The holiday season is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start getting our heads together about details that require a little extra planning, such as holiday cards. Whether you want something traditional and classic or modern and creative, our local stationers share some handy insider tips for next-level holiday cards and invitations.
1. Beat ’em to the punch.
If you’ve recently moved, make sure you are part of the holiday card merriment! “We do a lot of cards around Thanksgiving for people who have moved to a new home,” says Katie Smith of Please Reply in Crestline Village. “They will send out a Thanksgiving card with their new address, so people will have it for the holidays.” And whether you’ve moved or not, taking a family photo at Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to capture the whole gang. Also, getting your card out early is a nice way to kick off the season by taking one thing off your holiday to-do list while also taking advantage of the sweet early-bird deals that most companies offer in the fall.
Ginny Hutchinson of The Scribbler in Homewood shares another fun and budget-savvy idea for early card senders. “Let’s say you had a baby in the fall,” says Ginny. “A great idea would be to combine the baby announcement with the holiday card, and you can say something like, ‘What a wonderful gift’ or ‘Giving thanks for our blessings.’” Two birds, one stone—we like it!
2. Speak in fonts.
“With cards and invitations, the font is like your tone of voice,” says Ginny from The Scribbler, adding, “so having some current, fun font that just makes people go, ‘Oh my gosh! I’ve got to put this on my calendar!’ versus something that is just a dime-a-dozen font that you see everywhere makes a big impact.” A black-tie event with a traditional invitation engraved and embossed on finer paper is going to convey a more buttoned-up, formal atmosphere. So use the artwork, colors and font to convey the atmosphere of the party. Maybe you want people to wear cocktail attire to set the night apart, a fun opportunity for you and your friends to wear your favorite sparkly cocktail dresses, but you want the gathering to be more fun and laid-back. Set the tone for the soiree with a modern and casual font and playful wording.
3. Play the name game.
“When you list your family, your husband should come first. But if it’s just you and your husband, it should be the lady first,” says Katie of Please Reply. And Ginny agrees, adding, “One way to think of it is that you don’t want to separate the man from his last name, but it’s also ‘ladies first!’” Katie says she lists children, oldest to youngest, with their ages in parentheses. “Some people like to add their dogs, as well, because they are in the picture, or they’ll just say, for example, ‘The Smiths—Doug, Katie, Jack, Reed and our fur babies,’” says Katie. “Of course, that is just the old-school way of doing it. There are always exceptions.”
4. Use a killer photo.
“When I first started in this business about 10 years ago, it was really novel to print the photo on the card. Including the photo was a big deal, because we would have to apply the picture,” says The Scribbler’s Ginny. “And now, the technology has come along so much that the photos are just digitally printed on the cards.” And to match the professional look of today’s digitally printed cards, Ginny highly recommends using a professional photographer. “If you have a family photo with shadows on people’s faces, when you start cropping and blowing up that image to cover the entire card, I mean, your sins are shown, so you really want good lighting,” says Ginny, who also notes that it is important to look at the photo objectively. For instance, is somebody standing in a spot where it looks like something is growing out of their head? You don’t want your family’s holiday card to end up on Awkward Family Photos!
5. Have fun!
Holiday cards are about sharing a joyous greeting with friends and family, so have fun with it! Send a goofy portrait of the family wearing ugly Christmas sweaters. Or intentionally create your own “awkward family photo.” Or mix the sincere photo on the front with a surprise photo on the back that captures the family’s personality in a unique way. “I love it when there’s a cute picture of the family’s feet or the family dog or everyone laughing hysterically at something. It just makes you happy to see the real family shine through,” says Ginny. “Lots of people use photos from family beach trips, for example, which is a refreshing change of pace during the holidays,” says Katie.
6. Take artistic license.
Another way to add personality or a unique touch is to feature original art on your holiday card. In this era of digital printing, items that are created by hand are a rare treat! Maybe you or someone in your family is an artist, or perhaps you want to share a fun drawing by your child. Or maybe you commissioned a beautiful family portrait and you want to share the gorgeous new art featuring your loved ones. Why not commission an artist to create the holiday card of your dreams? If you’re using original art, your card is guaranteed to be one-of-a-kind.
7. Add a personal touch.
Not only is a handmade item wholly unique, but it also says, “Hey, I took the time to sit down, think about you and let you know that I am thankful for you!” Katie at Please Reply agrees that nothing beats the handwritten touch. “We have people do their custom holiday cards here, and then they want to print out labels for the envelopes, but we always encourage people to do handwritten envelopes, because it is just more personal,” she says, adding, “and it is always nice to write a handwritten note of thanks when you get a gift.” She also encourages people to employ another gesture of thanks—and good party etiquette—during the holidays. “If you go to a party, it’s always good to take a little something, whether you bake it or buy it. You don’t have to spend much; it’s just nice not to go empty-handed.”
8. Walk in a Winter Wonderland—of words!
The pen is mightier than the sword, indeed! So wield your pen with panache. “Sometimes you’re just doing a neighborhood gathering and you don’t have a big budget, but you can get online, find a cute design and be clever with the wording,” says Ginny of The Scribbler. “‘Martinis & Mistletoe’ rather than ‘Holiday Open House.’ That’s just blah. I mean, that’s not very inspiring, you know?!”
9. Avoid that dream where you show up somewhere wearing only your underwear.
Don’t get caught wearing the wrong attire to a party, and certainly don’t put your friends in that position! Be clear about the party attire, so no one feels like the odd man out. After all, the point is to create a warm and inviting atmosphere where your guests feel comfortable. “Whether it’s a wedding invitation or holiday party invite, the attire is usually more pointed to the man, because a woman can get away with a lot, even in just a simple black dress. But a man does not want to go to an event where all of a sudden everyone’s in a tuxedo and he’s in a sport coat,” says Ginny, who thinks the cutesy sayings like “holiday casual” can sometimes leave room for error. “If the location of the event is such that a man has to have on a coat and tie in order to enter the premises, well then we need to convey that,” says Ginny, who suggests combining your fun wording, followed by the straightforward version, “coat and tie for men.”
10. Look at the big picture.
Don’t forget custom gift tags! You can choose your own tag size, as well as fonts, colors and, of course, language! When creating your gift tag, remember to consider the color scheme of your wrapping paper. If you’re a traditional red-and-green kind of gal, you don’t want the casual-modern font in hot pink on your gift tag to clash with your gifts. So think about your overall wrapping style, not only as you design your customized gift tags, but also as you begin to buy wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, tissue and other crafty wrapping accoutrements.
So whatever your desires, have fun making a card that brings a smile to the faces of your loved ones this season. Good luck and happy (early) holidays!