Monday, November 02, 2009

Tips & Tricks: Wicked Wonderland Invitations

My primary goal in creating this blog is to showcase my own cleverness, I won't lie. I feel very accomplished when I blog a big project, and every hit to my site is another feather in my cap. It's sort of my virtual refrigerator where I post my "A+" papers with gold stars for all to see. Of course, I also share my bloopers and fails and horrible haircuts, so I'm not totally consumed with my own superiority... :)

A second and still major focus is to provide inspiration and guidance to others pursuing craftacular bliss, so here starts my "Tips & Tricks" postings, recapping my Halloween process for our 2009 Wicked Wonderland party - I hope this serves as a resource for other's hosting Mad Tea Parties, Merry Unbirthdays, and Wonderland Halloween parties.

"Start at the beginning, and when you get to the end, stop." - Alice in Wonderland

It's hard to say where the beginning was, since I've been cooking up this party for months now. I suppose it's safe to start with the invitations. I sent out a facebook group "save the date" in MARCH - I know that's early, but with our party being ON Halloween there are a lot of competing events and I wanted to get on the radar early and give people as much time as possible to be on the lookout for costumes.

I knew I wanted to send out a "hard" invitation, but I also needed to scale it back from the previous years where I used stamps, punches, and stickers to papercraft elaborate invites that took a lot of time and money. I settled on an old standby - . I've ordered postcards from them before and always liked the results, they're nearly always having a "free" sale so you just pay shipping and sometimes a $4.99 fee to upload images. It just so happened I caught them at a time when they were waiving that fee as well, so I think my 100 invites cost under $6.

For the image I went round and round, tried a couple requests on Alchemy to custom design something but none of it matched the mood I was going for, until I found Solocosmo on Etsy. She's a digital artist who was offering custom photo manipulation to morph your headshot into a vampire, witch, fairy, etc. For just $15 she made me into the Cheshire Cat!

I took a bunch of goofy self portraits using the self timer on my camera and sent it to her with a rambling description - she immediately knew exactly what I wanted, and in just a couple days, provided me with the eerie scene above, I was thrilled! I was really impressed with her, and would definitely recommend her services to anyone looking for a similar effect - she's SO talented. She even featured me on her blog (with permission) here. She also just had a super fun looking wedding with a fantastic short dress I really envy, and she's working on a series of prints of lesser known Grimm's Fairy Tale characters that are GORGEOUS. But I digress...

I uploaded the manipulated image to Vistaprint and laid out their standard postcard with the image on the front in color (with a glossy finish) and added the text "We're All Mad Here..." in a creepy font - the quote is why I picked the Cheshire Cat in the first place, it's sort of an odd and haunting phrase that really set the tone I was going for. Here's how it came out (this is a scan, so the color isn's as good as the real thing):

Then for the back, black & white printing is free and they give you the option of having a ghost of the front image as a background - I had never thought about it, but it looked really cool, especially with my weird detailed eye staring back at you :) I set up the rest like a traditional postcard (much cheaper postage), with space on the right to put in the address and all the party details on the left. I had to simplify this a few times, which is difficult for me, but in the end I think I balanced getting all the necessary info out while still being clear & readable.

About my wording: I went with the "Wicked Wonderland" title after much deliberation, I wanted something a little twisted but not so familiar it wasn't unique (aka "Malice in Wonderland" was a big costume name a year or two back, so that was out for me). I make no bones about not tolerating minors or children - even my little brother wasn't invited until this year when he turned 21 (aside: a couple weeks ago he called my party a "rite of passage" and I thought it was so adorable and heartwarming)! I find it best to be clear & up front about this to avoid any problems, and so far so good!

I also require costumes - I think it's the least everyone can do when I've gone to all the work of decorating, feeding, and providing a full bar for them :) With a few of hubby's friends excepted (who had not been forgiven, but a year of razzing clearly made a difference and they were ALL decked out this year!) everyone plays along pretty well, and most are very creative. I tried to make it clear that I didn't care if they dressed as Wonderland characters, as long as they wore SOME SORT of a costume.

I chose the cheapest shipping from Vistaprint, and every time I've done so my order always still comes WELL BEFORE their window says, so I never worry about expediting and paying more. I don't think I've ever waited more than a week. Vistaprint does sort of spam you with "coupons" via email once you've ordered from them, but I just auto-file them and I'm not too bothered - and they're nice to have when I need to print something :)

A lot of people commented that they liked the invites, and carried them around in their purse all month or used them as bookmarks, and lots of people got excited about the party early and blocked off their calendars to attend, so I think they were pretty successful!

So, that's the story of my invitations, all told it was quick, easy, and a good value. Here's the final budget:
$15 for the photo morph
$6 for the postcards
That means the per-invite cost for 100 (which I didn't need, but it's nice to have extras for decoration & last minute invites) was $0.21 + $0.28 each for postcard stamp, or a total of $0.49 each. What a deal!

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