Is it worth spending money on wedding art?

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We're trying to do our wedding on the cheap but still have it be unique and cool. So, we decided that our theme needs to start with the invitations! We hired a local tattoo artist to draw up [Editor's note: DRAW, not design!] a 50's-60's rock concert poster for us that we plan on printing off at Kinko's and mailing as our invite. The problem is, he just told me it's going to cost $500 in order for him to draw up the original! So, I'm thinking $500 for the original + ($.48 X 150) for printing + small manila envelopes for mailing + postage + home printed response cards = me being taken to the cleaners on my “cheap & cool” invites? Or, is it worth it for the cool factor and the fact that we will forever have original artwork to remember our wedding by? I have to laugh that our invites could cost us more than our rock-club reception space! -Becky

DIY Screen Printed Poster Invitation for Indie WeddingAh yes. How well I know the progression from “cheap and cool” to “handcrafted and awesome” to “hey wait a minute — this would have cost less if I'd gotten invites at Target!” Awesome offbeat custom wedding stuff has a sneaky way of costing more than mass produced mainstream stuff. A custom dress made in China is going to cost you less than a custom dress made around the corner.

Ultimately, I can't really tell you what's “worth it” for your wedding. But I will say that I see spending money on your offbeat wedding to be a great exercise in prioritizing your splurges. Is original artwork commemorating your wedding worth spending money on? If art is important to you — then fuck yeah it is! I'm reminded the conversation I had a while back with an artist friend. Artwork honoring your wedding is an amazing heirloom, one that's infinitely more compelling than silver candlesticks. For some people that means commissioning a gorgeous Ketubahs, for others it means having a local tattoo artist draw up an original rock concert poster. If visual art is important to you, I'm gonna say investing the money in a poster you can hang in your home for years … I say go for it.

That said, I think it's important to think about priorities — for some people, it's not worth it to spend money on the invite because they want to invest in the photography. Or the food. Or the perfect venue. Only you can know your priorities. Whatever your one priority is, go for it.

From the comments, it's clear that there's some confusion between custom illustration vs. graphic design. They're very, very different things. Becky says the tattoo artist is going to DRAW their invitation, which means it's a custom illustration — not just a photoshop job. Not that graphic design can't be art, but it's not the same thing.

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Comments on Is it worth spending money on wedding art?

  1. I was in a somewhat similar situation when it came time to do the save the dates. My fiance's friend does graphic design and offered to do a custom art design for our stuff. Sounded cool until the price quote of $200 for 50 save the date postcards came.

    We were really torn because we like his friend's work a lot and want to support her, but to us the save the dates simply weren't that important. I would have been just as happy sending everyone an email saying, "YO! Getting married! Save the date for blah blah blah!" So we decided to come up with something on our own and have it printed at Vistaprint.

    So I say you two should sit down and separately come up with your top three list of most important items for your wedding. See where you match and come up with a top 3 master list. If having kickass invites is on that list, go for it! If it didn't make the cut, it might be better to save that money.

    Another thing to consider. Would you be able to scan the poster and use elements of it in other parts of the wedding? If you could scan it and use parts on the place cards, menus, etc, that would be pretty cool imo.

  2. I have to agree this is a slippery slope on the designers versus artists. Designers ARE artists. One of my best friends is a digital designer and every design she does goes through several hand-sketched versions, and then goes into photoshop where she used a digital tablet to hand mold and draw and color each design. She is more of an artist than many people I know. Also my fiance is a graphic designer and I would say he works just as hard and turns out just as good of a result as an old-school illustrator. It's easy to think that computer= faster, easier, less talent or detail involved but that is simply not true.

    That being said, having done art commission and muraling, and my fiance's opinion as a graphic designer and digital artist, we both agree that $500 is very steep. Maybe not for some areas but..I could easily get a huge tattoo, put on my body with all the hours of work included, and the custom design to go with for less than that. So yes, from a tattoo artist especially, that seems steep. I think you could find a litany of other artists, digital or no, to do it for much less.

  3. We asked an artist friend to design invites as his wedding gift to us. They look great. But are non-standard sizes to print. Anyone familiar with the financial bother New Order landed up in with their fancy CDs will understand why we call them the Blue Monday of wedding invites…

  4. Another reason why this guy may be submitting what SEEMS to be a rather high quote is that he just isn't that interested in the job. If a tattooed look is really what you want, at least ask some other tattoo artists.

