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How to Hand-Cancel Your Wedding Invitations

January 5, 2021

And other juicy post office tips!

If you’re newly engaged or just starting the stationery planning process, you may have heard the terms “hand-cancelling” or “hand-cancelled postage” thrown around quite a bit by wedding planners and inspo blogs. As a professional wedding calligrapher and stationery designer, I’m here to demystify the process!

By this point, you’ve already solidified your wedding invitation mailing timeline, you’ve had them designed, printed, stuffed and sealed, and you’re ready to send them off.

Full disclosure, I am based out of my home studio in Eastern Ontario, Canada, and so while I can speak generally for the way the post office systems for for Canada and the US, if you live outside of these two countries you will need to do some research locally as well.

What is Hand-Cancelling?

Envelopes handwritten by a calligrapher with vintage postage stamps.

To explain why you should have your wedding invitations hand-cancelled, I first need to explain what “cancelling” your postage means.

Whenever you send a piece of mail, you likely affix a postage stamp to it. This postage stamp is a piece of currency that you attach to your mail, paying for the post office system to carry it to its destination.

Fun fact: when you hand that piece of mail over to Canada Post or USPS, the postal worker then “cancels” the postage. This act of cancelling deems that postage stamp as used, and therefore not eligible to be re-used again.

There are two methods of cancelling your postage. Hand-cancelling, and machine-cancelling, and typically the default is by machine. Since the post office receives so many pieces of mail per day, each envelope is fed into a machine which stamps and cancels the postage.

Why Get Your Wedding Invitations Hand-Cancelled?

So why do you need your wedding invitations to be hand-cancelled if a machine will do it?

With any automated mechanical process, especially with something delicate like wedding paper, there is always a risk of tearing your envelope or smudging the ink on your addresses (especially if you wrote them out yourselves using a non-waterproof ink — *cough* — hire a calligrapher!)

And, if you sealed your envelopes with wax seals — hand-cancelling is a must! Machines are likely to scratch, or worse, rip off your wax seals. While there is still a slight chance of scuffing to be caused by sorting machines even with hand-cancelling, this should affect less than 1 in a 100 envelopes sent.

How to Hand-Cancel Your Postage

In Canada, hand-cancelling your postage is as easy as taking your completed, addressed and sealed invitation suites to your local Canada Post office, and asking the postal worker to “hand-cancel” the postage! After that, your suites will be hand stamped by your local postal worker with a timestamp that marks your postage as cancelled. Take a sigh of relief and send them on their merry way!

If you’re located outside of Canada, your post office may required you to pay a hand-canceling fee (in the US this can be around $0.21 USD per envelope) I recommend calling ahead to your local post office to make sure.

Extra Post Office Tips!

How to Sort Your Invites for Mailing

To save you and your postal worker time and a major headache, sort your suites into the following categories depending on the guest address destination:

  1. Domestic (within Canada)
  2. USA
  3. International (not USA or Canada)

This next tip is so crucial: If each of your invitations have the same cards/inserts/embellishments inside, they will all weigh the same. If so, tell this to your postal worker!! That way, they only need to weigh one suite from each category (it helps if you have the final numbers from each category too!

When counting your suites in each category, it can also help to chunk them down to piles of 10, so that you get an accurate count.

Do research locally

At the time of this writing there is no charge in Canada for hand-cancelling, but I do know that USPS has been known to issue a charge for this service in the US.

Thank Your Postal Workers!

Be nice to postal workers! Asking them to hand cancel 100+ wedding invitation suites is added work for them, so remember to be super kind and not take out your frustrations with the post office system on them. They want your mail to reach its destination as much as you do!

Be Flexible & Follow Up

This tip is especially true now more than ever. At the time of writing this post, we are of course dealing with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. I have a whole other blog post about Covid-19 Invitation, Change-the-Date and Change-of-Plans insert wording, so I recommend checking that one out as well!

Of course, even if you follow all of these tips, there is always a chance that things can get lost in the mail or have a delayed delivery, especially during peak times like the holiday season. Understand that this is no-one’s fault, and have a plan to check in with your guests if you haven’t heard from them.

Fine art dusty blue wedding invitation suite with gold wax seal.

Hire a Wedding Stationer

A professional wedding stationery designer such as myself, deals with the post office system on a daily basis. Having a wedding stationery designer on retainer means you can ask them any questions that you have about mailing, custom or vintage stamps, tracking, and much more.

Book your free consultation below to chat with me about how I can help!

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