If you’ve started researching wedding invitations, you may have come across the term “hand-canceling.” This is a fancy word for that little black mark that gets stamped onto the envelope to keep people from reusing postage. Normally, this process is done through a machine, and said machine isn’t too gentle with the paper goods. Seeing as how you wouldn’t want to run the risk of your beautiful envelopes (which you likely spent an unexpectedly obscene amount of time choosing) to be bent or ripped, hand-canceling is a way to leave the mark, well, by hand. You particularly want to go this route if your invites have wax seals, calligraphy or ribbon/bows/twine as those will almost definitely get stuck in the machine and arrive in battered condition. Not exactly the first impression you were hoping for.
In order to hand-cancel, you must take your envelopes to a post office. But before you visit your neighborhood mail team, be sure to read these tips: 1. Try, try again: One post office employee may quote you something like five cents a pop but the next day, another will say it’s complimentary. Takeaway: don’t take the first answer (unless it’s the one you want to hear, of course). If there are multiple post offices in your town, call ahead to each one. If there’s only one, attempt at different times of the day. For mine, I was quoted 20 cents a letter at one post office so I tried a different one that ended up doing it au gratis. P.S. be polite and it always helps to mention that it’s for your wedding invitations.
2. The 50 or less rule: You may come across post offices that will tell you the first 50 are free. If that’s the case, well, just come back with the rest another day.
3. Self stamp: If they try to quote you a price, offer to DIY to cut costs. Many will let you stand at a nearby counter and hand-cancel your own invites to avoid the charge.
4. In denial: You may receive an abrupt “There’s no such thing as hand-canceling anymore.” Trust me, there is … you just asked a very grumpy postal service employee. While that particular location may not offer it, others in the area likely do. This service is far from extinct. (But be sure to try tip #1 first!).
Photo from Erica and Bryan’s classic chateau wedding, photography by Casey Fatchett