    I myself have been guilty of overpricing work if I am really not that interested in doing it. Like once I priced myself out of doing an illustration of a cartoony version of this local race car driver holding a rebel flag. I subconsciously priced it higher because I just dreaded having to do it. Of course I didn't get the project, but I was quite happy about it.

    • Not that a wedding poster can be compared in any way to that scenario, but sometimes somethings appeal more to some artists than others. He may be thinking that he would rather just be doing a couple of tattoos during that period of time than designing a poster.

    • Very True. As a professional designer AND illustrator, I know that by raising the price, you can turn away clients that you don't really want, without burning bridges by giving a flat out no. That way, if you get the job for that price, you have enough money to salve the sting of the job, and if you don't get the job, didn't want it anyways.

      What kind of service/interaction are you getting with the job? A full page, hand drawn illustration can be inexpensive, but it tends to be a "what you see is what you get" type situation. No edits, no changes once it's done.

      If I have a client that I know is going to want to go back and change a few dozen things once the illustration is finished (a.k.a. the dreaded project creep), I factor that into the price ahead of time. Sadly, brides who are stressed out about their big day tend to be pretty bad about this. I've had a "tiiiinnnny, quick little illustration – not a big thing at all!" morph into "sooo..can you move the hand back down again to where I had it last time? oh..and redo the edging on the dress there. and can you make her hair curly instead?"

      So, in short, it may not be friendly or fair, but behind the scenes, A price tag can reflect wayyy more than the actual illustration itself.

  5. sorry, ILLUSTRATING a poster. man apparently i suck at posting, i am just gonna stick to looking at the wedding porn. 🙂

  6. First thing to consider: Size/format of the finished work. What are you really getting for your $500? What size is he offering you? My tattoo, around 6"x4" cost me $250. I came in with my idea and he redesigned it to fit with his style. Are you getting something bigger than that? Smaller? Will he provide a digital version (he probably has a great scanner for doing resizing, etc)?

    I agree, you can always try other artists, apprentices, or look at art schools or Etsy. Just have to set your priorities. But if you want it as a tattoo, and you really like this guy's work, go with it!

  7. I really like this post because it's a rare subject I'm somewhat qualified to respond to.

    I'm a print producer by trade. I love helping with DIY my friends with DIY invites but cost is always such a bummer, even with major cost cutting steps (like stealing photo copies from a work, etc).

    Also, if you are spending $500 on detailed, colorful art but kinkos to print, it may not be worth it in the end. The copy quality from Kinkos might be very disappointing. The real trick is finding the best DIY method to suit your budget and your design.

    There is sorta a rule of thumb in my industry in regards to these three concepts:
    Cool, Cheap and On Time. You only get two of these.

    You can have something cool and cheap…but it likely isn't going to get done in time. You can have it done on time and cool…but it likely isn't going to be cheap. It sorta applies to DIY, I guess.

    When helping friends do DIY invites, here are some of my tips:
    1. budget is key. Also, keep in mind many wedding invite styles are not standard postage.
    2. how much time do you have?
    4. as many have said, having artwork created as a gift from a friend is a great way to cut costs.
    5. Cutting out any "finishing" at a the printer (aka, kinkos) can save a little money. You can cut, glue, all this stuff on your own. You may not do as good a job but you'll save some dough. Plus, it looks like you touched it…which is more DIY anyhow.
    6. understanding what method of "printing" you can afford is super important

  8. My fiance is a graphic designer and did ours and they turned out great. For $500 we had 100 save the date cards, thank you cards, and welcome cards. All custom screen printed, on French Paper with custom ink. My fiance designed it all and just had a shoppe print them out! They are works of art and people actually have them framed in their homes now! I heart it!

  9. The writer here needs a priority shift. She's not paying for a poster reproduction; she's paying for original artwork. I don't think $500 is that out of line. I find it insulting when people want free/cheap services from people who do the work as a livelihood.

    A group of us designed and made a custom wedding certificate for my brother and sister-in-law's wedding. Mom did the layout, another friend chose the wording, a third did the lettering because she has amazing handwriting, and I did the painted illustration. (Our religious tradition does large certificates that are signed by all the wedding guests. Normally, they are not heavily ornamented, but this was a special gift.) It was easily $500 worth of work, and it was probably not as involved as the request being made of the artist in this letter.

    People don't realize any more how much it costs in time and effort to do this kind of thing. I've been told time and again I should do it more, as a second job, but there's no way I can charge enough for my stuff to cover my time and materials without pricing myself out of a market that's used to cheap faux folk-art from Hobby Lobby. The reason so many things are not made by hand any more is that it costs a whole lot more!

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