Friday, December 6, 2013

Inviting Stress

In any good rom-com featuring pending nuptials (and really, which ones don't?), there's an obligatory scene in which the Bridezilla and her dopey, don't-wanna-be-there groom are in a stationary store, the woman ferociously scrutinizing font styles while the bored man rolls his eyes, makes a crack about every curly script looking exactly the same, then does something doofusy, like knocking over a pristine display of ballpoint pens or something.

Has this ever happened in real life? Do couples really invest much time and energy agonizing over whether they should go with “Fancy Script” or “Fancy Script – Bold?” Call me unromantic (or just lazy) but the idea of spending more than a minute pondering which font captures the love I have for my husband makes my eyes glaze over quicker than you can say “response card.” I prefer the invitation process to be quick, painless, and involve as little human interaction as possible.

When my cousin got married, she made her own invitations, and they were lovely. I decided to follow her example. She walked me through the process, and it sounded ridiculously straightforward. Step 1: Go to Party City and buy an invitations set, complete with response cards and envelopes. Step 2: Use the accompanying online program to design the invitations and response cards. Step 3: Take that design to Kinko's, hand them your Party City sets, wait a day, annnnnnnnd DONE! Address, mail, and that is it.

So I set out on a Sunday morning, sure as anything that I'd be sending my invites out on Tuesday. I picked out an elegantly simple set, ivory paper with a glittery flower border tucked into a glittery half-sleeve with a tiny white bow at its center. I figured I'd print today, stuff and address Monday, and mail Tuesday. Done and done. I bought three of the sets ($75 total, oh yeah!), and within an hour, was on my computer with JT nearby choosing our wording and font. The online program only offered about eight fonts, six of which looked like a child had scrawled them in crayon, so narrowing down the choice to swoopy (Edwardian) or super swoopy (“Formal”) required no effort on our part. Edwardian it was. Onto the wording.

This was when I made my fatal flaw. I decided to consult a wedding etiquette website and learned that invitations are supposed to be HARD. There's required wording for weddings in which the ceremony is open to all guests. There's another option for when the ceremony is private. There's rules about how parents' names appear. There's rules about how your names appears. There's rules about rules. I quickly learned that unless I followed each and every one of these rules, no one would come. Bah. 

It was just before midnight when I landed on a wording I thought would do the least damage. Thirteen typed lines = four hours of deliberation.

OK, so Step 2 had not been that easy. That was OK. All I had to do now was print out a prototype, take it to Kinko's and voila! Only problem was I don't own a printer. (Shut up. I haven't had a real need for one since college, and I can't justify the cost of buying one for the one or two times a year I do. Oh, and I'm cheap.) I called my cousin and asked if I could use hers. That was fine with her, and we planned to meet the next day to get it done. Woo hoo! Back on track!

Turns out, like an ass, I did not save the invitation properly in the online program. So as soon as I logged on, I was met with a blank invitation, its emptiness mocking me and sending a shot of panic up my spine. Yet, if it was possible to find a silver lining to the prior evening's hellfest, it was that I had agonized so intensely over the damn wording that I had memorized each syllable. I wrote it all up, checked it over twice (cut and pasted it all into a Drive doc because ANNOYING), hit print, and snatched up my prototype. Finally, progress!

But then, the hell? Despite the screen displaying no such thing, a thick black box ran around the text of the invitation in my hand. At this point, I had already invested more time and energy in this mess than I'd ever planned, so I decided that it was just a mock-up, and surely the copy place people could rectify this one tiny detail.

An hour later, the scowling face of the man behind the Kinko's counter told me I had been wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

Apparently, not only was there no way to eliminate the offending black box, but the entire hard copy was useless. The copy place literally could not make a copy of it. Creepy Copy Guy, with his greasy pony tail, '80s dad glasses and swarmy sneer, had acted like the mere suggestion bordered on blasphemy. They needed the whole shebang in digital form. The only other option was for them to build the whole thing for me in-house. Furiously annoyed at the idea of creating the whole thing AGAIN on my own, I figured handing it all over to the pros would be worth a couple extra bucks. I conceded.

“That will be $49.99, plus tax,” Creepy Copy Guy said.

I crooked an eyebrow skyward. Was he freaking kidding me? Fifty bucks for them to mess around on a computer for five minutes? Eff that! “,” I said, pulling the stack of blank invitations back to my chest. “I'll do it myself, thanks. I'll be back.”

I stomped out of there, irritation itching all over me like ants on a discarded cracker. How had this been so easy for so many brides who came before me? Had Kinko's higher-ups decided that simply allowing customers to make copies no longer fit their business model? Were they expanding into psychological research, and was I nothing more than a guinea pig in their latest study? (“OK, they still think we're a copy place. Let's see what happens when we refuse to make copies. Mwahahahaha!”)

The next few days involved two more store visits, two dozen phone calls, countless emails and about 30 mockups until the Kinko's folks were able to produce something that could pass as an invitation. I'm still not clear as to the problem – something about the script font unhinging the printer's inner flux capacitor leading to a clash between the monitor's sensibilities and the parchment's ink-to-page ratio – but it literally took four people six days to fulfill my request.

When I finally went to pick up the invites, Creepy Copy Guy shoved them at me like he couldn't wait to be rid of them. I took them under my arm, feeling relieved yet utterly defeated. I had my invitations, but at what toll on my overall well-being? I was seeing fonts in my sleep, hearing Creepy Copy Guy in the voice of every man, twitching every time my phone binged, alerting me of a new email. Would I ever regain my sanity? Probably. Would I ever go to Kinko's again. Abso-fucking-lutely not ever ever ever ever.

I gave myself a couple days to recover, then called Mum and my sister-in-law, Nik, and asked if we could all get together and get these bad boys assembled, addressed and the fuck away from me. They obliged, and we gathered at Mum's one night to finally put an end to this BS. We laughed and chatted as we worked, all in an assembly line, me stuffing, Nik stamping and Mum address checking, when Nik stopped and sucked in a tiny gasp.

“Sis?” she asked, her face ashen.

“What's wrong?” I asked.

She replied in a near whisper. “There's nowhere for people to put their names on the response cards.”

I paused, head cocked slightly to the left. She was right. They simply said:

Attending?     Yes       No

Nowhere for their names. Granted, people could write them in if they remembered to, but there was nothing to prompt them so how many would really think of it? And the return envelopes were all posted, so not everyone would write in their return addresses. In other words, it was highly likely I'd be receiving RSVPs and have no earthly clue whatsoever who they came from. 
Mentally, I raised my fist and shook it furiously while shrieking “KINKO'SSSSS!!!!”

Mum froze. We all just stared at the pile of completed invitations in the middle of the table. I felt sick. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. Why wasn't anything ever easy? Why was this the most complicated task I'd ever attempted? Why could my life not just be like one of those chick flicks, where planning the wedding happens over the course of a fun-filled montage set to the tune of some cheesy wedding-themed song?

And why, oh why, had I not just called the damn stationary store to begin with?

Updated: Thank God Nik realized our big gaffe when she did. We ended up devising a system in which we numbered each invitation and made a list of the corresponding guests. It was actually kind of fun getting the responses and being like, "Ooo! Number 32 is coming! Who's that?!" Crisis averted. 

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