• Carla de Klerk

Internet of things: Snail-mail in the digital age

As a kid, I was mesmerised by my parents receiving mail. There was a magic quality to have to go to the postbox and take out a couple of crisp white envelopes, although these were mostly bills. I absolutely loved tearing these open and reading out the statements addressed to my mom “Dear Ms de Klerk” dreaming how those letters would one day be for me.

One of my fondest memories as a child were the special baby blue and pink envelopes I received every year from my grandparents on my birthday. Old school birthday card, accompanied by enough money for a chocolate. No presents could compare!

Now just imagine the type of joy I felt a few years on as my older cousins started to get married and sent out elaborate invitations – the fancy ones with tissue paper and special RSVP cards that were to be mailed back, never mind sending a quick Whatsapp as we’ll do now.

As a lover beautiful things and a passionate supporter of the romance the old mail system represents, I had every intention in the world to use expertly designed, high-grain paper as wedding invitations for my wedding, coming up this August.

We’ll until I had a look at the price tag, the trustworthiness of the old system and the admin of actually finding 90 people’s physical addresses.

So I went digital. Here are a few recommendations from what I learnt through the experience:

Wedding websites are great place to start

After hours of research and experimentation (there are A LOT of event and invite websites out there) we opted to create a WIX website to act as the official invitation and RSVP mechanic. If a website is what you’re going for, I’d highly recommend WIX. There are many a template you could use, build on and customise to your needs.

Within about a week we created the site, tinkered with copy for a few days and sent it out to our guests.

Now this is where my critique comes in, not directed to WIX, but rather the process. We had the link to our beautiful site and it was up to us to send it out. We did so with a mail merge – an email with a link to the website.

For the most part this worked, but had a few hiccups as not everyone understands the use of a wedding website. Some tech un-savvy guests actually complained to us about its usability as they couldn’t RSVP or choose their meal preference as the RSVP window closed and the functionality turned off. To my horror, those guests actually asked that if they couldn’t RSVP anymore, then they’ll stand around at the ceremony and bring their own food for the meal.

Of course we added them to our guest list, but we realised we needed to carefully manage guests irrespective of how quick and easy the website seemed to us.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I just won’t call it a smooth and seamless process, and definitely not a romantic one!

No matter how much research you’ve done, there is always something better

Naturally, there is always something better. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it as an opportunity for next time.

I was recently introduced to the invite-only service, Paperless Post, just as I committed to create invites for my fiancé’s bachelor party.

Now I started this blog raving about the old romantic ways of mail and beautifully designed invitations, well these guys do just that – e-vites inspired by the old ways. The service is quite simple. You either choose a design template, create your own or upload a design. Then comes the fun part – choosing en envelope sleeve, yes envelope!

How it works is that you send your friends or whomever the invite as an email that shows a closed envelope (with stamp and all) in the body. Once the guest clicks on it, the envelope opens and your beautifully designed invitation pops out.

What I love about the service is that is incorporates design, beauty and above all, romance with usability. Although your invitation appears in a visual and engaging way, it also comes with all the bells and whistles an invite service requires – online RSVP, a Google Map plugin, registry, a chat board and more.

But all the admin appears underneath the beautiful part as functional website. Instead of our wedding invite website where people didn’t quite know what starts where and what they needed to do amid all the information, this is clear. It’s about the where, what, who and how but with a personal touch.

The fact that you also send the invite out as a mailing list using the app itself is a great plus for me. I am not a fan of mail merge and this way the invite even gets delivered in a visual way.

Needless to say my fiancé has absolutely gorgeous bachelor party invites.

The only thing about Paperless Post is that it’s definitely not for the freebie-hunters. The system operates using a currency called “coins” with all the extras costing one or more coins to the total. For example, an envelope costs one coin per invitation, the envelope liner another coin. My bachelor party invites, for example cost 5 coins per invite and 10 coins cost $5. You do the math.

I completely understand, of course, there’s a reason you’re able to offer a premium invite experience, I’d just recommend to use the service for major events, rather than a casual dinner party.

It’s great to see how we are evolving with the internet. I bet 20 years ago no-one ever dreamed that they’ll be invited to a wedding via email or that there are so many services out there providing different means of doing so! As long as these digital ways keep the romance, I’m up for it. Who ever wanted to wait three months for a letter in the post anyway?




Cape Town – Vancouver