The holiday season begins early really early for Julianne Francis, a Menlo Park resident who creates custom stationery, including holiday invites and cards. These days, holiday greetings and photographs of smiling faces flutter around her kitchen table that also serves as her workspace. Because her clients need to send their cards and invites up to a month before festivities, her busy season is right now.
Amongst the holiday buzz, Francis pauses and focuses on each client's project, especially on holiday invites. She wants to ensure that her invite will suit their party needs.
"The invitation sets the tone for the party," she said. "For a fun cocktail party, I might pick a playful script, which is different from what I would use for a formal affair. I think you can say a lot about the event through the design."
On her computer screen, Francis plays with type and color, but remembers the details make an invite. She guides people on what to include on the invite besides the basics of who, what, when and where. The extra facts help the guest feel comfortable when they arrive, she said.
"People appreciate knowing what they should wear or if they can pop in and out of a party," she said. "It's a busy time, and people appreciate that."
Beyond dress code and timing, Francis also recommends making it clear if there will be a gift exchange or if they are expected to bring a present. And last, but definitely not least, the RSVP. These four letters can help the hostess immensely, she said, and she tells people to have RSVPs sent in at least a week before the event.
Once the logistics are figured out, Francis works with clients on a custom design or one from her Etsy shop. Since she started her business four years ago, she has created new designs and options, such as foil printing and die-cut shapes.
Then comes the mailing part of invites. With prepped cards in hand, Francis recommends sending formal party invites about a month in advance, while a holiday mixer between friends could require a shorter window of delivery.
But before invites hit the bottom of the blue mailbox, Wendy Qiu, who grew up in Palo Alto and now attends the University of California, Davis, likes to dress up the envelopes. And she promises that anyone can add a little flair to their holiday invites.
Inspired by #snailmail posts on social media, Qiu stocks up on washi tape, stickers and stamps, all of which can be found at local craft stores, she said. Each strip of decorative tape, which she runs horizontally across the envelope, makes her mail stand out from the crowd.
"For the holidays, I go with vibrant colors," she said. "Chevron and stripes are really popular right now, and, oh, polka dots, too."
She also likes to send a personal touch by making her own cards, which has turned into a little business for her as well in the past year. She had always made cards for friends, and thought, "I should sell these." So, today, while studying and prepping for finals, she runs a little Etsy shop. The "Meowy Christmas" card is one of her favorites, she said.
But for some, the time and energy it takes to actually send a physical card is daunting, said Alexis Monson, co-founder of Punkpost. This app-based, card-sending service allows users to send snail mail as easily as a text. Through the app, senders pick out a card, add features such as photos and confetti, type a message, input an address, and then someone on the other end writes out the message in a letterpress card and sends it.
"We know people are busy," Monson said, "and this fits with a modern-day lifestyle."
Allie Safran, who works in Menlo Park, uses the app because it is so convenient. She lives in an apartment, and sometimes can't find a nearby mail box or doesn't have a stamp. Punkpost solves those problems for her.
"I've sent 17 since, well in the past two months," she said. "I can still get hand-written cards without having to worry about the logistics."
Safran, who has sent a range of card types, said she would consider sending her invites with Punkpost, and will definitely be including confetti when she does.
And as if there weren't enough options on the market, party hosts can also send electronic invites via platforms such as Facebook. Lily Jolly, events product manager for Facebook in Menlo Park, said Facebook Events can now send messages to not only Facebook friends but also to anyone else via email. Beside the ease of distribution, Facebook Events also lets guests connect beforehand, post photos and coordinate food, and the host can send reminders and track who will attend.
"Make sure your event has a cover art photo that is representative of the event, so your friends know what the event will be like," Jolly said. In Facebook Events, party hosts can set the tone with art options or upload their own photos, including ones from the previous year's event.
And best of all, from her perspective, is the option to post photos on the wall after the event, continuing the holiday fun.
Read more holiday stories in the Holiday Guide to Everything.