Secrets Behind Series Continues with "Guest" Vendor

During my excitement of being emailed by vendors all over the world, I was contacted by a vendor that I thought had a great site, great product and some really good insight, so here she is!  I copied some information from her web page to get you the background on our "Guest" Vendor, Girl Metro, Inc.-

what we're about

Paper, paper, and more paper... With a little design thrown in for good measure.
Girl Metro, Inc. principal Richelle Albrecht displayed a love for all things paper at an early age - 2, to be exact - and has yet to give up her paper-hording ways. Joined by a crack team of designers (including Spike, design beagle extraordinaire), Girl Metro has been creating extraordinary invitations and occasionally irreverent cards since 2002.
Tucked into a studio on the north side of Chicago, we're pleased to work one-on-one with clients to create the perfect stationery. Personal consultations at the studio are always welcome by appointment. We also regularly work long-distance (via phone and internet) with our clients. To arrange a consultation either in person or by phone, please give us a call at 773 878 4475 or drop us a line.
about richelle...
After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, Richelle did the ad agency gig for a few years, where she designed and art directed everything from logos to packaging to giant posters to corporate video, and even a few websites. Having learned vast amounts about the world of advertising in those years, she found that it wasn't perhaps the best fit.
It wasn't long until designing wedding invitations for friends made it clear that invitation design was exactly the kind of work Richelle had been looking for all along. Designing things for happy occasions, for couples who were not only excited about their event, but were totally invested in the design of the pieces - what could be better? Consequently, when the dot-com crash came, it seemed the perfect opportunity to start working toward that goal. Now, several years later, Richelle and her team are loving every minute of it.
In addition to running Girl Metro, Inc., Richelle is a founding member of the Chicago Craft Mafia, which is affiliated with the worldwide Craft Mafia organization.

Richelle is also honored to be part of the AllExperts at panel of experts, specializing in wedding invitation etiquette.

Now that we've got that covered we are moving on to Secrets Behind- STATIONARY & INVITATIONS

Q: What is the biggest misconception about your industry?

A: Many people feel that invitations aren't a priority - the line I hear most often is "because people just throw them away." Which, if you don't take time to make your invitation an expression of the wedding and the couple, is most likely true.

A wedding invitation is the introduction to the wedding for the guests - it's the beginning of the wedding experience for them... make a custom invitation totally unique, and most often it will become keepsake for guests, as well.

Q: What are a few mistakes brides sometimes make when choosing their invitations?

A: Some brides will order invitations without ever seeing a physical sample - so the paper, quality of the printing, and everything else are a surprise... and sadly, not always a good one.

With custom work, some brides don't count on how long it takes to truly develop a custom stationery suite from scratch - it's not an overnight process, especially when you want something truly unique and personal! Ideally, we like 4-6 months to get everything designed and complete, but many brides come to us only a couple of months before their invitations need to be mailed, which makes it more of a challenge.

Q: What things should a bride look for, look at, when selecting invitations?

There are a few things to take into consideration before choosing a custom invitation designer:

1. Clients should look at the breadth of the designer's style - if the portfolio contains a lot of fussy, ornate designs and you have very contemporary, minimalist taste, that designer is probably not the one for you. Ideally, you want to see a portfolio that either has a huge variety of styles that are done well, or, if you know exactly what you want, a portfolio of designs that closely fits that vision.

2. Ask to see physical, finished samples of the designer's work - do they look and feel professionally made? Or do they have a home-made quality? Some designers are fantastic at design, but their production skills aren't great. You'll want to know the designer's limitations before you hire them to do something that might be out of their skill set.

3. Look at the quality of the materials in the finished samples - does the paper feel heavy enough to you? Do you like the way the envelopes are lined? Does the printing look even, and does it match from the invitation to the response card? If the quality of the samples seems poor or lacking, you'll probably want to find a different invitation designer for your invites.

Q: What is the one thing a bride should save on when booking with you?

A: With custom work, you will always save money when you print as much as you can in one go, so order all of the stationery pieces you can at one time - invitations, place cards, thank you cards, etc.

A custom invitation designer can also help couples get something they love to fit into their budget. A designer can work with a bride, creating an invitation which can be printed on a letterpress, and help her find ways to cut costs elsewhere in her stationery - for example, printing map cards digitally, or printing other parts of the suite in the same ink color, but on an offset press, which is less expensive.

