Wedding and simcha invitations are going digital, and that’s making things easier than ever for those making a simcha. To understand this revolutionary trend, I recently spoke with Yaakov Schlesinger, the founder of Elegant Evitations, about his service.
Q: How did you get the idea for Elegant Evitations?
A: It was before a family simcha. I was thinking about everything that is involved when you’re preparing for a simcha.
There is a lot of stress. You realize that you have a long list of people that you need to invite.
You have to figure out how to get the invitation printed nicely and sent out. But it’s not just the stress of making the invitation. There’s the stress of the whole process, from the RSVPing to thewriting of thank you cards afterward.
I saw people spending an enormous amount of time before a simcha, sitting with lists of names, figuring out who responded, who should sit where, and being overwhelmed by trying to figure it all out. There was so much work at a time when the baal simcha should be busy with the actual event itself. And people who have married off children have told me, “I spent so many hours on this.” I knew that today, with modern technology, there had to be a better way. So I assembled a team and developed one that would allow all of that to be done electronically.
Q: How do guests receive their invitations? Through email?
A: Yes, for weddings, bar mitzvahs and other bigger events, it is sent by email. For smaller events, we give them the option to download files to send through social media.
The process of inputting email addresses is easy, as well. You can upload your contacts from your email program or as a CSV file.
Q: Do those guest lists get saved for future invitations?
A: Yes. Once you’ve made a list, it’s always there for your future events, obviously with the option to add or remove guests as you like.
Q: So the invitation is in the email?
A: The guest receives an email that contains an animation that opens to show them the card. It shows their place card, as well as other cards you chose to send.
The email also contains three links. One is to add the event to their calendar. The second is to RSVP. The third is to give a gift from the registry.
Q: Can the baal simcha communicate with guests after the invitations have been sent out?
A: One of the big advantages of online invitations is that people can send a reminder, send out another card for any reason, or send out a last-minute invitation, for example if they forgot to invite someone.
Q: And the baal simcha has online access to all the information about how guests responded?
A: Your account has a dashboard that shows you who opened the email, who responded, who gave a gift, and whether any emails bounced back. You have all the information and complete control.
Q: In the case of a wedding, the parents get a lot of benefits from using Elegant Evitations. They save a great deal of hassle, as well as money. Are there benefits you’d point out that the chasan and kallah specifically have from it?
A: One point is that our system allows collaboration with the other family every step of the way. You can invite the other side, the chasan or kallah’s family, to collaborate online with you about every aspect of the invitations, seating, thank yous, or gift registry. You don’t need to send any papers. It’s all online.
But perhaps most important for the chasan and kallah is the ease in regard to gifts. For one thing, our system makes it much more convenient for those guests who want to give gifts to do so, meaning, as well, that the chasan and kallah are likely to receive more. And one of the usually annoying parts for a chasan and kallah after a chasuna is making lists of those who gave them gifts, in order to send thank you notes. With our system, all of that is automated.
Q: The guests have an easier time, as well, right?
A: For one thing, they can easily RSVP. Also, they can’t lose the invitation and forget where the simcha is; they have the card available all the time. They won’t find themselves calling relatives to find out where it is going to be—or finding out that it was last week.
Q: What about people who might say that the physical invitation is part of the experience of a simcha?
A: The idea of an electronic invitation is new, and it might take some people time to get used to it. But when they do use it, the experience will stay with them. And unlike a physical invitation, which gets packed away in a drawer and then lost, a digital one can stay with you forever. And the truth is that people are already using ad hoc digital methods themselves, online. What we’re giving them is a professional and beautifully designed system, with all of the features that we provide.
For those people who really feel that they can’t get rid of using a physical invitation because their family, friends or community isn’t ready for that, we do have an option in which they can use a physical invitation but still get the benefits of most of our services. They include a link for RSVPing on the invitation, and then they don’t need to send out an RSVP card. That means that they don’t have to track RSVPs, and they can use our seating chart service, our gift card service, and our thank you service.
In the case where there are a small number of relatives, for example an older relative, who wouldn’t have any access to a computer, we do offer to print a small number of invitations.
Q: What kind of customization is possible with Elegant Evitations?
A: All of the designs that we offer—we have both contemporary and traditional types—have been crafted so that they are completely customizable. The background, the fonts, the foil colors—every aspect of the invitation is completely customizable. We also put in a great deal of effort to ensure that the process of customizing is very easy.
Q: How easy can the process of designing a card online be?
A: People will be surprised; it can take them just ten minutes to choose a design and have it ready to go. We had two dozen people working on this system for two years, and probably half of the R&D we did on it was to make it easy to use.
Furthermore, we have online chat, so that a customer service agent can help you on the screen as you design your card or use other services. You can also call customer service, as well.
Q: What if I’m really just don’t get along with technology and don’t think I’ll manage to carry out even simple steps to design an invitation and get it ready?
A: Well, besides for our regular support team, which is constantly available to help you with your invitation, we also offer a service, for a minimal fee, in which one of our in-house designers will actually do it all for you.
Q: When you have the invitation ready, who does the previewing and proofreading? How can you tell what they’ll actually look like?
A: There’s both an option to preview the invitation as well as the option to actually send yourself or your collaborators a test invitation.
Q: Explain how the gift registry works.
A: We sell gift cards to major stores, from Judaica stores to Amazon to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, to children’s stores, and more. The baal simcha chooses what they would like to receive, and those who want to send gifts can choose a card and an amount. And then, with the list of people who sent you gifts, you can either write individual thank yous, or you can automatically send thank you cards to all of the people who gave you gifts. Those cards have the same design as your invitation and place card.
Q: How does your pricing work?
A: We are very different from our competitors, who usually charge a rate for every 25 cards or guests. We, instead, have fixed pricing. We do have a limit above which we charge extra, but we have set the limits so that the regular person making a simcha will not go over them.
And our prices are all-inclusive. Unlike other companies, we don’t charge extra for seating charts or place cards. There are no hidden fees or expenses. The customer knows what they’re getting, for how much.