards of Penguin’s most colorful hits.

I remember getting reader hate mail for this magazine piece. Never underestimate the fury of a bored, lonely, passionate reader.

How dare books be seen as any kind of art beyond that of writing? What a crime to desiccate these tomes or admire them for their design purposes. I and people like me were to be the downfall of this great country!

But hey it was mail. Santa giveth.

I don’t know why I never threw the box of cards out after the photo shoot. A guess: I had bought them with my own starter journalist salary ( = not much) and couldn’t bear to throw away something that felt so expensive to me at the time ($40 could have bought a lot of toilet paper and Lean Cuisines).

So there they sat. And there they moved. And moved. And moved again. Until I tucked them into our latest place, deep in a desk cabinet, all set to wait out another year in the dark corners of the envelope drawer. Stories buried. Pandora’s box on PTO.

It’s not like I didn’t try to use them before this. But whenever I’d effort to make a selection, I’d be overcome by their beauty and selfishly wish to keep them to myself. Or I’d fear their hidden messages could accidentally offend.

Because, in typical Millennial milieu, I don’t know much about what these postcards actually represent, what the books were about — I just loved their jacket covers, the colors and the style, and what they could mean symbolically. I love books, after all. Just not these ones. Most of them remained a mystery to me.

I feared sending a grandparent, for example, a postcard with a seemingly innocuous book title and pretty cover print only to find it’s about repopulating Mars and all the wooing, weird and wetness that would entail. A book that perhaps caused a scandal in their day! Too big a risk.

But as we planned our wedding invitations to one of our three events (ugh I know… we’re those people… ceremony in Chicago, two parties in our Ohio hometowns), the box of Penguin postcards nagged the back of my brain.

How fun would those be as RSVPs? (Also, how deliciously free.) A “love story” theme for our Marion reception? Sure, they didn’t match the beautiful invitations my sister made, but what have I learned? Do what you want. It’s your wedding after all.

I knew I risked someone reading too much into a title. I was selective.

Some postcard titles that didn’t make the wedding RSVP cut:

  • The Horizontal Man
  • The Lost Girl
  • Dreadful Summit
  • Middlesex (awkward)
  • Flying Dutchman (sounded like a slang sex position… also awkward)
  • Vile Bodies
  • Man Trap (ha!)
  • Warfare by Words
  • The Case of the Half-Awakened Wife (I’m woke!)

As Justin compiled his reception’s Facebook invites, I formed a factory line for mine, thoughtfully choosing a postcard for each invitation and working my tongue dry with envelope sealing, like a kitten who got into the salt lick.

Keying and creaking open my rusty mailbox the past month has been a joy. Bronte and Austin and Fitzgerald await. Sixties style art reproductions stand at attention beside desperate credit card offers and Bed Bath & Beyond coupons.

My reception guests respond exactly as I expect each of them to — some add stickers and drawings to the postcards, others just tell me their guest count and sign their name. Some get so excited they forget to sign it. Luckily I remember which postcard I picked for them and know who of my friends would forget to sign a postcard they sent. (To be fair, I would forget too. That’s probably why we’re friends.)

It felt good to get rid of the postcards, to use them in some productive way. But as a buddy pointed out: Technically, I didn’t get rid of them.

Like bookish boomerangs, back they come. To sit in my drawers for another six or seven years. But with my own story, my own favorite characters now imprinted on them.

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