USPS wants to plan your wedding — sort of

This Valentine’s Day, people across the United States will be making marriage proposals to their loved ones in the anticipation that they’ll hear that special “YES” answer they’ve been eagerly hoping for. 

When all that’s said and done, however, newly engaged couples will need to engage in a time-consuming activity — planning their wedding, a key component of which is sending out wedding invitations. Wedding invitations are known for having thick stationary, exquisite lettering, and even wedding themed stamps — which is where the USPS comes in.

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The Postal Service has a themed stamp that is released to the public annually for those looking to make their wedding invitations as joyous and celebratory as possible. 

USPS didn’t always sell wedding stamps separately. Prior to 2004, USPS only sold “love stamps,” designed to be put on envelopes to signify either love or a wedding invitation. Customers felt that the designs on the love stamps, such as red hearts, emphasized a type of emotion felt at weddings, but not necessarily the wedding itself. This dissatisfaction with the love stamp’s lack of distinction is what led to the production of wedding stamps by USPS.

Since its issuance in 2004, approximately two billion wedding stamps have been sold, and since 2009, the revenue generated by these stamps has been around $350 million.

This year’s stamp was first used in 2009, though the newer edition has a new rate at 66 cents per every two ounces of mail sent. The stamp depicts a Peter Brett-designed three-layer white wedding cake adorned with white pearls of frosting between each layer and topped off with large white flowers, as well as smaller light-green flowers with forest-green leaves and stems.

USPS goes through a thorough process before a stamp is finalized and chosen for the year. According to Mark Saunders, a senior public relations representative with USPS, the agency has “several contract art directors who assign artists or photographers to produce work that would appear compelling as a small image.” After that, the stamp image must receive the approval of the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC) before suggestions for the year’s stamp program can be presented to the Postmaster General, who gives the final  approval.

Before a design can even be selected, however, a photo for the design first needs to be shot. The photographer for the 2009 stamp, Renee Comet, met her husband, Terry McCaffrey, at a USPS art show back in 1989 and has been photographing stamp posters for new stamps ever since.

“The challenge with shooting a stamp is making a photo that has feeling and emotion stamp-size,” says Comet. “Ethel [Kessler] a design consultant for USPS, had the idea to do white on white for the wedding stamp. While beautiful, it was too subtle for the stamp size, and we ended up with real flowers on top of the cake for a touch of color. We are trying to make something that is iconic and a quick read at a small size.”

Kessler spoke of the challenges of designing wedding stamps, noting that you cannot use a one-size-fits-all approach when crafting them. 

“We have a responsibility to present different designs, and USPS is looking to accommodate different audiences,” Kessler said. 

One distinction Kessler, who was appointed design consultant to USPS for the creation of commemorative postal stamps in January 1997, tries to make clear is the difference between the love stamps and wedding stamps. 

“A love stamp can be all kinds of fun images, but wedding stamps are a bit more focused,” Kessler points out.

The next, difficult step is choosing an appropriate stamp for a given couple.  

“Different people have different weddings all the time, so maybe we should have two or three different options for people — one for RSVP, thank-you, and shower cards ... people want an appropriate stamp on their wedding invitation that doesn’t disturb the main theme or feeling of their wedding.”

Couples looking to purchase the Comet-Kessler stamp to put on their wedding invitations can purchase self-adhesive sheets of 20 stamps at $13.20 per sheet. 



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