The Curse of the Shower Invitations (Warning: Long!)

When I found out on Tuesday that my sister-in-law’s original bridal shower plans had fallen through, I offered to throw a shower for her. I like entertaining, so I was excited. The only thing I was worried about was that the shower would need to be on Saturday, June 23rd, so I would need to get invitations out ASAP. As soon as I found out I was doing the shower, I checked the yellow pages for “party” and “paper.” The party section only listed stores that sold or rented large party supplies, like awnings and tablecloths. The paper section listed two stores, one of which I called. They said they had shower invitations, so I ventured out with Lego in 80+ degree weather in a car with no air conditioning. After all, it was imperative that I get invitations that day so I could fill them out, address them, and mail them by the next day.

 I couldn’t find the store, but I did see a Robert’s, so I went there. Surely they’d have something. Wrong. But I did get some scrapbooking supplies for my brilliant idea of having the guests each create a scrapbook page in the bride’s colors for her to put her wedding pictures in. It was a brilliant idea until a) I realized the minimal scrapbooking supplies cost $36, and b) I found out that the group being invited prefers just chatting and eating and opening presents to playing any games or doing any activities. But that’s another story.

At Robert’s, I found out the location of the paper store I’d been looking for originally. I went there. They had “invitations,” which were pieces of minimally decorated cardstock that I could print my text on, with envelopes. Each was $1. There were over 40 people on the guest list. I decided to look elsewhere.

In a nearby shopping center was a BigLots! (dumbest name ever), so I decided to try there. They had some, but they looked cheap and ugly. I bought them anyway. After all, I needed something.

Once I got home, though, I realized that filling in all the fields inside by hand was going to take forever. And if I was going to spend forever getting the invitations ready, I might as well make them look good, right? So I decided to get some pink cardstock and use some of the patterned papers I’d bought at Michaels and now had no use for, and make my own invitations. I would print the message on the cardstock so I wouldn’t have to write it by hand. The invitations would look awesome, and they wouldn’t take much, if any, longer to get ready.

But where to find pink cardstock? Robert’s had packs of 50 sheets of it for $20. I was sure I could find some for cheaper than that. Would Wal-Mart have some? Early the next morning I called them and found out that all their managers were in a meeting, so no one would be able to answer my question (my question was whether they had pink cardstock). I could call back at 2:00 p.m. Well, by 2:00 p.m. it would be over 85 degrees outside, and remember, my car isn’t air conditioned. I decided to go over anyway and check myself.

Wal-Mart did have pink cardstock in packs with other pastel colors. I would have to buy several packs to get enough of the pink ones. I decided to try some place like Office Depot instead. On my way out of Wal-Mart, I saw an old friend who told me there was a CompUSA and a Zurcher’s fairly close to the Wal-Mart. I decided one of those two would probably have pink cardstock. Wrong.

So back home again. I found out where an XPedX was and went there. By now it was afternoon and dang hot. I really didn’t want to venture out in the heat with a toddler, but what other choice did I have? I had to get these out as soon as possible. Once inside XPedX, I wandered around and around and around the store looking for cardstock. In a paper store, they surely, surely had some, right? Finally I found the cardstock section. They had the same packs of assorted pastel cardstock that Wal-Mart had, but for twice the price. They also had varying shades of white.

I think part of the reason I stayed in the store at that point was that I didn’t want to go back outside into the heat. The other part was that I had no idea where else to look if XPedX didn’t have it. I didn’t want to give up, and I still clung to the belief that if I looked hard enough, I would find pink cardstock. Finally I gave up on looking for pink cardstock and started looking for an employee to ask. I also needed envelopes, so I looked for those too. I found:

  • boxes of 250 card-sized envelopes for $30
  • packs of 50 legal-sized envelopes for much less
  • packs of 20 square envelopes for a decent price
  • no employees

I grabbed two packages of square envelopes and went back to the paper aisles. Maybe I would be able to find a paper that was heavy enough to use for the invitations, even if I couldn’t find cardstock. I was walking by some papers labeled “vellum” when I noticed that they didn’t look like what I think of as vellum at all. They looked like heavy paper. I felt a piece. It was cardstock. It wasn’t pink, but it was cardstock. I looked around and found it in pink. I bought 22 sheets for $0.15 each. Not bad.

Once I got home I realized that my pink paper was a nearly perfect match for the pink in the patterned papers from Robert’s. Hooray!

So now the plan was to:

  1. Print the InDesign document I had already created onto the pink cardstock
  2. Go over to my sister-in-law’s house and borrow her paper cutter to cut the cardstock into two cards, cut the patterned paper into rectangles, and also cut thin strips for the inside
  3. Glue the patterend paper to the fronts and insides of the cards
  4. Have my brother-in-law print the envelopes with addresses and return addresses
  5. Come home and stuff envelopes
  6. Make a little map to insert in each one
  7. Add stamps and seal envelopes

So. Step 1. I printed one test, which came out beautifully. I set the printer to print 20 more. The first of the 20 printed cyan. The printer was out of black ink. And because it was also out of yellow and magenta (which we’d known before), it couldn’t make black no matter how badly I wanted it to. By now it was nearly dinnertime, so I would have to wait until morning.

After Lego was in bed, I decided that since I couldn’t do anything else for the invitations until morning, I would spend my evening cutting out pretty eight-pointed stars from one of the patterned papers. They would make a nice addition to the invitations.