Q: What is the one thing a bride should splurge on when booking with you?

A: The one thing a bride should splurge on varies - it should be the thing she loves the most about stationery. So if it's super-thick paper, or paper that can be planted to grow herbs or flowers, that should be the one thing. If it's a special shape, or incorporating a velvet or silk wrap, or having an actual book created around her invitation, then hiring a fantastic designer is where to splurge.

Q: What is the worst story you have heard about a mistake someone in your industry has made, anyone, ever?

A: Oh, gosh, I've heard a few... there was the invitation designer who lied about being on vacation to duck a client's calls (and got caught); there's the designer who didn't deliver the invitations until 3 weeks after she said she would... and there are a few designers out there who are stealing other designers' work, re-doing it for their clients and calling it their own. To me, that last one's a cardinal sin, although it sadly happens pretty often.

Q: If you had a client who had endless funds what unique ideas and products/services would you offer them?

It would absolutely depend upon the clients.
For some, it would be handmade paper in a custom color that's cut into a fantastic, folding piece.
For others, it's a letterpress invitation mounted on rich velvet, with a crystal button closure (I actually got to do that one
-it was something else!).
Or, it's a custom-made box of things that speak to the wedding and the couple - and would be utterly unique to them and their wedding.
For still others, it's custom printed frisbee for a casual BBQ wedding, or orchids, hand delivered with scrolls wrapped and tied around the stems.... The possibilities are totally dependent upon the style and personality of the couple and their wedding.

Q: What are a few things that bridal clients should review in contracts with their vendor?

A: There are a few things that are sort of unique to invitation designers, that clients should watch for in their contracts:
1. Look for timing and turnaround information. A client should know how long the designer will take to incorporate feedback and send revised versions of the stationery. The contract should also indicate that after final approval, invitations will be delivered in a specific number of days or weeks.

2. The contract should list every item included in the stationery suite and at what cost. For example, if you want place cards designed to match your stationery, they should appear in the contract, and the price should be included in the total estimated cost. The description of each item should be as specific as possible, too - if items are to be letterpress printed, that should be noted in the contract.

3. Keep an eye out for the number of revisions (sometimes called change orders), allowed. Most designers put a cap on the number of times they will revise a design, after which an hourly fee applies.
This is pretty standard, but a couple should be aware of that number, so that they can make their revision requests as efficient as possible and avoid additional charges.

4. Terms and payment information. Clients should know exactly how much is due, and at what point during the process a payment will be due. Some designers take a small deposit with the contract, a larger payment upon approval, and a final payment upon delivery. Some ask for 50% up front, and the rest due upon approval or delivery.
Whatever the designer's policy is, it should be spelled out in the contract.

5. How to end the agreement. It's unpleasant to think about, but clients should look for an "out clause," just in case. It's honestly never happened to me, but in the event a client wants to end our agreement, my contract stipulates that it must be before anything has been printed, it must be in writing, and their deposit is non-refundable. I always point that part of the contract out to clients, so that they are aware that if something were to go horribly wrong, they have an out clause and know what must be done.

Q: What is something you wish all of your clients knew, or a certain thing you wish all of your clients would do to make working with them easier?

A: One thing I always wish is that clients would be up front about their budget. It's awful to sit through a consultation and  talk about silk ribbons and special bookbinding techniques and letterpressed cotton papers, only to have to tell a couple that the things they just got all excited about are totally out of their budget. If a couple lets a designer know ahead of time what - approximately, no need to get down to the penny! - they want to spend, the designer can show them options that they will love that *are* within their budget.

Additionally, it's hugely beneficial when working with a designer, if a couple is candid about their likes - and their dislikes. Not liking something in a designer's portfolio of samples isn't going to hurt the designer's feelings - it will actually help the designer figure out the couple's style. When clients are firm about what they don't care for, as well as what they do, that's the best possible way to move forward and get to a design that's going to be perfect

Well, I hope that interview helped out some of my brides during their interview ordering process.  Thank you again to  Richelle from Girl Metro, Inc in Chicago for her time and her "secrets."  Check out more photos of her stationary work below.

If you have a good idea for the "Secrets Behind" series or would like to be featured in an interview, please email me.  We are trying to keep the vendors local, but a few guest here and there will be fun!