Yesterday morning I went to Wal-Mart and got black printer ink. I thought about getting color as well, but I figured that since we print in color so rarely, I didn’t need to spend the money yet. Once home, I put the black ink in the printer, and it did its thing to align the cartridge. But the alignment failed. The printer told me to check the documentation for details. Um, yeah. I just moved less than two weeks ago. Do you think I have ANY idea where the printer documentation is?

I decided to try printing the document anyway. The printer pulled the paper through and spit it out unmarked. Apparently the alignment thing needed to happen before anything would print. Great.

Being resourceful, though, I went to HP’s website and found a PDF of the documentation. It said that if the cartridge alignment failed, it meant you had used the wrong kind of paper during the alignment. It reminded me to use plain white paper. (I had used plain white paper.) So I followed the directions to get the printer to try aligning the cartridge again. It failed again. The documentation said that if the alignment fails twice, one of two things might need to be replaced.

Being resourceful, I found a way to chat with an HP technician online about the problem. She was patient and helped me for over an hour, and we eventually got the printer to print a correct black-and-white test page. I tried printing my document. The printer pulled the paper through and spit it out unmarked. The technician had me try printing another document, so I opened a random WordPerfect document, and it printed just fine. The problem was with my document.

At this point, Lego turned off the power strip to the computer.

I yelled a little and cried a little. Then I called Dave-O and told him I was going to have to use their printer, and I was coming over right away. I made the InDesign document into a PDF, took my supplies, and left. Once over there, Dave-O informed me the PDF was poorly formed, and it wasn’t printable. He made a new document in his word processor, which actually looked better than mine had. He then began printing the document onto the pink cardstock by feeding the cardstock through the printer page by page (it wouldn’t take it otherwise) while his wife and I began cutting and gluing in the kitchen. In the process of printing, four pieces of cardstock got ruined. I would have to go back to XPedX and get more and make the last few cards myself.

Once all the cardstock was printed, Dave-O started preparing the addresses to print to the envelopes. I guess this was a pretty complicated process. After a while, a paranoid thought hit me: what if the envelopes I had were too small to fit our invitations in them? So just to make sure, I went and checked. Sure enough, they were too narrow. We would either have to trim all the cards down to fit the envelopes or get new envelopes. We talked a bit and decided that since the size we needed was a pretty standard size (big enough to fit an 8.5 x 11″ sheet of paper folded in quarters), the post office might have some. There was  post office about a block away, so I walked over with Lego.

The post office did not have that size. But I did buy stamps there, so it wasn’t a total waste of a trip.

After we got back, Dave-O looked online and found that Office Depot had envelopes in that size, a pack of 100 for $7. He went to get some while his wife and I kept working on cutting and gluing. Oh, and I worked on getting Lego to take a nap (unsuccessfully). Dave-O got back and began preparing the addresses to print to the envelopes. Meanwhile, his wife and I finished with the invitations, and they looked nice, if I do say so myself. Finally Dave-O got the envelopes printed, and I stuffed them. By now it was about 6:15, I had missed the last postal pickup of the day, and I still needed to make the little map inserts. It was time to go home.

I was so tired last night that I didn’t work on the invitations any more. This morning, I found that Google Maps has this really cool feature where you can draw shapes, lines, and points on one of their maps. I used the satellite feature to view our block, traced the important buildings and parking areas, drew lines to show where to go, and put a little balloon point to mark out building. Then I switched back to the streetmap view, and all my shapes and lines stayed there, yielding a very helpful little map of our block. The only thing I couldn’t do was write labels on the map.

No problem. I would make a screenshot and cut it down and label it in Photoshop.

Except that for some reason, I couldn’t make a screenshot. I still have no idea why it didn’t work. I’ve made many screenshots before, and this time shouldn’t have been different. But anyway. When I tried, nothing would go to the clipboard. Jon Boy tried too. We replaced the batteries in the keyboard. Nothing worked.

Jon Boy downloaded a cool screenshot-making program. Using it, I was able to create and label a screenshot map. I imported four finished maps into a WordPerfect document and printed them off, then cut them out. There were no problems. I put a map into each envelope and sealed the envelopes and put them in the mail.

Then I went to XPedX and got five new sheets of cardstock. The guy at the checkout counter said anything five sheets or under was considered a sample, and they were free. Okay, so maybe XPedX isn’t the devil after all. I did tell him about how frustrating my experience had been the day before. He made excuses (they were understaffed, the aisle with the cardstock was labeled “cover” to indicate that it was cardstock, and the paper was organized from lightest to heaviest . . . yeah, that doesn’t help anyone who doesn’t know all that already) but said he’d pass my complaint on.

Since I got home, I have made the last few invitations and put them in the mail. I need two more envelopes from Dave-O, so I need to run over there and get them soon. I’m two days later mailing these than I wanted to be. But at least they’re done.

Seriously, though. What more could have gone wrong?

Maybe I shouldn’t ask. Maybe the guy driving the mail truck will fall asleep while on a bridge and drive into a body of water, killing himself and ruining the invitations.

Knock on wood.


  1. Man, more went wrong with that than I knew about!! I’m glad our postpersons survived the ordeal.

    If you’re running Windows, hitting the “Print Screen” (or “Prt Scr”) key on your keyboard should copy the screen; if not that, then try ALT+PrtScr. If that’s what you did, then weird indeed.

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